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August 2016 Market Report for Lake Martin

What’s the waterfront real estate market doing right now for Lake Martin?

2015 was a record year for the Lake Martin waterfront market. Was that followed up with another huge result so far in 2016?

Let’s take a look at the latest results from the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE). They are my trusted source for the data for all the real estate markets in Alabama.

Below is a chart from ACRE. For August 2016 – 30 homes were sold (all agents and brokerages). Compare that to August 2015 – 37 homes were sold.  That is down about 19%.

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If we look at our year to date numbers-  214 homes at Lake Martin were sold through the end of August 2016.  For the same period in 2015 – 245 homes were sold – resulting in a decrease of about 13%.

How about lots?  Waterfront lots year to date (again through August 2016) sold were 44.  Last year, 67 lots were sold at the end of August.  So, lot sales are down about 30%, which is a pretty significant number.

Inventory of homes is still way down – 25% from last year.  I’m still seeing a lot of pricing pressure because Lake Martin has a lot of homes for sale but fewer homes are selling.

What does all of this mean?  What is the interpretation?  I looked at the 5 year average waterfront home sales for the month of August and also the 3 year average of sales.  The average for 5 years in August is 30 and for 3 years is 36 – still sort of inconclusive.

I think we still need more information – let’s see what the 4th quarter is going to do and also I would like to see what the 1st quarter of 2017 will do. And then we can decide if 2015 was an anomaly – the Muhammed Ali of all years or a sign of a general trend that means we hit a market peak in 2015.

I don’t know yet, but I can promise you I will stay on top of the numbers and do my best to keep you updated.

If you have any questions about this or more specifically how these numbers affect your home give me a call or email me – John Coley at 334-221-5862 or [email protected].

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What Does Pending Mean in the Lake Martin MLS?

 

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Q:  Thank you for all of the email updates for homes for sale around Lake Martin.  I see one I like- but it says “Pending” by the home’s info. What does Pending (Y) mean on your website?

A:  For my website, (Lake Martin Voice.com) – I pull all of my information from the Lake Martin MLS. Regardless of what bloated sites like Zillow will try and tell you, the Lake Martin MLS is the most accurate and updated database for waterfront property here at Lake Martin. This is because it is made up of the real estate agents and brokerages here.

One of the fields of data we have is “Status.” When you see the Status = Active, that means that the waterfront lot or home is currently for sale. When you see Status = Pending, it means that the property is under contract.  There has been an offer, and that offer was accepted, and the parties are working towards closing.

Typically, the time that a home is ‘pending’ is about five or six weeks to allow for the buyers to do their due diligence, such as the lending process, any inspections, surveys, etc.

Incidentally, once the sale has finalized and closed, the status is changed to “Closed” and it will be removed from the website.  This is because, according to our Lake Martin MLS rules, sold properties are not allowed to be on public facing websites. Sold information is only visible to Lake Martin MLS members, so if you would like info on a sold property, please CONTACT ME HERE and I can help you with that.

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Do People Stay at Lake Martin for Auburn Games?

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Do people stay at Lake Martin for Auburn games?  I believe the answer is YES. The Lake is a such a short drive to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

According to an article published earlier this month in Alex City Outlook (click here to read) Auburn home football games make a big impact on the economy around the Lake Martin area. Local merchants, businesses and restaurants report increased revenue for home game weekends.

And rentals at Lake Martin are popular for football weekends – enjoy the game in Auburn on Saturday and the Lake on Sunday!  What could be better?  (besides a winning season).

Even if you don’t plan on going to the Auburn football game, if you are coming to look at waterfront real estate, it affects you, too.  As an example, I recently had a couple from Atlanta coming in to look at some homes and lots on Lake Martin.  They happened to be coming on a football weekend, and hadn’t made any reservations.  Most of the local hotels around the Lake were booked up!  So it always pays to think ahead, even if you are not a football fan.

Since we are talking about Auburn and Lake Martin … were you one of the few that missed Auburn’s kicker, Daniel Carlson’s, Instagram video from this summer?  He and teammate Will Hastings were at Lake Martin “working hard in the offseason.”  Click here to see the video and read the article from AL.com.

Whether or not you Roll with the Tide, yell Waaarrr Eagle, scream Go Vols, support the Bulldogs (Mississippi State or Georgia), geaux with the Tigers, get fired up about the Gators, Gamecocks, Razorbacks, Rebel Black Bears or any other team – enjoy the Fall with Faith, Family, Friends and Football!

 

 

 

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Meet Real Buyers of Lake Martin

"Thank you, John! We love our new Lake Martin home!!"

“Thank you, John! We love our new Lake Martin home!!”

When ready to buy a Lake Martin home, Randy and Jennifer did their homework. Let the house hunting begin!  They researched, looked, and researched some more.  They took advantage of a key tool that I give to my buyers – a constantly updated list of every potential dream home – emailed right to their phones.

When their dream home hit the market, they knew they had to move fast.  In a seller’s market, speed is critical for the buyer.  But you don’t want to rush into anything!

By receiving custom curated search results, and by walking through a few homes, Randy and Jennifer were ready to move with informed confidence when their time came.  They got my email alert on Sunday, we saw the home on Monday and we were under contract by Tuesday.

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Cheers to Randy and Jennifer on securing their Lake Martin dream home!

Buying a home is exciting and can sometimes be overwhelming but with the right agent  you can find your dream home too! As your agent I would love to talk to you about how I can help you find your home on Lake Martin by using this key tool – giving you the latest and most accurate list of homes that fit your ‘must-haves’!

Please call or text me at the number at the top of this page or contact me Here.

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Home For Sale in Trillium – Lake Martin

570 Wake Robin View of Outdoor Living Area

Check out this cool, outdoor living area in my newest listing – a waterfront home for sale at 570 Wake Robin, Eclectic – Lake Martin!

Built right on the beach area of this home in Trillium, the rustic outdoor area is like having another living room to enjoy year round.  The beautiful stone fireplace makes a great gathering spot for family and friends.

Entertain and relax here – watch the game on TV, enjoy a cold beverage from the built in cooler or just boat watch and enjoy the sunsets – your choice, your retreat.  Enjoy.

For more info on 570 Wake Robin CLICK HERE.

570 Wake Robin Google Map

Do you have a waterfront property you are considering selling on Lake Martin?

Please let me talk to you about how I can help you.  We put the best of today’s useful technology to work for you – reaching buyers in a multitude of ways: the web, social media, email, and good ol’ word of mouth.

Contact me HERE or call me directly at the number at the top of this page.

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It Takes a Village

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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.

It truly takes a village of people to help buyers purchase a home here at Lake Martin.

Sure, you might be tempted to think that the only people involved are real estate agents and lenders.  While they are a great idea, agents and lenders are not necessary.  I will say that, according to the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers used Realtors last year to help them in their purchases.  Since I am an agent, this recommendation won’t surprise you, but I do think a great agent more than pays for himself or herself.  Choose one wisely.

Your agent should also be able to help you find additional people to assist in your purchase.  An effective agent should have the contact information of the below folks ready at a moment’s notice.

A first person you might need is a good general contractor or GC.  A GC’s advice can give you the data you need to be confident about your decision to negotiate with the seller and get a written contract.  You may need them to walk through the home on which you have selected to make an offer if there are big repair items, but please do not drag the GC around to every single home you view.  You want them to actually return your call when it really counts.

One of the first things to do after you have a written contract is to think about the land on which the home sits.  Before you even get to the house, it is a good idea to hire a surveyor.

When you consider that most of the value of a waterfront home is in the dirt, it’s a good idea to get data on that dirt.  A surveyor can help.  Some buyers elect to go pretty light here and only ask the surveyor to “mark the corners.”  This means simply finding each point of the property line and putting up some sort of marker.

Another option, albeit more expensive, is to get a complete survey of the property and its improvements.  At the end of this operation, you would be handed (or emailed) a survey that shows the home, the dock, the driveway and just about anything else that is on the lot.  A drawing like this can be extremely useful for future expansions but also could be helpful in case your neighbors get – shall we say – liberal with the placement of their yard art.

Most buyers are attuned to the fact that a home inspector is a critical part of the process. Make sure the one you hire after you are under contract is certified.

My personal theory on home negotiation is not to use the inspector as a way to nickel and dime the seller into having to repair every little scratch on the home; remember, most of the time the value of a Lake Martin home is in the lot anyway.  It’s just my opinion, but even though I like an inspector to point out every blemish, I am just looking for the big things.  I am mainly concerned about the expensive systems or potential repairs.  I think buyers should approach inspections with the mindset of priority, ranking the repairs according to their preferences.

Contrastingly, some aggressive buyers in our current seller’s market are forgoing a home inspection.  The mindset of these buyers is that they want to make their offers more attractive to the sellers, thus beating out any potential competing offers, since the purchase is not subject to an inspection.  If you choose that route, be careful, and be sure you understand all the risks.

A septic inspector is also a very important person, and this inspection also should be set up after the contract is signed.  A septic inspector is needed because of two factors: 1) most home inspectors will not include the septic system in the scope of the home inspection; and 2) almost every single home on Lake Martin is on a septic system.

Many of the septic tanks were built in a time when there was no building code in effect.  In fact, the only time the word ‘code’ came up back then was to describe the Lake’s temperature in January.  Septic inspections are not a must for every purchase, but a buyer would be wise to at least consider it.

Next comes a termite inspector, who is usually paid by the seller, but that’s negotiable.  This is a totally separate inspection, done by a pest control professional.

Usually a termite inspector issues a Wood Infestation Report, or a WIR.  A WIR will tell you if, on the particular day and time inspected, the home had active or previous infestations of termites, powder post beetles and/or wood-decaying fungi.

Many people I talk to think this is a bond that guarantees against the cost of future infestation. It is not the same thing.  If you want a termite bond, negotiate for it.  A WIR is only a snapshot of that day.

Also, unless the house is brand new, I would expect previous infestation.  Most waterfront homes on Lake Martin are older and have battled the humidity of the South.  This usually yields some sort of previous infestation.  Don’t let this freak you out unless the damage is so great that your home inspector is concerned.

An active infestation, however, is a showstopper.  You had better get those nasties out of there before you buy the house.

A dock person is another lake-specific professional that might not translate to your hometown.  Every Lake Martin home is different, but this could potentially be an expensive repair or an important part of a planned renovation.

If the home you like has a dock that only needs a few top boards replaced, then it is no problem. Your solution could be a carpenter if the job is that light; however, if the dock is about to fall in, or if illegal foam has been used on the floating dock, you need to get the advice of a contractor that specializes in dock construction.  A regular home inspection does not usually cover the dock or seawall; so don’t rely on it here.  Get a specialist to review the situation.

Similarly, you might need to get a dock contractor’s advice if you plan a big expansion.  What if your planned expansion would run afoul of dock regulations?  Is that a deal breaker for you? Then you had better include that in your negotiations with the seller.

Selecting a good attorney is often the last choice made in the purchase process, but that does not mean it is an unimportant one.

First of all, pick someone that is a good explainer.  I have been selling real estate on Lake Martin for more than 10 years, and I still learn something new at each closing.  When you have questions about something as important and expensive as a home purchase, it helps to have a good teacher on your side instead of a person that just spouts legal jargon.

Another critical point in selecting an attorney is his or her local title search expertise.  Just because your cousin Vinny is awesome at health care law in New Jersey doesn’t mean he is good at searching title at Lake Martin.  Our lake counties are rural areas (thank the Lord), and the title chain often includes some cornbread and collards stains.  The local title agents know the twists and turns of the local courthouses.  Pick a good one and trust the one you pick, but get the title insurance anyway because no one is perfect.

I may have left a few villagers out, but hopefully, I have named most of them.

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas Ken and Sara!

Yes, Christmas in July! Where did Santa deliver Ken and Sara’s gift?  – Lake Martin of course!

Guess what Santa brought Ken and Sara for Christmas last year? Hint-it is much, much bigger than a bread box. (Spoiler alert – a new house at Lake Martin, Alabama!!)  Watch the video above to see how excited they were about their present.

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Not everyone can receive a University of Alabama Game Day Hawaiian shirt for Christmas (and surely not everyone wants one) but you can find your Lake Martin home with Lake Martin Voice Realty!

 

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Do Restrictions Constrict at Lake Martin?

 

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Note: I originally published this article in my monthly column in Lake Magazine. I also published it on my column on al.com – where I am proud to write about Lake Martin Real Estate for AL.com.

Bob and Susie Q. Buyer have found a way to buy a Lake Martin waterfront home that will pay for itself!

It’s easy money, they think.

They have done their due diligence (i.e. watch HGTV) and are ready to make their move. They have found the perfect little Lake Martin waterfront cabin. It’s on a beautiful lot with 500 feet of waterfront. When they noticed that house is crammed over to one side of the lot, it gave Bob and Susie Q. their idea. They buy the home, cut the lot in half, sell the lot, and pay for their entire purchase.

They can’t miss, right?

I can think of two reasons they will.

Firstly, they might need to consider that HGTV is carried on the cable networks of Charter, Com-Link Inc. and Dish here at little ‘ole Lake Martin. In other words, we know how to flip (and flop) here, too. If a deal is that much of a layup, it will likely be scooped up by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand way before it comes on their radar up there in the big city.

Secondly, the biggest reason is that the lot is restricted. Well, I should say that there is a 98% chance it is restricted and therefore they cannot split the lot. The seller is selling the lot subject to the same deed restrictions which they bought, and at Lake Martin, that means you can’t split it, among other things.

Yes, there are some needles in the haystack here and there. But, the last time I looked for a buyer, I reviewed the 100 or so waterfront lots for sale on the lake and only found two or three that were truly unrestricted.

If you are unfamiliar with deed restrictions, think about the neighborhood where you live just outside of Gotham. Most neighborhoods have their own set of rules about what kind of home you can build. They might also have rules that state the minimum size a home can be, how close it can be placed to the lot lines, the materials used, or any number of things.

Still other neighborhoods have “Architectural Review Boards” which is a committee of residents tasked with making sure all new construction fits the Homeowner Association’s guidelines.  These are all “deed restrictions” because they are part of the deed when you bought your house.

I hear from buyers all the time that let me know that they want a waterfront lot that is, in their words, “unrestricted.” When they mention that, I always ask them if they plan to split the lot or build two homes on a lot. Usually, they say no. Most of the time buyers think unrestricted refers to controls like architectural review committees.

They don’t want anyone telling them what color paint to use on their deck.

This also comes up when people want to be able to park their RV on the lot for a few years before they build their home. Or, they even might want to park the RV during the precious few months of home construction. Most formal neighborhoods and county road plats at Lake Martin have restrictions against this.

Other buyers might like to put a manufactured home on the lot, and keep it like that as long as possible. Again, it’s equally difficult to find a lot that would allow this.

Does that mean all restrictions are bad? If your neighbor split his lot into 30 parts and plans to sell them all to the highest bidders, would you be excited about it?

The point here is that each lot buyer must not go around making assumptions. Don’t assume that all restrictions are “bad,” or that any restrictions are “good.” One must behold any deed restrictions with one’s own eye and decide beauty.

How does one do that?

You verify before you buy.

After that, it’s too late. Therefore, a buyer with concerns about when can be done on the lot should include a contingency in the real estate contract to say something like “this offer is subject to buyer’s favorable review of all deed restrictions” or something like that. The buyer should consult an attorney to make absolutely sure.

I am not a lawyer, but experience here at Lake Martin has pretty much taught me to never assume.  But, if I had to guess, I would say that Bob and Susie Q. Buyer won’t be able to split that lot.

I will take a 98% chance any day of the week!

 

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Interview: StillWaters RA Manager Kevin Eason

Kevin Eason has been the General Manager of the StillWaters Residential Association for several years now.  Kevin is extremely competent and helpful, and the neighborhood has benefited from his expertise.  Recently I sent Kevin an email, asking him some general questions about StillWaters.  In the course of selling waterfront real estate around Lake Martin, I get asked for information I don’t have, and it is really nice to have someone like Kevin to lean on for good answers.  I am extremely grateful for his advice below!  The best way to reach Kevin directly is to call him at his office at 256-825-2990 or see the equally informative StillWaters Residential Association website here: StillWaters RA.

If you would like more info on my site on StillWaters, see the page here.  It includes a live, ever-updated list of every waterfront home for sale and every lot for sale inside StillWaters.  There is also a video tour!

Q: How many total acres are inside StillWaters?  How much of that is waterfront?

A: StillWaters is approximately 2,400 acres and we have 23 miles of private roads.
I do not know how much is waterfront but we have several miles of waterfront.

Q: How many homes are in StillWaters?

A: There are 1,815 property owners in StillWaters. 1,056 residential units, this includes single family homes, condos, and villas. There are 568 single family homes and 488 condos/villas. We also have 14 timeshare units that are not included in the total number of units. During the busy season we have 14 new guests, mostly families, check into the timeshares every Friday.

Q: How many unimproved lots?

A:There are currently 759 vacant lots; however, a few lots are very large and could be subdivided into several more building lots.

Q: What is the breakdown on waterfront lots vs. interior lots that are unimproved?

A: I do not have a breakdown of waterfront to interior lots. I can tell you there are only 14 vacant waterfront lots left, a few are listed for sale by their owners.

Q: What do the homeowner association dues cover?

A: The SWRA annual dues include the maintenance of the private roads, gates, pool, tennis courts, park, and other common areas.

Q: What percentage of your residents are permanent?

A: We think we have approximately 600 permanent residents. This is difficult to determine because a portion of our residents live in StillWaters six months out of the year and then somewhere else the rest of the year. There are 954 registered voters inside StillWaters.

Q: What frequent questions do you get from new or prospective owners?

A: The most frequently asked question by new interior owners concerns access to the water. The marina has plenty of boat slips for rent and you can pay an annual fee to use the boat ramp. We do not have a beach or other access for owners. The most frequently asked question overall is where can I rent more storage space.

Q: And lastly, how are the sales in StillWaters?

A: We had 157 properties sell in StillWaters in 2015, 136 sold in 2014, and 132 sold in 2013.

If you see anything you like in the list above, click on the picture, then click on the star beside it on the MLS list, register, and the MLS will automatically notify me.  Or, you can contact me through this form, you can email me ([email protected]), or you can call me at (334) 221-5862.

 

 

 

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Buying a Lake Martin Home from Long Distance

Is it hard to buy a Lake Martin home from far away?

Our waterfront real estate market here at Lake Martin is a second home market. In fact, Alabama Power estimates that about 80% of waterfront homes here are second homes.  Since we are in a rural area here in central Alabama, we get a lot of buyers that are coming from greater than two hours away.  Vacation home buyers are typically a more real estate savvy bunch – they have been around the block.  They don’t have first time jitters, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

That’s one of the fun things about selling real estate here at Lake Martin.  As an agent, I am getting people that are coming down to the lake to fulfill a dream or just have some fun.  Nevertheless, buying any home can have its stressful moments.  Add to that fact that most people are buying from a distance, and sometimes the questions can be overwhelming to say the least.  You can’t just take off during your lunch hour to see a home or meet a home inspector.

Please take a second to watch George and Lea in the above video – they will explain their experience with long distance home buying.

I try to make the process as easy as possible by utilizing the latest tech. Click here to read my recent blog post on 3D Tours. Watching home tours on video, text messages, emails, phone calls, research, lots of negotiations, inspections, – buying a home can be a time consuming process.  I am willing to do anything I can to help my clients feel great about their purchase.  Sometimes I get my best ideas from them, so if you know any, give me a call at the number at the top of this page or contact me through this form. Thanks!

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