Listing a home for sale is no small task. Counseling sellers on prepartion projects, getting photos taken and creating a description of a home that draws in buyers is only a very skeletal part of the job. Understanding what your seller needs from the process is essential. Basic questions that I ask at a listing appointment include:
Are there any items that do not stay with the home?
Are there items that you want to leave with the home?
Where are you moving?
When you do need to move?
Do you need the funds from the sale of this home to buy your next home?
Is there a particular settlement date that works for your situation?
Are there any appliances that are not functioning that you don’t plan to fix?
These questions provide a framework for how the sales contract needs to work for my sellers. For instance, if a seller has gone under contract to purchase a home and needs to settle quickly, or needs a rent back, that is important information for a buyer and their agent to know.
One of the wonderful things about our MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the ability to add documents for agents to see. In my listings, I love to provide what I call an Offer Info Sheet. There are many fields in our standard Residential Sale Contract that a buyer’s agent won’t know how to complete without looking through photos or cross referencing other sources. Owner names, conveyances, license numbers, where seller notices are going, etc. In the Offer Info Sheet, I provide information so that offers come in complete and have a shot at working. Preferred settlement date is always in there if needed.
In some cases, settlement date is critical. If a seller has already gone under contract to purchase another home on a specific date and needs the funds from the existing home sale to do that deal, the settlement date needed is critical information for those making offers. If you haven’t provided it in the MLS through remarks or some semblance of an Offer Info Sheet, when a buyer’s agent asks a specific question about the settlement date, you should be ready with the answer if you are committed to the best outcome for your sellers. Being caught off guard and stating your seller needs a quick settlement date AFTER you have received one or more offers is not the best way to get what your seller needs. Yet, these are things that happen in the practice of real estate that make me scratch my head.
My seller-clients never have to wonder if I am prepping buyer’s agents, or buyers, for what are mission critical goals. In the multiple offer situations of 2020 and 2021 that yielded offers in the double digits on many properties, my seller-clients were amazed to see that ninety-nine percent of offers met whatever settlement date or post settlement occupancy was requested. (There are always the one percent of buyer’s agents that never look at Offer Info Sheets, or the like provided by listing agents.) It is no less impressive when a seller has one offer that checks their boxes.
When selling a home must be within a specific time or have other critical components to work, don’t leave it to chance. Hire a listing agent that understands communication is the key to a successful, smooth transaction. In Gainesville, Bristow, Haymarket and points beyond, I am happy to meet and discuss how we can get it done.
Ever wonder what would happen if you were under contract to sell your home, but you changed your mind and wanted to stay put? Unfortunately, it does occasionally happen that sellers will be under contract with a buyer and have a change of heart. Does a seller have any outs in the Residential Sales Contract used in Northern Virginia? That’s a question every seller should ask of every listing agent they interview.
The contract used in our area, written by the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, primarily focuses on the rights buyers have to void (get out without penalty) the deal. Unless a seller has a contract with the “Contingent on the Seller Purchasing Another Home” clause, sellers have no avenue to unilaterally void a contract. And even in the case of the home purchase contingency, if a seller is working with a listing agent that isn’t watching the calendar, the contingency dissolves at the deadline, obligating the seller to sell. A seller definitely wants to know when that home purchase deadline is up.
If a seller does NOT have a home purchase contingency in place and finds their desire to sell has changed, there is little more they can outside of pushing back on any requested home inspection repairs or price reductions due to low appraisal that their buyer requests. The ultimate hope here is that the buyer, in the absence of the seller’s willingness to do anything in the buyer’s favor, would void the contract. Obviously, that is a poor strategy and reliant on the buyer having significant repair requests that would trouble them immensely if not done, or the property having a significantly low appraisal that the buyer can not cover.
In my business, I have never had a seller-client that wanted to halt the sale of their home while under contract. Of course, my sellers are counseled on exactly what they are getting themselves into when accepting an offer on their home. My seller-clients also have in me, someone who can read non-verbal communication very well and will address it out right. If I get the vibe a seller is having second thoughts, I am going to ask about it.
In representing my buyer-clients I have come across situations where sellers are wanting out of their home sale. In particular was a buyer-client of mine who happened to be the seller-client of another agent. Every time we went house hunting, there was remorse that they should not be selling their home. It started before the home was even listed. Naturally, not being my clients on the home sale, all I could do was encourage them to talk to their listing agent.
As time went on and they were under contract, the seller’s remorse became stronger. By that point in time, their buyer was past all of their contingencies and ready to close. What does a seller do then? They either a) ask the buyer kindly to release them from the contract, b) hire an attorney and discuss their options, or c) suck it up and sell their home as much as they hate doing it. Again, all I could do was tell them to talk to their listing agent. They ended up sucking it up and selling their home, which made me very sad for them.
The most recent buyer-client I had that encountered a suddenly reluctant seller happened about ten days before closing. The seller, through their agent, begged to be released them from the contract. In mulling it over, my buyer decided (with other factors at play that had not been discovered) to let the sellers out. The sellers were so relieved that we were able to work out reimbursements for my buyer-client from them to cover out of pocket expeneses incurred for inspections, appraisal and survey.
The bottom line message to sellers here is that if you are listing your home, you should be ready and willing to sell under the terms agreed upon in the sales contract. You can not rely on buyer’s being empathetic and kind enough to let you out of the deal, especially in a low inventory market. Have a back up plan if you can’t find a home you want to purchase next. Start by hiring a listing agent that isn’t invested solely in getting you to closing, but whose business is relational. Agents like that…like me, are going to care more about what is in your best interest and not the pay day at the end of the deal.
Common knowledge seems to be that the best time to sell a home is spring. However, that philosophy would mean hitting the market when everyone else does. That increases competition. The one thing that the wild ride that started in 2020 taught us is that not having more buyers than competitors is where the money is made.
This Bristow townhouse at 10158 Pale Rose Loop hit the market on January 13th (2023.) Showing requests were immediate. There was only one other competitor on the market at the time in the neighborhood and a few others in nearby neighborhoods. Nineteen showings and a two hour open house that was like Grand Central Station were proof that when it comes to townhouses in Bristow, it is still a seller’s market.
After two offers on the fifth day on the market, the sellers felt accomplished with their multiple offers. They chose one and were under contract on the sixth day on the market.
Want to create that kind of scenario when you sell? Give me a call and let’s talk about the process of creating buyer enthusiasm.
Is January a good time to list a home in Bristow? It is if you want to hit a time where there are not as many sellers and there are plenty of buyers looking to find a home.
On January 13th I introduced 10158 Pale Rose Loop to the market, priced at $458,000. The sellers had refreshed the kitchen and bathrooms and done a lot of other really important things. In 2020, they replaced the roof, garage door, large living room window, refrigerator and installed LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring in the kitchen area and foyer. The year 2019 was when the Owner’s Bathroom got updated along with every toilet in the home, as well as the water heater. Even the water heater and HVAC are not original. Water heater was replaced 2019 and HVAC 2016.
The main level is where every day life happens. A living room is open to the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen is a breakfast nook with a gas fireplace. There is even a generously sized deck right off the kitchen. That passes my hot dog test with flying colors. (What’s my hot dog test? How far do you have to walk from the refrigerator after grabbing your hot dogs to get to the space where you grill.)
Who wouldn’t love this kitchen with plenty of granite counter space, under cabinet lighting, gas cooking and even a light fixture pot rack over the island?
Another test specific to townhouses is simply put, “When nature calls.” To put this one delicately, when nature calls, how far to you have to go to get to a bathroom? In a townhouse, staircases may be involved. Not in this townhouse! There is a half bathroom or better on every level. The main level powder room is also updated to be farmhouse chic.
One of my favorite rooms is the owner’s suite. A sliding barn door opens to to the spa-like owner’s bathroom with high end vanity, cubby cabinetry, seamless shower and soaking tub.
Secondary bedrooms and additional full bathroom are on the uppermost level. Basement level (entry level) is where the garage enters the home and is also where you find a cozy family room with walk out exit, laundry area and additional half bathroom.
This townhouse offers so much, but buyers will need to bring their own washer and dryer. It will be open on Sunday, January 15th from 1pm-3pm. Make sure to take a peek for yourself or sneak a look at the immersive 3-D tour.
In late July I was contacted by former clients that had sold a townhouse and moved into a single family home in a Bristow HOA community in 2016. The reason for the move back in 2016 was to get more space for a growing family. The prevailing sentiment in 2022 was that the HOA lifestyle and neighbors pushed in snuggly on smaller lots was not for them. With property values being high, they wanted to investigate selling their existing home and getting something with more separation from neighbors and privacy.
The hardest component of a move-up purchase is timing the sale of the existing home with the purchase of another. When you aren’t quite sure what you want, it means taking time and trying on different types of homes in different locations. While we spent weekends shopping from Front Royal to Bealeton, Catlett and Warrenton their existing home was undergoing listing preparation.
About two weeks before their listing preparation was complete, my clients find the one that was meant to be their home. A twenty-two year old single family home nestled on six and a half wooded acres in Marshall, VA. We crafted their offer on August 24th, a time when the market was beginning to shift. It was a toss up if the seller would be willing to accept a home sale contingency, but they did, along with every available inspection contingency. You don’t buy your first rural property without at least a home inspection, water quality test and septic inspection.
Anxiety about if their existing home would sell was in the back of their minds. Sure enough, it was under contract in record time. While Bristow HOA suburbia may not have been for them, it was still a hot button for many buyers. Of course, taking the time to truly finish the listing preparation and not going off half-cocked combined with my professional marketing was what got that home sale done the right way.
After some negotiation over necesary repairs, the seller agreed to solve some mjaor issues and even a handful of smaller ones. My buyers were able to close knowing they have no immediate concerns in their new home. They were also able to secure a mortgage interest rate that was below market through a special loan program that crossed my desk in the middle of summer.
Are you ready to sell your home and want to try on some possibilities for your next home? Or are you just ready to stop paying your landlord’s mortgage and invest in your own future? Get in touch and let’s talk about what the market has to offer.
“Was Anyone Ever Murdered or Did Anyone Die Here?”
With Halloween coming up and skeletons seemingly around every corner in October, it is a great time to address a rather macabre subject that ocassionally comes up with buyers as they narrow down their home selection. It happened just this afternoon that a buyer asked, “Was anyone ever murdered or did anyone die here?” Her friend, a former client of mine, told her that sellers didn’t have to tell you unless you asked. Let’s unpack fact from hearsay.
Just because you ask a seller this question does not mean they have to answer it. Sellers are required to disclose material defects to the property, but not events that transpired there. The Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act specifically states:
Purchasers should be aware that neither a seller nor a real estate licensee is obligated to disclose facts or occurrences which have no effect on the physical structure of the property, its physical environment, or the improvements located thereon, or the fact that the property was the site of a homicide, felony, or suicide.
The thought that someone may have died in a home they are contemplating purchasing is not the only thing that can cause a buyer anxiety. It was actually a closing just days before Halloween 2019 when sellers and I, as their Listing Agent, were accused of violating the Residential Property Disclosure Act. Buyers were doing their final walk through and noticed the neighboring lot was an old family cemetery. While the idea of living next to a cemetery may freak out some buyers, that’s just as much a non-disclosure for sellers. All a seller is held to is disclosing any material defects of which they are aware within the boundaries of their own property. Deaths, murders and suicides are not among them.
Navigating the Northern Virginia real estate market can be complicated on many levels. I would love to help you if you are looking for a place to call your own. Investing in yourself vs. a landlord is the first step to building wealth. Give me a call and let’s get started find you a house that YOU can haunt for years to come.
The fall real estate market in Northern Virginia is changing, just like leaves on our deciduous trees are undergoing a transformation. Many had become used to the frenzied pace of extreme buyer demand that stormed in during 2020 and lasted through 2021, that had sellers setting record high sales prices and collecting multiple offers. Those for whom that was a baseline for the real estate market are left feeling the market is a buyer’s market now that the frenzy has quieted down. That is not at all the case.
While buyers are enjoying the fact that they no longer have to make rushed decisions and waive every contingency, they are left feeling pinched by rising mortgage interest rates that have doubled since the start of 2022. Combined with housing prices that are still trending up, though not on as steep a trajectory, buyers are acting more deliberately. In a lot of cases, they are requesting seller subsidy to help buy down their mortgage interest rate. These factors that have slowed buyers down, has not changed the lack of housing supply to meet buyer demand. We are NOT in a buyer’s market. Believe it or not, the market still favors sellers.
Being in a seller’s market, however, does not mean multiple offers or always selling above list price. Real estate markets are defined by the absorption rate of available homes on the market. We could still have four months of inventory to sell and be considered in seller favored conditions. Our inventory in Northern Virginia, and particularly my primary service area of Bristow/Gainesville/Haymarket has not seen available inventory measured in months for a long time.
The current seller’s market is one where those looking to sell their homes will be advised to consider more than the most recent SOLD listings to figure out a suitable list price. Yes, sold listings are comparables. However, as we begin to build a bit of inventory, home sellers need to also look to a number of other types of listings.
COMING SOON AND ACTIVE
Looking at the available inventory there is to purchase will help a seller to figure out how to price competitively. Just because there are four comparable sold listings at $450,000 doesn’t mean that is the place you should price, or higher, as you would have in 2020 or 2021. Looking at active listings and those coming soon with similar features to your home is critical. If you have three similar competitors on the market priced at $450,000 that have been on the market for a few weeks and aren’t getting chosen, that suggests $450,000 is no longer a reasonable list price. If it were, those home would be under contract. So what competitors have been chosen?
Competing listings that have gone under contract were chosen by the marketplace. Those list prices are much more valid, if all things are equal from a value proposition, than solds. Maybe the solds are at $450,000 and the three actives are at $450,000, just sitting there, but there are two under contract that were listed at $430,000. Do you think pricing at $450,000 or $430,000 is a better play? Clearly $450,000 isn’t working for the three sitting on the market.
WITHDRAWN, EXPIRED & CANCELED
As we build inventory, there are also clues in the listings that have been pulled from the market. If there is a withdrawn listing at $460,000 that was on the market for sixty days, that is a big hint that if you were just looking at sold listings, going higher is a no-no. The listings not chosen are as full of valuable information to choose your placement in the market as those active and under contract.
Suddenly we are seeing price reductions in the market, where they were unheard of in the previous two years, with the exception of sellers who were really taking the frenzied buyer demand for granted and placing exorbitant list prices on their homes. There are sellers in every market that expect their inflated feelings of values to pan out on the market. It can be crushing when they don’t. Buying into an unfounded value as a list price can also be costly in a market undergoing a shift. Wasted time when a market is building inventory means wasted buyer opportunities and inviting more attractively priced competitors. Looking at who is lowering their prices and still lingering on the market is informational as well.
The real estate market is still favoring sellers, but that doesn’t mean sellers are seeing ten percent lift above their list prices or are getting buyers willing to waive contingencies. As the insane pace of the previous two years is slowing to a more measured pace, sellers are still likely to get under contract quickly and with reasonable terms when their homes are priced right, properly prepared and professionally marketed. Buyer demand is still high and inventory is still not enough to meet it.
Tread carefully when deciding how to present your home to the market of interested buyers. Overpricing is a real pitfall that will lock up sellers unable to grasp that the market dynamics are changing. Partnering with a full-time professional agent with experience beyond a seller’s market where the highest and best offer is chosen from a pile of offers is highly recommended. Skills that encompass all kinds of market conditions are not a given just because someone hold a real estate license. The soft skills to start the conversation that leads to getting an offer are absent in those that thought being a listing agent was putting a sign in the yard and collecting offers. Hire your listing agent wisely.
I have been at this since 2005. Making deals that put my sellers ahead of market conditions is what I do, no matter the current dynamics of the market. My listing process starts with detailed analysis of the market and listing preparation advice that will lift buyer enthusiasm. Combined with professional level marketing, sellers go under contract faster and walk away with more money than their competing listings. It would be a pleasure to help you do the same.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.