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Come on Down and Play The Price is Right

Published: 06.23.2020

Like the show—lake property is very popular

By Benjamin Arnberg

The first year of my Ph.D. program, I took a course called Leadership in Higher Education. The professor was a native of Brazil; his first language was Portuguese. In one essay, I wrote I was “flummoxed” that membership on most Boards of Trustees was made by state political appointment (it seemed, to me, that trustees should have some expertise in higher education management and that they should be elected from within faculty/administrative ranks). The professor returned my essay with only one comment: “You taught me a new word today: flummoxed.”

I have not used that word since that class in 2014. But when I saw the spreadsheet of May 2020 Lake Martin real estate sales, I was flummoxed.

May 2020 Residential Sales:

  • Sales Volume: $23,899,542 – Average Price: $612,809 (39 Units)

May 2019 Residential Sales:

  • Sales Volume: $21,097,900 – Average Price: $570,214 (37 Units)

What do you mean there’s an increase in volume and average price? If this were an episode of The Price is Right, I’d have been called down only to be shipped back to my seat after bidding too low. No Showcase Showdown for me.

I took another look at the spreadsheet, surveying the sales reports for March-May (the period during which shelter-in-place orders were most restrictive).

March-May 2020 Residential Sales:

  • Sales Volume: $68,782,407 – Average Price: $694,772 (99 Units)

March-May 2019 Residential Sales:

  • Sales Volume: $55,934,941 – Average Price: $588,789 (95 Units)

How could this be? A $12,847,466 volume increase despite a pandemic? More units sold? How were people even viewing houses if they were sheltering in place?

Cue the flummoxing:


(Your Millennial and Gen Z children will get this meme)


The pandemic economy was supposed to depress sales of all things “non-essential.” Right? Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders were going to prevent people from pursuing recreational activities or travel. Right? The market was teetering on the edge of collapse. Right?

That’s what the little bird told me, at least. I lived in Atlanta when the pandemic broke. I recall the immediacy with which I had to give up going to The Optimist for my favorite Atlanta dish, Duck Fat Swordfish, or meeting my friends for cocktails at Bar Margot (if you know Bar Margot, you know it’s so small that it’s impossible to social distance within its walls). No more popcorn dinners at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas; I snuck in a viewing of The Invisible Man the night before Atlanta’s first cases were announced. I moved back to Alexander City shortly after, and I expected that I’d be returning to a ghost town resembling a desolate village from a John Wayne western.

Surprise! There was a line to get into Catherine’s Market. Cars were backed up for curbside dinner from The Stone Grille. Winn-Dixie’s shelves were bare. Sitting on a dock, one could hear the gentle hum of many boats motoring through sloughs pulling wakeboarders and tubers. Walking my dog (Briley) on the trail, I crossed paths with dozens of families.

It finally occurred to me to ask myself: “If I had the choice of being in Birmingham/Atlanta/Montgomery or Lake Martin, wouldn’t I pack my bags and flee the city, too?” In fact, I did. The literal minute Georgia’s shelter-in-place order came, I was in the car, and by sunset, I was on the trail with Briley walking to the Willow Point guardhouse to see Terry, who gives her treats (Briley will not pass the guardhouse until she gets her treats that my dad replenishes each week. But don’t tell Briley. She likes to think she’s popular with the guards.).

On Lake Martin, there are many opportunities to social distance and participate in recreation that are simply not available in a city. A home in The Ridge, for example, provides a family oasis. A yard for children to play. A lake in which to swim. Tennis courts for morning matches.  Access to miles of walking trails. To-go menus from local restaurants. Close proximity to The Ridge Marina, where a family can gas up and head out for an afternoon cruise. You can’t get that in Buckhead.

The numbers make a little more sense now.



The increase in sales comes within a 2020 market that has lower residential inventory. This means that someone interested in investing in a lake home may want to consider buying lots on which to build their dream home if the well of listed residential properties runs dry. If you need to dip your toes in the water post haste, now is the time to contact an agent and get the keys before all the homes are bought by your Birmingham/Atlanta/Montgomery neighbors. If you want to meet Briley after a showing with your agent, you have a good chance of seeing us at the Willow Point guardhouse each afternoon. She’s a swell Lake Martin hostess.


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