Real estate sales results have been finalized for 2018 here at Lake Martin. 

I found all of the below statistics by looking at the Lake Martin Area Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These sales represent all agents, all brokerages, on the entire lake. While sales such as  “For Sale By Owner” and direct developer sales are not included, I do think these numbers represent the vast majority of all real estate activity on the lake. This sample pool is large enough by which to gauge trends, I think. 

The big news is that waterfront home sales fell in 2018 when compared to 2017. Last year, 297 waterfront homes were sold on Lake Martin, and 363 were sold in 2017. This decrease represents an 18-percent drop. That is a pretty hefty change, though readers of this column should not be too surprised. The sales year of 2018 started behind 2017 and never caught up.

The last time we looked at sales results, it was through April 30, 2018. Back then, inventory levels were lower than at the same time in 2017. Because Lake Martin is a seasonal market, it is instructive to look at the inventory left over at the end of December. Now that the dust has settled, we see that 2018’s available homes for sale was actually higher than 2017’s. We ended the year with 190 waterfront homes for sale; that is 27 percent more than were available at the end of 2017. 

If we look at waterfront lot sales, we find that 2018 saw 69 lots sold. While that represents a 15 percent increase from the prior year, it still is only the fifth best year since 2013. 

So what does all this mean? When I step back and look at 2018 as a whole, I conclude that 2017 was a peak in the real estate seller’s market cycle at Lake Martin. I think 2019 will continue to trend downward to a more balanced market – neither a buyer nor a seller’s market.

The reason I draw this conclusion is that the trends we have seen support it. Markets in which numbers of homes sold are increasing, prices are increasing, and inventories are decreasing, are usually deemed advantageous to a seller. But that is not what we are seeing at Lake Martin right now. In fact, we are seeing just the opposite. The numbers of homes sold are decreasing. Inventories are increasing. I can’t prove this yet, but I think that prices will decrease in 2019.

You can’t call yourself a seller’s market when the numbers are rolling that way.

Am I predicting good or bad news for 2019? Neither, I think.

Personally, I stay away from adjectives like “good” or “bad” when describing the market. Subjective terms applied to the market as a whole don’t really tell the entire story. It seems to me that most people, even some economists in the real estate industry, tend to oversimplify markets by using stark “either/or” language. 

For example, if you are a buyer, and you purchase a home in the middle of a raging seller’s market, it is a bad thing? Maybe not. Maybe the timing is more dictated by your retirement, a job change or something like that. Conversely, is it bad for a seller to sell during a buyer’s market? Maybe not. Maybe it is the right time for that family. 

We won’t really know until this time next year. Sales in 2019 might bounce back and beat 2017, just like 2017 leapfrogged 2015 and became Lake Martin’s highest sales year ever. Or (in my opinion, more likely) 2019 will prove to be the second year of decreasing waterfront home sales.

Either way, we still have a strong real estate market sited on one of the most beautiful locations in the Southeast.

John Coley is a broker and owner of Lake Martin Voice Realty. Visit his blog at LakeMartinVoice.com.