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.
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.
When I first toured 12907-A Lee Jackson Memorial Highway in the Fairfax community of Gray’s Pointe, it was clear that the seller had two options. Sell strictly as-is with no improvement and let the market bear out whatever it would bring. To be blunt, it had electrical issues, broken appliances, old cabinets that were falling apart, pet urine stained floors and drywall and many unfinished decor products. My guess was that the market would probably yield an investor willing to renovate, but needing to reserve their profit market. As-is the seller would be lucky to get $150,000. The other option was to renovate the condo completely.
When the seller realized that the profit worth having goes to those willing to take on the renovation risk, we got two quotes on fixing up the place. One with a service that could be paid at closing. The other with a private contractor that needed payment up front. The savings in going with the private contractor was $20,000. The choice was easy. Hire the private contractor and get the renovation done.
Virtually everything in the one bedroom condo was replaced except the bathtub. Soft close, white shaker cabinets, granite counters, tile backsplash, under cabinet lighting and stainless steel appliances, along with newly wired GFCI outlets and bright LED lights brought the kitchen to life.
Sparkling quartz atop a new vanity with LED lights, freshly tiled shower, new toilet, fixtures, medicine cabinet and mirror made what was formerly the most challenged room in the home absolutely delightful. New drywall replaced the pet stained mess and new stacked washer and dryer were added in the laundry area contained within.
The bedroom was freshened up, as was the entirety of the home with LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring. The closet even had to be re-constructed as the owner had ripped out the former and dealt with open shelving in her day to day. The contractor was so thoughtful as to even add lighting so the next owner could see their belongings in the closet.
The living room/dining room were lit up with LED light fixtures. The wood burning fireplace was white washed and a mantel was custom made for it. The screened porch outside was repaired and painted. And even the storage unit was painted inside and utilty hooks added. The contractor even added coat hooks at the foyer.
New disposal and water heater were installed when they crapped out during construction and the HVAC brought up to normal working condition with replacement parts. All this for less than $400 over budget.
When the condo hit the market on Memorial Day weekend, buyers responded. It was priced at $269,000, a far cry from what we had antipated the as-is price would be. Two offers showed the level of seriousness of the buyers. July 5th the most serious of those buyers became the new owners of this gorgeous renovation. The sales price was $275,000. For an investment of just under $40,000, the seller made $125,000 more in her sales price. She took on the risk of renovation and she reaped the reward.
Not sure if you are up for the renovation of your home prior to list? If you want the profit move-in ready brings you will be. Get in touch with me and we will go over numbers. The market doesn’t pay top dollar for a property in need of serious renovation.
Every once in a while, a property is able to be marketed twice and the second attempt is for a higher amount. This stacked townhouse condo with a one car garage in Gainesville’s Parks at Piedmont South at 14443 Macon Grove Lane is one of those instances.
Originally listed on April 30, 2022 for $325,000, this condo had been tenant occupied at that time. While the seller did everything in their power to make sure the home looked fantastic by de-cluttering and cleaning, even getting the tenants a hotel room for the first weekend on market, the level of wear and tear on the carpets and walls left the buyers that had gone under contract with it feeling remorseful. At least that’s the conclusion that the seller and I came to after those buyers voided their contract over a gas fireplace not igniting that cost less than two-hundred dollars to fix. After that, the seller waited for the tenants to vacate, had the home painted and new carpet installed. They fixed the fireplace and even ordered a new refrigerator. Those improvements warranted an improved list price as the home was in move-in ready condition. On June 23rd, it hit the market again at $350,000.
No seller of mine hits the market under prepared, relying solely on conditions to get their price. They get preparation advice, light staging and professional photography. Even though professional photos had been done during the first listing period, new photos were ordered AFTER light staging to increase buyer enthusiasm on the improved offering. It is not my business practice, even in a seller’s market, to do what is easy or cheap.
Even with the mortgage interest rate increase that buyers have had to cope with, they still find themselves in a seller’s market. There is no real estate crash on the horizon, despite some buyers making offers that are trying to will it in to existence. Inventory is still not meeting buyer demand. In fact, at the time that the first offer came in on this Gainesville condo, it was the only non-age restricted condo on the market in Haymarket and Gainesville below $400K. The only competition it had was a one bedroom condo. Yet, buyers still called with low offers and one made a written offer so low it made me think their agent had made a typo.
A serious buyer whose agent was advising them of the true market conditions and not a pipe dream of a buyer’s market coming to fruition made an offer that, with mild tweaking from the seller, hit the spot. On this 4th of July holiday, my seller is celebrating that she is under contract and is on track to close before another condo fee or HOA fee is due.
The hard reality for buyers is that, while many have been priced out of the market due to the continued rise of home values and now the steep increase in mortgage interest rates, there are still many buyers out there that can afford to buy. Affordability is not the problem of a seller. Smart buyers who hire experienced agents know that. They are making deals and taking advantage of what are still, historically low mortgage interest rates.
If you are a seller looking to sell in seller market conditions, don’t listen to the doom and gloom the news feeds you day in and day out. Get in touch with me. I’m a full-time licensed agent that has been at this since 2005. I have seen market crashes and know the signs. Buyers are more deliberate now, but there are still not enough homes to meet the demand in most Northern Virginia locations. My seller consultations are free and carry no obligation. Let’s talk!
It is no great surprise that I am sharing my seller’s success of getting under contract quickly at 12907-A Lee Jackson Memorial Highway When we first met regarding the sale of her home at the beginning of the year, she had some choices to make. The biggest choice was to sell the home strictly as-is with many deferred maintenance issues and outdated finishes or to update the condo and hit the market for more.
The choice became easy when the projected sale prices of were put in a spreadsheet, along with the cost of the renovation, to determine if the hassle of renovating was worth the additional money. Boy was it ever. Selling as-is is not a profitable easy button. It is simply an easy button. A buyer who takes on as-is properties and then fixes them up is most definitely looking for a profit margin or at least some additional consideration in a lower price for taking on the pain of renovation. They are also taking on the risk of additional, undisclosed problems discovered during renovation. Let’s face it, anyone who watches home improvement shows knows there is always something additional discovered during a renovation.
In the case of this Grays Pointe condo, my seller hired a fantastic contractor to do the work. Amazingly, despite three additional discoveries that needed work during the six week renovation, the project was over budget by less than four hundred dollars. Everything in the condo was replaced except for the tub. All the flooring, lighting, electrical, appliances, counters, tile and water fixtures. Even the water heater got replaced (one of the unforeseen issues.) The screened porch was even fixed up and the HVAC brought to normal working order when it started to have issues.
After some staging and professional photos, the market was certainly excited about this condo. Memorial Day weekend is not typically busy for the real estate market. You would not have known that from the showings on this condo.
Two offers and one ratified contract later, the seller was under contract on Monday morning. Settlement will be early July. Stay tuned for the final sold price. In the meantime, if you have been thinking of selling your home, I would love to help you increase your bottom line. Contact me to find out how.
How Many Days Does it Take to Sell in Spring 2022?
With the two percent increase in mortgage interest rates since the beginning of the year, you may have heard whispers of our Bristow and real estate market changing. Certainly, interest rates increasing have pinched buyers even more when rising home prices were already making it tough to afford a home. However, to declare that the market has measurably shifted from a seller’s market would be wrong.
In late April, dealing with the same interest rates, I placed a single family home in Bristow on the market. It was hottly contested and had multiple offers in a matter of four days. This past weekend, after having been on the market for just over one week, 14443 Macon Grove Lane had three offers at the same time. Multiple offers did happen, but not quickly. It was a rolling situation that left one of the four offers pulling out and moving on. What’s different between these two homes?
The single family home at 9477 Cromarty Court was owner occupied and updated to the nines. It also had a sought after water view. The downside of this property was the compact size of the rooms on the main level. However, the sellers had left no detail unnoticed. When it was time to the hit the market, the professional marketing drove up buyer enthusiasm and the coziness of the main level was not an issue.
While the condo at 14443 Macon Grove did hit the market a week later, it was not owner occupied. Tenants in a home never have a vested interest in a successful outcome. They are losing their rental home. In this case, the landlord realized this was an issue. She was by far, the most savvy landlord I have dealt with in my seventeen years of selling homes. She cleaned up the property herself. She decluttered the property before showings herself. She even put the tenants up in a hotel for the weekend while showings were happening. The only problem was, the weekend we really wanted to list the house was unavailable to us as the tenants had plans. That meant a hasty rush to market.
A professional photo shoot with great pictures that truly represented what buyers would see in the straightened and cleaned home, happened the day before it was to go active. I am here to tell, buyers and buyer agents do not make appointments until they see listing photos. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t hit the MLS until Saturday morning of our two day showing free-for-all. Showings picked up after the photos had been in a few hours, but the real activity wanted to happen Sunday through Friday. The tenants were unable to accommodate showing requests except for three hours in the evening, and one evening was taken off the table completely. (sigh) Even with showing restrictions and showing condition dwindling after the return of the tenants, the condo in Gainesville got multiple offers. It just took eight days to get there.
We are still in seller market conditions in Bristow and Gainesville. Of course, what matters most is what has mattered all along–how your home is prepared and marketed. An unprepared home is not going to create buyer enthusiasm. And even if it does, if buyers can’t get in to see it, that is a problem. If buyers are seeing poor listing photos, you are sunk.
Proper listing preparation and professional marketing get sellers to the top of the market no matter what their condition. And when there are issues you can’t work around, having a skilled negotiator representing you as a seller is critical. These two properties are great examples of how the market is influenced by condition and marketing. Stay tuned for their final sold prices. Until then, if you want to investigate the 2022 sale of your Bristow or Gainesville home, get in touch with me for a no obligation market analysis.
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.
The time between signing a listing and actually hitting the market varies from seller to seller. In the case of this Campbell’s Trace piggyback style townhouse in Campbell’s Trace, the sellers signed the listing agreement September 26, 2021. It hit the market exactly five months later on February 26, 2022.
The reason for the delay was fairly simple. With a job relocation taking employment out of state for one half of the couple, the trailing spouse still needed time to lock down permission to work remotely for the job they still had in the Northern Virginia area. That took time. In the meantime, knowing that the job relocation would mean an advance move with most of the furniture following the spouse with the relocating job, leaving the trailing spouse with sparse furnishings in the home come marketing time, we decided to have the home professional photographed before that out of state move. Maybe you noticed the orange tipped leaves on the trees to the right. These photos were taken in early November.
While the market had improved come February, there was one sale outstanding in Campbell’s Trace that had overshot on list price and hadn’t yet closed. A townhosue of the same style had hit the market at an exuberant $408,000, gone under contract quickly, but hit the market again at a lower price of $390,000. To a full-time, professional agent that sure did smell like a low appraisal problem. It was for this reason I advised my sellers to stick with the list price we chose in the fall of $379,000 and let the market work.
After four days on the market, we had four offers, all above list price. The sellers didn’t even pick the highest offer. The reason was that the highest offer had a low appraisal guarantee that didn’t span the entire difference between list price and their offer. (Buyers do these when they can’t afford to waive appraisal entirely.) The same with another, higher offer. When you took their low appraisal guarantee amounts and added them to the last highest price the neighborhood had seen, it was the same price the sellers had in two other offers.
The sellers decided to take an offer with no contingencies at all and a $20,000 earnest money deposit. Nothing shows a seller that a buyer is serious like an offer with no contingencies and an earnest money deposit that is four times higher than what is typical in their price range. If the buyer failed to close for any reason that was not the fault of the seller, that $20,000 would be liquidated to the seller. The other offer with no contingencies only offered a $5,000 earnest money deposit.
Today, this Campbell’s Trace piggyback style townhouse closed for $400,000. That is a new high price for this style of townhouse in the neighborhood. It didn’t happen by accident. The market is great and favors sellers, but after seeing a suspected low appraisal issue in the neighborhood already, it was all about pricing right and not chasing fool’s gold. Before that, it was about preparing the home to enhance buyer enthusiasm which created that multiple offer situation. And finally, locking in a back up offer so if the first deal didn’t go through, there was no hitting the market again, leaving buyers and agents to wonder what was wrong with the house.
If you have been considering taking advantage of the seller’s market, get in touch with me for a no obligation consultation. Helping you properly prepare for market and create buyer enthusiasm with professional marketing is what I do. Weeding through multiple offers and helping you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each one is where the rubber meets the road. It is not all about price if a buyer can’t pay what they offered without an appraised value matching it. Having me on your side navigating the process will have you at very top of what the market will bear.
The Highest Price The Greens at Wescott Ridge Has Ever Seen
The Greens at Wescott Ridge are a collection of condos that are structurally stacked townhouses. Two days before Christmas I received contact information for sellers at 11620-B Cavalier Landing who were ready to talk to a listing agent then and there. Two hours to get ready with market comps, I was there to meet the sellers. They were being relocated out of the country for work and needed a reliable agent to handle the listing and sale of their home. After some brief conversation and a look at market comps, my abilities to help them became apparent. Shortly after Christmas, they reached out to officially hire me.
Listing outside of spring was concerning them. While they shook their heads affirmatively when I told them about the powers of the end of year and beginning of the New Year markets, I could still sense anxiety. When their condo was cleaned and staged and had professional photos that I shared, their nerves eased. The home looked great.
Priced at $489,800, we hit the market as planned on February 25th (2022.) Within hours of hitting the market, they had an offer. That buyer’s agent had phoned ahead of her showing to see if a pre-offer inspection was okay. My sellers agreed. So when the offer from that buyer rolled in, they were overjoyed. Not only did it reach the coveted $500,000 mark, but went beyond.
Because they were traveling to their new overseas home during that weekend, we agreed to talk on Tuesday the 3rd of March. By then they had four offers and all were above list price. One other offer came in a tad higher than the first, but they stuck with the buyer that had already had it inspected and knew what they were buying. That sale closed today for $515,000. And despite waiving appraisal and being willing to pay above a suspected low appraised value, the home appraised at sold price. That’s because I gave the appraiser comps, the multiple offers and a list of updates. The buyer had zero regrets about purchasing this lovely condo for $515,000 on March 22nd, which is a new record high in The Greens at Wescott Ridge.
Are you ready to sell your Greens at Westcott Ridge condo? I would love to talk to you about maxing out your take in this seller’s market. The market alone isn’t where success like this comes from. Proper preparation, professional marketing and skilled negotiation are the keys to success in any market. In a seller’s market, it means that much more money in your pocket. Get in touch for a confidential consultation today. There are certainly more buyers looking for homes in your neighborhood.