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Hosting the Perfect Game Day at your Lake House

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Autumn Approaches

We all have a favorite thing about Fall. For some, it’s crunching leaves that have turned golden brown, rusty orange, and deep yellow. For others, it’s the cool, crisp air that invites you to pull cozy sweaters out of your closet. But if you ask many of us in the American South, we’ll tell you that when September approaches, the main thing on our mind is Football Season. We’re looking forward to tailgates, beers with friends and family, and of course, Game Day house parties. When you can’t make it to the actual event, there’s nothing better than gathering around a table of chips and hot wings and cheering on your team from the other side of the TV. At, we believe that lake houses can make the perfect venue for hosting a Game Day event this Fall. We’re here to help with tips for preparing a fun, laid-back time with your friends and family.

Emerald Shore Lake House Lake Martin
Photo courtesy of Adams Gerndt Designs.

Prep for your Guests

When it comes to gearing up for Game Day at the lake, food prep is a must. It can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve invited a group of 30 friends or family, but it doesn’t have to be such a daunting task. “Keep it simple,” advises Anna Cooper who often hosts parties at her house on Lake Martin in Alabama. “Write down your menu, do as much ahead as you can, and over-prepare rather than under-prepare so that you can enjoy your night.” When enjoying football together is such a laid-back activity, the food you provide can be simple too. For example, a beef tenderloin in the oven — or on the grill if you have one at your lake house— is an easy dish that turns out well every time. For enjoying a daytime game in the transitional weather, it’s nice to pair with a fresh salad with watermelon, feta, basil, and balsamic vinegar.

Grilled Watermelon Feta Basil-RecipeRunner Salad
Photo and recipe courtesy of

Afterwards, ice cream sandwiches or a bowl of berries and granola with a dollop of whipped cream. Let’s not forget about drinks. Besides the traditional Game Day beers from the fridge, Cooper recommends a few fun cocktail recipes. She starts off with Aperol spritzes for her guests, adding an orange slice in the classic Italian way. Once late October approaches and you feel the Fall chill, she suggests a delicious “smoked old fashioned” with nice bourbon. With this recipe, she recommends infusing the glass with torched hickory wood for a flavorful touch. The recipes don’t have to be intricate – they can be simple and fun. As long as there’s enough to go around, your guests will take the fun from there.

Photo and recipe courtesy of Grill Girl.

Setting the Scene

Once the food is on the table, the best part about hosting Game Day at your lake house is bringing everyone together. Whether you’re watching the game on a screened porch, an outdoor patio, or in your den, there’s something comforting about bursting into cheers at the TV every time your team scores a touchdown. When setting up the viewing spot for the big game, outdoor TVs are a popular choice – especially when there’s a gorgeous lake view just outside. They’re also an emerging trend that’s more accessible than ever. If you’re looking to set up an outdoor TV at your lake house to start hosting Game Day events, Birmingham-based general contractor Blake Ballantine of McGuire Construction has some advice. “The biggest thing is protection from the weather,” Ballentine notes, “you don’t want it in direct sunlight either.” With these tips in mind, Ballentine notices that clients often request outdoor TVs on exterior walls so they can sit on the deck and watch the game.

Photo courtesy of John Baranello Design.

When the weather gets chillier, they may turn on their outdoor fireplace or fire pit. As entertainment trends move from comfy indoor dens to screened porches and open patios, Ballentine mentions that outdoor kitchens are rising in popularity as well. At a lake house, it’s easy to see why. With everyone on the patio enjoying the halftime show, the cook at the grill can be part of the conversation – and enlist help from friends and family. All the while, everyone is enjoying the serene, spacious backdrop at your lake home. 

Willow's End, Lake Martin - Adams Gerndt Design
Photo courtesy of Adams Gerndt Designs.

Embrace the Season

Whether your focus is cooking delicious appetizers or setting up the perfect outdoor grilling area, once you prepare a space for your guests, the beautiful lake setting surrounded by Fall foliage will work its charm. There’s no better background for a fun, communal event like Game Day than refreshing air and peaceful lake views. “At my home in Birmingham, I don’t have an outdoor space,” Cooper comments, “But once you get to the lake, it’s a relaxing, casual environment. You can see the water and feel the breeze while the fire’s going. I’d much prefer to be there watching the game.” As Fall and football season approaches, now is the time to look into that outdoor grill or TV you’ve been thinking about for your lake house. Just one last piece of advice— make sure you have channel access to the game! You wouldn’t want to miss out on experiencing stadium excitement from the comfort of your tranquil lake home.

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Trust Your Appraisers, Not an AVM

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property value checklist; trust your appraiser, not an AVM

Lake properties are unique, and the way their values are determined is too. 

Unlike homes in off-lake suburbs that may feature cookie-cutter properties, no two lake homes are alike.

The fact they can be so different throws a wrench in how automated valuation models (AVM) estimate their worth.

Automated valuation models provide buyers and sellers with base price points for listed properties.

However, data scientists with the National Association of Realtors caution consumers that AVMs are “not a substitute for formal appraisals, comparative market analysis, or the in-depth expertise of real estate professionals.”

When it comes to buying and selling unique lake properties, ones that don’t fit into the generic AVM mold, only a highly trained, objective and knowledgeable appraiser can accurately determine your home’s value. 

The Appraiser/AVM Difference

AVMs determine estimated home values by analyzing quantifiable structural and public property data like a home’s number of bedrooms and baths, lot size and sales history. 

Some tools may also include limited MLS data and user-submitted information.

However, algorithmic estimations do not reflect the more personal aspects of your property like its view of the lakefront, unusual features such as a private peninsula or your home’s overall visual appeal. 

Nor do AVMs consider how many feet of lake frontage your property has, the depth of water at your property line, or whether you can build a dock in the future when calculating value estimates.  

An appraiser, on the other hand, formulates home values using a combination of all these things. 

Either side of a real estate transaction can hire an appraiser. Most commonly, mortgage lending institutions require an official property appraisal to verify that buyers’ loan amounts are accurate. 

Only verified property appraisal values can be used as a base for challenging a seller’s asking price during contract negotiations for this reason. 

AVM values also bear no significance in negotiations or in determining appropriate mortgage amounts. 

The Appraiser’s Checklist

Because appraisers work closely with financial institutions, these licensed and certified real estate professionals are required to use Fannie Mae-sanctioned report forms to determine how much a property is worth.

Homeowners and prospective buyers can access the 2019 Uniform Residential Appraisal Report, or Form 1004, for free here

In addition to reporting property details about the subject property, like its foundation type, the number of stories, square footage and age, appraisers also record outside factors that may influence your lake home’s perceived value. 

Influencers include neighborhood characteristics such as how much of the area is built-out opposed to undeveloped; whether neighborhood growth is rapid, stable or slow; and supply and demand in the area. 

Appraisers must also answer if your lake property “fits” in your neighborhood in terms of its style, condition and construction. 

Appraisal values reflect materials used and the condition of your property’s exterior walls, flooring, trims and finishes and any additions and upgrades made, as well.

Both location and physical appearance factors contribute to how potential buyers form their opinions on how much a property is worth to them.

The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice instructs appraisers to be “independent, impartial and objective” when evaluating properties. 

Appraisers who are intimately familiar with consumer attitudes and behaviors, and the current climate in your specific lake real estate market, use these sentiments in tandem with quantifiable data to formulate comprehensive, well-rounded home values.

Professional appraisers also compare your property to similar on-the-market and recently sold homes to support their final estimations.

Appraisers Offer Better Accuracy

Professional appraisers’ holistic approach to determining how much properties are worth allows them to provide consumers with more accurate value estimations than electronic AVMs. 

Consider this: AVMs cannot physically tour your property and therefore, can’t “see” its condition. 

Take two lake properties, one right next to the other.

Both Property A and Property B were built in 2003, both are 5,000 square feet and both have the same number of bedrooms and baths. 

Both properties are on same-sized lots and both have lake views. 

An AVM may take these property characteristics and determine similar home values for these seemingly comparable homes. 

However, because the AVM is confined to numerical data analysis, it cannot accurately compare these homes. It can’t take into account that Property A has been so poorly maintained that its paint has faded, its windows have been broken and its boat dock destroyed by the elements. 

Property B has been well taken care of, fitted with energy-saving appliances and features a newly rebuilt boat dock. 

These properties also differ in that Property A has a poor lake view because of a row of lake management-protected trees near the shoreline, while Property B has a clear, picturesque view of the waterfront. 

An appraiser can walk Property A and Property B individually, taking into consideration their respective similarities and differences to appropriately estimate their worth. 

An appraiser can more accurately define what makes a property “comparable” to the subject property concerning condition, amenities, lake access, etc.


Get Schooled on These Common Lake Real Estate Terms

September 6, 2019

Lake real estate transactions can be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terminology most often associated with the process. At Lake Homes Realty/, we are committed to providing you with all the tools you’ll need to ensure your lake home buying or selling experience is both convenient and straightforward.  In tandem with our […]

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3 {Paw}esome Tips for Beating the Summer Heat

August 26, 2019

This article originally appeared in Southern Paws and Tails Magazine. The dog days of summer are HERE, so it’s time for a reminder about your role in helping every member of your household beat the heat. Stop sweating it and try out these wag-tastic tips for keeping your furry loved ones cool! Keep ‘em Hydrated […]

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Grilling Recipes to Rock Your Summer

August 22, 2019

Article co-authored by Lake Homes Realty intern Trey Yanity The best summer has sunshine, a day at the lake and a hot grill! These three grilling recipes are simple, quick-fix dishes that will have the whole family asking for more. Sweet and Spicy Grilled Shrimp These shrimp start deliciously tangy then hit you with a […]

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Lake Homes Realty Named to Inc. 5000 for Third Consecutive Year

August 16, 2019

Inc. Magazine released its 2019 Inc. 5000 this week, honoring Hoover, Alabama-based Lake Homes Realty as one of the fastest-growing privately-owned companies in the nation for the third consecutive year. “Each year it becomes increasingly difficult to be named on the Inc. 5000,” said brokerage CEO Glenn S. Phillips. “Making the list for the third […]

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Making Waves with Tony Luna – A Tiny Home Story

August 16, 2019

Many real estate agents enjoy spending their spare time engaged in activities unrelated to the industry. But for Tony Luna, a Lake Homes Realty agent on Tennessee’s Center Hill Lake, he can’t get enough of the lake real estate scene, his newest hobby combining his love of the water and passion for real estate: building […]

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Get Caught up in These Lake-Centric Stories

August 9, 2019

The only thing better than cozying up with a good book on a lazy day is curling up with that book lakeside. So settle into your favorite Adirondack chair, grab your sleekest pair of shades and dive into these best-selling lake-centric stories. The Lake By: Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich Awards: 2011 Longlist Man […]

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Pet Safety at the Lake: Your Cat Co-Captain

August 8, 2019

Photos courtesy of Sintra the Cat, Mero the Adventure Cat and Bryson Burmese Adventure Kitty. Article co-authored by intern Gabrielle France Not all felines are ‘fraidy cats’! In fact, a growing number of cats are riding the waves across some of America’s favorite lakes this summer. If you’re ready to hit the open water […]

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Top 7 Lake Inflatables

August 5, 2019

Article co-authored by intern Gabrielle France Sunscreen, swimsuits, sodas, and snacks are all important but don’t forget to pack this summer’s hottest lake inflatables before hitting the water this lake season.  Sun Pleasure Party Bird Island Giant Flamingo and Unicorn Floats You’re sure to turn a few heads with this giant flamingo float from […]

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