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Archive for the 'Real Estate Tips' Category

Real Island Reno Part 3: Advice from a Contractor

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.

Real island Reno Stage 3 6

Before: Real Island Reno Outside

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.

Real Island Reno Stage 3 4

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.

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The Native Range Of A Lake Martin Realtor

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.

Smallest Big LakeBut 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.

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Parker Creek ReThink: Making Room for Teenage Boys

Sometimes a Lake Martin waterfront purchase is all about the lot.  Sometimes it’s all about the home.  In this case, for my buyers, it was all about where to put their three teenage boys plus their friends.  Two summers ago, Kent and Andrea found a cabin with a large wooded lot and a great view of Parker Creek near Parker Creek Marina.  The cabin was cute, but they really needed a little more room . . .

If you’re looking for a home on the west side of Lake Martin (Kowaliga Bay, Little Kowaliga / Real Island, Parker Creek), you’ll find a good number of older cabins that are dated or don’t have a modern, open flow.  Some of these cabins have been added onto over the years and are a little wonky.  But if you like the lot and the view, I urge buyers to be open minded about the home – that is the one factor you can change.  Sometimes buyers have a hard time visualizing a remodeled home while standing in the midst of fake paneling and little choppy rooms, hence my recent efforts to share some recent renovations and give buyers inspiration.

I drove by Kent and Andrea’s house in my boat last week and took a few pictures.  They graciously said I could share them with you, to give you a taste for what a remodel or facelift can do for an older lake home.  They expanded the home, adding living and sleeping space, but did not stray far from the original footprint.  The result is a fun home with modern conveniences and room for all the guys:

Pre Renovation View from the Water:

Parker Creek Rethink Old Waterfront

Post Renovation Water View:

Murray's Lake Home April 2013 - 2

Pre Renovation Street Side of the Home:

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Post Renovation Street Side of the Home:

Murray's Lake Home April 2013 - 1

So how do you know how much money to put into a Lake Martin renovation?

Think about the LOT first.  You don’t want to overbuild, so consider things like water depth, view, privacy, etc.  On a lot like this, with a view like theirs, Kent and Andrea could not really overbuild.  It’s an awesome lot.  In the back of a tight slough without year round water, however, buyers need to be conservative.

If you’re looking for a home in the Parker Creek area, check out my Parker Creek Neighborhood Page.  Here you’ll find all kinds of info on this part of Lake Martin, and most importantly, you’ll find a live MLS listing all the homes that are currently for sale in Parker Creek.  I have Neighborhood Pages for most of the neighborhoods on Lake Martin, and they’re a great resource to utilize when house hunting.

If you’ve been searching the MLS and are feeling frustrated with the homes you see, give me a call.  I can help you pinpoint the homes in your price range with most potential.  That’s my job.  My number is (334) 221-5862, or you can click here to email me.  I’d love to be your realtor.

Related Posts:

Lake Martin Dream Renovation in Parker Creek

Real Island Renovation Begins

Real Island Renovation Part Two: Peeling Off the 1980’s

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Emerald Shores Time Lapse Sunset and Lot Sales Update

It’s hard to beat a Lake Martin sunset.  I’ve been experimenting with this time lapse app on my iPhone, and the other week I recorded some pretty skies over Emerald Shores.  The video below is the sunset view from Lot 18, a 1.26 acre lot with +/- 321 feet of shoreline that is still available for sale.  For all the listing information on Lot 18, CLICK HERE.

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Here’s an Emerald Shores SALES UPDATE, too.

As of April 23, seventeen of the twenty-nine lots that were released for sale by Alabama Property Company are under contractTwo additional lots are in negotiations.  In thirty-eight days, sixty-five percent of the lots offered have gone under contract or are being negotiated (we at Lake Martin Voice Realty joyfully listed these lots on March 16, 2013).   These are strong sales numbers, especially when you look in the Lake Martin MLS and consider that in the entire year of 2012, a total of 38 lots waterfront lots were sold on Lake Martin, by all agents, all brokerages, everywhere.

Like I’ve said before, if you’re interested in one of these lots, NOW is the time to call me.  They’re moving quickly, but there are still some beautiful lots available.

Lot 18, featured in the time lapse video above, is a great example. It’s flat, wooded, and private.  Alabama Property Co. has already installed a rip rap seawall, and that wall is included in the sales price. It’s also a flexible lot;  there is a variety of ways to place and orient a home on this lot.  Check out the pictures below:

Lot 18 Emerald Shores Map

Lot 18 Emerald Shores 3 Lot 18 Emerald Shores 4 Lot 18 Emerald Shores 2 Lot 18 Emerald Shores

 I also really like the lots on either side of Lot 18 – Lot 17 and Lot 19.   Big views.  Pretty sunsets.

For more information, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, or CLICK HERE to email me.  Lake Martin Voice Realty is the listing company, so we can answer all your questions.

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Real Island Renovation Begins

This Real Island / Little Kowaliga waterfront home renovation is for all of you HGTV lovers out there . . .

My clients, Lee and Amelia, are new owners of this lake home that sits on an amazing lot in the Real Island area.  The lot is awesome, and they had been house hunting long enough to know that the value of a Lake Martin property is in the dirt, so they jumped on it.  Even though the home was not exactly what they’d had in mind . . .

Real Island Reno Outside

The house was built in 1980 and is pretty rough around the edges – 33 years of use and not much updating.

Real Island Reno Great Room Real Island Reno

It’s a three bed / two bath home already, but the floor plan is a little wonky, and the space could be used much more efficiently.  As part of the renovation plan, Amelia wants to keep as much of the original footprint, while bumping out a little here and there to make room for her family of five, plus their friends and extended family.

I think this renovation is smart.  At the lake, the home is primarily used for sleeping and eating.  These homeowners are making the most of the space for these activities, and the final product will be clean, spacious, updated, and functional.  But they are also remembering that the value of the home is in the dirt, and they’re not going overboard on things that, ultimately, do not add a lot of value to their investment.  This is going to be a fun house.

With the help of Southern Traditons Construction’s, Doug Fuhrman ([email protected]), this home is about to be gutted and transformed it into an updated, functional, vacation home. Stay tuned to see what choices are made along the way, and for the big reveal at the end.

If you’re interested in the Real Island / Little Kowaliga area of Lake Martin, check out our Little Kowaliga Neighborhood Page.   Here you’ll find everything you need to know about this popular part of the lake – a history of the area, video tour, maps, and most importantly, a live feed from the Lake Martin MLS showing homes that are currently for sale in the area.

If you’re on the lookout for a good deal on a home at Lake Martin, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, or CLICK HERE to contact me and let’s talk waterfront real estate.  I’d love to be your Realtor.

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Emerald Shores: Lot Sales Update

Of the 29 Emerald Shores waterfront lots that were released on March 16 for sale, NINE are already pending, and SIX more are currently under negotiation.

As the listing agency for Emerald Shores,  Lake Martin Voice Realty is excited about the public’s interest in these lots, and we want to make sure you have the latest information on this east side development.

Lot 4 Emerald Shores

CLICK HERE for listing information on Emerald Shores.

Contracts on these lots have been brought by our company, along with several other Lake Martin real estate companies.  My point in telling you this (I know this sounds like typical Realtor barking) is that you really need to give us a call if you have any interest in a lot in Emerald Shores.  Don’t wait until you get around to it because the lot that you want, in your price range, and with the view you like, may be gone.

Why all the interest in Emerald Shores?

Well, there’s clearly a demand for lots in a deed restricted neighborhood on this popular side of Lake Martin. And frankly, Emerald Shores has really pretty lots on the big water of Blue Creek.  It’s an established community with homes already built, so there’s a history of sales and construction.

For more information, give me a call at (334) 221-5862, or CLICK HERE to email me.  Lake Martin Voice Realty is the listing company, so we can answer all your questions.

Quick Video Tour of Emerald Shores:

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Video Tour of the Blue Creek Area of Lake Martin:

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I Want to Be A Great Lake Martin Waiter

Downton Abbey Fan Disclaimer:  I know Mr. Carson is a butler, not a waiter.  But the essence of Mr. Carson is what I’m after here, so please bear with me . . .

The mark of any good service industry pro is knowing when to step in, and knowing when to back off. Make no mistake, a good real estate agent has a lot in common with a good waiter. If I were the head broker of some huge real estate shoppe I would scour restaurants or other service industry places and recruit good waiters to be my agents.

They both know the inventory, know what they personally like, and also know how to help people find what they like. I am not the pushy type. I would rather set up someone and give them the tools to search, and then step in when they need an opinion on an area or a decision they have to make with their lake home.

I want to arm them with good information and I try to do that with neighborhood pages, custom searches, blog posts, and area info. I want them to feel well equipped to browse them menu, but to know that I am right there. I want to find the right balance of service through empowerment, and service through direct advice.

Isn’t that what you like in a good waiter or waitress? Or stockbroker, for that matter? Sometimes we just want to hang out at the table for 10 minutes and talk because we haven’t had a date night in three months. Leave us alone. Let us causally peruse the menu. Sometimes we are on a schedule and just need to get some food now.  A good waiter or waitress knows the difference, knows when to step in, monitors your progress without you feeling stalked. That’s really all I want to do as your Lake Martin agent.

It’s as simple as that. Mine is a position of service. Yes, I feel I have some technical real estate expertise and I feel I have lots of knowledge about the menu, and more critically, about what is NOT on the menu and what other people have ordered in the past. Agents need to listen more than they talk.

But when you boil it down, I think a good real estate agent, at Lake Martin or anywhere else, should have a servant heart.  Allow me to be the Mr. Carson of Lake Martin real estate.

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Suddenly All My Videos Seem Lame

I used to think Lake Martin Voice Realty was pushing the forefront in real estate video until I saw the video below of a property in Napa from Realty World’s Christine Dwiggins.  Wow!

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Sure, they had a huge budget and hired actors and a production company. But can’t I do the same thing in a small volunteer way?

Aren’t there some of my friends that would volunteer to be in my listing videos? Or local aspiring actors to tap?  So I guess the real title of this post should be, “Do my friends love me enough to act in my real estate videos?”

These are the type of videos I’m impressed with.  The production quality is great. There are a lot of agents nationwide that are working very hard to give their clients serious exposure.  I saw an interview with Christine Wiggins about this Napa video, and she said they filmed for 16 hours to get all the shots they needed.  And that was just the filming.

So I’m trying to learn from people like Christine.  Even though I’m the only Lake Martin Realtor who currently creates video tours for all listings, I can still improve.  I’ve been using video since 2007, and while some of those early clips make me cringe, I had to start somewhere.  See these 2 videos, both of the same home I sold in 2007, and again in 2012.  My narrator had clearly not discovered coffee in the  first version.  I’d like to think there has been some growth in all aspects of production.  But in 2007, the idea of a video tour seemed revolutionary.

2012 Video Tour

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2007 Video Tour

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Sure, it’s more work, but I truly believe video tours tell a more complete story of a property.

So who’s in for the acting gig?  Comment below and let me know if you’re available.  I pay in Lake Martin Crazy gear, but your exposure will hopefully be tremendous.  Just this past month (Dec. 26 – Jan. 24), my YouTube viewers spent 2, 363 minutes watching my real estate videos.  That is pretty strong for what is considered an off season for Lake Martin real estate.

If you’d like to see your property get exposure like this, give me a call at (334) 221-5862 or CLICK HERE to contact me and let’s talk about marketing your Lake Martin home. 

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3,000 Minutes in 30 Days

My Lake Martin Voice Realty YouTube Channel lets me track how much time viewers spend watching the Lake Martin videos I’ve posted to YouTube.  In a recent 30 day period  (Jan 7 – Feb 5, 2013), YouTube Analytics recorded an estimated 2,877 minutes of viewing time, with the most watched video being a recent listing, 100 Harbor Place Unit 613 at Lake Martin.  This, at a time of year that is not considered the most active real estate season on Lake Martin.  That’s pretty strong.

YouTube, however,  is not the only site that hosts my real estate videos;  I use my Lake Martin Voice Wellcomemat Channel to embed video tours of my listings on the Lake Martin MLS.  The YouTube number above does not take any of these views into account.  60% of the visitors to my website come strictly to search the MLS, and never see my YouTube channel.

So John into technology.  This is not new information.  Why is this important?

Buyers are into technology.

As a seller, it means that you are getting tons of exposure.  It means that buyers who come to see your property  in person have already toured it extensively via my video tour, and they are serious. They’ve seen the neighbors, the view, the slope of the lot, the back of the slough, that funky bathroom, and they’re still interested.

Compare that to the amount of time racked up viewing the 2″ x 1″ photo of the front of your lake home in print media.  Some sellers may wonder why I don’t advertise in these.  Bottom line: I’ve never closed a sale that originated with a call from a print source.  No, not even one, and realtors pay a lot of money for these ads.  In fact, one of my company’s listing was incorrectly priced $100,000 lower than list price in a print publication, and over the course of the month that the ad was in the magazine, NO ONE called to inquire about this great house at a huge discount. In my experience, hot leads are not reading print media.  They are searching online.

For buyers – video helps you quickly verify what you’re getting.  A real estate video tour makes it possible to understand the flow of a home and layout of the lot.  It makes it hard to hide the skeletons in the closet, too.  Most Lake Martin buyers are making a trip from out of town to view homes, and realistically can’t commit days to a search.  What a letdown to find that the cute cabin in the picture only has 10 feet of waterfront, or a guest bedroom that can only be accessed through the master suite.  Clear that up ahead of time with a video tour, and serious buyers can zero in on properties that truly meet their needs.

Also for buyers – I offer private video tours of other realtor’s listings.  If you see another realtor’s listing on the MLS, and you want more info than what is available on the MLS, I make a private video tour for you. I send you a private link to view it on YouTube, and you can quickly decide to check it out in person or pass.

Think the power of real estate video might give you an edge with your home sale?  Give me a call at (334) 221-5862 or CLICK HERE to contact me.  I’d love to talk, and I’d love to go to work for you.

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Lake Martin Real Estate Sales – 2012 Year End Review

Lake Martin waterfront home sales had the second best year on record in 2012. According to the Lake Martin, Alabama, area MLS, 239 waterfront homes were sold, compared to 207 in 2011.

This represented a 15.4% gain over the prior year!

The Lake Martin Area MLS* gathers data from all its members, so this number includes every agent, every brokerage at Lake Martin. The previous best year for vacation home sales on Lake Martin was 2005, when 285 homes were sold. 2012’s total of 239 beats out the previous second place winner of 2006, when 235 were sold.

Here at Lake Martin Voice we had a really good idea that the Lake Martin real estate market would have such a sales report for 2012. In this post I wrote concerning waterfront home sales in November 2012, we knew that we were setting up for a very good situation, we just didn’t know how good until the December results were posted.

I also noticed that a few sales were added to prior months. If you go look at the November 2012 market report, that I wrote on December 10, 2012, you will see that 26 homes were reported as sold in September 2012. Since then, that number changed to 27. That is because our MLS* is only reporting the information that each Lake Martin realtor or broker inputs. Why did it change? Who knows. Maybe someone realized they had the sale date wrong, and corrected it. This happens fairly frequently. I think we can assume that, as we look over the course of eight years, that an equal amount of mistakes happen each year.  At any rate, this is the best data we have.


The Lake Martin real estate market also received some favorable attention from the ACRE news flashes. ACRE  is the Alabama Center for Real Estate, and it compiles statistics for the entire state. They recently posted this article about the Lake Martin area’s gain of 10.7% homes sold versus 2011. Please keep in mind that ACRE pulls numbers straight from the Lake Martin Area MLS, which includes off water homes in Alexander City, Dadeville, et al. The numbers I quote above of 239 home sales for 2012 and a 15% gain are taken from that same database, but filtered to give Lake Martin’s waterfront home sales only.

2012 A Winner Over Prior Year

When it is all said and done, the most any real estate market can ask is to have beaten the prior year in numbers of homes sold. This goes for Lake Martin or any market at any time. I have said many times over my years of doing these Lake Martin real estate market reports that I really focus on this statistic, especially at the month to month level.  I first read about this metric from Nicolai Kolding’s brilliant blog posts, who was then at Better Homes and Gardens but now is at Weichert. I started tracking the current month versus same month prior year sales a long time ago, and my research indicates to me that the Lake Martin Market turned for the better in July 2008, although 2008 as a year was the worst of the bubble crash.

2012 Waterfront Home Prices on Lake Martin

I think prices remained steady in 2012 at Lake Martin. Please see the below graph for my reasoning.

Long time readers of this blog know that I only look at Lake Martin home prices once a year. That’s because we are such a rural market, we have so few monthly sales on any given month, that if one tracks average prices per month, wild (80%) swings are seen. Monthly average sales price is not a reliable statistic because the sample pool is just too small.  My response is to look at sales price trends once per year, to break them down into “bands” of about $100,000 each, and to look at them in terms of how much each band represents sales as a whole.

For instance, if you look at the above chart, you can see that of the homes sold in 2012, about 24% were sold in the price range of $200,000 to $299,999. This was the largest price segment for the fourth year in a row. The bell curve did not totally shift to the right, which would indicate to me an overall market increase in price.

However, if you take a close look at the above bell curve for 2012, you can note that in other price segments like the $300,000 to $399,999 there was an increase in market share. While it was not enough of a shift to indicate an overall market price increase, it does make me optimistic that one is possible in 2013. It also does not match my intuition gained as an agent with “boots on the ground” this past year. In my gut, it felt like prices were increasing just a tad.  Maybe I am wrong. Or maybe I just need to break these pricing segments down tighter than $100,000 increments.

Maybe that’s a subject for a future market report.

Please stay tuned to this blog as I continue to pour through Lake Martin’s 2012 real estate sales results for waterfront properties. I will be looking at waterfront lots, the effect of foreclosures, and also be drilling down inside particular neighborhoods and areas.

Can I help you?

I am a full time Lake Martin real estate agent. I write this blog to help the public and myself stay up to date on Lake Martin real estate. I would love to be able to help you buy or sell a Lake Martin property. Please call me at 334 221 5862 or contact me by filling out this form.


Related Posts:

November 2012 Sales Report

Debunking The Labor Day Price Drop Myth
July Sales Cool
Lake Martin Lot Sales 2011

Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2011 – Year In Review

Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2010 – Lot Sales
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2010
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2009 – Year In Review
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2008 – Year In Review
Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2007 – Year In Review

All Lake Martin Market Reports

(*)Disclaimers: All of the above info was taken from the Lake Martin Area Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. Accuracy is not guaranteed but deemed reliable. The above does not include sales by   FSBOs or developers that sell privately and not through the MLS. But, I do think that the above represents a very large majority of all waterfront sales on Lake Martin, Alabama.

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