Just Sold in Bristow’s Active Adult Community of Dunbarton
It was my pleasure to introduce 13248 Ormond Drive to the market on April 1st. The seller and I had looked carefully over the market comps and decided that the appropriate list price for the home was $599,000. We also discussed preparing the home for market. Not a fun chore for any seller, even if it just amounts to writing checks to painters and cleaners. There is a great deal of emotional weight in getting your home ready for the market.
After our listing appointment, the seller understood what was needed to get the house ready for market. It didn’t take long for the home to be painted, cleaned and for the seller to be completely out. Sometimes having a home vacant during marketing is preferrable. When that happens, I jump to action with light staging to warm the home up.
With the home staged, it was time for professional photography and then marketing to include more than filling in fields in the MLS. In addition to a gorgeous virtual tour, the property was featured in an online brochure and my blog. After only two days on the market and one very strong offer, the home was under contract. It didn’t take multiple offers to get above the high water mark the seller and I had anticipated.
The seller was able to get an offer with no contingencies at all. No home inspection. No financing contingency. No appraisal contingency. It was smooth sailing to the finish line. Today, it sold for $641,000. That’s $42,000 above list price with one offer.
When the time comes to list your home, get in touch for a confidential market analysis. No matter the market conditions, you will receive the proper listing preparation advice and professional marketing that will take you to the top of the market.
Looking back on my recent posts here on ChrisAnnCleland.com , I was searching for the post that mentioned this expansive, single family detached home at 13248 Ormond Drive as either Coming Soon or Just Listed. Seems that things have been hectic enough that is was shared only through a link of the virtual tour via my Facebook page.
Ask a seller who hears the tales of way above list price sales in low single digit days about how difficult a listing agent’s job is in a seller’s market and they are likely to default to thinking it isn’t difficult at all. The mistake many sellers make is thinking that a listing agent’s job is measure solely on days on the market or whether a home sold above list price. There is so much more to this job when it comes to properly representing the interests of a seller. And a seller’s market doesn’t make it easier. On the contrary, sometimes it makes the job more difficult.
While in Coming Soon status, this active adult home in Dunbarton had plenty of interest just gearing up for the home to hit the market. In fact, the day before it went Active and was available for showings, a buyer’s agent called and asked if they could submit a sight unseen offer. There are a multitude of reasons why a sight unseen offer may not be the best answer, not the least of which is likely a buyer’s agent arguing that their buyer-clients lose in multiple offer situations. To me, that sounds like hitting the open market is a case for making more money.
What I didn’t see coming was the two other homes that became available in Dunbarton that quelled activity on 13248 Ormond. One was larger, with a finished basement, listed $50,000 less. That’s a problem. However, in speaking with the listing agent there, it seemed all the buyer enthusiasm was behind hers with a finished basement vs. having a loft and backyard. That agent was rolling in offers, which also told her she had under priced the home. What does that mean to buyers who haven’t talked to that competing listing agent, professional to professional? It means buyers would think my gorgeous listing would seem over priced. Understanding market perception is critical when listing in any type of market condition. Sellers can over price in a seller’s market. Mine didn’t, but if buyers thought she did, well, the offers would be lower.
Meanwhile, the elbow grease that went in to prepping this home for market was no different than any other market. Even when I thought I would be the only listing in the neighborhood, I was doing light staging and ordering professional photos. Why? It increases the seller’s bottom line, even in a seller’s market. That all important buyer enthusiasm matters.
Making sure that pre-wired speakers and TV mounts were not eye sores, I was busy fluffing. I even neatened up what was already in place from wiping down a shower, replacing light bulbs, coiling an exterior hose or placing patio chairs. The home showed absolutely perfect. Even the agent that hosted an open house was impressed.
Bearing in mind the scrum going on at the under priced basement home on an extended offer deadline, when my seller got an offer that was higher than what my highest hope for her home had been, she was quick to act and accept the one fantastic offer she had. If not, she would be facing the lost buyers that felt they were competing for more home at a lower price elsewhere. Those buyers don’t swing very hard. This Dunbarton beauty was under contract in two days.
Stay tuned for the final sold price. It will be impressive. In the meantime, if you have been considering the sale of your home, in Dunbarton or elsewhere, get in touch for your own confidential consultation. I am well versed in the market forces and perception that will be at work when you list. A seller’s market is not a guarantee of a sky high offer, or even multiple offers. The highest rewards go to those who prepare and create buyer enthusiasm. That is the name of the game no matter the market.
Selling in a Seller’s Market is Not a Guarantee of Best Terms
As limited housing supply continues to meet unfettered buyer demand, more and more sellers have been overly confident in their place in the market. Believe it or not, not all homes sell in a seller’s market. They will if they are priced right and/or in good condition. Market forces are always at work, which means buyers still compare what is offered to what they have recently seen and what they expect to see in the near future.
It is not uncommon for a buyer to walk away from a perfectly pleasing, over priced home in a seller’s market because they fear it will get bid up above that list price. Preparing market reports regularly for the neighborhoods of Braemar, Dominion Valley and Regency I see sellers getting below list price and selling in weeks, not days. Some even have to give seller subsidy. Why? It’s a seller’s market, right?
When buyer demand is high and inventory is low we are indeed in a seller’s market. That does not mean that sellers can ignore listing preparation, hire low skill listing agents who know nothing of professional marketing and expect to get the top of the market. Consider a top athlete who is a free agent. They will get picked up, but how much money they make depends on the strength of their agent. Agency is all about advocacy. Sellers who hire listing agents are not unlike athletes or actors who have an advocate on their side advising them and helping them negotiate. Talent agents know how to best present their client’s gifts to increase demand to max out the money made.
Bringing it back to real estate and the intense buyer demand our seller’s market is facing, it is fair to say to any seller who asks if they need to complete listing preparation to sell, “No.” If the price is right for the projects left to buyers who are faced with having to pay their own closing costs, down payment and now take on projects in a home, there is no doubt the home will sell. The question is, how much is being left on the table by leaving the preparation undone? More than the cost of the preparation.
Same goes for sight unseen offers. Can a seller get a great offer before anyone has set foot in their home? Sure. If they let showings roll a few days, chances are the offers would get better and better. Why? The pressure to accept sight unseen offers is usually from buyers who know they will not be competitive in a multiple offer situation. And if they will not be competitive in a multiple offer situation, why on earth would a seller who only gets one chance at maximizing their profit not wait to see more than one offer? From my own comps, I recently watched as a seller left approximately $30,000 on the table by not being photographed or going active with their listing agent. Very few sellers I know are willing to walk away from that kind of profit.
Having a strong advocate who knows the current market conditions because they are active in them every day is so important. Let’s go back to our talent agent analogy. Do you think hiring a relative who just became a talent agent is what big name athletes and movie stars do? No. Their paychecks are dependent on outstanding representation. They sign with agents with proven track records of success and outstanding reputations. Why don’t sellers when it comes to listing? Part of the problem is that they conflate the cost of a listing agent with the bottom line they will net. They never consider that a more experienced agent will more than pay for themselves in the preparation advice, professional marketing and skilled negotiation. The other part of the problem is they think anyone with a license will do. This job has very minimal standards. Agents who are exceeding industry standards are the ones breaking records with list prices.
When it is time to list your home, even if it is in a seller’s market, pay attention to the marketing done on behalf of the other listings in this seller’s market. Are they offering staging advice and other preparation? Are they hiring a professional to take listing photos? Are they pushing sight unseen offers? There is never an easy button when it comes to getting the absolute max the market will bear. However, if a seller is okay with leaving tens of thousands on the table, any agent will do. If they want every dollar they can get, are willing to do the work and put up with a few days of showings, they will be over the moon with the results when they hire an experienced broker like me to help them through the process.
A seller’s market can be exceptionally profitable, but should not be treated as a lottery. Choosing the path with the best odds of getting top of the market will make a seller successful. That path starts with hiring the right advocate.
Is Listing Preparation Necessary in a Seller’s Market?
Sitting across from a seller this morning who had started the process of packing, pausing only to sign our listing agreement, there was a lot of discussion over what is necessary to do prior to hitting the market. Very few homes that I walk into are neutral enough, de-cluttered enough and exuding enough mass appeal to be what I, as a real estate professional, would consider market ready, but it does happen.
As a Top Producing Agent in the Bristow/Gainesville area, the sellers I meet want the maximum amount of money they get out of their homes for the minimal amount of effort. Moving is hard enough. Prepping a home for a red hot market seems ridiculous to them. After all, the market is so hot that some sellers are accepting sight unseen offers. They want to know why I am advising them to paint, de-clutter, put in new carpet, etc when a buyer is likely to write a sight unseen offer. The answer is usually in the realm of, “Because you want the same or better that the seller down the street got, and their home was move-in ready.”
Market value is determined by being open to the market. Yes, buyers actually seeing the inside of your home in person. (I know. What a pain, right?) Time and again, sale after sale as sellers and I go over comps, I point out how much more this home made after a few days on the market, being presented move-in ready and professionally presented vs. that home that listed as Coming Soon and took a sight unseen offer from a buyer that didn’t even see photos of the home. A seller that popped up in our comps today sold their home sight unseen. I know the inside of the home because I have been in it. To say the seller left money on the table by taking a sight unseen offer is an understatement. Try thirty-thousand dollars or so is my guess.
Earlier in the week, two of my Coming Soon listings were getting calls from buyer agents begging for a chance to submit an offer sight unseen and have my sellers decide right then and there. Why is that? They know their buyers won’t be competitive when the listing hit the open market. Why on earth would I advise my sellers to take a sight unseen offer that I know can be bested on the open market when they only get one chance to sell the most valuable asset they have? The situations are few and far between where that would make sense. Trying to sell before losing a home to foreclosure would be one of them. Losing out on a home they are under contract to buy because their home sale contingency is about to expire. Minimizing the exposure of a bedridden relative to an overwhelming amount of buyers would be another. Anything else that would may tempt someone to walk away from thirty-thousand dollars would be worthy of investigating opportunities they may not have considered. Boarding pets. Spending the weekend in a hotel. You only get to liquidate your home once.
The same argument goes for listing preparation. Buyer enthusiasm with those exuberant multiple offers doesn’t come from a home that hasn’t been de-cluttered, neutralized and spiffed up for buyers. Sure, an unprepared home may get multiple offers, but the offers will be substantially higher when a seller has put effort into making the home move-in ready. The market comps show it time and again. Is skipping the work worth the money that would be lost?
A little effort goes a long way in this market. Painting the home a neutral color is a great way to put a fresh clean face on the interior of a home. Sometimes the outside might need some fresh paint on the doors, shutters and trim. And maybe a power washing. First impressions are powerful. Tidying up and depersonalizing allow buyers to see themselves living there, which increases their enthusiasm for a home, which increases the price seen in offers.
So when a seller asks me if preparation is necessary, the answer is always, “No, but are you willing to walk away from five to ten percent more in final sold price?” The home sale we saw today that left thirty thousand on the table may have thought differently if her agent had said, “I think you can sell for thirty thousand more if we hit the market for a weekend. What do you think?” Put a price tag on the dreaded event and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.
On January 21st, I listed 14530 Kylewood Drive for $315,000. Before we hit the market we received a very serious offer from a buyer who was desperate to be in the Gainesville area in an affordable home. Having come off of the second half of 2021, where things had not be crazed, but still favoring sellers, I wondered if it may be the best offer the sellers got. Heck, based on a look at the comps when signing the listing in late December, it was likely to be the only offer. My seller wanted to work something out with the buyer, who incidentally had a home sale contingency. However, when that buyer panicked about the amount over list he had written and didn’t sign my seller’s counter that only shortened time frames, I advised my seller to withdraw his counter offer. Thank goodness he heeded my advice.
Turns out that a condo with fees at just under $500/month, got a total of fifteen offers.
Were any of them just at list price? Not a single one. Every offer was above list price. And surprisingly, buyers willing to waive inspections, appraisals or offer a low appraisal guarantee were back in full force. What a difference a week makes.
If you are a buyer in the western suburbs of Northern Virginia, get yourself an agent that is actively engaged in the market. A full-time professional who notices quickly when the pace or conditions shift. Looking over the fifteen offers I saw submitted, I realized how poorly some of these buyers were being represented. Not my circus. Not my monkeys.
In other news my buyer-clients, who wrote their first offer in a similar price point in Warrenton over the weekend, got their offer accepted. You don’t get winning advice from agents who are barely engaged in the market.
If you need a buyer’s agent, give me a call. If you want the best results and expert evaluation of multiple offers, get in touch with me. This is what I do every day. I make it my job to know the market so I can best represent YOU.
Frequently I meet with home sellers who do not wish to be nickeled and dimed over repairs when they are under contract to sell. They will express their desire to sell “as-is” during our listing appointment. There are some points that sellers need to understand about “as-is.”
Selling as-is immediately devalues a home in the eyes of a buyer.
The connotation of as-is to a buyer is one that there are numerous and expensive problems with a home. If there weren’t, why would a seller let you know up front they are selling as-is? Surely, they must be covering up a condition issue. Buyers will picture the home above when a seller is really trying to tell them, “I don’t want to be bothered fixing toilet flappers. I’m too busy.” Talk about demolishing an ant hill with an atom bomb, this is a great example of blowing the intention out of proportion.
Selling as-is is not a substitute for disclosing known issues with a home.
Sellers in Viriginia are tasked with disclosing material defects when selling their home. Latent material defects are the ones that some sellers may think an as-is disclosure is sufficient to disclose. It is not. If there is known mold, it must be disclosed. If there are high radon levels, it must be disclosed. If the seller knows the air conditioning doesn’t work, and wants to list in the winter as-is, that is a problem. And if a buyer voided a contract, presented a seller with an inspection report revealing problems, the seller can’t turn around and ignore the report and slap an as-is label on the home for future buyers and call it a day. Material defects, if not fixed, must be disclosed.
All home sales that happen using the Residential Sales Contract created by the Northen Virginia Association of REALTORS® are actually sold as-is.
There is a Property Maintenance and Condition paragraph in this document that states that that home is being sold in substantially the same condition as of, and a time frame of date of home inspection, date of offer, or some other filled in date, is selected. Furthermore, there are no required repairs in this contract with the exception of smoke detectors being installed and working per the laws and regulations of Virginia and, if a termite inspection is required in the contract, sellers must remediate and fix any damage noted by the pest inspector. (I’ve been selling homes since 2005 and have had no needed repairs due to termite damage, but plenty needing treatment to kill the wood destroying insects. Treatment is not expensive and can often be negotiated down with the pest company.
My favorite as-is date is date of the home inspection. It gives a written record of the home on the date of the inspection that can be used for reference if there is a walk through issue. Sellers are not obligated to do any repairs just because a buyer is having an inspection. If the buyer agreed to move forward with no repairs and complain at walk through that the faucet in the kitchen is leaking, and the inspection report reveals it to be the same at the time of the inspection, it is in substantially the same condition as the date of the home inspection.
Selling as-is is really more of a point of warning, rather than a disclosure, for buyers purchasing from estates or banks that foreclosed on a home. These entities are exempt from the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act and, having never lived in the property, are not expected to know material defects with the home. The same point of warning, however, does not exempt a seller who has resided in the property from making disclosures.
When sellers who were vehement about selling as-is hear these points, they understand that a blanket refusal from the outset to do nothing to remedy problems in the home, no matter how small, is going to result in less money in their pockets. Buyer enthusiasm is what makes buyers excited to bid above list price and get involved in multiple offer situations. Starting from an as-is point, buyer enthusiasm is not going to exist. Buyer skepticism is going to reign the day.
Some aggravation is worth the money you get in the sales price to be open to repair requests and judge them on a case by case basis.
New Year’s Eve 2021 and what is this Bristow/Gainesville Real Estate Agent doing? Starting her yearend market reports and blogging. What better topic to post about on my real estate blog than my predictions for the 2022 real estate market. This prediction is not for the country, nor the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Instead, it is for the areas with which I am most familiar that are outlined on the chalkboard to the right of this post. Those I am most familiar with are Western Prince William County, which includes Bristow, Gainesville and Haymarket.
The real estate market in the first half of 2021 was more hectic and buyer frantic than it had been throughout all of 2020. Buyers were facing multiple offer situations, having to waive all contingencies and offer well above list price to have a chance at being chosen. The second half of 2021 is where things started to calm down. That’s not to say that the market went from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Not at all. It was still a seller’s market, but not as intense. My favorite way to explain the change in the latter half of 2021 was a weather analogy. If it were 120° outside early in the day, but later was 108°, you could say it was cooler than it had been, but 108° would still be considered hot.
The second half of 2021, while still presenting a shortage of inventory, compared to buyers in the marketplace, saw less frenzy on behalf of the buyers. Home inspections became a common request again, which was a relief to me having a few buyers actively looking. Marketing times began to creep up and seller subsidy (closing cost help) started to be seen here and there. All of this started about the time the sellers decided in late June/early July to take advantage of the seller’s market. Meanwhile, buyers who had lost out on summer vacations in 2020, were busying themselves with travel and fun. That meant putting house hunting on hold for a bit. The fall didn’t see much of a correction when they returned, rested and relaxed. The buyer frenzy had calmed, but it was still a seller’s market.
The New Year is jumping off from where we left 2021. Home prices are still high and climbing, but the rate of increase is slowing down. It’s far less likely to see a home list a at a reasonable price and see it bid up 7-10% higher. List price or a little higher is what sellers seem to be getting now. Sellers are still unlikely to have to give any closing cost help, but are much more likely to see home inspection contingencies.
No matter the market, my job remains the same–getting my sellers the maximum bottom line they can out of their largest asset. That starts with buyer enthusiasm and maintaining it throughout the process. For buyers it means making sure they find a home that meets their needs and are as protected as they can be throughout the process. Referring to the best lenders, home inspectors and title companies are just the start.
If a home sale or purchase in on your radar for 2022, let’s chat. It is never too early to start talking over the process and getting ready in advance.
As I drove around the Manassas/Bristow/Gainesville area today, there was a spring in my step. It certainly is a festive time of year, but that was not it. And I was pleased as punch that I closed not one, but two deals this week. The Christmas Miracle in Warrenton were buyer-clients. The last sale of the year was a seller-client in my ultimate neighborhood of expertise–Braemar. (If you can’t be an expert in the neighborhood where you have lived for over sixteen years and have served on the HOA Board for almost just as long, where can you be?) Yes, selling houses this close to the holidays is an extra special kind of happy, but I have to say, it is not an unusual occurrence in my real estate career. I sell houses year round and the yearend market is always a strong one.
It hit me when I got home that the extra pep in my step was due to the fact that it is December 22nd. That means the winter solstice is behind us and we have already faced the day with the least amount of sunlight hours. Woo-hoo! If there is one thing that can consistently drag me down, it is the dark of winter. As I write this post it is only getting on six o’clock in the evening, yet it feels like it could be ten in the evening. Today is a day for all of those with Seasonal Affective Disorder to cheer. We are coming out of the dark with a little more daylight every day as head through winter.
Lack of daylight and early sunsets don’t just make for a down mood. These things affect how I stage a vacant home, or direct a seller to leave an occupied home for showings. Light is the ultimate staging commodity when the daylight hours are minimal. A torch lap on a switched outlet in every bedroom is a must. Buyer enthusiasm can not reach its peak during an evening showing when all natural light extinguished hours before and buyers feel they are touring your home by the light of their cell phones.
Being a professional marketing agent, I know that getting buyers enthusiastic is the name of the game. When it daylight is minimal, light staging will definitely be accompanied by lamps in every room without overhead lighting. That’s what we did in 12423 Selkirk Lane that closed yesterday. A few more months of lamps as the critical staging item and we will be talking about what flowers to plant for the max curb appeal.
Being a Listing Agent I have honed many skills that allow my sellers to make the best first impressions, create buyer enthusiasm and ultimately, wring more from their sales to max out their bottom lines. Staging properties is not something that needs to be done at great expense to a seller. Little touches here and there are usually all that is needed. Most times, using the items the seller has in their home works. Every so often, I substitute in something from my own inventory.
In the case of the kitchen above, the seller had left barstools, the dining table (no chairs) and the table runner and a very nice polish pottery bowl. This area was tight. Fluffing the table included turning over the runner to the reverse side which was a lot less busy with only one pattern vs. three patterns, setting the table, adding a taller centerpiece and some chairs. Then came figuring out what to do with the barstools. The ones present didn’t really do anything but call attention to the big dining table and interrupt the flow of the island.
Adding these saddle style, lower height black bar stools left a clean line of the granite counters and left more space visually in the dining area. And with the living room being completely empty, I did make use of the bar stools elsewhere to set up an area of focus. You can see the full video tour of the property by clicking this link. There are examples of light staging in the owner’s bedroom and bathroom. Items were edited from the home that were useful, but dated it. Lamps, rugs, etc.
This home had been on the market as a For Sale By Owner on Zillow at the same list price and had a few open houses with many buyers through. However, it lacked offers when I took over. After the staging, professional photos and a few days on the market, the seller had four offers.
The devil truly is in the details when a home hits the market. Professional marketing agents like me get that and do everything we can to help our listings make the absolute best first impression.
Not too long ago, I was in a car with a very good friend of mine. The music playing on her car stereo was hard core metal. It sounded so pissed off and angry to me that I wanted to beg her to turn it off. She remarked that if I listened to the lyrics, I would find them insightful and contemplative. Being a communications major I knew I had to get past the non-verbal first, which was that loud, over-powered, fast paced music to have a chance of hearing the lyrics. And the way the artist was spitting out his words, it was not likely I would even understand them. The artists comtemplative and insightful thoughts were going to be lost to anyone who didn’t like this kind of music. It did not have wide appeal.
If you did not already know, most communication we encounter is non-verbal, even in a verbal message through conversation, music and so forth. How a person holds themselves, the words they chose to use, the pace of their conversation, the confidence in their voice and so much more all make up over ninety percent of what the recipient of our messages takes in. When the non-verbal conflicts with the verbal, the recipient can find themselves suspicious of the verbal. So how does this translate to selling a home?
Even in the strongly favored seller’s market that Bristow and Gainesville have been experiencing, non-verbal messages can overpower the message a seller really aims to make to buyers. Perhaps a seller has a very large floor plan with plenty of space. That message is not going to get through to buyers if the space is so cluttered with furnishing that buyers can’t actually take in the feeling of spaciousness. Maybe the home is targeted to luxury home buyers because it fits the mold of a refined home. It is not going to resonate with those buyers if the paint colors inside change from room to room and are reminiscent of trends that went by the way side and the carpet is stained. The disconnect between the intended message and what is actually happening are not going to lift buyer enthusiasm, but leave buyers hesitant to act. Or if they do act, they won’t act with the same gusto in the offer price they would if the intended message mirrored the non-verbal message a seller’s home is sending..
Listing preparation is where a seller’s intended message is edited to come through loud and clear. And when it comes to selling a home, the only way to achieve that is by de-cluterring, removing personal items, having fresh neutral paint throughout (preferrably professional painted with clean lines,) new carpet and rearranging furnishings to showcase the floor plan. Vacant homes will also do best with some light staging to help buyers visualize the space.
Of course, how to market to buyers is where a professional listing agent comes in. My job is make sure the non-verbal message of your home matches what you want your message to be. If it doesn’t, it will show in your offers. You don’t need to be a mind reader. Hire an agent well versed in the local market. This isn’t going to be your one or two deal a year agent. This is going to be a top producing agent with their finger on the pulse of the market. In Bristow and Gainesville, that is me. Get in touch for a no obligation market analysis that gives you an idea of your bottom line and how to best to increase it. If you don’t, you might as well be the deep thinker that wrote a song akin to poetry that will never be widely heard due to the overpowering music.