Lake Martin Voice Realty
Archive for the 'Real Estate Tips' Category
We humans, especially Southerners, like the art of storytelling, don’t we?
We like legends. We like to talk about the way things were back then.
For Lake Martin, 2007 will always be “The Year of the Drought.” Similarly, 2009 will be thought of as “The Year of Alan Jackson at Aquapalooza.” I have no doubt that 2013 will become “The Year of FERC Relicensing” because the potential changes in the water level rule curve will impact the next forty years.
As I study real estate trends in the waterfront market for Lake Martin in 2013, I have a hard time separating market reports from the mammoth issue of relicensing the dam. Usually, when people ask, “what’s going on at Lake Martin?” I give them a ten second market report. This year, however, I have talked about FERC.
But, if we can all forget about that for a moment, and focus solely on what’s happening in the real estate market per se, I think we find something very interesting. There is a notable trend at Lake Martin that, in my judgement, is yet another sign pointing to the overall health of our market.
The big story at Lake Martin in 2013 is waterfront lot sales.
Yes, lot sales.
Do you remember 2008? You might know it as “The Year of The Bank Crash.” For those who don’t, I can tell you that getting a loan to buy a lot in 2008, and even in subsequent years, was dang near impossible. If a bank or mortgage lender smelled, perchance even suspected that you wanted a loan on a lot, they ran the other way. If that lot was located in a subdivision that was lightly populated, well, they called Father Merrin for an exorcism.
Please take a look at the Waterfront Lot Sales chart. Sales are blistering. Through the end of July, there have been 37 waterfront lots sold through the Lake Martin MLS. That is only one fewer sold in all of 2012 and only two fewer sold in the 12 months of 2011. In other words, this year it only took seven months to sell as many lots that were sold in twelve in each of the two prior years. That’s growth, neighbors.
Lot sales mean construction. Construction helps the overall economy and it points to more confidence for the future. If no other lots were sold in 2013, the lake would have a good year. If 2013 lot sales continue on pace with prior years, it will be a great one.
Lake Martin Home Sales in 2013
Don’t let all this talk about lots obscure the good news about homes. Waterfront home sales on Lake Martin are once again strong in 2013. One can see from the cumulative graph attached, that as of the end of July, 2013 is running on pace with 2012. As I am sure we all remember, 2012 was the second best waterfront home sales market on record. When we look at the entire lake real estate market, with all agents, all brokerages that participate and report to the Lake Martin MLS, we see that at July 31, 2013, 139 waterfront homes have been sold. This is statistically significant to 2012. By the end of July in 2012, 140 homes have been sold. I don’t consider the one home difference to be a big deal.
The bottom line is, 2013 is another great year for Lake Martin home sales. The more interesting thing for me to consider is that such great years are becoming routine once again. Remember, 2008 was the last year of decreasing numbers of homes sold on Lake Martin. Every year since 2008, the current year has beaten the prior year’s numbers of homes sold. The market has improved.
Lake Martin Home Prices
Whenever anyone hears the words “improved market’ – it’ s natural to wonder if prices have risen along with the home sales figures. Prices, however, have remained steady. Have prices in 2013 risen? I don’t know yet. Because Lake Martin has such a small sample pool, I only calculate price trends once a year.
However, if Lake Martin continues to beat the prior year in numbers of home sold, and supply does not out strip demand, one of these days we will see price increases. When that happens, we can call it “The Year That Prices Finally Rose.”
We only have 11 days left with a chance to positively affect Lake Martin for the next 40 years. FERC has given us a way to comment to them and let them know that we favor the 7 foot winter pool and the optional full pool into October.
It only takes 3 minutes! Do you have 180 seconds to help? Please do this before August 13.
Here’s how to eComment to FERC:
1. Go to this website by clicking on this link:
or copying this address and pasting it in your browser:
2. Click on the orange button at the top that says “eComment does not require registration, click here to proceed”
3. Fill out your information and click Authorize. It will send you a link to the email address you typed in.
4. Go to your email account and click on the link it provides
5. Select the project by searching for Lake Martin’s project number: P-349-173
6. Once you search it will offer Lake Martin as a result. Select it.
7. Type your comments in the white box. If you would like to comment in your own words, please do so. Speaking from the heart is always best. But, if you are at a lack of time or words, you may feel free to use the below, just copy and paste in the white box:
I am in full support of Alabama Power’s draft EIS for the Martin Relicensing project. In particular, I support:
1. Dropping the winter water down only 7 feet as opposed to 10,and
2. Having an optional full pool period to October 15, weather permitting.
I think the economic benefits are tremendous and will benefit thousands, and I am confidant that Alabama Power has done the research to prove the potentials for below the dam flooding, in an already existing flood zone, are minimal.
8. Submit it. That’s it! You will receive a confirmation email from FERC.
What else can you do?
1. Ask your spouse and all non-minor family members to comment. Remember, you don’t have to be a property owner to be a stakeholder.
2. Forward this to any and all other family and friends that love Lake Martin
3. Ask them all to comment ASAP, certainly before August 12.
It only takes 3 minutes and this affects your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren!
“What if” FAQ?
1. What if Lake Martin IS NOT granted this new rule curve? Will the real estate market crash as a direct result? Will the sky fall? Of course not. Lake Martin has existed for about 40 years under the current 10 foot winter drop and starting the drop after Labor Day. The market has been outstanding, in general, over those 40 years. Let’s face the facts – we will still be the Crown Jewel of the South, with or without this chance at improvement.
2. If Lake Martin IS granted the new rule curve, will the waterfront real estate prices skyrocket, and will chocolate and caramel flow from the top of Acapulco Rock like a Willy Wonka dream? Not necessarily. I am not guaranteeing anything. But I am saying that this is a historic, once in every other generation chance to improve. It’s an improvement that comes at almost no risk whatsoever. It is well worth our 3 minutes to comment and give it a shot.
If you need more info on this huge issue, click here.
Many home buyers think they do.
“Oh, we love a project,” the wife might say while the husband rolls his eyes in the background. Or a husband might wave his hand at a sagging roof and say, “I can handle this, no problem,” while the wife looks on in shock at the man who doesn’t even own a hammer.
I would venture to speak the unspoken thought of us real estate agents, and say, “Really?”
Can you really handle it? Those of you with construction experience, I will acquiesce to your judgment, but only when you realize that on Lake Martin, where so much value is in the dirt, a fixer upper can be a big project.
Plus, it’s relative. One person’s tear-it-down-and-start-over home is what I might call another person’s “tooth brusher,” as in, “It’s perfect, just bring your toothbrush.”
Whatever your self-assessment, before you buy a home that you are planning to fix up, I would put three questions before you:
First, do you have the budget?
The home improvement shows on TV fail to mention the pesky issue of budgeting. If you buy a fixer upper, you need to set aside some cash above and beyond the down payment to do the work. For instance, if you buy a home at $300,000, more than likely you would get an 80 percent loan or $240,000. That leaves about $60,000, plus closing costs, that you would need to have at closing. If you planned to spend $30,000 on renovations after you buy, that’s about $90,000 cash you need to have budgeted.
Many buyers assume they will just get their renovation budget from their lender. Perhaps this worked more easily before 2008’s taxpayer bailout of the banks. An extreme example of the old way went like this: you bought a home for $300,000; it appraised for $500,000, so at closing the bank gave you $75,000 that you used for renovations. Instead of having to bring money to closing, the bank gave you money. No more. First of all, I have not seen an appraisal come in appreciably higher than the contract price in a long, long time. Even if it did, if a buyer is getting conventional financing, the loan underwriters would have a hissy fit when they saw that the buyer was putting no money down and was walking away from closing with cash. It just doesn’t happen these days. You had better have some cash for renovations.
Secondly, do you have the patience?
Once again, the home improvement shows come into play, creating unrealistic expectations for some buyers. Sure, they show little problems here and there during the fix-up project, but these snafus are easily fixed by the home reno hero. What you don’t see is the extra money it takes and the time the project was set back by the bump in the road. Home renovations are infamous for dragging on longer than expected. Are you hiring an experienced contractor who can anticipate the potential hazards and help you navigate? Are you patient enough to expect the unexpected?
Trust me, your project will not be wrapped up in a neat 30-minute TV show schedule. Things run long. If you go into the project knowing that, you will be fine.
Lastly, do you have the time?
You have gotten this far, so I assume you have passed the first two tests. You have some money set aside for the home renovation, and you have promised your contractor you will be patient during the fix up. But do you have the time to make it happen?
Remember, we are on Lake Martin. You would likely be buying a home to use during the warm months. If you have spent the spring looking around, finally settled on a home, agreed to a contract with a seller, and closed, it might be Memorial Day. Look at the calendar and start counting ahead.
If your contractor tells you it’s an eight-week job, and you factor in two more weeks to be conservative, that’s 10 weeks. Ten weeks after Memorial Day is August. Are you ready to start a project that will take two thirds of your first summer on the lake? Think about it.
True, I have made the argument that Lake Martin is more than a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day place. We have year round activities. But think twice before taking on a huge fix up project in the first 12 months you own your home. I pass along the advice of architect Bryan Jones: Live in it a year. Have fun. Learn the home. Then make a plan.
I think you will be a lot happier in the long run.
The rewarding side of fixing it up
If you have the time, money, and patience to renovate a Lake Martin home, the rewards can be huge. Don’t think I’m against a fixer upper – not at all! I enjoy sharing “before” and “after” pictures of clients’ renovations because it helps others see what can be done with older cabins on Lake Martin. If you get your numbers right, you can end up with a super lake home and a solid investment. I just finished a series on a client’s cabin reno in the Little Kowaliga / Real Island area, and I’ve followed a couple of transformations in Parker Creek. If you missed them, here are the links:
If you’re looking for a Lake Martin cabin to renovate (or if you prefer a move-in ready home), give me a call – I’d love to be your realtor. I can help you with any property on the Lake Martin MLS, regardless of who has it listed. Call me at (334) 221-5862, email me at [email protected], or click here to contact me.
Waterfront lot sales in Emerald Shores have been strong this year. Since their release in March, sixteen of the twenty-nine new lots have been sold or are pending, and only thirteen remain. Since Lake Martin Voice Realty is the listing company for Emerald Shores, you’ve heard me pitch these lots, and it’s been easy to do – they’re big, they’re wooded, they have awesome views of Blue Creek, and they are part of an established development.
So let’s change it up a little and hear from Emerald Shores buyers themselves. The couple below recently took the Lake Martin real estate plunge, and they had specific reasons for buying a lot in Emerald Shores:
1) Close proximity to Auburn, AL
2) Peaceful atmosphere of the area
3) Well maintained condition of the development
Many clients tell me that testimonial videos like these have helped them with their own Lake Martin house hunt. Even if you have a different list of “must-haves” for an ideal lake property, sometimes just hearing other people talk about their search gets your wheels turning. For David and Rhonda, location was a big factor in their decision. For some buyers the house is most important, and for others it’s the view. Once you understand what really matters to your family, the search is radically simplified. There is, after all, a lot to look at on the Lake Martin MLS.
My job is to help buyers make this decision. If you’d like some professional insight, give me a call at (334) 221-5862 and let’s talk. I do this every day and I sell Lake Martin exclusively. And it costs a buyer nothing to have an agent on his team – sellers pay the commissions. I talk to buyers in all phases of house hunting, and it’s not uncommon at Lake Martin to work with clients for months and even years. No matter your stage in the game, I have something to offer and I’d love to help.
Related article I wrote for LAKE Magazine: To Be a Good House Hunter, Know Thyself
Despite all of the technology we use, real estate is still a very personal business. Sure, I like to use all the latest bells and whistles, and have even been guilty in the past of trying new technology that didn’t really work. But one thing that always works in this business is being a good servant.
We at Lake Martin Voice Realty are very fortunate that some of our customers and clients allow us to video their testimonials. While I will admit a big reason they do this is because it helps me, I will say that other buyers have told me these testimonials help them in their own real estate ventures on Lake Martin. I’ll never turn away an on-camera compliment, but my true goal is to capture a tip that might help you.
Here’s our Testimonials Playlist which is nothing more than a collection of videos on YouTube. These short videos will appear one-after-another in the box below.
Client Testimonials for Lake Martin Voice Realty:
If you have any real estate tips, even if you didn’t use us, we’d love to hear them! Comment below. And if I can help you with a waterfront purchase or sale, please give me a call at (334) 221-5862, email me at [email protected], or click here to contact me.
By the way, I have other playlists, too:
How to Search the Lake Martin MLS:
Lake Martin Community Info Videos:
Lake Martin Neighborhoods:
Home Tours – Lake Martin Waterfront Homes:
Private Video Home Tours (for clients only)
Recently I had a little fun with this post inspired by an entry on Finding Home, McAlpine Tankersley Architecture’s blog.
In the ensuing social media commentary, Bryan Jones (friend and also a Lake Martin architect who gets it) made this remark about the home in question:
Bobby’s first house was patient zero for personal lake life aspirations.
Bryan’s comment got me thinking. I wonder if anyone else had patient zero thoughts with their Lake Martin house?
For instance, my wife’s family has a home on a little lake in the southernmost yankee state. My favorite spot in that home is the screened back porch. I like to sit out there, read, watch the birds and the water, and enjoy a cold beverage. In fact, the whole day basically begins and ends with some hard core, radical, freestyle porch sitting. When we moved to a new (to us) home “in town” – I realized that I had a screened back porch that we were not utilizing much at all. If we enjoy it so much at their lake, why not at home?
I know that it seems pretty obvious. Who doesn’t like a screened porch? But we were just not paying much attention to ours at home. Since then, we have added some furniture, painted it, fixed the door, and we really use it now.
What about you?
Have you had a feature in a home at the lake that inspired you to make a change in town?
Or if you don’t own a Lake Martin home, but have dreamed about one, has a vacation home inspired a change at your current pad?
If you’re ready find your own Lake Martin home to experiment with, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, email me at [email protected], or click here. I do Lake Martin real estate 100% of the time and I’d love to be of service to you.
All indications are holding true that 2013 waterfront home sales are following suit with 2012, with many homes selling. In 2012, we saw the second best year in number of homes sold, topped only by 2005.
Naturally, people are asking questions like, “Where are all these buyers coming from?” and “How did they hear about Lake Martin?”
While the data geek in me would love to require a thorough questionnaire with every lake home purchase, alas, one does not exist. But we can infer a good amount of information by studying the next best thing: the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Every year, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) publishes the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. The Profile is the result of a 120-question survey sent to a random sample of home buyers across the nation. This year, about 8,500 surveys were returned. The results were used to compile the statistics and compare them to previous years. This survey is a heavily watched measuring stick of home buyers’ preferences and behaviors. In 2013, as in the past, this survey offered valuable insight to us at Lake Martin.
First Step: Agent vs. the World Wide Web
Since Al Gore decided to invent the Internet, there has been a battle between Joe and Jane Agent and the Web. The issue at war is deciding just who is more relevant, useful and trusted by home buyers. This war is all but over.
Winner: the Internet.
Despite NAR’s constant advertisement to the contrary, their own survey shows that buyers place much more trust in the Internet than in agents. One very interesting question the survey always asks buyers is, “What is your first step in the home buying process?” This year, a whopping 41 percent of respondents said they looked online for properties. This is more than double those that contacted a real estate agent (18 percent). The third choice at 11 percent was, “Looked online for info on the process.” I would argue that is the same as number one. Added together, those two indicate that about 52 percent of people are looking online before they ever call an agent.
I do grant that potential buyers are looking on the Internet at agents’ websites. So some agents can take solace in that fact. But the lesson to be learned is that buyers looking on an agent website is an indirect contact initiated by the buyer, and it’s anonymous. The agent has no idea the website is being visited. In other words, the buyer is in complete control of the interaction. Maybe the buyer will contact the agent directly, maybe not. In either case, the buyer is driving the ship.
I do not see this trend reversing any time soon, especially considering the momentum. Last year’s survey showed that 35 percent looked online and 21 percent contacted an agent. This means the online first steppers increased by 17 percent, and the agent pickers decreased by 14 percent. Brokerages and agents that do not accept this will find themselves as outdated as the mimeograph machine.
Where Did You Find It?
Today’s world is full of resources for the home buyer. Agents, the Internet, signs, billboards, TV and more all vie for the coveted attention of those who are ready to purchase. To some buyers, I am sure it is information overload.
Considering all these channels, two other critical questions to ask are, “What worked?” and “Where did you find the home that you bought?”
Not surprisingly, the Internet trend continues to dominate here. The Web continues to increase in importance, with 42 percent of those surveyed responding that the Internet was where they found their home. Agents checked in with 34 percent, which I suppose is an honorable defeat; however, when you consider that it was down from 35 percent last year, and that the Web increased by two percent, the writing is on the wall. It is clear that any serious home buyer is not waiting around for their agent to personally call and tell them about homes. Today’s home buyer is a researcher.
The Internet’s dominance in the “usefulness” category is neither new nor a secret. What should be noted is the degree to which home buyers rely on it. Nothing else is even close.
The implication is huge in that home sellers should ask detailed questions of potential agents, such as, how will my home be displayed online? How many online leads do you get, and how do you track your leads? Similarly, home buyers by their behaviors are asking agents: What have you done for me lately?
Last week we at Lake Martin Voice Realty announced the release of 14 new waterfront lots for sale in Shady Bay.
Below are some pictures I took as I walked up and down these lots:
If you’re interested in Shady Bay, we invite you to walk the lots, too, but bring your bug spray and perhaps a walking stick. These are not 100′ x 100′ feet city lots; they’re thickly wooded with all kinds of hardwoods and pines and they slope from Amber Drive down to the water. They are raw and untouched and ready for buyers to envision their perfect lake home. Buyers may bring their own builder and house plans, and covered boat docks are allowed.
If you’d like more info on Shady Bay, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, email me at [email protected], or click here to fill out a contact form. I can help you with Shady Bay and all properties on the Lake Martin MLS, regardless of the listing company.
Here’s a quick video tour of Shady Bay:
Is a waterfront construction project on Lake Martin any different than one in the city? I wasn’t sure, so I asked Doug Fuhrman, owner of Southern Traditions Construction, and lead man on this Real Island renovation project we’ve been following. I was hoping there would be some exciting insider scoop I could offer my readers, but Doug’s response was, “Not really.”
OK. So since construction is construction, no matter where you are, let me offer some real estate tips based on my experience selling homes on Lake Martin. While these things may seem painfully obvious, you’d be surprised by what some folks do to their waterfront homes:
1) Windows and doors:
You are at Lake Martin to enjoy the water, even if you never dip your toes in it. You need to see it. And even better if you can see it from lots of places inside a home. Why stick a tiny window in a great room when you can use a big one? Seems pretty obvious to me, but you’d be surprised. No buyer ever says, “I liked the house, but there was just too much view of the lake from the home.”
It’s hard to tell from the angle of this picture below, but across the front of the great room (back wall of the new covered porch) is a wall of glass. New sliding doors have replaced a set of smaller windows, and the new bedroom addition on the right has wall to wall windows (minus space on the left for a closet, and the far right for the new master bath). This is not fancy architecture; it’s just putting more of the lake in front of your eyes.
2) Covered outdoor living space
It gets warm here. It also gets sunny. And every now and then it rains. The picture above is a great example of an outdoor space that is OK, but how much more use would it get if it had a roof? The new owners of this home agree, and are creating a covered space that will be comfortable all day long – rain or shine. Again, no buyer has ever said, “The inside of the house was great, but I don’t want that huge screened porch.”
3) Access to the water
Make it easy to get from the house to the water. A few years ago I sold a $500k waterfront home that literally had no way to get to the water (other than climbing over a wall and scrambling down a very long hill). This was one of the first issues the new owners corrected, and imagine how much easier it is to enjoy Lake Martin! Make it a priority to have the fewest steps possible to get from the inside of the home to the dock, and if the only way to the water does not cut through the master bedroom, even better.
In the process of rethinking this Real Island home, Lee and Amelia decided to add sliding glass doors to the front of the home where there was no lake access before, plus keep the side entry for folks coming in from the street. Simple and efficient, and with a eye toward the lake.
If you’re looking for a home in the Real Island / Little Kowaliga area, check out my Little Kowaliga Neighborhood page. You’ll find all kinds of info on this part of Lake Martin, and most importantly, you’ll find a live feed from the MLS with all homes that are currently for sale in this area.
If you have ANY questions about Lake Martin real estate, give me a call at (334) 221-5862 or click here to email me. My job is help people buy and sell homes, and I serve the Lake Martin area 100% of the time.
If you have construction questions, however, I am not your guy. Give Doug Fuhrman from Southern Traditions Construction a call at (334) 531-3914 or email him at [email protected], and he’ll be happy to share his years of construction wisdom with you.
A big part of wildlife identification is simply knowing where you are on this earth. If you are wondering if that bird is a small raven or a big crow, the first step is to ask yourself where you are standing. Do you know the native range of a raven?
Similarly, I get asked all the time about where on Lake Martin I sell real estate. In fact, I was asked this question twice this week, both by prospective sellers. So what’s my natural range? I answer, “All over the lake. Why?”
The Smallest Big Lake You Know
Lake Martin, geographically, is a big lake. It extends over three counties, about 770 miles of shoreline. It takes a couple of hours to drive around it in a car, and probably at least one and a half times that riding from one extreme nook to the other in a fast boat.
But waterfront home sales-wise, it’s small. Consider that in all of 2012, roughly 246 homes were sold on all of Lake Martin (per the MLS – not all sales are recorded on the MLS, but most are). We have (at this writing) about 100 agents in the Lake Martin Association. Not even counting that agents from outside the area occasionally sell here, that’s about 2.4 home sales per agent, per year. Once you decide to limit yourself to one particular area, you can expect to decrease that.
Obviously, as a full time agent, you hope to sell way more than that to build and sustain a business and support your family. The Lord has certainly blessed us to do just that. We have clients from all over the place, and we sell homes on all sides of the lake. That’s one of the reasons our Neighborhood Pages are popular – they help buyers get acquainted with the many neighborhoods/geographic areas of Lake Martin (maps, videos, histories), plus each page has a live MLS feed of homes currently for sale in that neighborhood.
So to be scientific about it, my realtor range is the entire lake. I can help you with any property in the Lake Martin MLS, regardless of who has it listed.
Give me a call at (334) 221-5862. I’d love to start the tour.