Lake Martin Voice Realty
Russell Lands has developed neighborhoods on Lake Martin for over thirty years, but its newest, The Ridge, is vastly different from any one it has done before.
If you would like to see waterfront homes and lots for sale right now in The Ridge area, CLICK HERE to go to my Ridge Neighborhood page. I have a report that shows every waterfront home and lot for sale – by all agents, all brokerages, on Lake Martin. It pulls from the Lake Martin MLS so it will be current no matter when you visit the page.
Russell Lands has gated communities like Willow Point, and the Ridge is near to its other developments of Windermere, Windermere West, and Windover. But The Ridge is a totally new animal. Here are 5 Things That Make The Ridge Different:
1. Heavy emphasis on selling through approved builders – Russell Lands started this Lake Martin trend a few years ago with Phase I of The Ridge, and continues it with Phase III. They sell a certain number of lots to “approved” builders, who build spec houses and then turn around and sell them for the builders. In prior developments, they sold almost 100% to the end homeowner. The use of approved builders gives them much greater control over the quality of the homes. They also get a lot of design consistency on the look of the homes by also having “approved” architects. I think this also drives up the price so that their initial offering lot price to homeowners is pretty high. As far as I can figure there is no real “pre-construction” pricing.
2. The Ridge Marina – Russell Lands owns plenty of marinas around Lake Martin, but The Ridge Marina is the only one that is inside the gates of one of their developments. It is a safe bet to say that The Ridge Marina is one of the largest marinas on the lake. The marina is close to Chimney Rock by water. They sell gas, they have a huge line of boats that they sell, and also sell boating and skiing accessories. Another big part of their business is boat storage. You can rent a wet slip (a parking spot at a dock), but they are more expensive and rare than dry storage. Dry storage is where they stack your boat on a huge rack inside their warehouse. When you are ready to go, they come pick it off the rack with a forklift and put it in the water. No matter how many times I see that it still makes me nervous. They are adding on to the dry storage. A company official was quoted as saying the The Ridge Marina will have the “biggest dry storage east of the Mississippi.” That’s big, friends.
3. The Ridge Club – Russell Lands is currently building a 9,000 square foot clubhouse called The Ridge Club. While Willow Point has its Golf and Country Club, Willow Point residents are not necessarily members of the club, and vice versa. In the Ridge, however, part of the homeowner association dues pays for membership to The Ridge Club. Planned amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, athletic fields, children’s play center, workout / cardio center, and a bar and grill. From what I hear they have commercial lots set aside for possible restaurants, etc. See the construction progress photos on the left. It looks like it will be as nice as promised.
4. Off water activities- Usually, in Lake Martin new construction developments, merely token emphasis is placed on off-water lots and properties. At The Ridge, Russell Lands attempts to offer something to do off of the water, and (I assume) by association, raise the value of off-water residential lots. They have designed sidewalks all through the Ridge, which is very different for the lake. They also have cut in extensive walking trails through the woods around The Ridge. I hear that the ultimate plan is to be able to walk, run, or bike on trails from The Ridge to Willow Point. Look at a Lake Martin map to appreciate how huge of an area that is. They also have plans for a town center located on highway 63, close to Windermere Road, that will have kitschy shops, a high end grocery store, and a gourmet restaurant. (I will post more news as they confirm the details.)
5. Marketing and Events – Russell Lands has promoted The Ridge like no other Lake Martin development. If you haven’t received at least 3 mailers on it, you should have your feelings hurt, because they sent them to everyone in the area that pays taxes and has a pulse. They also have been all over the home design type magazines. Their homes have had multiple spotlights in Southern Living Magazine, and had tons of other regional media attention and write ups. They also have really played up the Spring and Summer Tour of Homes. This spring they have even tied the events in with a boat show at The Ridge Marina. I have to hand it to them, it works. In the past ten years Lake Martin has gone from a regional treasure to getting attention on a national level. This was due in large part to Russell Lands’ tirele$$ promotions.
If you wonder how long this will last, check the map. They are selling Phase III now, with (I guess) a couple more phases left up the sleeve for The Ridge. Then it’s on to the next big thing. Does anyone have a guess on where the next one will be? Comment below!
Rest easy. Alabama home sales have dropped, but not on Lake Martin. Or should you be alarmed that the average sales price of a home in Lake Martin plummeted 15% in one month? Which is it?
On March 12, 2007, Patrick McCreless wrote an article in the Alex City Outlook entitled, “Home sales still strong on Lake Martin.” The information he quoted was from the Alabama Real Estate Research and Education Center, which (I assume) got its data from our Lake Martin Area Multiple Listings Service. While I do not disagree with any of the data in the article, I do think it presents an interesting look at analyzing statistics of our market.
Two main stats stuck out to me:
1. Statewide, Alabama saw the number of homes sold drop 20.4% from December 06 to January 07. The Lake Martin Area increased its number sold to 29 from 25 in December, for a gain of 16%. Hence the analysis that we were unaffected by the State’s slump. I agree.
2. At the end of the article, it sneaks in that the Lake Martin Area’s average home sales price dropped in January to $181,310 from $213,716 in December. Again, agreed. But – couldn’t the headline easily have been “Lake Martin Home Prices Drop 15% in One Month?”
This same article could be used both by doomsdayers to prove evidence of a dreaded “bubble” in our market and by bullish folk saying that the market is still hot. The seeming contradiction in interpreting the data is a classic case of trying to draw too many conclusions from too small a sample. Any professor of Statistics will tell you that the smaller the sample, the greater margin of error. In other words, if you poll the five people you play poker with on the question of who will be the next President, the chances of them being wrong are a lot bigger than if you selected five million registered voters, randomly distributed across geographic, economic, and political lines.
The point is – be careful when you try to interpret the data of a market like Lake Martin. We have a broad mixture of types of properties – on / off the water, single / multi family, modern / rural, etc. – that are spread across a relatively small number of listings. One big sale here or there can really affect the numbers, so watch out. Try to gather as much information as you can. Talk to many people in the business. Are you confused about what your property is worth, or what you should pay for a place on the Lake? I am always willing to give my honest two cents and would be glad to help! The only way I know to do it to tell it like I see it. See the “comments” section on this post for my email to Patrick McCreless where I provide an opinion on the contradictory stats.
The Lake Martin real estate market was honored again on November 9, 2006, by the Wall Street Journal’s RealEstateJournal.com, by being named a Top 12 Vacation Home market in the United States.
Regional and even national accolades are becoming common for Lake Martin. In other words, the news is getting out. I usually don’t pay much attention to such press, but this one really got my attention. Not that I don’t agree, I honestly believe we have a national treasure in our backyard. I can’t understand why anybody wouldn’t want a place on Lake Martin. I guess what really got my attention was the source: THE Wall Street Journal – the Beacon of Capitalism, the paper divinely scribed by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand itself. I love it. I could read it with my hair on fire, as they say. So when they honored the lake – I noticed – and so did millions of other readers.
Economists and writers can study and parse data all they want, but they are merely confirming what we all know to be true. That is, while Lake Martin real estate prices have certainly risen in the last five years, on a national level we are still a relative bargain. And here’s a more important fact but you can’t graph it – Lake Martin is one heck of a beautiful place. I grew up on the lake, and therefore have talked to a lot of people about their families’ experiences here. Maybe I have only met the happy ones, but I have never met a single person that said “you know I really regret buying that place on Lake Martin.” Plenty have said “man, the biggest mistake I made was selling (or letting mama / daddy sell) that lake place.” Nobody ever quotes their Return On Asset or their Debt To Equity Ratio of their lake home. They talk about memories, fun, water, boats, fish and sun.
If you don’t like to hear all of that stuff, I’ll return to the hard facts of the Journal article. Sure, Lake Martin has beautiful water, great views, peaceful mornings, fun nights – a rich, memory making Petri dish. So do a lot of places in the nation. But what we do have – that most don’t – are low property prices relative to the rest of the country. I know it sounds crazy to the folks who have watched the prices rise – but the Journal’s statisticians looked and found that the property prices in Dadeville, Alabama – one of the towns close to Lake Martin – had really low property prices for second homes relative to local income and other economic factors. In other words, they found that chances are slim that we are experiencing a dreaded B-word in real estate prices. I agree with them. I also agree that there are certain segments of the market that have a lot of supply or are overpriced or both. But, when compared as a whole to the rest of the nation’s vacation markets, we’re still a bargain – and a memory maker to boot.
Willow Point was the first Lake Martin neighborhood by developer Russell Lands. After years of having only rental cabins, Russell Lands started a new era in Lake Martin real estate by developing and selling high end deeded lots in the early 1970s.
Willow Point is unique in that it is the only Russell Lands development that currently has a private golf and country club. The Willow Point Golf and Country Club was founded in 1964. It is truly a gated community, where you are stopped at the gate by a guard and you must show your ownership sticker or explain your business.
If you would like to see waterfront homes and lots for sale right now in the Willow Point area, CLICK HERE to go to my Willow Point Neighborhood page. I have a report that shows every waterfront home and lot for sale – by all agents, all brokerages, on Lake Martin. It pulls from the Lake Martin MLS so it will be current no matter when you visit the page.
Willow Point has a Championship Grade 18 hole, par 72 golf course that twists and turns and follows Lake Martin’s shores. Eight holes are bordered by the Lake, and hole number 13 is a par three island green. As you can imagine, the rest of the holes have plenty of water, too. If your skill level is like mine, be prepared to lose some golf balls. They also have tennis courts, rental villas for members, a restaurant, bar and grill, fitness center, and pool. It is truly a beautiful club.
Real estate prices in Willow Point have historically been among the strongest on Lake Martin. Vacant lots are rare since the development is almost built out. Lots start in the 400s and go up from there. Residences range from town homes to the biggest home on the lake, the mammoth compound of infamous (former) HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. If you have ever seen it by water, you know it. It is the top attraction on the “big house” boat tour.
Willow Point has the benefit of being inside the city limits of Alexander City, which means it has all of the utilities and conveniences thereof. This was once a huge benefit 30 years ago when almost no other area of Lake Martin had trash, phone, and cable services. Now this is not such an advantage, but Willow Point does boast another unmatched amenity: a paved, lighted airstrip. The Russell Airfield is 4,500 feet long, so you plane owners should know if you can land there or not.
With all of the benefits listed above, Willow Point will likely continue to have a strong position in the real estate market on Lake Martin.
Looking for the fastest directions to Lake Martin? Or maybe a better way to get there from here? We all have our tried and true routes, but recent road work has opened up a few new ways to get to the fun faster. Also included are a few well worn trails, so take a look – maybe it will give you more time on the water!
- 1. From Montgomery / Atlanta to Blue Creek / Stillwaters / County Road 34 – Now the fastest way to get to the east side of Lake Martin is to take Interstate 85 to the Tuskegee exit (#32) and take Alabama Highway 49 North. This route is back in action since they have fixed the bridge over Sougahatchee Creek. It is windy and wicked but the best way to get to everything east of Chuck’s Marina. West of Chuck’s to Martin Dam, it’s a toss up between this way and taking AL highway 229 at the Tallassee exit.
2. From Birmingham to Parker Creek / Real Island – unless you are in the Oakachoy Slough (in which case take 280 into Alex City & Elkahatchee Road) – then the best way to get from Birmingham to this side of Lake Martin is to take highway 280 to Alabama Highway 9 South in Kellyton. From Highway 9, take either Coosa 20, Coosa 2, or Highway 259 to Coosa 24.
3. From Auburn – If you are heading to the south end of Lake Martin, take Shug Jordan Parkway to North Donahue to due west on Lee County 72, to west on Alabama Highway 50. If you are headed to the north (Alex City) end of the lake, take 280 west.
4. Highway 229 from Tallassee to Little Kowaliga – If you are heading on north 229 from Tallassee and are headed to Little Kowaliga, there’s no need to follow 229 to 63 and then go south to Elmore County 80. Take a left on Elmore County 357 aka Deer Track Road. Take a left on 407 (East Cotton Road). Continue on 407 as you cross Highway 63. 407 will T into Elmore County Road 80 at Mt. Hebron. That one will save you 10 minutes.
5. From Coosa 2 to Parker Island Road / Coosa 24 / The Needles Eye – I saved the best for last. For anyone trying to get from the Real Island / Parker Creek Marina area to the Needles Eye area, you know that getting around that slough takes forever. But – the shortcut is a dirt road that is on Coosa 2 about 1 mile west of where Elmore 55 intersects it. This road runs north and south between Coosa 2 and Coosa 24. It crosses the headwaters of Parker Creek, so it can be muddy. I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the road, but … isn’t that the case with all of the best shortcuts?
Know another great shortcut or cut through? Let me hear about it! I am already compiling another list for my next post. Don’t worry, you’ll get the credit.
It’s easy to make mistakes when buying a home or lot on Lake Martin. Whether you are a wizened real estate pro or a newcomer looking for your first property, there are some pitfalls that everyone needs to avoid. Heck, you could say that about anywhere, though, because real estate is such a local thing. I make my living selling real estate in the Lake Martin area, but if you dropped me off in Craig, Colorado, or Nicholasville, Kentucky, I would be just as lost and in need of local advice as the next guy. Here are 5 mistakes that you can avoid on Lake Martin (no particular order of importance):
1. Don’t waste your time calculating price per square foot of waterfront homes. As a former math major and current recovering accountant, I struggle to ignore this siren call every day of my life. I want so badly to have a piece of data like this to graph, make bar charts, build trend analysis, and otherwise calculate to the fifth decimal point. Alas, it is useless. So much of the market value of a Lake Martin waterfront home is in the lot, not the home. The lot drives the price, and very few lots on the lake are exactly the same. Even when the lots are pretty comparable, the homes are different, even on the same street. Yuppies in McMansions sit next to rasslin fans in shacks. Even in neighborhoods of similar construction, the lot drives the price.
2. Calculating price per waterfront foot of a lot is almost as useless. Well okay, you say, since on Lake Martin the lot drives the price, why can’t we value a lot by comparing it to other lots that have sold and divide sold prices by the amount of feet of waterfront they had? Nice try, but this still will trip you up. You can apply rules of thumb, such as, anything over 200 feet on a point lot should be priced at a premium, but you still have variables such as view, steepness of lot, etc. If you have a swampy 300 foot lot in the back of a cove that is on 1 foot deep water and the neighbor’s dock is 3 feet from yours, it will sell for much less than a gently sloping, 200 foot lot with a “big water view and a sandy beach. Try to graph that relationship; I dare you. I have tried and failed. I am considering creating a prestigious prize to challenge the nerd community, maybe they can come up with one.
3. You bought the house but you don’t own the lot underneath it. In most cases, when you buy a home on the lake, it is on a deeded lot. But, some homes on Lake Martin are built on leased lots. That means you own the home and all other improvements on the property, but Alabama Power owns the dirt. You lease it from them and pay them a monthly lease fee. When you buy the home you assume the terms of the lease that the previous owner negotiated with Alabama Power. Monthly lease rates and terms vary widely. Have an attorney check the lease before you buy. All other things being equal, a house on a deeded lot is worth more than the same one on a leased lot.
4. You take time to think about it. Contrary to a lot of other second home markets in the South, Lake Martin is still a sellers’ market. Sure, some sellers put ridiculous prices on their homes and therefore they take a while to sell. But if it is priced right, property still moves in a matter of days, not weeks. I’m not advising running out and buying willy-nilly, no. Let a local real estate agent help you. Do all of your research very carefully so that you know exactly what you want and how much you would like to invest. That way when something pops up on the Lake Martin MLS that you like, you can move swiftly and with confidence. Once you decide to offer, do it fast.
5. You don’t make an offer because the seller is asking too much. As I mentioned above, Lake Martin is in a sellers’ market right now, but sometimes things are still overpriced. I advise buyers to make an offer based on what they would pay. You never know, sometimes the seller will come to their senses and back off a ridiculous asking price. Maybe your offer will finally convince the seller to come down. Too many times I have heard buyers say, once discovering the selling price of a property they liked, “if I would have known they would have taken that, I would have bought it. The only way to find out is to pony up and make an offer.
Can you think of any other mistakes people make? Leave a comment below, and we will edit this article to include your submission!