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.
Selling in a Seller’s Market is Not a Guarantee of Best Terms
As limited housing supply continues to meet unfettered buyer demand, more and more sellers have been overly confident in their place in the market. Believe it or not, not all homes sell in a seller’s market. They will if they are priced right and/or in good condition. Market forces are always at work, which means buyers still compare what is offered to what they have recently seen and what they expect to see in the near future.
It is not uncommon for a buyer to walk away from a perfectly pleasing, over priced home in a seller’s market because they fear it will get bid up above that list price. Preparing market reports regularly for the neighborhoods of Braemar, Dominion Valley and Regency I see sellers getting below list price and selling in weeks, not days. Some even have to give seller subsidy. Why? It’s a seller’s market, right?
When buyer demand is high and inventory is low we are indeed in a seller’s market. That does not mean that sellers can ignore listing preparation, hire low skill listing agents who know nothing of professional marketing and expect to get the top of the market. Consider a top athlete who is a free agent. They will get picked up, but how much money they make depends on the strength of their agent. Agency is all about advocacy. Sellers who hire listing agents are not unlike athletes or actors who have an advocate on their side advising them and helping them negotiate. Talent agents know how to best present their client’s gifts to increase demand to max out the money made.
Bringing it back to real estate and the intense buyer demand our seller’s market is facing, it is fair to say to any seller who asks if they need to complete listing preparation to sell, “No.” If the price is right for the projects left to buyers who are faced with having to pay their own closing costs, down payment and now take on projects in a home, there is no doubt the home will sell. The question is, how much is being left on the table by leaving the preparation undone? More than the cost of the preparation.
Same goes for sight unseen offers. Can a seller get a great offer before anyone has set foot in their home? Sure. If they let showings roll a few days, chances are the offers would get better and better. Why? The pressure to accept sight unseen offers is usually from buyers who know they will not be competitive in a multiple offer situation. And if they will not be competitive in a multiple offer situation, why on earth would a seller who only gets one chance at maximizing their profit not wait to see more than one offer? From my own comps, I recently watched as a seller left approximately $30,000 on the table by not being photographed or going active with their listing agent. Very few sellers I know are willing to walk away from that kind of profit.
Having a strong advocate who knows the current market conditions because they are active in them every day is so important. Let’s go back to our talent agent analogy. Do you think hiring a relative who just became a talent agent is what big name athletes and movie stars do? No. Their paychecks are dependent on outstanding representation. They sign with agents with proven track records of success and outstanding reputations. Why don’t sellers when it comes to listing? Part of the problem is that they conflate the cost of a listing agent with the bottom line they will net. They never consider that a more experienced agent will more than pay for themselves in the preparation advice, professional marketing and skilled negotiation. The other part of the problem is they think anyone with a license will do. This job has very minimal standards. Agents who are exceeding industry standards are the ones breaking records with list prices.
When it is time to list your home, even if it is in a seller’s market, pay attention to the marketing done on behalf of the other listings in this seller’s market. Are they offering staging advice and other preparation? Are they hiring a professional to take listing photos? Are they pushing sight unseen offers? There is never an easy button when it comes to getting the absolute max the market will bear. However, if a seller is okay with leaving tens of thousands on the table, any agent will do. If they want every dollar they can get, are willing to do the work and put up with a few days of showings, they will be over the moon with the results when they hire an experienced broker like me to help them through the process.
A seller’s market can be exceptionally profitable, but should not be treated as a lottery. Choosing the path with the best odds of getting top of the market will make a seller successful. That path starts with hiring the right advocate.
Being a Listing Agent I have honed many skills that allow my sellers to make the best first impressions, create buyer enthusiasm and ultimately, wring more from their sales to max out their bottom lines. Staging properties is not something that needs to be done at great expense to a seller. Little touches here and there are usually all that is needed. Most times, using the items the seller has in their home works. Every so often, I substitute in something from my own inventory.
In the case of the kitchen above, the seller had left barstools, the dining table (no chairs) and the table runner and a very nice polish pottery bowl. This area was tight. Fluffing the table included turning over the runner to the reverse side which was a lot less busy with only one pattern vs. three patterns, setting the table, adding a taller centerpiece and some chairs. Then came figuring out what to do with the barstools. The ones present didn’t really do anything but call attention to the big dining table and interrupt the flow of the island.
Adding these saddle style, lower height black bar stools left a clean line of the granite counters and left more space visually in the dining area. And with the living room being completely empty, I did make use of the bar stools elsewhere to set up an area of focus. You can see the full video tour of the property by clicking this link. There are examples of light staging in the owner’s bedroom and bathroom. Items were edited from the home that were useful, but dated it. Lamps, rugs, etc.
This home had been on the market as a For Sale By Owner on Zillow at the same list price and had a few open houses with many buyers through. However, it lacked offers when I took over. After the staging, professional photos and a few days on the market, the seller had four offers.
The devil truly is in the details when a home hits the market. Professional marketing agents like me get that and do everything we can to help our listings make the absolute best first impression.
After a little more than a decade as a rental property, the owners of 12148 Formby Street in Sheffield Manor decided that the seller’s market of 2021 was their exit. Wasn’t getting much better than the appreciation they had experienced. However, coming from a well worn rental property to a listing that would get top dollar wasn’t as easy as moving out the tenants, taking some pictures and calling it a day. Listing preparation started two months prior to listing. Here’s what the sellers did:
Replaced the roof
Refinished their hardwood floors
Had Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring installed in all bathrooms
Replaced the water heater
Replaced the sliding glass door to the deck
Had new carpet installed
Painted the interior
Freshened up the deck stain and replaced warped boards
Sealed the driveway
After all that, the home was ready for the finishing touch which was me bringing in light staging to fluff the kitchen, bathrooms, dining room and owner’s suite. With the home smiling and saying cheese, it was time for the professional photography. Take a peek at how it turned out.
On June 24th (2021) we hit the market. My mouth was agape that we made it through an entire weekend without an offer. The intense seller’s market had changed. One week went by and on the second Thursday the property got two offers. One was full price, the other a tad higher. Hmm. The dozens of offers the market had been coughing up on other properties earlier in the year had shifted. The $575,000 offer was the best one. It also happened to be a VA loan, something most sellers want to avoid because VA buyers can not waive appraisal and are entitled to their earnest money back if the home doesn’t appraise and they wish not to proceed with the transaction.
Thank goodness the sellers hired me, a full-time Bristow Real Estate Agent with more than sixteen years of experience under her belt, in addition to holding the highest level of license. In obtaining my broker’s license in 2010, I had to take one entire quarter on the subject of appraisals. I put together a package for the appraiser with comparable sales, the updates to the home and the other offer. We were home free. The home appraised at sales price.
Today, this home on Formby Street that I helped the owners find tenants for several times over the years, has become the first home of a very happy couple. The owners even invited them to a party held by their neighborhood friends so they can get a warm introduction. What a great way to end a transaction!
On June 25th (2021) I had the pleasure of bringing 9239 Glen Meadow Lane to the market. In all the months previous, single family home listings in Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket and Manass in 2021 had been going under contract in one weekend after multiple offers. This beauty got a sight unseen offer that was certainly over the top unrealistic. After an in person tour, those buyers changed their mind and withdrew. Sight unseen offers are not advised for buyers to write or sellers to take. There is too much room for remorse.
After seven days on the market, having blown past the deadline for offers and dealing with whatever would come their way, the sellers of Glen Meadow got three offers on a weekday. Odd to say the least. The hesitancy in the market to write an offer on this home may have had something to do with changing high school boundaries in the area, though this home was not affected. Because the MLS does not have a classification for the new Gainesville High School yet, many listings are incorrect in their high school representations that autopopulate through the address search function when agents are putting in their listings.
The choice between the three was easy. While none of them offered more than list price, the sellers chose the offer with no contingencies at all. No appraisal contingency. No financing contingency. No home inspection contingency.
The summer 2021 market has indeed shifted. Buyer demand is still high, but not as insane as it had been in the winter and spring. Will we get back to the frenzy this fall? Only time will tell.
If the need arises to sell your Bristow home, get in touch with me to learn how not to leave money on the table. Sadly, sellers are losing money thinking all agents are alike. Advice and expertise differ from agent to agent. I have been at this since 2005, hold the highest level of license the state offers for my profession and believe in professional presentation to max out buyer enthusiasm. After all, buyer enthusiasm is what creates multiple offer situations and gets you absolute top dollar for your home.
A three fully finished level single family home in Bristow, VA with hardwood flooring through all levels is not very common. This one has hardwoods in all but a portion of the basement and the tiled bathrooms. Welcome to 9239 Glen Meadow Lane, priced at $649,000.
In addition to being updated with hardwood flooring from top to bottom, this home offers a farmhouse style in the family room. Doesn’t take much in the way of trim work to give a farmhouse feel.
The kitchen has its own flair with an off the beaten path granite pattern, stainless steel appliances, tiled back splash and under cabinet lighting. The gas range is the icing on the cake.
The upper level is where you find the owner’s suite, three additional bedrooms, another full bathroom and the laundry room. The owner’s suite is expansive and offers a spa-like bathroom.
The fully finished basement has a walk up exit, two recreation areas, a fifth bedroom and third full bathroom. Outside, in addition to lush landscaping in front, is a fenced back yard with wood deck and shed.
There is so much to love about this home. Come by and see for yourself. An Open House is scheduled for Saturday, June 26th from 12pm-2pm.
Six years ago, in a very different market when only the hottest homes sold in a matter of days, it was not at all unusual for a single family home to take one to two months to sell. Looking back at the first six months of 2015, the average days on market was forty-five. It was during this time a couple called, disappointed their home hadn’t sold after seventy days with their former listing agent.
Based on what I was seeing online, it seemed the listing agent prior had put in zero effort into advising this couple on what to do to sell. The sellers were eager for advice and did the preparation I advised. Taking it one more step, I helped them edit their rooms to make the home show perfectly and do some staging.
My favorite contrast in how I market is a comparison shot between the previous shot of the hot tub and mine.
A little effort goes a long way. Simply removing the cover of the hot tub would have made a much improved photo. Adding a little fluff just elevated it that much more. It sells the luxury of having a hot tub and invokes a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. And this wasn’t expensive. Every staging item was purchased at the dollar store or donated by the owner for the photo. The home was under contract in eleven days…in less than half the average marketing time of that period.
Back then I was still taking my own listing photos. Now when I remove hot tub covers to actually show a hot tub (always awkward and cumbersome, but so worth it,) the professional photos look even better. Selling a home is one thing. Selling the lifestyle of a home is what gets you the highest offers the market will bear.
Professional marketing is what makes a property get bid even higher than a competing listing, even in a frenzied seller’s market. Who you hire to list your home matters just as much now as it did when the market demand was slower. It shows more in your bottom line than in marketing time these days, but still creates that buyer enthusiasm that boosts your home above the competition, or most recent sales, like a rocket.
Get in touch with me when you are considering the sale of your home and find out how my professional marketing and attention to details will make you even more money than you imagined.
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.
Hiring decisions of sellers never cease to amaze me. Home owners get focused on one thing and one thing only–commission. In the process, they fail to understand what a listing agent actually does for them because they never get around to asking the right questions.
While I have had the opportunity to refocus many sellers on important issues and what they should be asking, I still see some going for agent that will give them “the best deal.” That was my immediate thought driving out of my neighborhood the other day and seeing a For Sale sign of an unknown agent in a neighbor’s yard. Never in a million years would I expect this owner would hire me to do the job, but I happen to know a very prominent team that knows him. I would have expected to see their sign in his yard. Nope. The relatively little known agent was there front and center. I mentioned that agent’s name to a colleague I happened to be on the phone with when I viewing the sign for the first time. “Oh, she’s a property manager. I run into her a lot on rentals.”
Should I be surprised that this home owner was in our neighborhood social media group asking how to order HOA docs? Forget that’s he’s under contract right now and if he had been my client, or any other top notch agent in the market, those docs would have been ordered weeks before he hit the market. They would likely have been in the listing agent’s had to return with the ratified contract. Why? Because buyers are waiving inspections, but still trying to use HOA docs to get out if they have an “informational only” inspection. Now, not only does the seller not know what he needs to provide, evidently his agent isn’t doing it for him. Meanwhile, as the days go by without the HOA docs, his buyer has every right to void.
I would mortified if my client were asking about how to go about his real estate deal online vs. calling me. Nevertheless, there this seller was and the answers from the neighbors were ill informed about what he specifically needed from the HOA, how much they cost, etc. Neighbors are well intentioned, but ill informed on what an HOA resale document package must contain according to the laws of Virginia. My mind kept coming to back to the thought, “His agent should be doing this.”
Who you hire matters. The best for the job are hardly ever the cheapest. They have the experience you need when every detail matters in a fast paced seller’s market. A great agent knows the devil is in the details.
When it comes to HOA resale documents, there are specific documents required and a resale inspection. Violations noted at the resale inspection are mandatory fixes. If you are my client, you will know that going in to a transaction. You will be prepared for the how your sale will go from beginning to end. That’s what a professional does.
If you have been considering the sale of your home, I would love the opportunity to show you how a great real estate agent works and how it benefits you. Get in touch me with and we’ll talk. No high pressure here. If you like what I can offer, great. If not, no harm no foul.
The Ease of a Listing Agent’s Job is Not Measured by Days on Market
In the last two days, I was approached by two sellers to list their homes. There are two types of sellers in a seller’s market. 1) They believe in your value and won’t haggle on commission. 2) They believe that because homes go under contract fast, an agent should make less money. The second group of sellers have a misunderstanding of what exactly goes into being a listing agent.
Listing Prepartion Any listing agent knows that even in a seller’s market, money can be left on the table. To get every penny you can in the sale of your home, listing preparation is a must. Picking a list price is part of that, but in addition, a great listing agent will consult with you on listing preparation tasks to be done prior to listing. De-cluttering. Small to medium level improvements and replacements. Staging. Preparation is the same whether you are listing a hot seller’s market, or a cooled buyer’s market. To create buyer enthusiasm, listing preparation is key.
Professional Marketing Once the property is ready to say “cheese,” it’s time for the professional photographer. No listing is complete in today’s digital age without professional photography. First impressions are made online which is why the first two steps are super important. And no matter the market conditions, MUST be done.
Networking The value of a great listing agent’s network is critical. In a seller’s market they know who is submitting offers on behalf of buyers and how likely a deal is to go through just based on agent reputation alone. In a buyer’s market, agent networking gets the word out about a listing from a reputable source. Great agents like working with great agents. In a seller’s market, helping a seller pick between two nearly identical offers may come down to agent reputation. In a buyer’s market, agent reputation and networking may be what brings the only offer you get.
Evaluating Offers In a buyer’s market, evaluating one offer after a seller has been on the market for months (hard to imagine right now, I know) is a critical part of the job. Making sure to talk to the lender about the offer, the financial stability of the buyer and whether or not settlement date can be reached is key to a smooth deal. In a seller’s market, a seller may end up one or two dozen offers. Evaluating each and every offer is done the same regardless of number. In a seller’s market, it is MUCH more work intense because you are on a tight time frame and have much more work to do.
Offsetting Buyer’s Remorse In a seller’s market, buyers are making offers that they sometimes regret. Offsetting that factor is important. A buyer may waive appraisal, but if they have to bring a bucket full of additional down payment to closing, they be remorseful and void. A great listing agent knows that even though an appraisal contingency is waived, it is professional to meet the appraiser with information and comps to get that appraised value as high as possible. We do the same in a buyer’s market, but he remorse factor comes from a different place in that circumstance. Keeping the buyer in love with the home is key when so much more is available to buy. The key is keeping the deal a win-win for both parties regardless of the market.
Of course, selling the value of a back up contract position to buyer’s agents whose clients came close but lost in a seller’s market is no small feat. It takes skill to get your seller one ratified back up offer so they don’t have to go back on the market and have buyers immediately wonder, “What’s wrong with the house?” That must be avoided at all costs.
Getting to Closing In any market condition, if we have done our jobs as listing agents well, getting to closing is a given. Sure, bad things can happen in any market, but when you hire an agent to represent your best interests, you are hiring them to do a lot of vetting up front to avoid surprises down the road.
So if everything is the same and you just have more work to do in a seller’s market on a tighter time frame, why would any seller think a listing agent deserved a pay cut? Because those sellers see other home owners getting so many offers that it must be as easy to sell as falling off a log. Getting under contract isn’t the difficult part. Getting the highest and best offer that isn’t going to flake or not be qualified is what are paid to do. And in a seller’s market, that job is harder.