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Lot Leases on Lake Martin

When my phone rings, I never know who or what is at the other end of the line. I am sure you are like me in that these days you get a lot of spam or robot calls on your cell phone. I must admit, a few weeks ago when I saw an out of state number call on my caller ID on a Saturday night, my first thought was to groan inwardly and think, “This is fake.”

I was really surprised when I learned the truth.

A real person was calling – it was Lydia Hu, Reporter / Weekend Anchor with WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham. WBRC was working on a story for their Fox News On Your Side Investigation segment about lot leases for waterfront real estate in Alabama. Lydia asked me to explain lot leases for the viewers. Click here for a link to the entire segment that aired in June. Read below for my explanation of lot leases.

A lot lease is when a homeowner owns the home, the bricks and sticks and improvements on a house, but they don’t own the dirt beneath it,” I explained.

And the increase in the lease payments? “Most of the time it’s being calculated on the value of the lot. And so if the value of the lot goes up, the lease payment will go up over those 20 years.”

“Some people do prefer the lot lease because they are able to buy the house for a lot lower price and they have a smaller lease payment over those 20 or 30 years,” I explained.  Anyone with a lot lease should work with a local real estate agent familiar with the market.  

My advice? “As you come to the end of your lease, you need to be aware how much the local real estate market has changed.” 

Alabama Power is one of the two major land owners on Lake Martin. Many years ago, Alabama Power did not sell lake lots outright. They would lease them to folks for like twenty or so years. People would build homes on these leased lots – so it created a rather interesting condition whereas the person owns the home and dock and other improvements, but Alabama Power still owned the lot.

Around here at Lake Martin, we call these “leased Lot houses.” Whenever you sell a leased Lot house, as a seller you have to disclose the lease terms. As a buyer, you should be ok with all of them.

Until about 2012 or so, approximately 10% of waterfront home sales on Lake Martin were leased Lot home sales. The last time I looked, which was early 2017, I counted that about 1% of home sales were on leased lots.

I think this is because many leased lot homeowners took advantage of a program that Alabama Power instituted around then. They sent offers to leased lot homeowners offering to sell them the lots associated with their homes. Many waterfront homeowners took Alabama Power up on the offer, and thus there are a lot fewer leased lot homes. Logically, that means fewer will make it to the market.

I don’t really know if it reduced the amount of waterfront leased lot homes by 90%. Maybe it just meant that those who didn’t buy their lots then intend to stay for the long term, and so they are unlikely to sell in the short term.

But, I do have the conclusion that with fewer leased lot homes on Lake Martin, if you plan to sell one, you’ll have to do a better job at educating buyers on the whole situation. As with any part of real estate, if you’re dealing with a unique piece of property, it is essential that you get out the right information.

Whether your home on Lake Martin is on leased lot or not, I would love to help you sell it!

The first step is usually figuring out the potential market value. I can come by and take a look, no strings attached. Please contact me at here or call me at the number at the top of this page.

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Days of Our Market

Not too long ago, I read a pretty interesting article in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The article was written by Leigh Kamping-Carder and was on page M1 of the Friday, April 14, 2017, edition. The headline was “For Sale… For Years.” It was an interesting study of luxury homes in the U.S. The key statistic examined was “Days On Market.”

Days On Market (DOM) is a figure that is closely tracked in the real estate industry. It is measured from when a home is first listed by a real estate agent to the time when the sale is closed.

I don’t know if there is a perfect number here, but I do think that economists watch trends. If the DOM in a region or the nation is rising, that could indicate a shift to a buyer’s market. Maybe the number of homes available for sale is rising or the number of willing buyers is decreasing.

Practically speaking, DOM comes into the conversation when an agent is talking with a prospective seller. The seller might ask, “How long will it take to sell my house?” The agent might answer, “The average days on market in our area is X,” in an attempt to estimate.

Since the WSJ is a national paper, its focus is usually macroeconomic – the big picture, coast to coast. The published observation was made in February, and the average DOM for all homes in the nation was 53 days; however, it was even higher for homes considered to be in the luxury category.

For those homes, the average DOM was almost double at 100 days. Then the author took it a step further and looked at the most expensive 10 percent of homes. That portion was 34 percent higher than luxury at 134 days. So the difference between the average home in the U.S. and the top 10 percent was almost triple the amount of DOM. Said another way, it takes almost three times the number of days to sell a top 10 percent home than it does an average one.

Naturally, this piqued my interest about little ole Lake Martin. Would we hold to national trends?

I took a look at the Lake Martin Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to derive some answers. Our MLS doesn’t have every single home sale in the lake area. For instance, a home sold “For Sale By Owner” wouldn’t be included, and occasionally developers choose not to publish every sale in the MLS. But, it does have a very high percentage of waterfront sales – I would hazard a guess at 90 percent of them. I think it is an extremely reliable indicator of value. Besides, local MLSs are where newspapers like the WSJ get their information.

I don’t often explore the non-waterfront section of our MLS, but this article made me curious. Which type of home has been selling more quickly lately? Waterfront or non-waterfront? And how would that stack up to the national average?

When comparing to the national numbers quoted in the WSJ, I decided to use more than one month here at Lake Martin. We are in such a tiny market; monthly statistics can be heavily influenced by one or two outlying sales.

My first step was to take a look at the average home sold in our area. According to the numbers reported by our MLS to the Alabama Center for Real Estate in 2016, using every home that sold, both waterfront and non-waterfront, the average Days On Market was 177. That is quite a bit higher than the national average of 53 DOM in February.

Then I looked at waterfront homes only. I found that in the three months ended March 31, 2017, the average Days On Market for waterfront only homes was 187. I can’t say that I was surprised. The 187 here at Lake Martin is a lot higher than the nation’s overall luxury market average of 100 DOM. But, we do follow the nation’s trend in that our luxury sales take longer than the average home sale.

What if I looked at the highest 10 percent of sales in the Lake Martin MLS?

When diving into these types of statistics, especially in a small market like ours, it is easy to end up comparing short-term results to long term ones. It would not be entirely accurate to compare, say, one summer month’s sales to an entire year or five-year trend. Since the WSJ article cited February, I wanted to be close to them with my end date. On the same token, we can’t really compare monthly sales in our tiny market to national statistics.

Therefore, I chose to look at an entire year but to end that year on March 31, 2017. In the 12 months from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, 337 waterfront homes were sold. The top 10 percent would be about 33 homes. The top 33 homes sold in that period ranged from $825,000 to two homes that sold for $2 million. Those 33 homes had an average Days on Market of 166. The lowest was a home that sold in zero days, and the highest was one that took 532 days to sell. But the average was 166, or about 11 percent lower than overall waterfront’s 187.

This finding was very curious to me. Up until now, Lake Martin has followed the national trend. A home for sale in our “luxury market” (waterfront) takes longer to sell than the average. But we buck the trend when it comes to the top 10 percent of highest priced homes sold. The national trend of 34 percent higher DOM than luxury did not hold with us.

I have a theory as to why. The top 10 percent group is pricing homes more accurately. There might be more buyers in that segment proportionally, but that would be hard to measure. We know we are in a seller’s market, so the overall market direction can’t be to blame. The same agents are selling the top 10 percent that are also selling the rest, so that is a constant. That is how I arrive at price. It is about all that is left to explain it.

I am not surprised that Lake Martin’s Days On Market is higher than the national average. We are always higher in that category, no matter what type of market – a sizzling seller’s or a drought-filled doldrum. We have limited supply and about 80 percent second home ownership. As my fellow agent John Christenberry said, “We deal with buyers that don’t have to buy and sellers that don’t have to sell.”

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine. I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for Lake Magazine. This article was also published on the ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) website.

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Ego Versus Effectiveness

Earlier this year I had my first “Instagram closing” for a waterfront home sale here at Lake Martin.

Let me explain how it went down.

I saw a #sneakpeek of a new listing for a home in the Real Island area on my friend Becky’s Instagram feed. I forwarded it to my potential buyer and within 20 minutes they drove by the house. I scheduled a showing and the next day they made an offer, beating out a couple of other buyers, and got under contract. We closed soon after.

I was pretty amazed when I reflected that it pretty much happened over Instagram.

Not that Instagram or any social media is the end all be all.

In my opinion, too many real estate agents think that merely “having a presence” is the point of social media. They think they have to be everywhere. They brag on the number of platforms they’re on and say “Follow me on Facebook” or “Like my stuff on Instagram.”

I tend to think “Why should I follow you?” Or more accurately, “Why should the public follow me or any agent?” What is in it for them? Everyone these days has a Facebook page or Instagram or whatever. Big deal. It’s free.

The big question is “What are you (as a real estate agent) doing with it?

Social media is a tool, just like a phone or a car or a camera.

What separates effective agents from self-promoters is that effective ones think “How can I help my clients with this? What would they like? What is useful to them?”

If you are an agent reading this – think about it – what’s a more helpful way to use your phone to help your
buyer – texting them a picture of the view of Lake Martin from a home? or posting a selfie of you (gobbling
up all of the screen space) in front of the same view and posting it on social media? My friend Becky nailed it when she posted the sneak peak. She was being helpful to her followers and showing a great view of the home. It worked.

I admit, I have an ego just like the next guy. Probably more than the next guy. Sometimes it is a struggle to me to not give in to those that advise agents to constantly “promote your personal brand” by splashing your name and Glamour Shot all over the place.

For the record, I do think that brand promotion has its place – in limited quantities for specific purposes. But, I also think that my approach suits me personally.

My approach- to use my marketing muscle to talk about Lake Martin.

I try to talk about my sellers’ properties, not myself. My goal is to help buyers learn about Lake Martin, not about me.

I realize that along the way, parts of my life will inevitably spill into the interweb and my marketing. You can’t help it when you put so much of yourself into something. However, such spillover should be incidental to the process, not Step 1 of it.

To return to the Instagram example, true- that’s how we found it. But, my buyers would not have listened to me on that one had I not earned their trust over years of looking at other homes online and in person. In other words, social media was one of the tools we used. Not the only one.

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Country Living 2017 Lake House of the Year at Lake Martin!

Country Living magazine chose their 2017 Lake House of the Year location at Lake Martin! Their July/August issue (which goes on sale at news stands this week) has been dubbed The Water Issue. And since you love Lake Martin like I do you will agree they made a wise choice in choosing Lake Martin as the site of the Lake House of the Year! This issue celebrates life on the water so be sure to pick up an issue today!

This beautiful, relaxed home was built in a collaboration with architect Jonathan Torode of Nashville (Pfeffer Torode Architecture), builder Chad Calhoun of Alexander City (Classic Homes), and Russell Lands on Lake Martin. The home is located at 321 Paddock Point in The Ridge, a Russell Lands development.  Click here for Google map.

The lake home’s exterior features rough cedar siding and a natural stone chimney and outdoor spaces that we all love such as a screened in porch, a lakeside fire pit and a deck area to watch the sunset. Inside the 2,900 sq. ft. home are expansive windows – each room taking advantage of natural light, oak hardwood floors, tongue and groove pine walls, a smooth cypress ceiling in the open living room, a natural stone fireplace, beautiful finishes in the kitchen such as subway tile quartz countertops and a pecky cypress kitchen island, 3 bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms with patterned porcelain tile, an upstairs bonus room, a pantry and more.

And guess what? You can take a tour between June 26 and July 9 from 10-5 daily. Tickets are only $15 and will benefit Children’s Harbor. Click here to purchase tickets now.

Check out one of the videos Country Living did (click play arrow):

To read the online article and see photos and more videos from Country Living click here.

If you are ready to find your Lake Martin home to enjoy life on the water give me, John Coley, a call or text me at the number at the top of this page, email me john@lakemartinvoice.com or contact me here.

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Small Changes in Kitchen = Big Difference!

We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home and that applies to kitchens at Lake Martin too. The kitchen in this condo at Sunset Point in Stillwaters needed some updating. The existing white cabinet doors and drawer fronts were replaced with new white ones and the color of the walls were kept the same “lemon drops” yellow. The cabinet hardware was replaced which made a big difference.

All of the countertops were replaced and included a redesign of the peninsula counter containing the sink. A new tile backsplash was also installed and plug outlets were moved and updated which made a big difference in the overall look of the kitchen.

See for yourself – small changes can make a big difference!

If you’re a buyer who is looking for a Lake Martin home let me know.  My name is John Coley and I’ll help you find a property that makes sense for your vision and your budget Give me a call or text me at the number at the top of this screen or email me here.

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My Buyers Catch More Than Great Real Estate Deals

 

I first met G. C Lewis and his family when I was helping them find a waterfront lot on Lake Martin. Being an Auburn alum G.C. was interested in building a lake home close to Auburn. Since the Lewis family lived in Georgia they were weighing their options at Lake Martin vs lots at Lake Chatuge in Georgia. They realized Lake Martin had a lot more to offer in terms of amenities and restaurants.

We found a lot in Shady Bay that was perfect for them. They hired Bryan Jones of Jones Pierce to design their home. The Lewis family was so excited to move forward with their plans to build at Lake Martin.

It is so much fun for me to keep in touch with my clients over the years. The Lewises were new to Lake Martin but as you can see in the photo above, they quickly learned the fishing hot spots with help from David Hare.

David Hare, owner and head guide of Alex City Guide Services, is one of the best guides on the Lake and certainly one to talk to about learning to fish Lake Martin. Give him a call at 256-401-3089 or email him at davidbhare@yahoo.com.

If you are looking for a lot at Lake Martin and ready to start planning your lake getaway, call or text me, John Coley at 334-221-5862  or by clicking here or email me – john@lakemartinvoice.com. I would love to help you navigate around the Lake and catch your great real estate deal.

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Lake Martin – for a few or for 50!

Not long ago I sold a waterfront home in the Real Island area of Lake Martin to Mike and Michelle. Like many couples, they had been dreaming about owning a home at Lake Martin for a long time.

This will be their first summer at Lake Martin in their new home. I couldn’t wait to see how they were enjoying it so far.  So I checked with them earlier in May and here is their response:

“We are thoroughly enjoying our lake house! We hosted our school’s track team this past Saturday for their end of the year party. We had about 50 people there for the afternoon, and it was a blast! This holiday weekend we will have some close friends staying with us.We are having fun making it our own, and creating special memories! Thanks for checking on us!”

I am happy to help you make your dream of owning a home at Lake Martin come true too! But here is a warning – be prepared to be the most popular mom and dad around the school when it comes time to host the team!

Can I help you find your dream Lake Martin home or lot? Contact me here or call me at the number at the top of the page.

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Memorial Day Weekend Events at Lake Martin – 2017

Summer officially starts June 20 but at Lake Martin we all know summer starts MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND. And boy there are so many events to choose from here at the Lake you are going to wish you could clone yourself to enjoy them all.

Here is a list of events in no particular order:

RXR FEST – three nights of great music at Russell Crossroads – featuring Airside, Mose Wilson and The Delta Twang, The Bank Walkers, Raquel Lily, Jordy Searcy and The Jonathan Bloom Band. Bring your chairs and coolers and enjoy a weekend with family and friends. 6-10pm

Art on the Lake at Children’s Harbor – Saturday from 9-5 and Sunday from 9-2 this free art festival features art and jewelry from over 40 artisans with a portion of art purchases helping support Children’s Harbor.

Bezlo’s Cafe – Opened earlier this year in Eclectic. Avondale Brewing Company Tasting Party from 5-8pm on Friday. Live music from Mark Kelley from 8:30-10pm Friday and Saturday.

Chuck’s Marina – Your home all summer long. Live music all weekend – Friday at 7:30pm, Rachel Wilson, Saturday at 7:30pm, Blane Rudd and Sunday from 6-9pm River Dan!

Copper’s Grill at Stillwaters – Great food, live music, outside venue! Friday 7-10pm music from Blackberry Breeze, Saturday 7-10pm music from Winston Ramble and Sunday 7-10pm the Sid Phelps Band.

McFadden Cup Club Race – Dixie Sailing Club – Racing open to all members. Saturday from 11-5. Not a member? If interested in crewing see their website.

Eagles at Naturalist Cabin in Russell Crossroads – Saturday at 12pm and 1pm. Come visit two of Auburn’s popular eagles!

The Landing at Parker Creek – Saturday starting at 6pm, live music from the M-80s and Jenni Foreman Mote.

Interested in knowing what is happening at Lake Martin? Or check the weather? See the water level? Discover new restaurants or shops? Contact one of the area Marinas? Keep up to date with new property listings? Then download the free Lake Martin Voice App! You will be glad you did!

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Price Drop in River Oaks!

Heads-up! This Lake Martin waterfront home for sale in River Oaks has just had a price drop.

1642 River Oaks Drive sits on a beautiful lot with westerly views framing a huge vista of the lake. This lake home has a flexible floor plan, 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, screened porch, boat lift and more!

New price of $749,500!

 

Take a full tour below! (click play arrow)

For more information on 1642 River Oaks Drive click here or contact Listing Agent John Coley at 334-221-5862 or by clicking here or email him – john@lakemartinvoice.com.

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Summer-ize to Show

As you read this, Lake Martin’s Plug Day 2017 should be comfortably behind us. Lord willing, spring rains and Alabama Power should be combining to raise the lake’s water level – inch by inch, day by day.

It’s Christmas morning every morning for people like me who love Lake Martin. How much fun is it to check your favorite source for the water level and see that the lake has risen higher than it was the day before? Each time I see a rise, in my head I can hear Johnny Cash ask, “How high’s the water, Mama?” It is glorious.

Have you squandered the time after September? Are you one of these folks that shuts your lake home up tight after Labor Day and doesn’t crack it open until Memorial Day? If so, shame on you. It’s your loss, really, because you are missing some of the best weather that the Lake Martin area offers.

Of course, people have their reasons for seasonal abandonment, one common excuse I hear from absentee owners is that once they winterize their cabins, they don’t want to summerize it just for one weekend, only to have to turn around and winterize it before they leave. Too much trouble, they protest.

One might ask, “what’s winterizing?” Basically, it involves preparing a home to be on its own over the winter. Each family at each home has its own winterizing ritual. Some people just lock up and leave. Others drag in all the outdoor furniture, put covers over the indoor furniture, and hide the TVs and the liquor. All of them, though, drain the water lines. The number one enemy of a winterized home is frozen plumbing.

Winterizing is a big deal around Lake Martin. It’s not that we live in an arctic climate. In fact, in a normal year there really is only two or three times that it gets cold enough for long enough so that pipes will freeze. My guess is its importance is due to the fact that many of the homes in the area are older and built in a time when ski boats only cost $1,000 and cabins were only used in the summer. They just weren’t designed with new fangled city conveniences like insulation.

If you have ever spent time looking at homes for sale during the winter, you are all too familiar with the practical effects of large scale winterization. Over the course of a seven hour showing day, it is not unusual to walk through eight or nine homes. Morning coffee and healthy hydration can combine to spur the call of nature. Many is the potential home buyer that has used the bathroom in a winterized cabin and heard the dreaded silence after the attempted flush. Silence in a toilet means nothing is happening. The bad stuff isn’t flushed away and new water isn’t being pumped in to replace it.  Then the embarrassed home buyer must, with hands a-wringing, admit to the real estate agent that they went, but the toilet didn’t cooperate.  There’s only one thing to do if you are a proper real estate agent.

You have to fix it.

You can’t summerize the house for one flush. No way. Risky even if technically possible. No, the best thing you can do if you’re the agent is to start looking around for a bucket. Usually there is one sitting under the house or in the shed. You grab the bucket, walk to the lake, scoop a healthy ladle of water, and trek back to the house. If you’re lucky, you can do this from the dock and keep your shoes clean. However, many is the home without year round water, and this means walking in a possibly muddy lake bottom to get near enough to the water to scoop. Whether you kick off your shoes to do this, or put out a board to walk on is a game time decision, but muddying up the inside of the home is not an option.

Once you have your water in the bucket, simply fill up the tank in the toilet and flush. Hopefully, one flush will do it. If not, rinse and repeat.

There are all kinds of complicating factors. Once, I couldn’t find a bucket and had to use a small salad bowl; it took five trips. The tank might be leaky so you might have to fill it up repeatedly and flush quickly. I won’t mention the myriad of problems that might surface from a “number two” situation. They ain’t pretty. However, I do think it is a rite of passage of sorts for Lake Martin agents. I say you aren’t an initiated member until you have dipped a bucket in the lake on a cold winter day.

Despite the challenges of a winterized home, I still think that it’s worth it to come to the lake house and summerize, even if it’s for one weekend or one day.

If the winterizing and summerizing of your lake home is particularly onerous, I would challenge you to make it easier. Use the winter to learn about your home and figure out if there’s a better way to do it. For instance, much of the trouble centers around draining all of the plumbing lines to make sure there is absolutely no water present.  For home owners of old homes, or for old home owners, the prospect of crawling underneath the house with a flashlight and a monkey wrench is not appealing. But maybe you can hire a plumber to install an additional drain line that is easy to access and operate.

Also, you might accept that a certain amount of failure should be viewed as feedback. No matter how much we plan, we still make mistakes, no matter how “professional” we think we might be at winterizing. This winter, I myself suffered the shame of frozen pipes at the lake. I thought I had drained my plumbing lines perfectly, only to be met with the dreaded hissing when the water was turned back on after a cold weekend.

My father thought this was hilarious. You have to know him to know why, but generally he delights in situations that cost me money, especially if he’s afforded an opportunity to not-so-gently mock me with questions like, “What? Don’t you know how to winterize your house? It’s pretty simple.”

After I recovered from my embarrassment, I vowed to learn from the incident. I crawled under the house and studied the complex network of iron and PEX and came away with a plan to change it a bit for the better. Maybe next time the temperature dips, I will be able to get all the water out in a fast, effortless way.

That’s my encouragement to any home owner who says that it’s too much of a pain to winterize. I ask you, “Why is it so much trouble? Why not make it easier?” You are missing out on a lot. Lake Martin is too beautiful to only enjoy it above eighty degrees.

Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine.  I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for Lake Magazine. This article was also published on the ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) website and AL.com

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