Price Drop in Willow Point!

Did you miss it?

Unit 10-C Willow Point had a price drop!

This waterfront, luxury condominium in the popular Willow Point neighborhood is now listed at $549,000! This condo is move-in ready, over 2,600 sq. ft. with four bedrooms / four baths on two levels.

The lake side of the condo has two decks for enjoying the view and entertaining plus a screened porch. There is also a gathering area at the water, right in front of the dock. The deeded boat slip is tucked into a cozy slough away from the big waves but close to the big water near Parker Creek and Sand Island.

Click here for videos, photos and more information about this condo – you will be glad you did.

Contact me, John Coley, today to see Unit 10-C Willow Point! Call or text me at the number at the top of this page or email me [email protected].

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Buying a Lake Martin Home with Friends

Have you ever considered buying a Lake Martin home with friends or family? It is not a decision to take lightly.Whether you pool your resources with your best friend or brother it can make a second home affordable. Another aspect that some people like about co-ownership is that it takes some of the “absence guilt” out of owning a vacation home – meaning – if they’re not there, they can take heart that the other family is able to use it.

A few years ago I helped two couples buy together in Lake Martin. Watch the video below and hear what they had to say about the experience. These families are also business partners so they reasoned if they can work together they surely can own a second home together! It was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had helping folks find their spot on Lake Martin. Years later, they are still loving the home.

I would love to help you (and your best friend) find your Lake Martin home. Call or text me, John Coley, at the number at the top of the screen or email by clicking here.

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The Flaw in Technology

 

I love technology. Maybe not as much as Kip Dynamite, but I do love it; however, it does have its limitations.

A couple of weeks ago I was helping a potential homebuyer search for a Lake Martin waterfront home. The buyer is really into fishing, and he would like to be able to keep his fishing boat at the dock for as long as possible throughout the year.

Here at Lake Martin, the water fluctuates a total of 7 feet. During the colder months, Alabama Power draws the lake down, starting in the fall, and brings it back up in the spring. Buyers that would like access to their boats no matter the season look for homes with greater than 7 feet at the dock. We agents tend to call this “year ‘round water” depth.

While discussing different homes with the buyer, I threw out some suggestions that I thought might be just the fit for him. One in particular was in his target area and price range but he immediately nixed it.

“Nope,” he said, “the water is not deep enough at the dock.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Because I know that area in general and I am pretty sure it has decent water depth.”

“I checked my electronic lake chart that’s on my fishing boat and the app that comes with it. The app has the water depth for every square inch of the lake and it says the water is only 1 foot deep at the dock and only 2 feet out in front of it. There’s no way I can get my boat to it most of the time,” he answered.

This sounded crazy to me. I just could not believe the water was that shallow. I had never visited this particular home, but regardless, I knew homes in the area and usually you remember when an entire slough has super shallow water. Because I never visited it, I hated to contradict the electronic chart.

You may be familiar with these types of maps. There are a couple of different companies that sell lake maps, and you buy a “chip” to put in your depth finder on your boat. Or, you can download the app and have it all on your phone.

After a little encouragement, he decided to see the home anyway. After all, as I said, it fulfilled two of his other criteria: location and price.

We both had a big surprise on the day we saw the home. The first thing we did was go directly to the dock. As we walked down the stairs, I could tell there was way more than 1 to 2 feet of depth at the dock. But how much? He had brought his ruler so we could be as exact as possible.

You guessed it – the chart was wrong. The depth at the end of the dock was actually about 8 feet. That’s a whopping 6 feet of difference between the app and actual.

Now, 6 feet of difference might not be that substantial when you are trying to hook up with a largemouth or striped bass. But when you are buying or selling real estate on Lake Martin, 6 feet monumental. Especially when that 6 feet takes you from a depth that would be considered very shallow (2 feet) to year round water (8 feet).

I have never been able to create an algorithm that shows how much each foot of water depth helps a lot’s value. Maybe such a magic formula exists. But I can tell you that no buyer comes to the lake and says, “I want no water.” Not everyone has to have super deep water, but everyone would choose 8 feet of depth over 2, given the same price.

So, as much as we techies love our data and our apps, I urge you to take a lesson from the above. Do not rely on fancy pixels and playthings when calculating such an important thing as water depth. It still pays to be old school in this area.

Bring a ruler and be ready to submerge it. Or make yourself a measuring stick and bring it with you when you are house shopping. Just don’t try and sell me one.

I made an infinity of them at scout camp.

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 and ACRE – the Alabama Center for Real Estate.

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Price Drop in Trillium!

This Lake Martin waterfront home for sale in the Trillium neighborhood has just had a price drop!

570 Wake Robin is a large, upscale home, 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, with an open floor plan, quality craftsmanship and breathtaking views from the 2 story living room and screened in porch. The private, heavily wooded lot slopes gently to the Lake in a deep water cove. Nice beach area with spectacular outdoor living space to enjoy year round!

New price of $879,000!

Take a full video tour below! (click play arrow) 

For more information on 570 Wake Robin click here or contact Listing Agent John Coley at 334-221-5862 or by clicking here or email him – [email protected].

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The Preserve at Stoney Ridge Neighborhood Tour

The Preserve at Stoney Ridge is a waterfront neighborhood on the east side of Lake Martin in the Blue Creek area.

I recently made a new neighborhood video tour of Stoney Ridge – click on the play arrow and take a look.

The Preserve at Stoney Ridge is a gated community with lots of amenities including a really cool pool that overlooks the lake, a nice tennis court, a pavilion with an outdoor fireplace, and underground utilities.  A landmark for this community is the covered bridge you pass through on the way through the neighborhood.

By water,  Stoney Ridge is close to Lake Martin landmarks like Chimney and Acapulco Rocks and Martin Dam. Also by water, it’s near other Lake Martin neighborhoods like The Ridge, Stillwaters, The Village, Emerald Shores, Indian Shores, and Holiday Shores. Wherever I am on Lake Martin, I like to know where the closest marinas are. Stoney Ridge is a quick boat ride to The Ridge Marina, Harbor Pointe Marina (in Stillwaters), and also Chuck’s Marina (and its world famous pizza).

There are about 44 waterfront lots with most of them already sold. There are some off water lots that include a deeded boat slip.

Why would a real estate agent spend his time flying around Lake Martin?

My goal is to provide you with the latest information on Lake Martin real estate and one way I do that is to make videos of neighborhoods. I also use the latest technology for listings such as 3D, 360 and aerial video together with high quality still shots.

Are you interested in a private video tour of a listing on Lake Martin? I am happy to do that as well!

Call or text me, John Coley, at 334-221-5862. I would love to help you learn more about Lake Martin and Lake Martin real estate!

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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 [email protected] 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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