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Archive for the 'Seller Tips' Category

Video Is Killing The Glamour Shot Star: Buyers Want Home Info, Not Agent Ego

video killed the postEven if you’re not already, imagine you want to look for a home on Lake Martin.

How do you start the process?

Do you think,  “First, I must find the agent with the nicest pictures of him/herself, and I know that person will help me find my dream vacation home.”  No?

Well, do you think, “I am looking for a real estate ‘Team.’ I’m not really focused on a home, but  a “team.” Give me the biggest team, or the best looking team, or the team with the most impressive sounding self promotion.  That’s what I want.”

Of course not.  Most likely, you want to know how’s the market, what is for sale, and what factors that are specific to Lake Martin that you should consider.

IMG_0467What about sellers of waterfront property on Lake Martin?

Do they think “I want the agent that will do the absolute minimum to promote my home, but the maximum to promote herself?” No?

Or what about, “I want to provide a team the perfect opportunity to put flyers all over my home and have ads all over the place that emphasizes the benefits of ‘the team,‘ and not my home.” Of course not.

Today’s buyers and sellers of real estate on Lake Martin (and around the nation) are not interested in agents’ egos.  They are interested in real estate and put up with agents just barely to the extent that they help them meet their goals.

How can you tell the difference?  All agents will tell you how specialized their marketing is for each home.  Really?

Study the agent’s current listings to see if there is any difference.  How many pictures do they take?  Are they taken of the same subjects, over and over?  Do they highlight each home’s selling points, whatever those may be?

video home toursWhat about video?  Is is truly video, or is it just a slide show, a repeat of their pictures, with no explanation, set to elevator music?

At Lake Martin Voice Realty, we practice what we preach.  Just one example of the many ways we customize is our creation of a video tour for each listed home, with descriptions voiced over to highlight selling features.

No, you won’t have to stare at our Glamour Shot or hear how wonderful we are.  We don’t even put our brand on the videos that go in the MLS, because we want other agents to send them to their clients without the fear of promoting us.

Again, we keep the focus on your property, and away from our egos.

This approach works, and it creates an experience that gets us on our clients’ Christmas card lists, instead of the list of people they avoid when they spot them at the supermarket.

Lake Martin buyers and sellers – let’s meet and talk about how we can serve you.

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If a Home Price Falls in the MLS Forest, but Google Can’t Hear It, Did It Happen?

MLS jungleI am proud to be a member of the Lake Martin MLS.

It is the best repository of Lake Martin waterfront real estate.  Any agent or any brokerage that is even passingly serious about selling property here is a member, and updates his/her listings’ information rather well.

So why do I go through all of the effort to have a blog and maintain my listings’ information on it?

Because most people look for real estate by using internet search engines like Google, and those search engines cannot see inside the Lake Martin MLS.

Don’t get mad, because they can’t see inside your hometown’s MLS either (most likely).  Nether can they see inside other systems that are currently closed, like Facebook.

how will they knowSo how does the public get information about homes for sale?  Many buyers do go directly to the MLS and search, either as a service provided by an agent, or through the MLS’s site itself.

But is that the best source of information?  Usually not.  The higher you go up that ladder, to the local MLS, then to Realtor.com, then to aggregators like Trulia, Zillow, and Roost, you lose information like pics and video and neighborhood data.  Buyers end up getting frustrated by the lack of data, and seek more relevant, local sources.

That’s why locally produced and edited blogs like LakeMartinVoice.com are such powerful selling tools.

LMV Screen ShotIn contrast to the MLS, we are fully open and searchable by all search engines.  In fact, the very architecture of the site is designed to promote that.  We produce hyperlocal content – that is, I have pictures and video not only of the homes, but of the streets, what the neighbors’ homes look like, pricing trends, where to eat lunch, and how not to get burned in a purchase.

This sort of information, praise God, has proved extremely valuable to buyers over the last three years, and keeps them coming back and referring friends to our real estate brokerage.

If you are a Lake Martin seller, don’t you want your home to be listed in a place that can instantly get out the word about your waterfront home, lot, or condo?

Contact us through this form , or email the address at the top of the page, or call at 334 221 5862.

The MLS is helpful, and is certainly used by many buyers at some point in their search.

But if you build your marketing platform around it, you could risk not being heard, like the proverbial tree falling in the forest.

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2 Ways Creative Marketing Sells Specialized Real Estate

Are you selling “specialized property” on Lake Martin?

If so, you need to 1) lead with creativity, then 2) knock ’em out with information.

Let me explain . . .

In mid 2009, a regional bank foreclosed on a waterfront home on Lake Martin.

I was honored to be selected as the listing agent.  But as soon as I walked through it the first time, I knew it would be a special property that would take some ingenuity to find the right buyer.

Let’s face it – vacation homes on Lake Martin, or anywhere for that matter, are pretty specialized properties.  Each one is unique, with its own set of selling points and challenges.

jabBut the home on Castaway Island road was doubly so.  First, it was a leased lot home.  Secondly, its location in the Castaway Island community might seem awkward at first glance.

1. The Lead – Creativity

I knew I had to get some attention to the property fast, so I turned to video.  I love video as a medium to highlight the Lake Martin area and my listings in particular.

Normally my listing videos are pretty formal.  I move slowly through the property, with narration and soothing music playing in the background.  But I felt this wouldn’t do for the Castaway home.  Check it out:

As you can see, I went with a more avant-garde, home movie feel.  I offered to buy someone flip flops.  I felt this captured the feel of the community.  That’s what is so fun about having a home there: being able to walk to the marina, the restaurant, everywhere, with your family.  I knew this from growing up nearby, and visiting friends there now.  I knew that the eventual buyer would be someone that would appreciate this.

Hey, I’m selling lake homes!  Can’t I just let loose and have fun sometimes?  Now that I had the market’s attention, I went for the:

knock out

2. The Knock Out Punch – Great Information

Let’s face it, fun might get you to splurge for a pair of goofy flip flops, but creativity alone won’t spur you to make the investment of a lake home for your family.

Especially this one.  It’s affordable price was explained by the fact that it is a leased lot home.  This means that you own the bricks and sticks, but pay a modest monthly lease amount to Alabama Power for the lot.

For people that are new to Lake Martin, the concept of leasing dirt, and buying the home that sits on it, can be puzzling. Let me be plain, I have talked to many long term lakers that have no clue about it either.

Solution? Information. I wrote and researched about leased lots on this blog.  I talked to Alabama Power leasing representatives.  I reviewed the current lease, and proposed lease renewals.  I talked to lawyers.  I interviewed people that have been leasing for years and years.

The result was I was able to help the buyer get educated on the process, thus removing the uncertainty of the unknown.  Voila.

What about you?

Do you own a waterfront home, lot, or condo at Lake Martin that is highly specialized?  Concerned that you can’t find an agent with sufficient creativity to market it properly?  Contact us, we would love to take a swipe at it.

Or are you a buyer, and have you been told you are too picky?  Can’t find what you want?  Have you made offers, but have been told you’re crazy?  Call us, we may be just crazy enough to take on the challenge.

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Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2009 – Further Study

I think that 2008 was “the bottom” of the Lake Martin real estate market.  I was convinced by studying these Market Reports waterfront sales in 2009.  This post will look deeper into 2009, attempting to find exactly what month it all turned around.

Hopefully this exercise will help us learn more about our current cycle, as well as more accurately predict future market swings.

Here is a chart of total waterfront homes sold in the Lake Martin real estate market, by year, since 2005:

I am convinced that to predict the direction of average home prices, one must look for clues in the number of homes sold this month to the same month last year. When any market sees a trend that shows the current month is beating the same month’s number of waterfront homes sold from last year, that signals a shift in the market.

If we go on the assumption that 2008 was the bottom of the buyer’s market, and that things are swinging back toward the seller’s favor, the natural question, when looking at the above graph, is:

What month did the Lake Martin market turn around?

The above chart shows the number of waterfront homes sold versus the same month of the prior year.  For example, in July of 2007 11 homes were sold, and 28 were sold in July of 2006.  11 minus 28 is negative 17, so that is why July 2007 dips to -17 on the chart.  In contrast, in June of 2009, 26 were sold, versus 7 in June 2008.  So we have a positive 19.

Based on these findings, I think the Lake Martin real estate market hit the bottom around July of 2008.

That was the last month (other than a hiccup in April 09) that consistently lost to the same month of the prior year.  Almost every month after that, we stayed above the zero line, meaning the entire Lake Martin real estate market was beating the prior year and heading in a positive sales direction.

The real question now is: since sales turned for the better in July of 2008, when will prices follow?

Looking Ahead:

Based on these trends, I think 2010 will be a year of stagnant pricing.  There is still too much inventory on the market to bid prices up.  But I do think that the number of homes sold will help stave off the two year trend of falling prices.

This is good news to sellers, who may count their blessings that prices didn’t drop yet again.  Buyers may need to go ahead and make their selections, because I see 2011 as a return to rising prices. Will we see the blistering 30% per year gains of 2000 – 2006? I doubt it.  But 12% per year gain on any investment is pretty darn skippy.

Calculating the Lag:

Another way to look at it is this: the number of homes sold peaked in 2005 and started dropping in 2006.  Yet it took until 2008 to catch up to prices – that was the first year that we had price drops.  There was about a 24 or 30 month lag.

Therefore, if home sales picked up in mid 2008, the same 24 or 30 month lag would have prices rising late 2010 or early 2011.

Please remember that these statistics I cover are taken from the entire Lake Martin MLS – all agents, all brokerages, on all reported sales. Also please remember that any forward looking statements of mine are purely a guess, market conditions may change at any time.  But people ask me all of the time what I think about prices and I try to give them an opinion backed up by statistics, instead of just sticking a wet finger in the air to judge wind direction.

Practical Application

Do you own Lake Martin waterfront home, lot, or condo, and you are wondering what it is worth?

Contact us today for a free, no hassle, no nag Comparable Market Analysis.  Let us tell you how your home fits into this critical shift in the market, and how we would propose to creatively and effectively market your property.

Buyers – why wait until next year when prices will be on the rise again? The market may still be in the tank in your hometown but Lake Martin has been on the mend since mid 2008.  Make your move now.  Let us help you sift through the overpriced and picked over and help you find your spot to relax.

Related Posts:

Lake Martin Real Estate Sales 2009 – Waterfront Lots
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 sales on Lake Martin.

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He May Have A Platinum Album, But I Am #1 On Google

While trying to find a friend’s address online today, I did something I haven’t done in a while – I googled my name – “john coley.” That’s it, no other description.  Just first and last name.

Guess what?  I’m number 1.

Well, better than that, my domain, lakemartinvoice.com, is number one.  Plus, various other links to me are scattered throughout the top 10.

I have finally beaten my longtime doppelganger John Ford Coley.

Country / pop music singer John Ford Coley (along with England Dan) was really popular in the 1970s and 80s.  A lot, and I mean a lot, of my parents’ friends called me “John Ford” growing up.  He is a legitimate star.  Literally, world famous.  Real.  So how does one guy blogging and selling real estate on Lake Martin overtake him on Google? More importantly..

What does this have to do with Lake Martin real estate?

john coley lake martin real estate realtorGoogle doesn’t assign search results to the most famous person.  If it did, I would never beat John Ford Coley.

In their own words, Google “uses many factors in ranking. Of these, the PageRank algorithm might be the best known. PageRank evaluates two things: how many links there are to a web page from other pages, and the quality of the linking sites. With PageRank, five or six high-quality links from websites such as www.cnn.com and www.nytimes.com would be valued much more highly than twice as many links from less reputable or established sites.”

In short, LakeMartinVoice.com has, through years and hundreds of posts and page creations, become a trusted source to the search engines for all things Lake Martin, and now, I guess, the words “john coley.”

This is how I am able to be at the top of the results of pretty much any Lake Martin topic I choose.  It’s not a secret SEO strategy.  It’s simple sweat equity,  years of consistent, relevant writing.

It’s fun to show this to people who have been trying to sell their lake home themselves, and have their own site.  I create their listing page on my site and it’s instantly at the top of the search engine rankings.

lake martin voice microphone and wave JPGThey ask, “how can you outrank us?  It’s our house!”

My answer, “Google doesn’t know or care.

You can have the prettiest, most informative site on the web, but if people can’t find it, and don’t want to read it, IT WON’T HELP YOU SELL whatever you’re selling.

Google sees that I am a recognized authority on lake martin real estate, so it automatically assumes that anything I write is more relevant.

It also realizes that over 100,000 visitors, reading about a quarter of a million pages means the people have spoken.  So I guess I owe you a thanks, dear reader.

Fact: about 90% of home buyers check the internet BEFORE calling a realtor.

If you own waterfront property on Lake Martin, why wouldn’t you want to be featured on Lake Martin’s most popular real estate website?

Contact me now!  We are ready to help.  Click here for a phone number.

For the record, I like John Ford Coley. Salve his wounds and buy a song from him.

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What Does A Lake Martin Lot Cost Per Waterfront Foot?

lake martin lot price per waterfront footThe LakeMartin.com forum is a treasure trove of good discussion about Lake Martin real estate and lifestyle. The title question was posed by member Hero.

It is an excellent question, so I hopped online to try and help with an answer.

Here is his entire question:

“I have read and heard over the years that lake property value would average $1,000 per foot of shoreline. Now, I assume if it’s a really great lot (flat, point lot, nice area, etc) it could be more however if it’s not so great (steep, bad view, little water, etc.) it would be less
Example – if it’s a flat, large point lot with a really nice view, yard that included a nice seawall around the pennisula, a nice (but not great) house, boat house and pier in a nice (but not great) area would it be valued around the $1,000 per foot of shoreline? (more or less???)
I’m thinking about putting one the market but have no idea how it asses the value.
Any thoughts?”

Many forum members chimed in with answers (and I’m not just saying that because they recommended me:)). Read the entire post here.

My answer:

“a link below that may help. I wrote this post way back in February of 2007, during, granted, a different market, and geared to buyers. But the concepts are still the same and apply to sellers.

In fact, I would argue that the per square foot (for a home) or per waterfront foot (for a lot) approach is what doomed many flippers and builders on Lake Martin during the real estate bust. They sold a 2,000 square foot home on a 150 foot lot for $500,000 in 2007, so in 2008 they built a 4,000 foot home and tried to sell it for $1 million, and it didn’t sell. Hence the foreclosures.

Naturally, as a realtor and not an appraiser, I would disagree with the above and would advise talking to a realtor before an appraiser. It’s free, and no commitment is necessary.

However I agree that in many instances you get a bloated amount from the realtor. Whether you chalk this up to the agent trying to “buy” the listing with the intention of talking them down later, or attribute it to many sellers that say “I want your honest opinion” then get their feelings hurt when you give it – I don’t know what the answer is.

From years of experience and many, many, many Comparable Market Analyses done for people, I can tell you that when I don’t get the job, the far and away #1 reason I don’t get it is that my price was too low. I see it on the MLS for a price that I looked them in the eye and told them I thought was unattainable.

Let me tell you, it is a tough part of the job. Many times you are sitting knee to knee, eyeball to eyeball with a crying, grieving wife who just lost her husband, a couple counting on cashing in for their retirement, or someone who just lost a job. It weighs on my heart. But I figure it is more cruel to blow smoke up their skirt and string them along for two years and then say “see? we need to lower price.”

What’s even more remarkable to me is when the house has been for sale before, at a too high price, and they end up going with the original agent, at the same high price. I can never figure that one out.

Let me be the first to say, I am not perfect. I miss prices. But hopefully only by 5% or so, not by the 20% I think some things are still overpriced by. But I do back it up with numbers. Scads and scads of numbers and examples.

(you have mail)”

Thanks, Hero, for a good discussion question!

Now that I read it back, maybe I got a little dramatic on the tough part of the job. I am not saying I should be patted on the back for helping in the right way.  I am just saying it’s easier to tell them what they want to hear.


Just as important as price is the marketing plan.  Are you tired of the same old approach to sales? Do you want to hear a plan that works with today’s buyers?

Related Posts:

5 Mistakes Made When Buying Real Estate On Lake Martin (from Feb. 2007, I was but a baby blogger).

Proof of End of Seller’s Market On Lake Martin (July, 2007)

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Lake Martin Posts Best Real Estate Sales Month In Post Bubble Era

July 2009 was the Lake Martin real estate market’s * best month since July 2006.

It terminated the July 2008 total of 15, and beat any other month on record going back to the 28 homes sold in July 2006. As loyal readers (and my real estate clients know) I am focused on the current month beating the same month last year.  This makes three consecutive months of 2009 victories over 2008 (July 09 vs July 08, June 09 vs June 08, etc.).  As we have learned from this seminal post by Nicolai Kolding, the number of homes sold must beat prior years BEFORE we see a rebound in sales prices and market phases.

That’s what we are seeing now.  2009 is beating 2008, handily, at that. See below.

Is This A Sign That The Waterfront Homes Market Has Already Hit Bottom And Is Climbing Back?

Let’s step back and look at the entire year of Lake Martin MLS sales and compare it to other years.  When we do that, we find that this strong month has pushed 2009 way above 2008, and tied it with the (horribly dry environmental event that shall not be named) year of 2007.


The total number of waterfront homes sold in the Lake Martin MLS is up 46% over last year, and is tied with 2007.  Through the end of July, 105 homes have sold in 2009.  Through the end of July 2008, only 72 had.  That’s 46%, folks.

I think we have a good chance at a good August, and  I think by the end of September  / mid October we will have a shot at clinching a victory over 2008 as a whole.

Where are we now?

Given the sales climate at Lake Martin right now, I think it is worth at least considering that we may be in Kolding RE Phase VII. I am not saying we are there, I am merely suggesting that we are pretty close, and need to consider it.  At Lake Martin, our small sample size prevents us from looking at average price movements mid-year, so we are flying a bit blind, here.  But all good generals look at least 3 moves ahead.

Phase VII is the buyer’s sweet spot!

In Phase VII, the numbers of sales are increasing, thereby lessening risk (since you’re buying in a “rising” market) yet prices are still decreasing from supply pressures (aka “too many” homes for sale).

Does this fit the bill at Lake Martin? On the supply side the answer is yes. See the below graph. Even though we have started the seasonal draw down of waterfront homes for sale, we are still near record highs.

Phase VII to a buyer is like Relationship Phase Two to Seinfeld.

Phase / Schmase, What Does it Mean To ME?

Buyers – please give me a call or email.  I can help you NOT WASTE TIME on the “good deal” siren song, and plug you in immediately to what I feel will be the properties best suited for the ride back up – and MORE IMPORTANTLY – a great place for your family to make memories – which really should be the point of a Lake Martin home or lot, anyway.

Sellers – as you can see, homes ARE SELLING – but you must be priced, staged, and marketed right in order to rise above all of this market noise.  I have almost sold myself out of listings, praise God. I am interested in talking to YOU, TODAY!

For Every Post I Have Written On Sales Statistics, See:

Lake Martin Market Statistics Category

(*)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 sales on Lake Martin.

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Desperately Seeking Lake Martin Property to Sell

That’s right.  Lake Martin and the rest of the real estate world is supposed to be in the throes of the worst market since 1979. Or is it the worst tulip bubblerecession since the Great Depression?  Or the worst potatoes since the Irish famine?  I get confused – I’ll have to check with the financial brainiacs like Matt Lauer, the MSNBC staff, or Miss Cleo.

Anyway, despite all of the doom and gloom some people are peddling, the Lord has blessed Lake Martin and me with a hot little run of sales over the past 6 weeks.  Of my 11 listings of waterfront homes or lots I had for sale at the beginning of the summer , 6 are sold or under contract.

If the above sentence doesn’t jinx me, nothing will.

My point is, praise God, He has blessed me to help some folks sell their homes.  I need more to sell.

So in the midst of a real estate market on Lake Martin that has more homes for sale than ever, at a time when most real estate “coaches” tell you to forget about sellers and bark for buyers, I (thankfully) find myself in the position of looking for sellers.

What kind of Lake Martin home owners?

What measure of success I’ve been blessed with has been of a certain type:  realistic, aggressive sellers.

Yes – I have also turned away business in record amounts, too.  Not that I’m too cool for it, but they were cases where I wasn’t the guy for the job. If you contact me and I don’t think I am a good fit for you, you will hear it from me first.

You don’t need to be desperate, just realistic.

That’s what I’m telling sellers at any price point.

If you know of any, please let me know!  Call me at the number at the top of the screen or contact me here!

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Call Me a Lake Martin Real Estate “Interventionist”


Need a Lake Martin real estate intervention?

I really like idea behind the HGTV show, Real Estate Intervention.  It’s real.  It’s practical. And like a lot of these real life intervention shows, if I had any sense I would buy copies to make my kids watch when they become teenagers.

My wife and I were joking that we could make a show about Lake Martin waterfront home sellers – The Lake Interventionist: Helping Sellers Get Rid of Their Unsold Properties By Any Means Necessary. I could be the interventionist, the one that sits down with the sellers, holds their hands lovingly, with dewy eye, and tells them that they need some help.

We could sit around the living room of their Lake Martin house, and instead of friends and family, I could bring with me some local “experts” to address the holy trinity of real estate:

1) StagingBee Little could pat them on the back and encourage them to de-clutter and remove their yard gnomes.

2) Pricing.  My dad (Walter Coley) or Ron Morgan (Lake Dog Appraisal) as appraiser could give them the hard news:  “It ain’t worth what it was in ’06.” If they’re a spec builder, this might include a (loving) slap and a stern “I don’t care what you’ve got in it.”

happy-thoughts3) Marketing.  Pan back to me and I’ll explain that no matter the bad news, there is a way out!  There is a path to success.  Market hard – with first class videos and online marketing.  Forget billboards and newspapers. (Print advertising is as dead as the Boston Globe.)

Sure – I’m farming out the tough love and I get to be Mr. Cool.  But what’s the point of having your own show if you’re not the hero of every episode?

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May 09 Lake Martin Waterfront Sales Highest In 2 Years

The Lake Martin real estate market shook off a 24 month slump by posting 22 waterfront home sales in May 2009 through the MLS.

This is the highest recorded number of lake home sales since May of 2007 when 23 were sold.

This should be welcome news to sellers of lake front property, who saw sales sputter on Lake Martin in April. This rally brings 2009 total sales to 53, slightly ahead of 2008’s May to date total of 50.

Could this be a return to normalcy for the Lake, and for luxury second home markets as a whole?

It certainly is encouraging to see the current month trounce the same month last year. Year to year improvements on units sold are seen by many analysts as a critical sign of real estate recovery, and it is a statistic that I am hyper focused on for Lake Martin.

The Bad News (Or Good News To Buyers)

One thing that sellers did not like to see was the total number of waterfront homes for sale in the Lake Martin MLS ROSE AGAIN this month to a total of 555. I can’t find another month on record that had this many for sale. This dubious honor will no doubt keep the balance of supply and demand in the favor of buyers, for at least several months.

A Look Ahead

I am not ready to call the bottom yet.  I would like to see at least three or four months in a row of slayings like this. One interesting figure is that, as of this writing, there are 34 water front homes pending in the Lake Martin MLS.

How many of these will close in June? Some are short sales and are taking a long time during the due diligence phase.  Some are not short sales or foreclosures and will close in July anyway.

Right now, praise God, I have been busier than ever.  I have 5 homes under contract and probably 1 will close in June.  My point is, in June 2008, only 7 sold on the entire Lake.

Calling The Bottom - Yeah!!Therefore we have a good chance that if even half of current pending sales close in June 2009, Lake Martin sales will trounce June 2008.

Hey buyers – are you going to wait around and let all the good ones get picked over? Why not give me a call and let me point you to the best deals at 350k, 450k, 550k, and beyond?

To the reader – what do you think about this rally? Is this bull market cyclical or secularAre you ready to call the bottom? Why or why not?  Please leave a comment or reply below.

For Every Post I Have Written On Sales Statistics, See:

Lake Martin Market Statistics Category

(*)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 sales on Lake Martin.

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