The home right in the middle of the aerial shot above is 15315 Mountain Crest Court. With over 6,500 finished square feet and true model home finishes, this ten acre estate home listed on May 12th (2021) for $1,050,000. While that may have been the beginning of the story for a lot of buyers in the market, the true beginning was mid-February when I was contacted by the seller with some questions about the market, how quickly homes like theirs sell and at what price. That’s not a question you can answer without seeing the home and running recent comparable sales.
Once inside, I saw a gorgeous home that needed a bit of improvement to be at its best. Going over strategy with the sellers on timing, preparation and price got us to late April/early May when projects in the home started. Carpet was replaced. Paint freshened up and the home was staged. Mind you, the sellers had purchased a good deal of model home furniture from the builder when they originally purchased this furnished model. The whole picture just needed editing which took imagination and a lot of elbow grease. The latter is often a component of professional marketing.
The finished product was stunning and you can see the professional photos by clicking this link. Here are some of my favorite shots:
While this home had two pre-market offers during its “Coming Soon” marketing time, the winning buyer got even more ambitious after seeing the marketing and touring the home. They improved their pre-market offer and made it impossible for any other buyer to win in the stack of multiple offers.
Professional marketing makes a different in every price point. Buyers are driven to do better in their offers when the home shows well online and in person. Preparation, professional photography and a top notch listing agent are the key ingredients. When you are ready to sell, get in touch with me and let’s discuss how to get your home sold for more than you imagined.
Six years ago, in a very different market when only the hottest homes sold in a matter of days, it was not at all unusual for a single family home to take one to two months to sell. Looking back at the first six months of 2015, the average days on market was forty-five. It was during this time a couple called, disappointed their home hadn’t sold after seventy days with their former listing agent.
Based on what I was seeing online, it seemed the listing agent prior had put in zero effort into advising this couple on what to do to sell. The sellers were eager for advice and did the preparation I advised. Taking it one more step, I helped them edit their rooms to make the home show perfectly and do some staging.
My favorite contrast in how I market is a comparison shot between the previous shot of the hot tub and mine.
A little effort goes a long way. Simply removing the cover of the hot tub would have made a much improved photo. Adding a little fluff just elevated it that much more. It sells the luxury of having a hot tub and invokes a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. And this wasn’t expensive. Every staging item was purchased at the dollar store or donated by the owner for the photo. The home was under contract in eleven days…in less than half the average marketing time of that period.
Back then I was still taking my own listing photos. Now when I remove hot tub covers to actually show a hot tub (always awkward and cumbersome, but so worth it,) the professional photos look even better. Selling a home is one thing. Selling the lifestyle of a home is what gets you the highest offers the market will bear.
Professional marketing is what makes a property get bid even higher than a competing listing, even in a frenzied seller’s market. Who you hire to list your home matters just as much now as it did when the market demand was slower. It shows more in your bottom line than in marketing time these days, but still creates that buyer enthusiasm that boosts your home above the competition, or most recent sales, like a rocket.
Get in touch with me when you are considering the sale of your home and find out how my professional marketing and attention to details will make you even more money than you imagined.
Coming Soon: Luxury Single Family Home on Ten Acres in Haymarket
As I sit down to tell you about this gorgeous home at the base of Bull Run Mountain, I wish I had interior photos to show you. At the moment, this home is undergoing its final preparations before hitting the market. That includes new carpet on the upper and lower levels, freshening up paint and staging.
In the meantime, close your eyes and imagine living on a ten acre lot. Would you want to live an equestrian lifestyle? You can do that here. Just want to have the space or maybe built an incredible in ground pool and outdoor entertainment area? This property will become your personal oasis. Take in morning sun from the back of the home and watch the sun set over the mountain in front.
Inside is a grand floor plan with hardwood flooring throughout most of the main level. Formal dining room connects to the kitchen by way of a butler’s pantry. Gourmet kitchen has more granite counter and island space than you will likely ever require. Enjoy the morning room off the kitchen. Love the time you spend in the two story family room with floor to ceiling custom windows and coffered ceiling.
Beside the family room, discretely closed off by French doors is a large study for your home office. Make your way back around to the front and enter the formal living room next to the conservatory that catches all the day’s sunlight from its three walls of windows while the tile floors cool your feet.
Curved staircase invites you upstairs to see four generously sized rooms, each with their own bathroom, only one of which is not en-suite. The owner’s suite is expansive, offering sitting area, two walk-in closets and a spa-like bathroom.
Fully finished, walk out level basement houses a fifth legal bedroom with its own sitting room, located across the hall from the fifth full bathroom. Down the hall the basement opens up to a huge recreation space with an oversized den, currently in use as a sixth bedroom.
Inquiries are already coming in about this home. It is not likely to linger on the market. Professional photos are being taken next week and this home will be ready for showing appointments beginning May 12th. Schedule yours now so you don’t miss out.
Appraisals are top of every listing agent’s mind in the frenzied seller’s market that all of Northern Virginia,mm and most of the country, is experiencing in 2021. Homes, even listed for reasonable prices, inevitably get bid up seven to ten percent of list price on average. A lot of times, it is even higher than that.
Most savvy listing agents are advising their sellers about sky high offers with appraisal contingencies. Those offers are only going to be as good as the appraised value. It’s a number meant to make a seller say yes, without thinking of the ramifications of low appraised value.
The way that buyers are getting sky high offers accepted is by waiving appraisal all together, or by offering low appraisal guarantees. Back to the practices of savvy listing agents, those are the ones that understand the importance of appraisal coming in as close to that offer price as possible. A buyer can feel immediate remorse if they are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars just to make up for a short fall in appraised value. So meeting the appraiser is critically important.
Knowing the appraisal process, as taught to me by an actual appraiser when I studied for my broker’s license, I know what they have access to, what paperwork they get and what they are looking for when they are putting together a report. It is astounding how many agents don’t. Some think that if they just raise the list price to the offer price after the contract is ratified, it helps with appraisal. Not in the least. In fact, it may hurt your seller if that deal falls through and the entire MLS service area now knows exactly how much your seller had. They may come in slightly below once you hit the market again. They sure aren’t coming in over.
Appraisers are members of the MLS. They can see what we do to listings. They can see original list prices and the changes we make and when. They get copies of the sales contract itself. They know what the buyers have offered. Finally, they don’t care about your list price. They don’t care about the neighbor’s list price. They care about recent sales in the neighborhood. Sometimes, they care about pending sales. They also care about seeing the multiple offers on the property, as that is a demonstration of what the market thought the value was. Really important, they like seeing a list of major updates by year, going back at least five years, no more seven or eight. Let’s face it, an HVAC isn’t new just because it isn’t original.
Changing list price to reflect the contracted sales price is a poor business practice. It tells the world what the seller accepted before the deal is done. That’s a big no-no in real estate. And since the appraiser has a copy of the contract, it is truly pointless.
What’s the practice of the listing agent you have in mind to sell your home? Might want to make sure you are working with a listing agent that understands the appraisal process and won’t compromise your negotiating position if your first buyer gets sudden remorse. Take a look at my service areas to the right on the chalkboard and let me know if you would like my expertise on your side to get you those multiple offers, keep a buyer in a deal and never compromise your negotiating power.
In the 2021 seller’s market, home owners don’t have to do too much to get a property ready for market. Buyers are willing to look past a lot of things that in a buyer’s market, they wouldn’t. Still, preparation is the key to buyer enthusiasm which is what drives buyers to offer more on one property than they might on another. And buyer enthusiasm is what drives more offers on some properties than others.
Typical preparation these days boils down to fresh paint and new carpet. Neutralizing a home is a simple way to get buyers excited about it. Give them a blank slate and less work to do and the enthusiasm ramps up. Introduce that new carpet smell you get maximum buyer enthusiasm for minimal up front cost. A lot of sellers have no idea how worm their carpet really was until they get new carpet. The difference is night and day.
There may be some sellers that are given additional notes. If hardwood floors are sun bleached and experiencing surface peeling, refinishing them may be in order. If faucets in bathrooms are outdated and dirty, new are likely a low dollar investment toward upping that buyer enthusiasm. Same with cabinet hardware, door hinges and knobs or light fixtures. It all depends on the individual home and the seller’s expectations. Top of the market price doesn’t come with no preparation at all.
Most sellers engage me a couple months before they intend to hit the market. There have been a few over the years that have engaged me much longer before that, but those are few and far between. Typically, those needing more time are those that have been in a home for a long time and are planning multiple improvement projects before they list. Things like kitchen and bathroom renovations take longer than typical listing preparation.
When we meet, I’ll give you my recommendations. No major renovations are needed in this market, but some preparation is always going to be advised to get top dollar.
When you sell a home in Northern Virginia, there are typical closing costs, required fees and taxes that you must pay. When I go on a listing appointment, an estimated net sheet showing the cost of a sale is one of a few major things that I go over with sellers. It’s amazing how many listing agents don’t, or just don’t actually know the closing costs associated with selling a home.
There is no way any of my seller-clients are hitting the market without an idea of their potential takeaway and the cost of selling a home. How anyone in this business can meet with a seller and not have a discussion beyond commission is beyond me. Yes, commission is the largest closing cost and all agents will be prepared to discuss that. Unfortunately, it is not the only one.
When you sell a home in Virginia, one dollar per thousand of your sales price is due as a Grantor’s Tax. Right now, our sales prices are higher than our tax assessments, but if they weren’t, the tax assessments would be the value the Grantor’s Tax would be calculated against. The tax man never loses.
Sellers in Prince William County, Fairfax County and Loudoun County also pay transportation fees as part of their sales. Fifty cents per thousand of sales price paid for congestion relief road projects in the tri-county area and one dollar and fifty cents per thousand of sales price for a WMATA (Wahington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) improvement fee.
Attorneys fess and settlement fees are going to vary based on the settlement company. Hopefully, you are working with an experienced full time agent that knows the range of these fees.
If the property being sold is in an HOA , Condo, or both, resale documents can be paid at closing. No need to come out of pocket for them. If the association or condos are professionally managed, you better believe there will be an account close out fee. Experienced agents know and can estimate them.
Mortgage interest for the month you are closing is also collected. Given your principal pay off amount and your current interest rate for any loans that will be paid off, your listing agent should be able to calculate your estimated daily interest and calculate interest due at closing. Obviously, this is in addition to paying off those principal mortgage amounts.
Property taxes and HOA/condo dues are pro-rated to settlement date. Sometimes sellers end up paying the buyer at closing for those unpaid. Sometimes sellers gets credits from the buyer for those that are already paid. Again, an experienced agent can walk you through this.
Miscellaneous fees like termite inspections, pest treatments and home warranties are also part of your closing fees if there were part of your contract. So is any seller subsidy (closing cost assistance to buyers.) This is why it is important to look at a net sheet for any offer you are negotiating.
In addition to doing an estimate at our listing appointment, it is my business practice to do a estimated net sheet for sellers based on any and all offers received. A personal point of pride is getting very close to what is actually owed my sellers at closing. I actually pull out the net sheet I worked up, based on the transaction closing, and look at my estimated bottom line vs. the actual bottom line.
When are you sitting down to talk to a potential listing agent, they should know ALL of these things. If they don’t do a net sheet for you, that’s a red flag. In addition to marketing, a listing agent’s job is preparing you for what to expect as a cost of the sale. You will ALWAYS know the cost of a sale when working with me.
Today the Long & Foster office I am affiliated with hosted its annual agent awards. In the waning days of the pandemic, social distancing was still advised, so we had a red carpet pick up of our awards after a Zoom ceremony.
It was no surprise to me that I was the top individual agent in our office for volume, units and gross commission income. I had my best year yet in 2020. It also wasn’t a surprise to be recognized for the business referred to our affiliates at RGS Title, Prosperity Home Mortgage and Long & Foster Insurance. It was nice to hear kind words from each of those affiliates that went beyond an award presentation. Doing business with people you genuinely like is so rewarding.
The award that caught me off guard was this one:
Normally, I am recognized for blogging. Evidently, I am the only person in our office who blogs. Being the only one doing something doesn’t necessarily make it noteworthy year after year. So I was more than pleasantly surprised to be recognized for something I take great pride in–Doing the Right Thing.
My broker recognized me as an agent who knows the contract inside and out, follows the rules, knows the ethics of this business and genuinely cares about everyone. And if anyone in the office ever wondered what they should do in a given situation, call me. Now THAT is an award I will take with pride.
I may have to invest in a fancy dress for next year so I’m not under dressed when I accept my awards, whatever they may be. The great news is that doing the right thing, helping my clients and selling a lot of homes can be done very easily in blue jeans…and that is my style.
The Ease of a Listing Agent’s Job is Not Measured by Days on Market
In the last two days, I was approached by two sellers to list their homes. There are two types of sellers in a seller’s market. 1) They believe in your value and won’t haggle on commission. 2) They believe that because homes go under contract fast, an agent should make less money. The second group of sellers have a misunderstanding of what exactly goes into being a listing agent.
Listing Prepartion Any listing agent knows that even in a seller’s market, money can be left on the table. To get every penny you can in the sale of your home, listing preparation is a must. Picking a list price is part of that, but in addition, a great listing agent will consult with you on listing preparation tasks to be done prior to listing. De-cluttering. Small to medium level improvements and replacements. Staging. Preparation is the same whether you are listing a hot seller’s market, or a cooled buyer’s market. To create buyer enthusiasm, listing preparation is key.
Professional Marketing Once the property is ready to say “cheese,” it’s time for the professional photographer. No listing is complete in today’s digital age without professional photography. First impressions are made online which is why the first two steps are super important. And no matter the market conditions, MUST be done.
Networking The value of a great listing agent’s network is critical. In a seller’s market they know who is submitting offers on behalf of buyers and how likely a deal is to go through just based on agent reputation alone. In a buyer’s market, agent networking gets the word out about a listing from a reputable source. Great agents like working with great agents. In a seller’s market, helping a seller pick between two nearly identical offers may come down to agent reputation. In a buyer’s market, agent reputation and networking may be what brings the only offer you get.
Evaluating Offers In a buyer’s market, evaluating one offer after a seller has been on the market for months (hard to imagine right now, I know) is a critical part of the job. Making sure to talk to the lender about the offer, the financial stability of the buyer and whether or not settlement date can be reached is key to a smooth deal. In a seller’s market, a seller may end up one or two dozen offers. Evaluating each and every offer is done the same regardless of number. In a seller’s market, it is MUCH more work intense because you are on a tight time frame and have much more work to do.
Offsetting Buyer’s Remorse In a seller’s market, buyers are making offers that they sometimes regret. Offsetting that factor is important. A buyer may waive appraisal, but if they have to bring a bucket full of additional down payment to closing, they be remorseful and void. A great listing agent knows that even though an appraisal contingency is waived, it is professional to meet the appraiser with information and comps to get that appraised value as high as possible. We do the same in a buyer’s market, but he remorse factor comes from a different place in that circumstance. Keeping the buyer in love with the home is key when so much more is available to buy. The key is keeping the deal a win-win for both parties regardless of the market.
Of course, selling the value of a back up contract position to buyer’s agents whose clients came close but lost in a seller’s market is no small feat. It takes skill to get your seller one ratified back up offer so they don’t have to go back on the market and have buyers immediately wonder, “What’s wrong with the house?” That must be avoided at all costs.
Getting to Closing In any market condition, if we have done our jobs as listing agents well, getting to closing is a given. Sure, bad things can happen in any market, but when you hire an agent to represent your best interests, you are hiring them to do a lot of vetting up front to avoid surprises down the road.
So if everything is the same and you just have more work to do in a seller’s market on a tighter time frame, why would any seller think a listing agent deserved a pay cut? Because those sellers see other home owners getting so many offers that it must be as easy to sell as falling off a log. Getting under contract isn’t the difficult part. Getting the highest and best offer that isn’t going to flake or not be qualified is what are paid to do. And in a seller’s market, that job is harder.
Pictured above is the Flat Stanley project my young cousin mailed to me from Pottsville, PA over a decade ago. It has very little to do with being a licensed Virginia real estate agent, but doesn’t that custom Virginia touristy t-shirt look great? That’s me going the extra mile, something I do for my clients every day. Incidentally, Flat Stanley attended one of my broker pre-licensing classes when he visited Virginia. He may know more about Virginia real estate than a well decorated agent, licensed in Maryland and Virginia, that sent me an offer on listing recently. Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much.
Buyers have no idea how important it is to have a competent, well respected agent in the area where they are looking to purchase. When you are buying in the western suburbs of Prince William County, located about forty-five minutes from the closest point in Maryland in light traffic, you may want to hire an agent that does the majority of their business in Virginia. In multiple offer scenarios, full-time local agents that have thriving businesses know what their buyers are likely up against. They also likely have relationships with the local listing agents. Finally, they have knowledge of the Northern Virginia Residential Sales Contract inside and out.
In an intense multiple offer situation recently, I received an offer for my seller from an agent in some poody-doo production club with a well known franchise brokerage. Opening the document, what struck me was that it was over ninety pages. The average offer was about twenty-four pages. I was afraid I was going to find every piece of buyer brokerage paperwork in it. What I found was a document that repeated itself with Maryland disclosures and when I got far enough in, an offer for another home. The competence issue was immediately apparent. This agent had ZERO idea what a Virginia offer had to contain and was so flustered getting it together she included another offer for another property.
Being licensed in two states/jurisdictions means nothing if you aren’t competent in what each one requires and work in them regularly. I imagine, for instance, that agents that live in DC or near the borders of their states like Arlington or Lovettsville in Virginia, would regularly be pulled into neighboring jurisdictions. Being based in Prince William County, VA I rarely have a reason to go into Maryland. The idea of being licensed there to get one deal every four years seems awful. When I am representing someone else’s best interests, I need to KNOW what I am doing. The best business practice for me is to refer that buyer or seller to someone who deals with the local contract and market day in and day out. In fact, I just did it earlier this week with a former neighbor needing help selling a family home in Ocean City, MD.
Being licensed in Virginia is definitely enough for me. If you need help in Maryland or DC, I will find a fantastic agent to help you. The goal in real estate is to do what is best for the client. When it comes to dealing with Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, I can go that extra mile. That’s because the basics are a walk in the the park when you practice Northern Virginia real estate daily.
There is no question the photo above this post is of an old home. It’s a funny thing about the age of homes. If they are fifteen years or newer, they are pleasing because they are new. If they are one hundred years or older, they are charming because they are old. The in-between, where a lot of homes in Prince William County fall, have the ability to look a lot newer than they do without major renovations.
Middle aged homes show their age in a lot places. Outdated wallpaper and paint colors are obvious, as is worn carpet. What isn’t obvious are switch plate and outlet overs that have been painted over and over, and the yellowing switches or plugs themselves. For relatively minimal costs, you can remove the “age spots” from middle aged homes with crisp white, plain switch plate and outlet covers and new switches and plugs to match.
Another relatively low cost area that can be the equivalent of a botox injection to remove wrinkles, is changing out door hinges and door knobs to what is current. Right now, that would be brushed nickel or oiled bronze.
Freshening up caulk in bathrooms and kitchens is another easy fix and will often be done by your painter as part of a whole house paint job. If you want bathroom grout brightened up, there are companies that specialize in that for reasonable prices if you don’t want to take on the job yourself with a toothbrush, rag and white vinegar.
An experienced listing agent, like myself, can help you when engaged early in the process, to not over spend in areas that are not necessary and focus your budget and energy where it will make the best overall impression. Some sellers have engaged me as far out as two years from hitting the market. You don’t need to worry about bringing me in too early. Helping you with listing preparation consultation is part of what I do.