Category Archive

“But the Listing Said…”

“With some vision and effort, the kitchen can be transformed…”

“But the Listing Said…”

Lately my buyers have found themselves frustrated and I am right there with them. Earlier this week a buyer found six homes online that appeared to meet their criteria. I looked through the listings and started removing some from our tour. Why? The listing agents were over-fluffing to the public and saving the real scoop on the condition or terms acceptable for agent remarks.

Agent remarks are visible only to licensed agents who are members of the MLS (multiple listing service.) Public remarks are the ones published to third party websites and the remarks seen by our clients when we forward listings to them from the MLS.

One listing showed a new construction home and gave lots of information as to what updates cost, etc. However, it was only a phone call to the listing agent that revealed that permits were not going to be pulled on construction until a buyer chose to build. Well that wasn’t going to work. The buyer was so deflated. She loved the look of the new home they had a picture of with zero qualification that the reality was there was no home on that lot yet. They can’t wait that long.

Another listing talked up the potential of a great deal in Manassas. It was above this buyer’s max price point, but sounded as though it needed some TLC. Understandably, the buyer thought that meant they could negotiate the price down since they home had been on the market for over forty days. Agent remarks stated that it was a pre-foreclosure sale and that the price was firm, dictated a specific settlement date, that the home was sold as-is and the sellers would need a post settlement occupancy agreement for sixty days. That didn’t work on price or timing. Important things for a consumer to know, don’t you think?

In my role as a listing agent, I believe that agent remarks should be administrative or give more insight. For instance, in agent remarks on my listings I let colleagues know how to schedule showings, what times might be restricted, where they can find information to make offers, and reiterate disclosures. Yes, disclosures to agents only, in my humble opinion, are not the sole place for disclosures on property condition, terms, etc. As agents, we have a duty to the public to be honest in our communication. Combine that with our duty to disclose defects of which we know, well you may understand why I see there is no other way to conduct business than to respect the public and disclose important information and defects.

This morning another buyer disappointed. Agent remarks talk about the vision and “a little effort” that could transform a three story colonial. Agent remarks state something every buyer should know: there is “microbial growth” in the home. My call to the listing agent revealed that due to three feet of standing water in the basement and a home that was vacant for eighteen months that there was severe mold growth over all three levels and that only a cash buyer or rehab loan will work. “A little effort,” doesn’t begin to get a buyer to that mindset. Why not be honest and disclose?

Sadly, my mind goes to only one reason why these defects and terms are not disclosed. Putting in the disclosure(s) that the public deserves would keep listing agents from having the opportunity to take a very excited buyer inquiry, level with them about the condition and then make a case for being hired as their buyer’s agent. Do buyers even consider what was withheld before that call and the lack of respect it implies for them?

Buyers deserve the truth about any specific terms and major defects about a home. That’s my interpretation of our REALTORĀ® Code of Ethics and the standard that agents are held to with regard to knowing defects in a home. It would certainly save a lot of wasted time and soul deflating moments in the house hunt for buyers already stressed with low inventory.

Happy house hunting this weekend! If you find yourself floundering in a mess of over-fluffed MLS data and want straight talk, don’t hesitate to reach out for a no obligation buyer consultation. I work out of the Gainesville, Virginia area and am willing to go as far out as your search and my schedule, license and MLS allows.

Just Listed in Manassas: Split Level Home for $449,000

8265 Highland Street in Manassas, Built in 1969

Just Listed in Manassas: Split Level Home for $449,000

It not so common to list a home built in 1969, that has only been occupied by the original owner, but this is one of those times. Entering 8265 Highland Street, it is clear that the original owner of this home loved it until the moment she moved. The home is in excellent condition for its age.

The furnace was just replaced in 2022. The A/C and water heater were replaced the year before that in 2021. A new refrigertator was installed prior to list. Even the roof and windows are approximately ten years old. This home does not suffer from deferred maintenance. The only issue we do know is that the dishwasher in the kitchen no longer works.

The desirable location in the heart of Manassas, located just a few blocks from the UVA Prince William Medical Center, is just another plus for this home. In addition to having great curb appeal, it also has a large, partially fenced yard that has very little grade, making it about as flat as you would ever what a back yard to be.

Inside the split level floor plan are three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. The bedrooms and full bathroom are the only rooms on the upper level. The bathroom is in great condition and has all original finishes from when it was built. Updating this bathroom would be an easy project.

Downstairs, the oversized foyer faces a half bathroom straight ahead, family room with wood burning fireplace to the left and steps up the living room. Around the corner from the living room is the dining area and kitchen. The kitchen also has original finishes, but is isn good condition. Paint the cabinets, add new hardware and countertops and the kitchen would be completely different. A new appliance suite would only make it that much more modern, but as stated earlier, the dishwasher is the only one in need of replacement.

Carpet and paint will definitely be a project that the next home owner will want to address before anything else, particularly on the bedroom level. Carpet in the upper hall, staircase and main level seem to have been replaced at a later date.

To make the home a four bedroom, two full bathroom home, some home owners with the same floor plan in the neighborhood of Highland Park has converted the family room to a main level bedroom and the half bathroom to a full bathroom. There is unfinshed storage, accessed only by outside, that could be insulated and made part of the a main level bedroom suite. Right now, that storage area is housing the dryer, while the washer is in the utility room between the kitchen and back entrance to the family room.

Interior photos will be coming on this one in the near future. In the meantime, if you would like a tour of this one, please reach out and we will get you inside for a tour.

Just Listed in Bristow: End Unit Townhouse for $458,000

10158 Pale Rose Loop in Bristow Listed for $458,000 on January 13, 2023

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.

Main Level Floor Plan is Open and Overlooks Two Story Foyer

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.

December Settlements Feel Extra Special

December Settlements Feel Extra Special

In mid-October, I was contacted by a couple who were referred to me by friends who had purchased their home with me in June 2021. If you click that link, you will hear the tale of an entirely different buyer experience than what my most recent buyers experienced. Things can change quickly in the real estate market.

The buyers referred to me two months ago were looking for a home in Warren or Frederick County. A job relocation to Winchester was the reason for the move. Thankfully, my recent experience in the market had familiarized me with the outer reaches of our market area with a listing in Middletown and buyers I had represented that looked in Warren County, Frederick County, Clarke County before landing on Shenandoah County. I had also just gotten buyers under contract for new construction in Middletown.

The market in October 2022 was slower. There were more homes on the market as a result of steep increases in mortgage interest rates. The one and only stipulation that Mr. Buyer had in this case was that he did NOT want to live in a split foyer home. Well, when I ran a search in the areas they needed, with the criteria that they wanted, out of fifty-plus homes on the market, only a handful were floor plans other than split level. This was going to be a challenge.

We started our house hunt with a virtual tour. In the absence of being physically present in the market, we also had their friend go to homes with me and did more virtual tours. Having a friend or family member that knows the home you are coming from helps tremendously when explaining features of a home a buyer is not able to see in person. From that day out with their friend, they decided to write an offer on one of the homes–a split foyer home very close to Mr. Buyer’s job. The seller didn’t like the request for closing cost help and countered. My buyers took a time out and Mrs. Buyer came up fron North Carolina for an in-person tour.

The house they had written an offer on was not her top choice. Her top choice, unfortunately, was a hotly contested home that garnered multiple offers. They didn’t get that one, though they did their best. Mr. Buyer was secretly thrilled since it was a split foyer home. After that loss, re-engaging with the first split foyer home seemed like a major compromise. Nonetheless, time was of the essence and they were coming to grips with not getting a home style other than split foyer.

Just as I was awaiting word on whether they were moving forward with the first home, a new home emerged at four in the afternoon on a Sunday, October 30th. I was on the road to Stephens City nearly immediately to tour the rambler with them virtually. They loved it. We wrote up an offer and submitted it immediately. Within a couple days, they were under contract.

It is always a tense moment when buyers get to see the house they are under contract to purchase, or have bought, for the first time and it happens more frequently with relocating buyers who have been forced to act quickly in our market. Mr. and Mrs. Buyer drove up for the home inspection and were delighted.

On December 6th (2022) they closed on their Stephens City home. Mother Nature could have been kinder with a welcome mat of sunshine, but despite the drizzly rain all day, there were smiles all around. And house number one? Well, it took until December 4th to go under contract. Sellers are not in control in every market area, but some have yet to make that realization.

Welcome back to Virginia! We are so happy to have you.

Trading Suburbia for a More Rural Property

Trading Suburbia for a More Rural Property

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?”

“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.

Selling a Property With Boundary Issues

Selling a Property With Boundary Issues

Having been a licensed real estate agent since 2005, I can tell you that there is a lesson in every transaction. Lessons that can be passed on to other sellers, buyers or even other real estate agents. The sale that closed today on my listing in Manassas is another great example. At the heart of this transaction, besides a very well kept home with three finished levels and an attached garage in a neighborhood of only two level homes with no garage, is a story about encroaching on land that doesn’t belong to you.

When the sellers contacted me, it was with the future thought of selling. Mr. Seller mentioned that his pool and deck were built barely going over into county land. What was well into that county land was the fence for “their” back yard. The attitude of the seller was, “It’s not going to be a big deal. The county has never said anything.” One year later, as we sat at his kitchen table, I told him it was going to present title issues at a minimum, he dialed up a buddy of his in the title business. Sure enough, his buddy confirmed that the encroachment onto county land was going to cause title insurance problems. The items that encroached on county land would likely be exceptions to the new buyer’s title policy. All that means is that if the future buyer ended up in a dispute with the county over the encroaching structures, the title insurer was not going to cover the cost of any lawsuit or any remedy.

This was the pool and deck that go over into another lot.

From the listing perspective, it was a must disclose situation. Just about every where we could, we disclosed the encroaching structures. Despite having very attractive features for the neighborhood, the disclosure that this property had structures encroaching on county land spooked all but one buyer out of a dozen that had scheduled showings, not to mention the dozen or so that made it through the open house. The offer from that buyer took into account the cost to remove the structures, so despite being priced at an attractive and reasonable $539,900, the offer was below list price and requested closing cost help. The sellers came to grips with the fact, very quickly, that it was either pay now to remove the structures or pay later and made a counter that buyer accepted, upping the price, but it was still below list. Eight days on the market was the final marketing time, not bad considering the circumstances.

The pool and deck that encroached were not the big selling features that the sellers thought they would be once the disclosure that they encroached on property that didn’t belong to them was made. Thank goodness the pool was above ground and not in-ground. An easy removal for a motivated buyer.

Today, as we sat at the closing table, Mr. Seller still scoffed at the idea that the buyer would be removing the structures. “We never had an issue.” There are plenty of people that speed every day and don’t get tickets either, but eventually, if you get caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing, it will cost you. Some folks would rather play it safe.

Today this meticulously maintained home sold for $530,000 and the sellers gave $11,800 in closing cost help. So the lesson is three fold.

Home Owners: Do not knowingly build anything on land that doesn’t belong to you. One lender we discussed the issue with said he had seen local governments institute daily fines starting from the date the encroachment was discovered until the encroachment wass removed.

Buyers: Always have a survey when you purchase property with any type of yard, even a townhouse. It is the only way you will ever know if something is encroaching on your soon to be property or if your property is encroaching on someone else’s land. Further, the only way your title policy will cover you in future boundary disputes is if you have a survey done at the time you buy. Getting one from the seller from when they bought does nothing to protect you. The buyers in this case had a survey.

Agents: If the sellers had not disclosed this information, their buyer would have had the right to void the contract until our title paragraph when they found out. In fact, the buyers had a right to void even though it was disclosed because the title was not one-hundred percent clear and their title policy would have exceptions. Disclosing it was the proper thing to do legally and to avoid disappointment later. The buyers knew what they were getting into.

If you have questions about the home buying or selling process, put my experience to work for you. With real life examples, everything is easier to understand. And my seventeen years and counting of real estate sales experience has many lessons that keep my clients out of trouble.

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.

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.

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