At the tail end of 2002, very happy home buyers closed on a deal in the Active Adult community of Dunbarton in Bristow. They had landed one heck of a deal–a large brand new, three level home backing to Broad Run and siding on the east to what the builder (Brookfield Homes) told them would remain common area to Dunbarton. As Brookfield put it, the neighboring lot could not be built upon without considerable expense to improve the grading, so the buyers were assured their view of the wooded lot next to them would remain common area. The asumption was that Brookfield would deed the lot to the Dunbarton HOA.
On March 11th (2023) the buyers mentioned above, my former clients who had purchased and sold investment property with me, called. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a home tour with a buyer in the Winchester area and didn’t have time to hear the entire scoop. The headline was simple. Brookfield Homes had listed the lot next to their home for sale at $90,000. WHAT???
Having promised to follow up on the matter the following day, I did some research before calling my former clients. Sure enough, the lot was listed by Brookfield for sale at $90,000. The listing agent told me there was a building site on the property and it would be the last buildable lot in Dunbarton. Brookfield had decided they were no longer holding onto the lot and there was no duty to donate the lot to Dunbarton as common area. Whoever bought it would have full rights and access to the Dunbarton amenities. They would also have to pay the monthly HOA fee. This listing agent already had promises of other offers coming in and one offer in hand. When that last bit of news was relayed to my former clients, no matter how much they disagreed with the building site information or the misleading information they had been given by Brookfield years prior, they had some thinking to do.
The following day, they called and decided they were making a bid for property. They wanted to protect their view. The only way to do that was to buy the lot. By that point, there were three offers on the table. And my buyers knew full well the intense interest in the property. They had a front row seat for the buyers, considering the opportunity, coming to the lot and sniffing out the possibilities.
My clients were able to meet with me quickly and take swift, decisive action in the form of an above list price offer with an escalation clause on March 13th. There were no contingencies needed for my buyers. They were not buying with the intent to build. They knew exactly what they were getting as they had been admiring the lot for over twenty-two years. They were making a cash offer, with a large earnest money deposit and offered to settle within two weeks. The fast settlement was made possible by a phone call to my most trusted title partners at RGS Title who offered to start the title search the day of our offer.
Thankfully, my buyers’ offer was accepted. They thwarted unwanted construction on the wooded lot they had thought was common area for all these years. Their offer had escalated to $115,000 to beat the next highest offer. It closed March 29th for $25,000 over list price. From the settlement table, I texted the listing agent to know when our side had signed. She shared her amusement that she was receiving yet another offer on the property on settlement day. Apparently, not all agents understand the “pending” status in the MLS (multiple listing service.) My buyers are delighted that they had the ability to ensure their view for as long as they want it. Obviously, if they ever decide they no longer care about the view, it is a lot in high demand.
Every once in a while listing agents encounter situations where the typical listing advice is not something that works for our seller-clients. Take for instance the story of a home I sold in Alexandria at the end of 2022. Walking inside, the home was in dire need of updating and repair of damaged areas and some plumbing pipes that needed replacement. However, the cost to the do the update correctly even with an inflated sales price, looked to exceed the potential profit the estate could make by selling as-is. At that Alexandria estate sale, we attempted an as-is purchase and were bowled over by the amount of interest and number of offers. It became clear that the cost to improve the home was not worth it and an offer to sell as-is was accepted.
Walking into 8265 Highland Street in Manassas in December 2022, that Alexandria home was in the front of my mind. Mind you, Highland Street was a home that was simply outdated. There was nothing structurally wrong with the home. It was clean, well kept but needed paint, carpet and a facelift in the kitchen and bathrooms. And, being a one full bathroom home, the seller was advised to at least get a quote on adding a second full bathroom. Believe it or not, there are companies out there that will do the work and get paid at closing if paying up front for improvements is not in the budget.
As the seller weighed what, if any, improvements they would undertake, they seller wanted to hit the market as-is, but at a price that was higher than one in the neighborhood just like it that had recently sold. That improved home also had the additional full bathroom. There was nothing to suggest that this was a move that would pay off. There was a lack of inventory and some houses that were improved were getting multiple offers. Would buyer demand eat this on up as-is?
Professional photos were put off, but the listing was made active at the request of the seller. Within four days, we had an offer in hand. Unfortunately, that buyer vanished as quickly as he had appeared. It was above list price offer with a huge ask of seller subsidy. The net to the seller would have been a below list price sale.
After the first buyer walked, the seller decided no improvements would be made at all. Despite that, the typical marketing process kicked in. Professional photos to include a 3-D immersive tour of the floor plan. Outdated window treatments were removed in an effort to not detract from the well maintained home. More buyers visited after the professional marketing, yet none were writing offers. Then, at the two week mark, a second buyer appeared. The buyer made an offer. After taking a quick look at the documentation that accompanied the offer, it was clear the buyer ran a residential painting business. Asking for a significant amount of closing cost help to improve the home, on top of a discounted price off list, when he could do improvements at cost was a non-starter, so the seller countered. The buyer accepted. Buyer agents often send too much documentation.
Having a full price contract was great, but it still had to appraise. Getting comps together was no easy feat, but a package of information was prepared and we held our breath to see if an appraiser thought it was worth $450,000. It was a joyous moment to hear that the appraised value was the saame as the agreed upon sales price.
Despite a couple of days delay to settlement date to accomodate the lender’s slow closing department, this home sold on March 7th (2023) for its full list price of $450,000. It also gave $10,000 in closing cost help. Skipping listing preparation all together and asking a higher price than improved homes that sold rarely works out this well. In this case, the location and well maintained condition of the home mattered to buyers stuggling to buy a home. It also mattered to the appraiser.
Every situation in real estate is unique. Attempting as-is sales before taking on listing improvements later if the home doesn’t sell, is a strategy that can help sellers test the waters with no risk. Get in touch with me for your complementary consultation and let’s see what strategy would work best for your desired results.
As 2023 began, Northern Virginia real estate agents were wondering if the pause in the market that happened in the last third of 2022 was going to continue. Interest rates had more than doubled during 2022, but going into 2023, they had eased a bit. Were they back in the threes or fours? No. They were in the low sevens and high sixes. Yet, just as consumers are prone to do, in light of the most recent highs, this felt like a relief. Indeed, it is the “new normal.”
Buyers have begun flooding the market, just as they did in 2020 and 2021. The same problem that existed then exists now. Where is all the inventory?
While buyers had their momentum paused in late 2022 as mortgage rates rose steeply, sellers seem to have hit their own pause button in 2023. It is certainly not for lack of buyers looking for homes. In fact, from Winchester to Stafford, and in my own home town of Bristow, I have represented buyers and sellers in multiple offer scenarios. In all cases, offers accepted were well above list and waived contingencies. The reality of the situation is this: as there is less and less to sell, buyers are left to duke it out on the homes available.
To sellers, this means another shot at unprecedented buyer demand and multiple offers. Not all houses are getting multiple offers, but those that do the listing preparation and price right, are the ones reaping the reward. Of course, in 2023, a handful of sellers are experiencing seller’s remorse and begging to be released from their contracts. Why? There are no homes for them to buy once they sell.
To buyers, this means shrugging off the national news of a real estate market crash and realizing that asking for closing cost help along with every conceivable contingency in a purchase offer is no longer going to be competitive. In fact, if the demand keeps up and lack of inventory continues to be a problem, we will likely see sight unseen offers again. Believe me, I wish this were not the case, but it seems we are trending back to the insanity of 2020 and 2021 in Northern Virginia and the surrounding market places.
Buying in 2023 is likely to feel like a rough and tumble sport. Knowing what you want and where you want it is essential. If you are tire kicking, this isn’t the market for you. Buyers that will do what it takes to succeed are the ones that know when they have found the home that meets their needs and want to be done before prices, or rates, go any higher.
Selling in 2023 is going to feel like a second shot at the insane seller’s market of recent years. Again, that is only for those that take the time to create buyer enthusiasm. Buyers aren’t likely to compete on listings that are over priced or under prepared for market.
What’s your move in 2023? No matter if you are buying or selling, get in touch with me and I will be happy to give you the real state of our local real estate market. My business is a full-time venture and has been for over eighteen years now. That means you will be represented by someone who is well versed in the ebb and flow of our market place. When the result matters, the agent you choose is the first critical decision. Let me know how I can be of assistance.
Log in to any neighborhood social media site or group and you are bound to hear often repeated themes. In high density neighborhoods in Bristow, Virginia, medium to large single family homes are squished into fifth to quarter acre lots. This is prevalent in Gainesville and Haymarket as well. Privacy and views are sought after by virtually every buyer. Builders know this well and sell the most private lots, which are usually those with the best views, for extremely high premiums on top of already inflated home prices in the area.
Protected views and privacy are usually an illusion on such small lots. When more development comes into play, be it more homes, places of worship, transmission towers for power lines or data centers, cries about the encroachment to privacy and view are immediate and heated. People get used to what they see out of their windows every day. Few actually think about what it would mean to have legitimate privacy and views. It means owning the land around you.
When home buyers are faced with what their budget will allow, most are faced with a new house on a postage stamp lot closer in or buying an older, likely outdated home on acreage farther out. And if a home buyer really wants a view and privacy, they will likely be looking at the latter. Only then can a view or privacy be considered protected. You may only need to buy three to five acres. Maybe you want ten. You don’t have to buy hundreds of acres for the type of privacy most suburbanites desire.
One need only watch the hit series Yellowstone to see the dramatization of the value of acreage. There is a limited supply of land and our growing population demands more of it. In higher density housing areas like where I live in Bristow, our overall society’s near complete reliance on a digital way of life has brought data centers to the forefront. Nobody likes the look of them. No one wants them in their view every day. It is doubtful the world would change its ways overnight and lessen their dependence on things like Ring doorbells, cell phones, streaming devices, etc.
When faced with data centers needed to continue to serve growing digital demand, the cries to the potential impact to those higher density housing areas is every bit legitimate as it is pointless. No matter the objections to to them, the reality is that home owners don’t want things like data centers in their back yard. Who can argue with that? Sadly, when you don’t own the land in question for the such development, citizens only have the power to protest. Politicians carefully craft statements and reschedule meetings for rezoning that makes citizens feel heard, but those elected officials have to consider the larger population when making decisions. Hundreds of protesting citizens is impressive, but in a county of nearly a half-million people may be acceptable collateral damage to elected officials looking to the benefits to the larger population. It is frustrating to realize you have no control as a home owner to what is built around you.
If you truly want a shot at protected buffers, privacy and views, buying acreage is truly the only way to achieve that goal. It may mean making the sparkle of newly designed kitchens and bathrooms of modern floor plans the lowest priority. It may mean living in more rural areas and absorbing larger commutes or even dealing with satellite internet. However, if you truly want as much control over your immediate environment as possible, buying land is the only way to have it.
There is a very important footnote here and that is the government’s power of eminent domain. The government has a right to seize property by force, giving fair market value to the owner, if needed for the greater good. Governments could take a subdivision from many home owners or a farm with hundreds of acres from one land owner. A quick Google search on eminent domain cases in the United States can show you why governments use this power. Many believe the use of eminent domain is being stretched beyond its original intent. What truly serves the greater good?
While it unlikely that the vast majority of land owners will ever have to deal with eminent domain, it could happen. What that land owner is left with is money to buy elsewhere or add to their wealth. When home owners in high density areas have no control over the land around their homes, they get zero compensation for whatever development takes place that impacts their daily life.
More and more I see buyers pushing out to under developed areas like Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah Counties. Fauqier, Loudoun, Stafford and have opportunities depending on budget and desired location. And it is far more often that I find buyers wanting more than a quarter acre lot or neighborhoods free of HOAs. If you value privacy, having to apply for a garden, or what color you paint your front door probably doesn’t line up with your home ownership priorities. Buying properties with more land require long term vision, particularly on limited budgets, to transform older homes over time. One thing is certain, owning your view and privacy are priceless.
If a seller is reviewing multiple offers on a home, the first thing that becomes the focus is price. How much does each offer net them? Once that burning question is answered, other questions come up.
Does each offer have an appraisal contingency?
What is the down payment amount of each buyer?
Are any buyers waiving contingencies?
When are the proposed settlement dates?
Are any of the offers from owner occupants vs. investors?
In the case of the townhouse that I closed today in Bristow, the sellers were indeed interested in making the most money, but were also wanting to sell to an owner occupant. As parents of grown children who were up against investors on the homes they wanted to buy, and often losing out, when these sellers had the chance to sell to an owner occupant, they ran with it. Of course, the owner occupant offer was even a little higher, but carried more risk of a low appraisal. Their desire to help someone trying to buy their first home happened to be aligned with making the most money as long as the home appraised for the higher sales price.
Come appraisal time, the sales price was not supported and the sellers were faced with a choice. Lower their sales price and stick with the offer they chose, or get into business with the investor who may still be able to net them more money. Not every seller chooses money. In this case, having to carry another month of mortgage and utilities on a vacant home while waiting for the next appraisal outcome was not worth the potential of making a bit more money. The sellers stuck with the owner occupants they had first chosen.
Time and again I have seen sellers weigh what is important to them when selling their home. Making the most amount of money is up there, but usually doing so with minimal risk. The owner occupants that landed this townhouse in Bristow are fortunate that the investor was in more of a conservative mindset when writing his offer. When there is a lot more money at stake in much higher offers, selling to an investor over an owner occupant does not seem like such a bad idea. Investors are not in that mindset right now.
In the current market (spring 2023) we are still experiencing low inventory and high buyer demand. Owner occupants are the ones emotionally invested in an outcome and not likely to write low offers. Investors are more likely to believe stories of a market crash on the horizon and offer accordingly. The good news for owner occupants is that if they reasonably swing for the fences, they are likely to win.
If you are searching for a home in the Bristow/Gainesville or surrounding area, the search is a lot easier with an experienced, full-time professional agent on your side. At this point in time, I am able to accomodate new buyer clients. Get in touch and let’s start by talking about the process.
Listing a home for sale is no small task. Counseling sellers on prepartion projects, getting photos taken and creating a description of a home that draws in buyers is only a very skeletal part of the job. Understanding what your seller needs from the process is essential. Basic questions that I ask at a listing appointment include:
Are there any items that do not stay with the home?
Are there items that you want to leave with the home?
Where are you moving?
When you do need to move?
Do you need the funds from the sale of this home to buy your next home?
Is there a particular settlement date that works for your situation?
Are there any appliances that are not functioning that you don’t plan to fix?
These questions provide a framework for how the sales contract needs to work for my sellers. For instance, if a seller has gone under contract to purchase a home and needs to settle quickly, or needs a rent back, that is important information for a buyer and their agent to know.
One of the wonderful things about our MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the ability to add documents for agents to see. In my listings, I love to provide what I call an Offer Info Sheet. There are many fields in our standard Residential Sale Contract that a buyer’s agent won’t know how to complete without looking through photos or cross referencing other sources. Owner names, conveyances, license numbers, where seller notices are going, etc. In the Offer Info Sheet, I provide information so that offers come in complete and have a shot at working. Preferred settlement date is always in there if needed.
In some cases, settlement date is critical. If a seller has already gone under contract to purchase another home on a specific date and needs the funds from the existing home sale to do that deal, the settlement date needed is critical information for those making offers. If you haven’t provided it in the MLS through remarks or some semblance of an Offer Info Sheet, when a buyer’s agent asks a specific question about the settlement date, you should be ready with the answer if you are committed to the best outcome for your sellers. Being caught off guard and stating your seller needs a quick settlement date AFTER you have received one or more offers is not the best way to get what your seller needs. Yet, these are things that happen in the practice of real estate that make me scratch my head.
My seller-clients never have to wonder if I am prepping buyer’s agents, or buyers, for what are mission critical goals. In the multiple offer situations of 2020 and 2021 that yielded offers in the double digits on many properties, my seller-clients were amazed to see that ninety-nine percent of offers met whatever settlement date or post settlement occupancy was requested. (There are always the one percent of buyer’s agents that never look at Offer Info Sheets, or the like provided by listing agents.) It is no less impressive when a seller has one offer that checks their boxes.
When selling a home must be within a specific time or have other critical components to work, don’t leave it to chance. Hire a listing agent that understands communication is the key to a successful, smooth transaction. In Gainesville, Bristow, Haymarket and points beyond, I am happy to meet and discuss how we can get it done.
Ever wonder what would happen if you were under contract to sell your home, but you changed your mind and wanted to stay put? Unfortunately, it does occasionally happen that sellers will be under contract with a buyer and have a change of heart. Does a seller have any outs in the Residential Sales Contract used in Northern Virginia? That’s a question every seller should ask of every listing agent they interview.
The contract used in our area, written by the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, primarily focuses on the rights buyers have to void (get out without penalty) the deal. Unless a seller has a contract with the “Contingent on the Seller Purchasing Another Home” clause, sellers have no avenue to unilaterally void a contract. And even in the case of the home purchase contingency, if a seller is working with a listing agent that isn’t watching the calendar, the contingency dissolves at the deadline, obligating the seller to sell. A seller definitely wants to know when that home purchase deadline is up.
If a seller does NOT have a home purchase contingency in place and finds their desire to sell has changed, there is little more they can outside of pushing back on any requested home inspection repairs or price reductions due to low appraisal that their buyer requests. The ultimate hope here is that the buyer, in the absence of the seller’s willingness to do anything in the buyer’s favor, would void the contract. Obviously, that is a poor strategy and reliant on the buyer having significant repair requests that would trouble them immensely if not done, or the property having a significantly low appraisal that the buyer can not cover.
In my business, I have never had a seller-client that wanted to halt the sale of their home while under contract. Of course, my sellers are counseled on exactly what they are getting themselves into when accepting an offer on their home. My seller-clients also have in me, someone who can read non-verbal communication very well and will address it out right. If I get the vibe a seller is having second thoughts, I am going to ask about it.
In representing my buyer-clients I have come across situations where sellers are wanting out of their home sale. In particular was a buyer-client of mine who happened to be the seller-client of another agent. Every time we went house hunting, there was remorse that they should not be selling their home. It started before the home was even listed. Naturally, not being my clients on the home sale, all I could do was encourage them to talk to their listing agent.
As time went on and they were under contract, the seller’s remorse became stronger. By that point in time, their buyer was past all of their contingencies and ready to close. What does a seller do then? They either a) ask the buyer kindly to release them from the contract, b) hire an attorney and discuss their options, or c) suck it up and sell their home as much as they hate doing it. Again, all I could do was tell them to talk to their listing agent. They ended up sucking it up and selling their home, which made me very sad for them.
The most recent buyer-client I had that encountered a suddenly reluctant seller happened about ten days before closing. The seller, through their agent, begged to be released them from the contract. In mulling it over, my buyer decided (with other factors at play that had not been discovered) to let the sellers out. The sellers were so relieved that we were able to work out reimbursements for my buyer-client from them to cover out of pocket expeneses incurred for inspections, appraisal and survey.
The bottom line message to sellers here is that if you are listing your home, you should be ready and willing to sell under the terms agreed upon in the sales contract. You can not rely on buyer’s being empathetic and kind enough to let you out of the deal, especially in a low inventory market. Have a back up plan if you can’t find a home you want to purchase next. Start by hiring a listing agent that isn’t invested solely in getting you to closing, but whose business is relational. Agents like that…like me, are going to care more about what is in your best interest and not the pay day at the end of the deal.
Common knowledge seems to be that the best time to sell a home is spring. However, that philosophy would mean hitting the market when everyone else does. That increases competition. The one thing that the wild ride that started in 2020 taught us is that not having more buyers than competitors is where the money is made.
This Bristow townhouse at 10158 Pale Rose Loop hit the market on January 13th (2023.) Showing requests were immediate. There was only one other competitor on the market at the time in the neighborhood and a few others in nearby neighborhoods. Nineteen showings and a two hour open house that was like Grand Central Station were proof that when it comes to townhouses in Bristow, it is still a seller’s market.
After two offers on the fifth day on the market, the sellers felt accomplished with their multiple offers. They chose one and were under contract on the sixth day on the market.
Want to create that kind of scenario when you sell? Give me a call and let’s talk about the process of creating buyer enthusiasm.
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.
Is January a good time to list a home in Bristow? It is if you want to hit a time where there are not as many sellers and there are plenty of buyers looking to find a home.
On January 13th I introduced 10158 Pale Rose Loop to the market, priced at $458,000. The sellers had refreshed the kitchen and bathrooms and done a lot of other really important things. In 2020, they replaced the roof, garage door, large living room window, refrigerator and installed LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring in the kitchen area and foyer. The year 2019 was when the Owner’s Bathroom got updated along with every toilet in the home, as well as the water heater. Even the water heater and HVAC are not original. Water heater was replaced 2019 and HVAC 2016.
The main level is where every day life happens. A living room is open to the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen is a breakfast nook with a gas fireplace. There is even a generously sized deck right off the kitchen. That passes my hot dog test with flying colors. (What’s my hot dog test? How far do you have to walk from the refrigerator after grabbing your hot dogs to get to the space where you grill.)
Who wouldn’t love this kitchen with plenty of granite counter space, under cabinet lighting, gas cooking and even a light fixture pot rack over the island?
Another test specific to townhouses is simply put, “When nature calls.” To put this one delicately, when nature calls, how far to you have to go to get to a bathroom? In a townhouse, staircases may be involved. Not in this townhouse! There is a half bathroom or better on every level. The main level powder room is also updated to be farmhouse chic.
One of my favorite rooms is the owner’s suite. A sliding barn door opens to to the spa-like owner’s bathroom with high end vanity, cubby cabinetry, seamless shower and soaking tub.
Secondary bedrooms and additional full bathroom are on the uppermost level. Basement level (entry level) is where the garage enters the home and is also where you find a cozy family room with walk out exit, laundry area and additional half bathroom.
This townhouse offers so much, but buyers will need to bring their own washer and dryer. It will be open on Sunday, January 15th from 1pm-3pm. Make sure to take a peek for yourself or sneak a look at the immersive 3-D tour.