Contract to Close in Six and a Half Months

Contract to Close in Six and a Half Months

It is always an honor to help someone who has known me my entire life buy or sell a home. In the case of my buyers who just purchased a brand new home in Carter’s Mill in Haymarket, one of them was actually my fill-in babysitter when I was a kid. When his sister wasn’t able to fulfill the duties, it was up to him. The giant age difference as kids to teens means nothing in land of fifty plus years.

He and his wife reached out to me in February. His mother had moved in with them and was having a hard time with the stairs in their home. While he had planned to retire and sell his home a couple years ago, mom moving in with them put the new retirement home in a different place. Retiring at the beach wasn’t fair to mom, taking her away from all that was familiar and her daughter. So they started looking for a home in the active adult communities in Western Prince William County. It didn’t take but a couple home tours for them to identify that they really preferred a new home and the location of Carter’s Mill, a Del Webb/Pulte community off of John Marshall Highway.

They went under contract to purchase their Carter’s Mill home in early March. They fully expected to be moving in at the end of the year. Pulte got the job done quicker than anticipated and today, they closed on their brand new home before the end of September. Everything they need is on one level and they have a fully finished, walk out basement as well. Pulte built them a great composite deck and were still tweaking the details midday today to make sure my buyers were one hundred percent satisfied.

One thing that my buyers were so happy they did was to hire home inspectors for both a pre-drywall inspection and final inspection before closing. And the great thing I noticed was that Pulte was not put off by this at all. Their construction manager welcomed it, went over the home inspection report and corrected issues found. It was never a sore spot for the builder, but a chance for them to rise to the occasion and continue to make my buyers happy.

For anyone looking for fifty-five plus communities in Western Prince William County, I would definitely consider Carter’s Mill. If you want representation while buying, feel free to reach out.

What Good is a Listing Brochure?

What Good is a Listing Brochure?

Anyone who has listed with me as a seller or been trained by me as a new agent knows that when it comes to listing brochures, I am not a fan. In an age where the answer to anything lies in the palm of your hand with just a few touch screen pokes, what possible good is a printed brochure for a listing doing except making your seller happy? Online brochures are all you need. Be visible online and the home will sell. Save some trees and cut down on the trash in buyer agent car floor boards.

A few days ago, during a home inspection, I found an outstanding use of the brochure the listing agent had in the home. As the buyer’s agent, I attend home inspections to take in the information the inspector gives. However, the inspection earlier this week was different. You see, the entire family was at the inspection. Mom and dad, who are my buyers, and their three children ranging in age from two to seven. One might woner, why would a child attend a home inspection? As it turns out, the family home my buyers were selling was also being inspected the very same day by their own buyers. They all had to be out of the home.

The kids were great for as long as you might expect kids to last in an environment with only the few toys mom brought and nothing else. They were growing restless and I jumped in to help. It was time for a game of brochure scavenger hunt. The kids all got a brochure. I would point to a picture and ask them to find that room. It was made all the more challenging by the fact that the rooms were vacant during the inspection. Talk about a lesson in observing details and spatial relations! We had to pay attention to window treatment colors, placement of windows, color or walls. It was interesting to watch their minds work.

After twenty minutes, the kids had found all the rooms pictured and then began to wonder why some rooms weren’t on the brochure. Good question with not a great answer that a seven year old would understand. Time for another game. This time, the seven year old had a great idea. Brochure hide and seek. He hid the brochure and we had to find it.

As it turns out, having brochures in the house that day was a life saver. I am still one hundred percent positive these things do nothing to get a seller more money or get a home to sell quicker, but at least it came in handy as I became a home inspection camp counselor to my three youngest clients.

When Going Under Contract is Not Immediate

When Going Under Contract is Not Immediate

Not every home goes under contract immediately. It is still a seller’s market out there. I have recently negotiated deals from Bristow to Woodstock and last night, Middletown. What is happening in the market is a shift in buyer behavior. They are no longer prone to acting in a frenzy. Their actions have become far more deliberate as rising mortgage interest rates, coupled with the steady increase in home values, have pinched affordability. Buyers just entering the market are looking for smaller homes than they were a year ago, or homes further out.

The home pictured above at 6717 Middle Road took forty-two days to go under contract. (pause for reader gasp) Hold on there. That’s not all that unusual. Looking back to my listings to January 1, 2021, I found one that had higher days on market at fifty-two. The next highest below Middle Road was a home at thirty-one days. Mind you, my average days on market in that time frame is nine days. Median days on market is four. What takes some houses longer to go under contract than others?

PRICE

Price is usually the first, sometimes the only culprit to remedy when a property is not going under contract. If a seller does everything you tell them to do and the home is showing in immaculate condition, the price is the problem. Newer agents, licensed during the seller’s market boom since the pandemic, may not even realize that price can be a problem. They may give you feedback that the home doesn’t have a finished basement or the high level finishes expected. When their buyers pick higher priced houses with those traits and don’t pick yours, that means the price needs to come down. Let’s face it, there is zero sense in finishing a basement vs. lowering price to compensate for not having one.

TIMING

Sometimes, selling a home too soon after a purchase gives buyers two feelings. The first one is, “What’s wrong with the house?” Two of the sellers I have helped with the highest days on market owned their houses less than eighteen months when they listed them with me. In both cases, life circumstances precluded holding onto the homes. One was meant as a second home, but the owner wasn’t able to utilize it as much as she had hoped due to life circumstances. The other was a job transfer right after it was purchased.

The other feeling buyers had about these homes was about time owned in conjunction with list prices. “They are asking too much. They only bought it eighteen months ago.” Despite HUGE value increases during those times, buyers felt they were the judge and jury of how much these sellers should make for their short time of ownership. This feeling is pure jealousy and has nothing to do with market value. They will often feel value has solely to do with what an owner has done to improve the home. In the crazy market we have experience since 2020, demand alone was enough to justify high value increases.

CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND YOUR CONTROL

Sometimes there can be a combination of factors contributing to high marketing time, not the least of which are circumstances beyond the seller’s control. Maybe you list a property in winter and you get snow storm after snow storm. Maybe you have a vacant home with, unbeknownst to you, poor drainage, live out of the area and experience torrential rain storms twice a week that leave puddles in your basement. You only find out because of agent feedback. Yikes! Middle Road had a timing issue (lots of judgement over how much the seller was asking having only owned the home eighteen months) and then water in the basement in puddles. Despite the latter being disclosed, then corrected to not be a problem, buyers were hesitant. To buyers who had been squeezed out of areas with newer homes not prone to such issues having different foundation structures, there was a bit of panic. What did the seller do? First she lowered the price. Then she hired a home inspector to do an entire property inspection and posted the very run of the mill, ordinary results for buyers and their agents to read. Now, they had a resource above either of our heads, to discuss the findings. Guess what? That’s when it went under contract. And without an inspection contingency because she had done the inspection for them.

Some homes just take longer to sell. Understanding the dynamics at play and being able to bring considerable experience and skill to the table to help my sellers work around whatever the market throws at them is where I shine brightest. Not every home sale is going to be prep it, photograph it, market it and review offers. There is often more skill and nuance in marketing it.

No matter what the process entails, I’m here to lead the way and make it as stress free as possible. Not all paths to going under contract are short or well worn, but having an experienced and skilled agent on your side that can help you work with the market, not against it, is critical to success.

Unanswered Prayers in a Relocation House Hunt

Unanswered Prayers in a Relocation House Hunt

In early June I had the privilege of meeting relocating buyers coming from the west coast. They were in town for one week for a house hunt. Their budget was more than enough for what they wanted. The issue was their existing home that was under contract, but not guaranteed to close. On two occasions during our week together they were convinced they had found the perfect home.

The first one was everything they said they wanted and more. Acreage. Multiple garage bays for the car collector in the family. And the home was a California style ranch. Did I mention it had a pool? Unfortunately, they did not act fast enough when they saw it the first day out. They wrote an offer the second day we were together and it just wasn’t a strong enough offer. Back to the drawing board.

Then it was to another dream home scenario. A traditional home on over twenty acres in the northwest exburbs of DC. They were drawn in. However, the seller in this case wasn’t really ready to sell because they had decided, at that late date, to subdivide their property so their soon-to-be landlocked son could have an easement. Grrr. That was a frustrating loss. Why would a seller have an active listing when they weren’t ready, willing or able to sign an offer?

The buyers left empty handed at the end of the week. Their first day or two back on the west coast saw a false start on another home. Thankfully, faith in the process emerged over a couple conversation and when they moved into temporary housing as official residents of Virginia a couple weeks later, we were back at the house hunt. The first day back out, they saw two homes they loved. More importantly, one their kids loved.

A quick decision had them making an offer on the one mom liked best. Again, an unanswered prayer. The listing agent on house number one thought my buyers had FHA financing. They were conventional with no appraisal contingency. By the time that agent called to blow me off the next day, she realized we were a better offer than she thought. Oh well. Your loss. On to house number two, which was the home that had hit the mark for the entire family.

Mom and dad didn’t tell the kids right away when they got under contract. They waited until the day of the home inspection to tell them they were buying the house they loved the best with the pool, game room, sauna and wooded acreage. The house had been a vacation home for the sellers who had just put in the pool and a new septic system. The sellers had redone so much in the home. And they were the most gracious sellers I have encountered in a long time on a buy side. They left beds and arcade games for the kids, a table and outdoor furniture for the pool.

My buyers got an amazing deal. They LOVE their new home. They are so glad none of the other deals worked out. And since moving their belongings in, I have received pictures of their life in Virginia adventure. In a message to me after closing I smiled when they said, “Thank you once again for everything. You were awesome to work with and made life easy.”

How can I help you? It is my pleasure to make the transition in, out or in between homes, as stress free as I can. Reach out for your own consultation.

Selling With or Without Tenants in Place

14443 Macon Grove Lane in Gainesville Sold for $352,400 on July 22, 2022

Selling With or Without Tenants in Place

Seems like every time I meet a seller who is hiring me to list a property they have rented, I get very anxious reactions about the suggestion to list after the tenants have moved out, or to financially incentivize them to be part of the process. (The latter usually means offering them a free month’s rent or discount on rent if they comply with showing requests, leave the home neat and the house is under contract quickly.) Landlords are quick to become fixated about the cost of such ideas.

In the case of the Parks at Piedmont South Condo pictured above, the landlord-seller was very smart. When attempting to first list the home with the tenant in place, she cleaned the home herself and put the tenants up in a hotel for the weekend. Nothing was going to stop buyers from hemming and hawing about the condition. The tenants had painted some loud colors, left the carpet a disaster and the walls in the stairway were very marked up. It felt shabby. And because the condo didn’t go under contract during the weekend the tenants were out, we dealt with limited showing availability and deteriorating show condition. It was no surprise when the buyer under contract to purchase got cold feet and bailed, having been in a competitive situation with three other buyers. That’s when the seller went down the track of improving the home once the tenants were out and listing again…$25,000 higher.

Having a conscientious seller that cared about the condition of the home was a blessing. The market had cooled since the initial listing at $325,000. Listing at $350,000 with new carpet, fresh paint, a new refrigerator and punch list items fixed, my next step was to do some light staging and order another set of professional photos. We wanted the fresh face of the improved listing to lead the way.

Even with all that, buyers seemed to want to tire kick more than usual. While this was literally the only property with three bedrooms available to buyers under $400,000 in Gainesville or Haymarket, buyers wanted to will a market crash into existence. Buyer agents chimed in with the verbal lowball offers from their clients. Then, one savy agent stepped up to the plate with his ready, willing and able buyer. While lowballers were circling, the serious buyer made a deal and today, they went to closing. The property sold for $352,400. The additional sales price more than made up for the less than $2,000 the buyer requested in closing cost help. Did I mention one of the lowballers wrote an offer at $280,000? Yikes. Talk about trying to will a market crash into existence.

When the time comes to sell your tenant occupied home, my advice is to get the tenant out, improve the home and then list for the best result. The money saved in attempting to dovetail a sale with the end of the tenants lease is usually not equal to what you would net in a higher sales price even with additional costs. Get in touch and let’s talk.

Bristow Home in Amenity Rich Neighborhood for $675,000

12607 Cessford Drive in Bristow Listed for $675,000 on July 19, 2022

Bristow Home in Amenity Rich Neighborhood for $675,000

When my husband and I were house hunting in Bristow, one of the homes that I personally loved was the Yardley model. It has all the right rooms in a configuration that makes it a little different that a typical Northern Virginia colonial. This listing at 12607 Cessford is a great example of a bumped out, four bedroom Yardley. And it’s on a great lot!

With no other home fronting to Cessford Drive on the west side, this home has no direct next door neighbors. A gas line easement up the hill and north of the home gives protected open space. To the south side, there just wasn’t enough room to put another home. That gives 12607 Cessford much appreciated elbow room. The back yard is not flat, but the slight rise in the yard itself is a built-in privacy buffer from the neighbor in the back. Enjoy rest and relaxation on the wood deck.

Inside, the floor plan is sure to please buyers. It’s not the most popular mid-sized home in Braemar for nothing. Check out the large family room and kitchen with breakfast nook.

The owner’s suite is another winner. Loads of space and double walk-in closets and bathroom with soaking tub, stall shower and double sinks.

Perhaps the best part of a four bedroom upper level Yardley is the size of the fourth bedroom. It rivals the owner’s suite in sheer size.

This particular Yardley has a partially finished basement to include a landing zone in LVP, large carpeted recreation space and laundry area. It’s a perfect setting for a home theater as there are no daylight windows. There is unfinished space you can finish to include a den and full bathroom, or you can leave it the way it is and enjoy an abundance of storage.

This home is located in Braemar, an amenity rich community in Bristow. Enjoy access to two swimming pools, multiple playgrounds, tennis courts and basketball courts. There are even walking trails that take you through the community. Patriot High School is located just a few blocks away, but Cedar Point Elementary and Marsteller Middle are located within the confines of the neighborhood itself.

Want to schedule your tour? Get in touch with me.

Staging a Home Makes a Difference

Staging a Home Makes a Difference

Getting a property ready for the market is not a task to be taken lightly. In order to generate buyer enthusiasm, a home needs to feel inviting. In the case of an occupied home, personal items need to be minimized. Walking into a home that feels like the owner is still very much there, is not helpful. Whether they realize it or not, buyers are trying to imagine themselves in the space. If they see your family photos, recognition plaques, diplomas or degrees, they are seeing you. They need to see a blank slate.

This topic is top of mind for me again today because I am about to step out and help a seller warm up her home with what I call fluff. The seller has cleaned and de-cluttered, but needs a tad of flair in the now bare surfaces. Of course, none of the flair ever conveys, but it sure does make a difference in how a buyer sees the space they are touring. Staged homes get chosen faster and make more money.

For my occupied listings, I take listing preparation very seriously. It is never a waste of my time to make sure a home is properly primped. And if there is a need to fill with some fluff (plants, paintings and the like) I am happy to provide whatever I have to make a more welcoming statement. Sometimes, a family room mantel just needs a pop of color. Or maybe bookcases need straightening up and items of interest. The more generic, the better.

In the case of a vacant home, it is very hard to visualize how big a room is, or feel any warmth in a bare setting with just four walls. Light staging is a complementary service I offer my vacant listings. A dining area would receive a table and chairs and some place settings and a centerpiece. Bathrooms are fluffed with towels and kitchens are warmed up with cookbooks and the like.

Making the best impression on buyers in the market is essential whether there is limited inventory or you are competing with twenty homes. How enthusiastic buyers are about your home will determine how high your offers go in a seller’s market or how quickly you are chosen in a buyer’s market.

When you are ready to sell, it is never too early to engage my listing services for the absolute best advice on the preparation that will make a difference in the market. The staging is the icing on the cake.

Buyer Success in Warrenton

Buyer Success in Warrenton

Ever wonder how buyers find the agents that represent them? In the case of most buyers I represent, it is a matter of being referred by a former client. However, when buyers are relocating from out of state and have no contacts in the area, how do they find a trustworthy, experienced agent? One way is by attending open houses.

In the case of the buyers pictured above, our paths crossed when I was holding an open at my listing 9477 Cromarty Court. They were investigating the area around Manassas and seeing how far their desired price range could get them. Not very much. In Texas, where they were selling their existing home, they had a much larger home for a similar price as 9477 Cromarty. They were disappointed, but we talked for quite a while about what they wanted. It would not be hard to make them happy, but they were going to have to up their price range. Thankfully, what they were qualified to buy was a heck of a lot more than what they wanted to spend.

Evidently, my experience in the marketplace is easy to spot. Just as easy as my honesty. That’s why they called on me when their home in Texas was scheduled to close and they wanted to get under contract in Virginia. They hand no desire to extend their rental on the increased month to month rate.

We saw only four properties together. However, there were many they saw during open houses. As they tried on various neighborhoods and homes, they did a lot of leg work themselves, registering me as their agent each time. When they happened on a property that hit the mark atyet another open house, I made sure to get out to see it myself the same day. By the following day, we saw it together.

Requirements of a roomy, well equipped kitchen was a must. Mr. Buyer is an avid cook. Generously sized bedrooms was another desire. Private outdoor space was on the wish list as well. The final requirement was being a reasonable distance from work and Dulles Airport. The Warrenton beauty above, just outside the town was a home run. It hit all the requirements and was one of the most solidly constructed homes I have ever toured. Turns out, it was custom built by the owner who is a builder.

They say buyers and sellers should only meet at the closing table. In this case, they met at the home inspection, which was great. Mr. Buyer had many questions about things he’d noticed in the home. Mr. Seller was happy to share all he knew. The relationship of cooperation between the parties could not have been better. The seller took care of issues out of pure pride and courtesy. The buyers were so thrilled to have their first Virginia home be cared for so well.

Are you looking for your next home? The market is tough, but not impossible. Get in touch with me for your own consultation and let’s see if the market can meet your expectations. My many connections from lenders to inspectors can make the process a beeze.

Just Sold in Gray’s Pointe

12907-A Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy Sold on July 5, 2022

Just Sold in Gray’s Pointe

When I first toured 12907-A Lee Jackson Memorial Highway in the Fairfax community of Gray’s Pointe, it was clear that the seller had two options. Sell strictly as-is with no improvement and let the market bear out whatever it would bring. To be blunt, it had electrical issues, broken appliances, old cabinets that were falling apart, pet urine stained floors and drywall and many unfinished decor products. My guess was that the market would probably yield an investor willing to renovate, but needing to reserve their profit market. As-is the seller would be lucky to get $150,000. The other option was to renovate the condo completely.

When the seller realized that the profit worth having goes to those willing to take on the renovation risk, we got two quotes on fixing up the place. One with a service that could be paid at closing. The other with a private contractor that needed payment up front. The savings in going with the private contractor was $20,000. The choice was easy. Hire the private contractor and get the renovation done.

Virtually everything in the one bedroom condo was replaced except the bathtub. Soft close, white shaker cabinets, granite counters, tile backsplash, under cabinet lighting and stainless steel appliances, along with newly wired GFCI outlets and bright LED lights brought the kitchen to life.

Sparkling quartz atop a new vanity with LED lights, freshly tiled shower, new toilet, fixtures, medicine cabinet and mirror made what was formerly the most challenged room in the home absolutely delightful. New drywall replaced the pet stained mess and new stacked washer and dryer were added in the laundry area contained within.

The bedroom was freshened up, as was the entirety of the home with LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring. The closet even had to be re-constructed as the owner had ripped out the former and dealt with open shelving in her day to day. The contractor was so thoughtful as to even add lighting so the next owner could see their belongings in the closet.

The living room/dining room were lit up with LED light fixtures. The wood burning fireplace was white washed and a mantel was custom made for it. The screened porch outside was repaired and painted. And even the storage unit was painted inside and utilty hooks added. The contractor even added coat hooks at the foyer.

New disposal and water heater were installed when they crapped out during construction and the HVAC brought up to normal working condition with replacement parts. All this for less than $400 over budget.

When the condo hit the market on Memorial Day weekend, buyers responded. It was priced at $269,000, a far cry from what we had antipated the as-is price would be. Two offers showed the level of seriousness of the buyers. July 5th the most serious of those buyers became the new owners of this gorgeous renovation. The sales price was $275,000. For an investment of just under $40,000, the seller made $125,000 more in her sales price. She took on the risk of renovation and she reaped the reward.

Not sure if you are up for the renovation of your home prior to list? If you want the profit move-in ready brings you will be. Get in touch with me and we will go over numbers. The market doesn’t pay top dollar for a property in need of serious renovation.

Under Contract in Parks at Piedmont

14443 Macon Grove Lane in Gainesville

Under Contract in Parks at Piedmont

Every once in a while, a property is able to be marketed twice and the second attempt is for a higher amount. This stacked townhouse condo with a one car garage in Gainesville’s Parks at Piedmont South at 14443 Macon Grove Lane is one of those instances.

Originally listed on April 30, 2022 for $325,000, this condo had been tenant occupied at that time. While the seller did everything in their power to make sure the home looked fantastic by de-cluttering and cleaning, even getting the tenants a hotel room for the first weekend on market, the level of wear and tear on the carpets and walls left the buyers that had gone under contract with it feeling remorseful. At least that’s the conclusion that the seller and I came to after those buyers voided their contract over a gas fireplace not igniting that cost less than two-hundred dollars to fix. After that, the seller waited for the tenants to vacate, had the home painted and new carpet installed. They fixed the fireplace and even ordered a new refrigerator. Those improvements warranted an improved list price as the home was in move-in ready condition. On June 23rd, it hit the market again at $350,000.

No seller of mine hits the market under prepared, relying solely on conditions to get their price. They get preparation advice, light staging and professional photography. Even though professional photos had been done during the first listing period, new photos were ordered AFTER light staging to increase buyer enthusiasm on the improved offering. It is not my business practice, even in a seller’s market, to do what is easy or cheap.

Even with the mortgage interest rate increase that buyers have had to cope with, they still find themselves in a seller’s market. There is no real estate crash on the horizon, despite some buyers making offers that are trying to will it in to existence. Inventory is still not meeting buyer demand. In fact, at the time that the first offer came in on this Gainesville condo, it was the only non-age restricted condo on the market in Haymarket and Gainesville below $400K. The only competition it had was a one bedroom condo. Yet, buyers still called with low offers and one made a written offer so low it made me think their agent had made a typo.

A serious buyer whose agent was advising them of the true market conditions and not a pipe dream of a buyer’s market coming to fruition made an offer that, with mild tweaking from the seller, hit the spot. On this 4th of July holiday, my seller is celebrating that she is under contract and is on track to close before another condo fee or HOA fee is due.

The hard reality for buyers is that, while many have been priced out of the market due to the continued rise of home values and now the steep increase in mortgage interest rates, there are still many buyers out there that can afford to buy. Affordability is not the problem of a seller. Smart buyers who hire experienced agents know that. They are making deals and taking advantage of what are still, historically low mortgage interest rates.

If you are a seller looking to sell in seller market conditions, don’t listen to the doom and gloom the news feeds you day in and day out. Get in touch with me. I’m a full-time licensed agent that has been at this since 2005. I have seen market crashes and know the signs. Buyers are more deliberate now, but there are still not enough homes to meet the demand in most Northern Virginia locations. My seller consultations are free and carry no obligation. Let’s talk!

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