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.
Before this townhouse at 7664 Duneiden Lane ever hit the market as an Active listing, I had a buyer’s agent or two swirling around wanting to make a sight unseen offer when it was listed as Coming Soon. If I didn’t know any better, I would think it was because the listing photos were so darn good. After all, the sellers let me get a professional photographer in there four months before they listed. They knew that it would be mostly vacant of furniture when it hit the market. Together we decided it would show best with the furnishings that were perfectly on trend and really made the home inviting.
As I said above, that is what I would think if I didn’t know any better. This isn’t my first rodeo. Usually, my listings don’t become Active until the photo shoot is done. Photos are generally the last piece of the listing puzzle. Once they are up, there is usually no sense in waiting to list a home as Active. Even from a single exterior photo, pleas from buyer agents are being made on many listings for a seller to accept a sight unseen offer. Why? These buyers are desperate to get under contract and feel that is the last trick they have left. The side I see in the pleas is that these buyer agents also know that their buyer’s offer will not be competitive once the home is Active and open to the entire market.
Not surprisingly, this townhouse in Campbell’s Trace had non-stop buyer traffic the moment it went active. And the offers got better and better. Every one of the five offers the sellers received were over list price. In the end, the sellers had a choice of multiple offers with no home inspection contingencies, no appraisal contingencies or low appraisal guarantees. That is why it pays to hit the market and be open to all buyers.
Stay tuned for the final sold price. And if you are interested in selling while the market is this hot, get in touch with me for a no obligation market analysis.
Tucked away in the Manassas community of Campbell’s Trace is 7664 Duneiden Lane, a piggyback style townhouse . You can’t drive by and see this home. It faces inside the community, attached at the back of 7662. Take a dozen or so steps down the sidewalk and over the bridged walkway and ta-da…there it sits.
Enter into the living room where an open concept floor plan greets you. The combination of dark hardwood floors and light gray paint complement each other perfectly. Dining area offers a view, and exit, to the privacy fenced yard. Kitchen has lots of counter space, dark gray cabinets and light ceramic flooring. There is even a half bathroom next to the front door, giving you access to a bathroom on every level….a must have in townhouse living.
The second level is devoted to the owner’s suite. An expansive bedroom with sunshine streaming through the south facing windows is a delight. The hardwood flooring is a welcome update. Attached owner’s bathroom is complete with dual sinks, over-sized soaking tub and separate shower.
Venture up one more level to find a carpeted, quiet third story with second and third bedrooms, second full bathroom and laundry room. Never worry about tile grout lines in the second bathroom. The floor is painted concrete and definitely gives this story the feel of a contemporary urban loft.
Parking consists of two assigned spaces near the townhouse and one visitor parking pass. HOA dues cover trash and snow removal, common area maintenance and playgrounds.
As for location, this is a great spot for commuters. Route 66 is only a few city blocks away. And there is a large variety of shops, restaurants and healthcare services within minutes of the townhouse. The nearest hospital in less than ten minutes away.
In the intense seller’s market that Manassas and the surrounding area is experiencing, it is unlikely 7664 Duneiden will last for long. Make sure you get your appointment booked. This townhouse will be available for showings starting February 26th (2022.)
As I drove around the Manassas/Bristow/Gainesville area today, there was a spring in my step. It certainly is a festive time of year, but that was not it. And I was pleased as punch that I closed not one, but two deals this week. The Christmas Miracle in Warrenton were buyer-clients. The last sale of the year was a seller-client in my ultimate neighborhood of expertise–Braemar. (If you can’t be an expert in the neighborhood where you have lived for over sixteen years and have served on the HOA Board for almost just as long, where can you be?) Yes, selling houses this close to the holidays is an extra special kind of happy, but I have to say, it is not an unusual occurrence in my real estate career. I sell houses year round and the yearend market is always a strong one.
It hit me when I got home that the extra pep in my step was due to the fact that it is December 22nd. That means the winter solstice is behind us and we have already faced the day with the least amount of sunlight hours. Woo-hoo! If there is one thing that can consistently drag me down, it is the dark of winter. As I write this post it is only getting on six o’clock in the evening, yet it feels like it could be ten in the evening. Today is a day for all of those with Seasonal Affective Disorder to cheer. We are coming out of the dark with a little more daylight every day as head through winter.
Lack of daylight and early sunsets don’t just make for a down mood. These things affect how I stage a vacant home, or direct a seller to leave an occupied home for showings. Light is the ultimate staging commodity when the daylight hours are minimal. A torch lap on a switched outlet in every bedroom is a must. Buyer enthusiasm can not reach its peak during an evening showing when all natural light extinguished hours before and buyers feel they are touring your home by the light of their cell phones.
Being a professional marketing agent, I know that getting buyers enthusiastic is the name of the game. When it daylight is minimal, light staging will definitely be accompanied by lamps in every room without overhead lighting. That’s what we did in 12423 Selkirk Lane that closed yesterday. A few more months of lamps as the critical staging item and we will be talking about what flowers to plant for the max curb appeal.
The First Key to Max Profit When Selling Your Home
Getting the maximum profit when you sell your home, even in a seller’s market is not as easy as you think. A seller can’t assume that any old agent that is willing to cut their commission because “it is so easy to sell houses in a seller’s market” is going to wring every dollar they deserve out of their home sale. Max profit doesn’t start with hiring the cheapest agent a seller can find, even though it is an absolute fact that the largest closing cost is agent commission. Reducing the largest line item paid in your closing costs may seem like a natural win, but as my father used to constantly remind us, “You get what you pay for.”
No matter the market conditions present when you are selling your home, the first key to success lies in three words:
Creating Buyer Enthusiasm
In one of the hottest seller’s markets on record, I have met two For Sale By Owners (FSBO) who had cut their commission line item in half by going it alone. What were they lacking? Besides buyers willing to write offers despite enough buyer interest to get it done, someone on their side to help them see their home through a buyer’s eyes and present it to the market in a manner to lift buyer enthusiasm. That is what generates higher prices, and in a seller’s market, bidding wars. Despite popular opinion on FSBOs, neither one was priced higher than the market would allow. They just had no clue how to create buyer enthusiasm and get legitimate offers. That’s where a professional marketing agent is worth their weight in gold.
Once I was hired as the professional listing agent, the focus shifted from how much could be saved on commission to how to get buyers to want this listing before they have even seen it in person. In each case, that involved staging, but not to the degree you might think. Simple rearranging of furniture to show a floor plan’s utility or larger amounts of space. Placing punches of color to draw attention to the home’s best features. Getting buyers to see how they would live in the property vs. seeing how a seller is currently living in a property. How someone lives every day in a home is not how they sell.
Once the stage is set, a professional listing agent knows to hire a professional photographer. Just like a seller who wants to cut commission believing it will net them more money, I fought hiring a professional photographer for too many years. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever took my own listing photos. The professionals in any field can not be matched and are a huge component of success. And naturally, the biggest compliment I get from my top notch photographers is that they love taking pictures of my listings because they are always primped for photo day and make great subjects. I like to say they are smiling and saying cheese when the photographer arrives. Still, it is unbelievable to me that a lot of listing agents don’t worry about what they photographers are taking pictures of if they are just professional.
While words used in describing a listing are also very important, they are a second to photos. Listing preparation and staging are vital to making sure your photos leap off the screen of the buyer’s phone, tablet or keyboard and plant that fast growing seed of buyer enthusiasm. Making sure the home presents the same in person to build on that level of enthusiasm is where all the preparation a seller did and maintains throughout showings is important. Making beds, clearing clutter, emptying litter boxes daily…you get the idea.
As I tell all of my sellers, the minute a buyer slumps their shoulders or sighs at clutter, condition, painting projects, old carpet…whatever…you have lost the chance at a full price offer. The cash register in the buyers head is running and they are overestimating the cost to get the home to look the way they want it. And the reality is that getting a home to look they way most buyers want is not as difficult, or costly, as a seller may think. Listing preparation is critical to buyer enthusiasm. Skipping it all together and relying on a hot market to bring you tremendous results is costly mistake.
Both of my FSBOs listed at the same price they had gone it alone and both got multiple offers and ended up selling above list price, which paid for the fee they had tried to avoid when unsuccessfully listing alone. However, it wasn’t just as simple as making sure the home looked great. That’s where we come to the second key to max profit when selling. Click the link to find out more.
It all started on September 1st (2021.) In my email was a buyer lead, requesting a showing of a Haymarket condo in Market Center. Naturally, I got in contact immediately and upon making contact, found out I was dealing with the mom of the potential buyer. Apparently her son had been looking for a first time purchase from Ashburn to Manassas for several months. She didn’t want to trouble any one agent with that intense of a search, so they had been spending time at open houses.
First thing I did was express why it was important to have an agent in the process. Then, I let her know that if the search headed back to Ashburn or Manassas, I could work those areas too. Ultimately, a great buyer’s agent isn’t there to sell you a property, but help you find the one that fits your budget, wants and needs as much as possible.
We got started looking at the Haymarket condos of interest the very next day. We were going to make an offer on one that really stood out, but it turned out that we missed the boat. While the buyer was getting pre-approved for his mortgage, another buyer swooped in and took the home. Disappointing, but at least we found out what the budget was in the process and were poised to act next time.
As it turned out, there was only one next time. A townhouse in the Manassas community of Paradise popped up and we were off to see it as quickly as posible. It was an end unit with loads of updates. It made my buyer smile as soon as he entered. That meant it was time to figure out an offer. There were other offers on the table. How was he going to make his offer stand out and get accepted? We talked over some strategies and the one that made the most sense to him was a combination of going in over list price and offering to pay some of the seller’s closing costs. He didn’t have to waive appraisal or home inspection. And you know what? His offer was chosen.
In the multiple offer bid, I think the listing agent realized that if the appraisal came in low, at least the seller’s would have some of their closing costs paid, which was still a win. And sure enough, the appraisal came in not only lower than the offer, but also below list price. The sellers lowered their price, but still made out better than they would have with another offer thanks to the buyer’s closing cost help offer.
It must have chapped the sellers’ behinds to lower the price because on walk through, when I should have been snapping a picture of the exterior to of the townhouse to share in this post, I was snapping pictures like the one below to send to the listing agent. The sellers had left all kinds of stuff in the garage.
Not to worry. With the threat of $425 worth of junk removal on the horizon, the sellers made sure this stuff was out on settlement day….we double checked to make sure. Sellers can get so generous when it is time to get everything out.
From a September 2nd initial meeting to a settlement on October 22nd is a fast turnaround. This was a whirlwind. Not all buyers are sure enough in what they want to be that decisive. It’s okay. No matter how long it takes, a great buyer’s agent is there the whole time. Let me know when you are ready to house hunt and we’ll find the one for you…and make sure the crap is out of the garage by settlement day too!
Rumors That the 2021 Summer NoVa Real Estate Market is Slowing Down
There has been talk among agents that the real estate market in Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties is starting to slow down. Oh how I wish those rumors had some basis in reality. The extreme buyer demand that has sellers cashing out at unbelievable prices, has left buyers waiving just about every conceivable contingency and reaching deep into their savings or retirement plans just to have a chance at purchasing. Still, this past Memorial Day weekend I had buyers offer $30,000 above a fairly optimistic list price on a home that had plenty of outdated decor, and waived all contingencies only to lose along with ten other buyers.
The week or so that the gas shortage was causing anxiety in Northern Virginia, presented a great opportunity for buyers to get out and see homes while others were afraid to burn the gas in their tank to see property. That window allowed one of my buyer-clients, a first-time buyer, an opportunity to get under contract without having to waive home inspection. He was even able to negotiate some closing cost help. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Maybe that was the weekend the rumors of the slowing market started.
Alas, it was only an abbreviated window of opportunity which was created entirely out of panic, not actual shortage of gas. To me, it was like having a snow storm in winter during a seller’s market. Others may sit out the conditions and wait for the snow to melt, but not me. Striking while other buyers are sitting it out is the only way to give some buyers the leg up.
What we may be starting to see in the Northern Virginia marketplace is the typical slow down as we welcome summer and vacations are top of mind. For the first time since I became an agent in 2005, last year (2020) there was no slow down in July and August. Pandemic lock downs made vacations impossible. That makes summer vacations in 2021 even more of a priority for many who missed them last year. I believe the term I heard in some news media was “revenge travel.”
No matter what may ease up the buyer demand, even temporarily, rest assured that if you are a seller in Prince William, Fairfax or Loudoun County, your home will still sell and for a top price if you take time to prepare it and hire a listing agent that will professionally market it. We can shed some buyer demand and still be in a seller’s market.
On March 23rd (2021) I had the pleasure of introducing you to 11900 Rocky Brooke Court in Manassas, listed for $740,000. Nestled off of a cul-de-sac on five acres, this four bedroom, three and a half bathroom home offered a wooded view from every window. It also offered two, two car garages. It was no surprise when the offers starting rolling in immediately.
On March 29th, the seller and I went over the offers in hand. As we were going over the six we had, a seventh came in. Because the seller had already committed verbally to a buyer, when the seventh offer came in, they gave that originally selected buyer the option to meet the terms offered by the incoming seventh offer. That buyer jumped to acceptance of those terms immediately and the home went under contract.
Originally, we had been scheduled to close on April 28th. It was an easy road to get there with the buyer, who had no contingencies. It was not an easy road on the seller side and involved a one month delay due to an estate issue. Thankfully, the buyer stuck by us as the estate issue was worked out in the court system as quickly as possible.
On May 28th, one month past our original settlement date, the seller closed with our originally chosen buyer. Being honorable and sticking to the buyer they had verbally agreed to work with ended up creating the trust needed to get the transaction through the unforeseeable delay with the seller’s estate. The final sold price was $800,000.
When you are ready to sell your home, hiring a full-time, professional licensed broker ensures you are working with someone with the highest level of license and competence. When the unforeseen happens, you need the highest level of expertise. While I have been a licensed agent in Virginia since 2005, in 2010 I added the distinction of being a licensed real estate broker in Virginia. That’s the highest level of license our state offers and comes with in-depth training and a higher bar to passing the test. This career is not something I take lightly and it shows in the outstanding results my clients get no matter what challenges arise. Get in touch with me for your next Manassas, Bristow, Gainesville or surrounding area real estate transaction.
Every day there are nuggets I like to share in an effort to educate my local market about real estate and, most importantly, how having a full-time professional agent on your side benefits you. Right now, the 2021 spring market is so hot that many buyers and buyer agents have third degree emotional burns. Rejection after rejection is more likely than actually winning the bid on a property when there are at least one dozen buyers for every home that hits the market. Given the intense demand, some sellers wonder, “Why pay a listing agent? I can get a buyer myself.”
In my inbox this morning was a plea for help from a FSBO (For Sale By Owner) wanting to know how to vet a cash offer. I wish I were making this up, but I am not. Sadly, this seller is left flailing, reviewing one offer on his property that poses uncertainty. In his case, the horse is out of the barn and he is on his own or at the mercy of whatever agent would be fool enough to advise someone who is NOT their client. And since he reached out a random agent he found online, his string of bad decisions is likely not over yet.
The object of the game when listing your home is selling for the absolute max you can get, with terms that suit your needs and with the least risk.
GETTING THE ABSOLUTE MAX Getting the absolute max the market will bear is accomplished by creating buyer enthusiasm. Putting a For Sale sign in your yard may create a level two of enthusiasm, on a scale of one to ten. The real enthusiasm that takes you to level ten and beyond, is being well prepared and professionally marketed. Here’s how I know.
Letting the world know about my Coming Soon listings is the equivalent of putting the sign in the yard. The virtual sign goes up and some buyers have their agents schedule appointments with trepidation. Why? They can’t see the inside. Meanwhile, my sellers are putting finishing touches on the preparation, based on the notes I gave. Or maybe I am doing some light staging. Then the professional photographer comes in, photos are uploaded and the enthusiasm level goes through the roof. Agents are knocking themselves out to get into professional marketed listings.
TERMS THAT SUIT YOUR NEEDS This is something full-time professional agents do as a general practice. We find out what your ideal settlement date is, if you need a rent back and any else we need to know to make the transaction smooth from the beginning. We then take that information and share it with buyer agents through the MLS. That’s how you get what works best for you without negotiation back and forth.
THE LEAST RISK Evaluating the offers that come in for risk is a critical component of a professional listing agent’s job. We know how to evaluate proof of funds to include lender letters. Knowing how to evaluate the seriousness of an offer through a number of variable. Each offer has its own risk, but between agent reputation, lender reputation, verification of funds and how the offer is structured, a professional listing agent will be able to cut a pile of offers to perhaps two, maybe three.
You get one shot at selling your home. All the outs in a real estate contract are on the buyer, unless you pick a buyer with a home sale contingency, then the seller has one out…another offer. You want to make sure you are picking one to work with that is willing and able to close. Start by choosing a full-time, professional listing agent that can guide you every step of the way from preparation to closing.
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.