Sunday Sights

Sunday Sights

Every day is a blessing when you love what you do. There are plenty of agents out there that get wadded up over showing property on a gorgeous weekend day when they know their buyers have zero chance of either liking the homes or have the ability to win in a multiple offer situation. I am an agent that understands that interacting with my buyers at properties helps me to understand better what they like, help them adjust expectations and get to know them better. Bonus for me is that I genuinely have fun just about anywhere I go. And I have found that my good disposition has a way of rubbing off.

Today my buyers and I traveled from Culpeper to Warrenton, to Nokesville and back to Warrenton. We saw some interesting things. The blue pig above was one of the more attractive things we saw today. He was so cute we just had to stop and admire. Didn’t notice he had his left ear reattached until uploading the photo above to this post. Some defects can be easily overlooked if the subject is charming enough.

One room we saw was a virtual time machine. Shag carpeting on the walls as an accent to the wood paneling below. Welcome to 1970. The literal orange laminate counter tops in the kitchen made it easy to picture Mike Brady at this desk drawing up some architecture plans.

The other gorgeous thing we saw was this back yard. It had some truly lovely trees in bloom. The dogwood pictured above was the prettiest. Somehow, it looked better in person. Probably something to do with being in the sunlight, hearing the birds chirp and the rooster next door crow.

Though we ruled out more than we ruled in, my buyers and I made good progress today. We tried on some homes that would have been dismissed out right before. My buyers learned where they have flexibility and that the geographic area of the most interest is not out of reach with a new vision on how to utilize smaller spaces. We are now thinking out of the box.

Selling a Home “As-Is”

Selling a Home “As-Is”

Frequently I meet with home sellers who do not wish to be nickeled and dimed over repairs when they are under contract to sell. They will express their desire to sell “as-is” during our listing appointment. There are some points that sellers need to understand about “as-is.”

Selling as-is immediately devalues a home in the eyes of a buyer.

The connotation of as-is to a buyer is one that there are numerous and expensive problems with a home. If there weren’t, why would a seller let you know up front they are selling as-is? Surely, they must be covering up a condition issue. Buyers will picture the home above when a seller is really trying to tell them, “I don’t want to be bothered fixing toilet flappers. I’m too busy.” Talk about demolishing an ant hill with an atom bomb, this is a great example of blowing the intention out of proportion.

Selling as-is is not a substitute for disclosing known issues with a home.

Sellers in Viriginia are tasked with disclosing material defects when selling their home. Latent material defects are the ones that some sellers may think an as-is disclosure is sufficient to disclose. It is not. If there is known mold, it must be disclosed. If there are high radon levels, it must be disclosed. If the seller knows the air conditioning doesn’t work, and wants to list in the winter as-is, that is a problem. And if a buyer voided a contract, presented a seller with an inspection report revealing problems, the seller can’t turn around and ignore the report and slap an as-is label on the home for future buyers and call it a day. Material defects, if not fixed, must be disclosed.

All home sales that happen using the Residential Sales Contract created by the Northen Virginia Association of REALTORSĀ® are actually sold as-is.

There is a Property Maintenance and Condition paragraph in this document that states that that home is being sold in substantially the same condition as of, and a time frame of date of home inspection, date of offer, or some other filled in date, is selected. Furthermore, there are no required repairs in this contract with the exception of smoke detectors being installed and working per the laws and regulations of Virginia and, if a termite inspection is required in the contract, sellers must remediate and fix any damage noted by the pest inspector. (I’ve been selling homes since 2005 and have had no needed repairs due to termite damage, but plenty needing treatment to kill the wood destroying insects. Treatment is not expensive and can often be negotiated down with the pest company.

My favorite as-is date is date of the home inspection. It gives a written record of the home on the date of the inspection that can be used for reference if there is a walk through issue. Sellers are not obligated to do any repairs just because a buyer is having an inspection. If the buyer agreed to move forward with no repairs and complain at walk through that the faucet in the kitchen is leaking, and the inspection report reveals it to be the same at the time of the inspection, it is in substantially the same condition as the date of the home inspection.

Selling as-is is really more of a point of warning, rather than a disclosure, for buyers purchasing from estates or banks that foreclosed on a home. These entities are exempt from the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act and, having never lived in the property, are not expected to know material defects with the home. The same point of warning, however, does not exempt a seller who has resided in the property from making disclosures.

When sellers who were vehement about selling as-is hear these points, they understand that a blanket refusal from the outset to do nothing to remedy problems in the home, no matter how small, is going to result in less money in their pockets. Buyer enthusiasm is what makes buyers excited to bid above list price and get involved in multiple offer situations. Starting from an as-is point, buyer enthusiasm is not going to exist. Buyer skepticism is going to reign the day.

Some aggravation is worth the money you get in the sales price to be open to repair requests and judge them on a case by case basis.

Attention to Detail Matters Even in Shredding Files

Attention to Detail Matters Even in Shredding Files

When you are studying to obtain a Virginia real estate license, one of the details is that is ingrained in you is that our licensing entity only requires brokerages to hold onto files for three years. That works well with the Virginia Statute of Frauds having a two year expiration from the time fraud was committed. Of course, our commonwealth law is not the only law that can apply to a real estate file.

Over ten years ago, while representing a buyer, I uncovered what appeared to be mortgage fraud. A fly-by-night investor who had taken a course in buying up distressed properties that were headed to foreclosure was crossing many lines in selling homes. State laws were being broken and ultimately, when reported to the FBI, it was the federal laws broken that mattered. Turned out, the Federal Statute of Frauds time limits are different. In the case of this investor, the statute of limitations for bank fraud was five years.

When the Federal Prosecutor called me before the Federal statue of limitations had expired, I was fishing through email for remnants of the file since the paper copy had been shred. Let me tell you, that’s not a great feeling. None the less, with what I had turned over to the FBI nearly five years earlier, was enough to kick off an investigation that would land this investor in Federal Court and ultimately, behind bars for five years.

As I shred files from 2014 and move into 2015, I realize that I am not a typical Viriginia real estate licensee. My experience in this career has taught me so much more than a lot of my fellow licensees care to even entertain. Attention to detail is the most important thing a real estate licensee has, but if they are trained to the bare minimum of details, it is their clients that pay the price. This is an industry where the required level of training does not even begin to cover how an agent can truly benefit their clients, industry and society at large. Being inquisititive and learning the ins and outs of contracts, mortgage, title and insurance are what make the agents that do attain this level of knowledge invaluable to their clients.

If you require more than the bare minimum from the person guiding you through your home purchase or sale and reside in or around the areas on my chalkboard to the right of this post, I would love the opportunity to help.

High School Districts in Bristow & Gainesville are Changing Fall 2021

High School Districts in Bristow & Gainesville are Changing Fall 2021

If you are looking for Bristow or Gainesville home with a particular high school district in mind, bear in mind that high school districts are changing in the fall of 2021. The much anticipated Gainesville High School will be opening its doors for the first time, taking students from Unity Reed (formerly Stonewall Jackson,) Patriot and Battlefield.

The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) doesn’t have Gainesville High School as an option for listings that will be attending it in the fall when it opens its doors. The best a listing agent can do is fill in “Call School Board” and state in the remarks that the high school district is changing for grades nine to eleven as of 2021 to Gainesville High School. Buyer-clients of mine found out today, after two weeks under contract, that the school district they thought they were buying in has changed. The listing stated Battlefield as the high school. Whoops! It is now Gainesville. Thankfully, they still have an out in the contract. Others may not be so lucky.

If you are moving with only a twelfth grader in the home, you need not worry. Twelve grade in fall 2021 goes to the school the home had been districted to for the previous years.

House hunting right now, for buyers with specific high school districts in mind in Western Prince William County, just got a bit trickier. Do not rely on the information in the MLS. Independently verify which high school district any property is zoned to in Prince William County by clicking this link.

How Many Offers Does it Take to Go Under Contract?

These happy Bristow buyers got their closing costs paid!

How Many Offers Does it Take to Go Under Contract?

No two buyer-clients have the same path to the closing table. In December 2020 I was referred to first time buyers looking for a garage townhouse in Bristow, Gainesville or Manassas. The first home we saw was in Gainesville and it was a wreck. I think the entire tour (mom and dad were also present) thought I was nuts when I told them that the wreck of a townhouse we were viewing would sell for list price. Sure enough, it did.

It wasn’t long before my buyers realized their house buying dollars went further in Manassas. That was when they went under contract the very first time they wrote an offer. The story would have been a quick one to a happy ending, but the home inspection revealed the townhouse, while gorgeous, was lipstick on a pig. It had an A/C so old the serial number plate had worn off and a heater that wasn’t operational in January. Seller wasn’t willing to make replacements, only repairs, so it was back into the market.

Over the course of six months, we saw thirty-eight homes and wrote six more offers. Some townhouses. Some single family homes. Some of the townhouses were in tip top condition and, not surprisingly, at the tip top of their budget. The seller’s market seemed unforgiving in garage townhouses getting a dozen or more offers in Bristow. Manassas was not as competitive, but also not as desirable as Bristow or Gainesville. My buyers wanted to be close as possible to family.

Upping the budget and re-setting expectations, the process was frustrating as they faced what felt like endless rejection. Then a couple of things happened that made a market that my buyers were getting priced out of, a real possibility. A townhouse in Bristow hit the market the weekend of the east coast gas shortage. Between the panic over the gas shortage keeping buyers at home, and a property that hadn’t been prepped for market, my buyers were able to sneak in while the rest of world wasn’t paying attention to real estate. They got an offer accepted on a garage townhouse that provided exactly the structure and location they wanted, and was in solid shape based on the home inspection. They were also able to get the seller to pay for closing costs so that the buyers could do new flooring and paint, which is what this townhouse desperately needed for a fresh face.

Today my buyers happily took the key to their first home. While they will have to wait one more month to move in, due to the seller needing a short rent back, they are smiling wide knowing they took advantage of a fantastic opportunity and secured their home while rates were still below three percent. They were also able to look beyond well worn carpet and clutter to see what will be a lovely home with minimal improvement.

Need help finding your first or next home? Get in touch with me and we’ll find the right opportunity for you.

Seller’s Market Madness

Seller’s Market Madness

Even as a Top Bristow/Gainesville Real Estate Agent, going through the struggles of the 2021 seller’s market with buyer-clients, at times I find myself wanting to rip my hair out. Buyers are frustrated, and despite putting their best foot forward time after time, get booted to the curb over and over. The intense market demand has virtually every seller expecting a pile of sky high offers with no contingencies. When buyers provide that and are told that their offer will be reviewed immediately, it is frustrating when it is not.

Having represented sellers, I know that sellers will have the best intentions when they proclaim that their plan is review offers as they come in, but the reality is this — if a seller isn’t ready to accept or reject offers quickly, they truly aren’t reviewing them as they come in. Setting buyer expectations is critical to starting off on the right foot. In the role of a listing agent, I often find myself sharing with sellers the best game plan given current conditions. That usually means hitting the market on a weekend, setting a deadline and reviewing offers at a pre-determined time.

This past weekend, I represented two buyers who were told their offers would be reviewed as soon as possible. One seller in particular had told their agent they just wanted a quick, smooth deal. My buyer provided that and was STILL put on hold for the promise of another offer. Then two offers in hand turned into the sellers having wet their appetite for a competitive pile of offers. Those sellers darn near lost my buyer, who it turned out, was ideal for what they wanted. The other seller (who needed to sell as part of a home sale contingency on their purchase offer) made my other buyers wait two days until they started to look for other homes before accepting my buyers’ contingent-less offer.

Sellers need to be careful not to get too greedy, particularly now. The market is starting to shift a bit. Not every buyer is interested in properties where literally no improvements were made. Sellers may make ridiculous demands, like a six to seven month post settlement occupancy that would have flown in early spring, but not now. More inventory is coming on the market. The sellers still have the advantage, but they may not get a dozen offers, or even six.

What does the future hold? We need to take that as it comes. For now, it does seem that the increase in inventory is putting some sellers in their place.

A Step in the Right Direction for Buyers in Bristow/Gainesville

A Step in the Right Direction for Buyers in Bristow/Gainesville

This morning I was setting up a home tour for a buyer relocating from out of state. We have found an opportunity that is ninety-nine percent likely to be the one. Between the buyer coming to terms with the seller’s market and adjusting expectations, and getting a lead on a property that checks every box where we will be the first ones in, it seems the stage is set for success. Being that home inspectors have been fairly idle since the seller’s market really hit the peak and buyers were having to forego inspections just to have a chance at being competitive, I figured getting an inspector on short notice would be easy. WRONG!

In talking with a trusted home inspector this morning, it seems that business has picked up for he and his colleagues in Bristow and Gainesville. That means more buyers are having inspections. He relayed to me that they weren’t walk and talk inspections either, but full blown inspections that happen once a buyer is under contract. They might be Right to Void Only inspections, or maybe just strictly for informational purposes, but he is booking more inspections. Hmm. Could the market be shifting? Certainly is possible.

Supply has been increasing. There are more listings coming on the market lately. Of course, demand has been so out of control that the increase in supply hasn’t meant the end of multiple offers. It does seem, however, that buyers are at least able to not give up every conceivable contingency in a lot of circumstances, which is positive news for buyers.

Getting back to a time where buyers can make offers based on comparable sales would be an improvement. Lately, a list price plus seven to ten percent is what a sales price is likely to be. Comparable sales have no meaning in the market we’ve been dealing with. It is put up, be willing to go above appraised value and move on. There is no negotiation.

Of course, the seller’s market has favored sellers so strongly that some sellers may feel a since of regret if they lose out on being able to pull down an offer ten percent above list price with absolutely no contingencies, but this market is not sustainable. Buyers have been pulling out from sheer frustration and opting to stay where they are or rent.

Our Bristow/Gainesville real estate market is likely to favor sellers for the foreseeable future. Of course, we may see more inventory still if there is just enough cooling for move up buyers who also need to sell, to feel they won’t be homeless if they list. That would lend itself to this market really becoming more tolerable for buyers, while still favoring sellers.

It’s going to take some time for the market to truly be stable, which means neither party has an advantage. Right now, the best we can hope for is the insane seller’s market to become a more reasonable seller’s market. As long as demand is still not being met by the supply, seller’s have the advantage. Maybe it will get back to something like the seller’s markets we have experienced in the past. A handful of offers, not two dozen. That would feel less frantic and certainly be more reasonable for all parties. Dare to dream.

Rumors That the 2021 Summer NoVa Real Estate Market is Slowing Down

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.

What Should You Expect From Your Buyer’s Agent?

What Should You Expect From Your Buyer’s Agent?

Working as a full-time, professional Real Estate Agent in Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket and this weekend, Ashburn, I can tell you that my time is largely taken on the weekends with my buyer clients. Because I also represent sellers as a listing agent, I understand the frenzied pace of the market. Outlined below are some things you should expect from a buyer’s agent.

  • Same Day Availability
  • Ability to Write Offers Quickly
  • Open, Honest Communication

When it comes to representing buyers in a seller’s market, same day availability to show property and write offers that day as well is a MUST. Today is a perfect example. I thought I was going to have only one showing this morning. It was booked ten days ago to be the first showing on the day the listing went active. Yesterday, those buyers threw another listing at me in Ashburn. Gainesville to Ashburn the same morning? Sure. No problem. Went back to my office after to write up the offer on the Gainesville home right after.

As we got to midday, a second buyer wanted to tour a home via video tour (thanks to the gas crisis) in Gainesville in the late afternoon. No problem. Not the home for them, but we updated the offer they made last night on a listing in Haymarket. Got it in writing. Sent to listing agent. Done.

Then a third buyer popped up to see a listing tomorrow in Bristow, but after seeing the lack of showings, no offers and no deadline, we made it a priority to see TONIGHT. That offer was made and is off to the listing agent. Meanwhile, the first buyer sweetened the pot on their offer from earlier.

That’s two offers and two written adjustments to existing offers made in one day after four showings at different times. You do what you have to do. And if you can’t do it, you better have help lined up. This market is no joke. It’s survival of the fittest. No time to laze around and get to it when you feel like it. Living arrangements are on the line. Lives are going to affected by your actions. Get to it!

That is why it especially irked me two weekends ago when a buyer’s agent complained about me moving an offer deadline up on her on one of my listings. According to her, “Four hours isn’t enough time to make an offer.” I’ve got a news flash for that agent, and every other agent who thinks there is some fairness to the market or that convenience matters. It isn’t fair and your convenience doesn’t matter. Four hours is PLENTY of time to get an offer together, electronically signed and over to the listing agent. Heck, I got one together this past week in a matter of thirty minutes after leaving a showing and before my next appointment. The deadline was during my next appointment so it HAD to get done.

Of course, open and honest communication is a must in any agency relationship. My buyers get advice that is based on what is happening in the market NOW. That’s because I’m a full-time agent that does a majority of her business as a listing agent. I see what other buyers are willing to do. And once one of my listings is sold, I am happy to share with you the multiple offer comparison sheet so you can see what I see.

One note about doing business with me, I will not do dual agency. That means I won’t represent you as a buyer on my own listings. You will be referred to a top notch buyer’s agent in my office if you fall in love with one of my listings. It is my belief that all parties deserve 100% representation aligned with their interests.

Want to hire me to represent you? I would love to talk about it. Get in touch with me and let’s get started. There are ways you can win in this crazy seller’s market and I would love to help you do just that.

CSI Real Estate

CSI Real Estate

Buyers are feeling the pressure in Bristow and Gainesville. There is so little inventory. Searches on media websites used commonly by consumers often have outdated information. A buyer may send me a listing from one of these sites, feeling they just found their dream home, only to have me run it through our local MLS and find out it sold two months ago, or that it went under contract three weeks ago and is about to close.

In general, the best way to find properties is to have your buyer’s agent set up an automatic home search directly from the MLS. The more basic the search criteria the better. Today, I was out with buyers who have a home search set up in specific cities, below a particular price, with minimums of four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, two car garage and at least a partially finished basement. That’s pretty open criteria. And the reason why is that many listing agents put in the bare minimum when inputting a new property.

The issue of poor data entry showed its ugly face again when my buyer called me, having found a great home in the adjoining neighborhood where we had just looked and wondered why a particular property hadn’t come up on his search. A little CSI real estate work and I found the answer. The agent hadn’t entered the basement was finished at all! Despite having a bathroom, full recreation room and even a den, the listing agent didn’t bother to note it was fully finished or partially finished. Apparently, the photos are the lazy agent’s way out of doing any data entry. Why type when you can just upload a ton of pictures…unlabeled of course.

That wasn’t the only offending listing agent. My buyer, feeling he was missing out on homes, hit a media site and found another one. Same issue. Fully finished basement not noted as such.

A former colleague’s saying about listing agent data entry sticks with me every time this happens. “Garbage in. Garbage out.” Simple and true. Too many listing agents let the pictures do the talking and fail to realize how the data they enter may play into a property search. If you have a listing with a fully finished basement, why not say so? I check every box I can when I have a new listing. Then again, I know the power of the data I put in.

Of course, we can’t change the data entry of listing agents across the board. That left the only remedy–remove the criteria for basement finish all together. My buyer’s home search went from ten listings to thirty. Most are going to be unfinished basements they will have to weed through, but we don’t want to miss anything. Too bad not all listing agents take their jobs seriously.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder how many serious buyers who were looking for finished basements missed these opportunities.

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