Bristow Home in Amenity Rich Neighborhood for $675,000
When my husband and I were house hunting in Bristow, one of the homes that I personally loved was the Yardley model. It has all the right rooms in a configuration that makes it a little different that a typical Northern Virginia colonial. This listing at 12607 Cessford is a great example of a bumped out, four bedroom Yardley. And it’s on a great lot!
With no other home fronting to Cessford Drive on the west side, this home has no direct next door neighbors. A gas line easement up the hill and north of the home gives protected open space. To the south side, there just wasn’t enough room to put another home. That gives 12607 Cessford much appreciated elbow room. The back yard is not flat, but the slight rise in the yard itself is a built-in privacy buffer from the neighbor in the back. Enjoy rest and relaxation on the wood deck.
Inside, the floor plan is sure to please buyers. It’s not the most popular mid-sized home in Braemar for nothing. Check out the large family room and kitchen with breakfast nook.
The owner’s suite is another winner. Loads of space and double walk-in closets and bathroom with soaking tub, stall shower and double sinks.
Perhaps the best part of a four bedroom upper level Yardley is the size of the fourth bedroom. It rivals the owner’s suite in sheer size.
This particular Yardley has a partially finished basement to include a landing zone in LVP, large carpeted recreation space and laundry area. It’s a perfect setting for a home theater as there are no daylight windows. There is unfinished space you can finish to include a den and full bathroom, or you can leave it the way it is and enjoy an abundance of storage.
This home is located in Braemar, an amenity rich community in Bristow. Enjoy access to two swimming pools, multiple playgrounds, tennis courts and basketball courts. There are even walking trails that take you through the community. Patriot High School is located just a few blocks away, but Cedar Point Elementary and Marsteller Middle are located within the confines of the neighborhood itself.
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.
How Many Days Does it Take to Sell in Spring 2022?
With the two percent increase in mortgage interest rates since the beginning of the year, you may have heard whispers of our Bristow and real estate market changing. Certainly, interest rates increasing have pinched buyers even more when rising home prices were already making it tough to afford a home. However, to declare that the market has measurably shifted from a seller’s market would be wrong.
In late April, dealing with the same interest rates, I placed a single family home in Bristow on the market. It was hottly contested and had multiple offers in a matter of four days. This past weekend, after having been on the market for just over one week, 14443 Macon Grove Lane had three offers at the same time. Multiple offers did happen, but not quickly. It was a rolling situation that left one of the four offers pulling out and moving on. What’s different between these two homes?
The single family home at 9477 Cromarty Court was owner occupied and updated to the nines. It also had a sought after water view. The downside of this property was the compact size of the rooms on the main level. However, the sellers had left no detail unnoticed. When it was time to the hit the market, the professional marketing drove up buyer enthusiasm and the coziness of the main level was not an issue.
While the condo at 14443 Macon Grove did hit the market a week later, it was not owner occupied. Tenants in a home never have a vested interest in a successful outcome. They are losing their rental home. In this case, the landlord realized this was an issue. She was by far, the most savvy landlord I have dealt with in my seventeen years of selling homes. She cleaned up the property herself. She decluttered the property before showings herself. She even put the tenants up in a hotel for the weekend while showings were happening. The only problem was, the weekend we really wanted to list the house was unavailable to us as the tenants had plans. That meant a hasty rush to market.
A professional photo shoot with great pictures that truly represented what buyers would see in the straightened and cleaned home, happened the day before it was to go active. I am here to tell, buyers and buyer agents do not make appointments until they see listing photos. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t hit the MLS until Saturday morning of our two day showing free-for-all. Showings picked up after the photos had been in a few hours, but the real activity wanted to happen Sunday through Friday. The tenants were unable to accommodate showing requests except for three hours in the evening, and one evening was taken off the table completely. (sigh) Even with showing restrictions and showing condition dwindling after the return of the tenants, the condo in Gainesville got multiple offers. It just took eight days to get there.
We are still in seller market conditions in Bristow and Gainesville. Of course, what matters most is what has mattered all along–how your home is prepared and marketed. An unprepared home is not going to create buyer enthusiasm. And even if it does, if buyers can’t get in to see it, that is a problem. If buyers are seeing poor listing photos, you are sunk.
Proper listing preparation and professional marketing get sellers to the top of the market no matter what their condition. And when there are issues you can’t work around, having a skilled negotiator representing you as a seller is critical. These two properties are great examples of how the market is influenced by condition and marketing. Stay tuned for their final sold prices. Until then, if you want to investigate the 2022 sale of your Bristow or Gainesville home, get in touch with me for a no obligation market analysis.
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 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.
Is Listing Preparation Necessary in a Seller’s Market?
Sitting across from a seller this morning who had started the process of packing, pausing only to sign our listing agreement, there was a lot of discussion over what is necessary to do prior to hitting the market. Very few homes that I walk into are neutral enough, de-cluttered enough and exuding enough mass appeal to be what I, as a real estate professional, would consider market ready, but it does happen.
As a Top Producing Agent in the Bristow/Gainesville area, the sellers I meet want the maximum amount of money they get out of their homes for the minimal amount of effort. Moving is hard enough. Prepping a home for a red hot market seems ridiculous to them. After all, the market is so hot that some sellers are accepting sight unseen offers. They want to know why I am advising them to paint, de-clutter, put in new carpet, etc when a buyer is likely to write a sight unseen offer. The answer is usually in the realm of, “Because you want the same or better that the seller down the street got, and their home was move-in ready.”
Market value is determined by being open to the market. Yes, buyers actually seeing the inside of your home in person. (I know. What a pain, right?) Time and again, sale after sale as sellers and I go over comps, I point out how much more this home made after a few days on the market, being presented move-in ready and professionally presented vs. that home that listed as Coming Soon and took a sight unseen offer from a buyer that didn’t even see photos of the home. A seller that popped up in our comps today sold their home sight unseen. I know the inside of the home because I have been in it. To say the seller left money on the table by taking a sight unseen offer is an understatement. Try thirty-thousand dollars or so is my guess.
Earlier in the week, two of my Coming Soon listings were getting calls from buyer agents begging for a chance to submit an offer sight unseen and have my sellers decide right then and there. Why is that? They know their buyers won’t be competitive when the listing hit the open market. Why on earth would I advise my sellers to take a sight unseen offer that I know can be bested on the open market when they only get one chance to sell the most valuable asset they have? The situations are few and far between where that would make sense. Trying to sell before losing a home to foreclosure would be one of them. Losing out on a home they are under contract to buy because their home sale contingency is about to expire. Minimizing the exposure of a bedridden relative to an overwhelming amount of buyers would be another. Anything else that would may tempt someone to walk away from thirty-thousand dollars would be worthy of investigating opportunities they may not have considered. Boarding pets. Spending the weekend in a hotel. You only get to liquidate your home once.
The same argument goes for listing preparation. Buyer enthusiasm with those exuberant multiple offers doesn’t come from a home that hasn’t been de-cluttered, neutralized and spiffed up for buyers. Sure, an unprepared home may get multiple offers, but the offers will be substantially higher when a seller has put effort into making the home move-in ready. The market comps show it time and again. Is skipping the work worth the money that would be lost?
A little effort goes a long way in this market. Painting the home a neutral color is a great way to put a fresh clean face on the interior of a home. Sometimes the outside might need some fresh paint on the doors, shutters and trim. And maybe a power washing. First impressions are powerful. Tidying up and depersonalizing allow buyers to see themselves living there, which increases their enthusiasm for a home, which increases the price seen in offers.
So when a seller asks me if preparation is necessary, the answer is always, “No, but are you willing to walk away from five to ten percent more in final sold price?” The home sale we saw today that left thirty thousand on the table may have thought differently if her agent had said, “I think you can sell for thirty thousand more if we hit the market for a weekend. What do you think?” Put a price tag on the dreaded event and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.
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 REALTORS® 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
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.
Having been a real estate agent since 2005, I have helped plenty of sellers needing to list between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Interestingly, I have heard many of them lament that they will be unable to celebrate the season with any decorations. Depersonalizing a home is definitely necessary when selling in any season, but when it comes to holiday decor, you don’t have to go without.
For starters, it is no secret that Christmas is a holiday celebrated on a secular level by the vast majority in our area. Once Halloween is over, pop into any retailer and you will see the tell tale green and red displays and plenty of Christmas holiday decor. And for anyone that has ever shopped a Black Friday event, it is named as such because that was the day in the year that most retailers finally started to earn profit. Christmas is a largely accepted and celebrated holiday and the decor that goes along with it is ever present in November and December. It is unlikely anyone touring a home for sale during those months would be so turned off by holiday decor they are seeing everywhere else they go.
And then there is my favorite part of the Christmas holiday season–the push to be home for the holidays. Ever watch the Hallmark Movie Channel and their slew of Christmas love stories? Home for the holidays is a real emotional pull (or push by advertisers selling their holiday wares) that people have during the holiday. Emotions like that sell houses. So why wouldn’t a seller want to take advantage of it? The smell of fresh garland and white lights on a decorated tree are sure to bring out holiday emotion in just about any one. I remember doing while lights around a ficus and loft banister, and fresh garland on the mantel of vacant home during December that had been sitting for several weeks prior. Might have been a coincidence, but it was gone in short order after the holiday decor was placed.
Just because some decor around a home to be listed during the Christmas season is acceptable doesn’t mean it is time to go Griswold inside or outside for that matter. Ultimately, you are still selling a home that prospective buyers will want to be able to picture in any season. A little holiday decor is tasteful when listing, but don’t go overboard.
In general, the idea of giving more than enough space physically and visually for prospective owners to see the home itself is the way to go no matter what season you list. Personal photos and personal decor should be removed to make room for prospective buyers to emotionally connect to the property. Stockings with names on the mantel may not be advised, but the greenery and sparkle of the season are in good taste in moderation. Keep it simple and you won’t be disappointed.
The Second Key to Max Profit When Selling Your Home
There are two major things a seller can do, even in a seller’s market, to max out their bottom line. The first I wrote about in detail and is all about creating buyer enthusiasm. This is essentially putting the shiniest, most attractive bait on the hook to the get the best and/or most buyers acting on the listing. The second key is what takes place after a buyer is under contract and it is just as important. It just involves different tasks. Simply put it is:
Maintaining Buyer Enthusiasm and Seller Profit
Neogtiations after a contract sales price has been agreed upon by the seller and buyer can be just as tense as the intial negotiations, if not more so. Buyers can feel they have a seller by the shorts and want to create points of renegotiation along the way. The first point of renegoation is home inspection. Having an idea of how to prepare for a home inspection is so important. Sellers can easily overlook simple things that can cause big panic. Or buyers can feel so entitled they overask. How should a seller respond to an an over indulgent buyer? An experienced, skilled, full-time professional agent knows how to deliver “no” without losing a buyer.
Appraisal is the second hurdle many buyers need to cross as a contingency to a sale. Even if a buyer has waived an appraisal contingency and is willing to eat any difference between appraised value and contracted sales price, there can be a buyer’s remorse issue if the divide exists at all, or is what the buyer considers too big. Not every listing agent meets an appraiser with a package of information to support the sales price. Whether the buyer has an appraisal contingency or not, I know that part of maintaining buyer enthusiasm and my seller’s profit is meeting the appraiser every time.
One of my favorite success stories about meeting an appraiser comes from having a less updated home sell for more than a very updated home of the exact same floor plan. I met the apprasier and though we still appraised low, we sold for more than the updated home. Turns out that discount broker didn’t meet the appraiser and relied on the home to speak for itself, leaving $15,000 on the table. (That was way more than the updated home’s seller would have paid by hiring a non-discount broker.)
In a seller’s market, getting through HOA void periods quickly is important as well. Having an agent that prepares for that ahead of time and doesn’t wait until the seller is under contract is just leaving the right to void period open for a buyer. And that’s not the only pitfall regarding HOAs. Did you know if HOA or condo violations are not corrected before settlement a buyer maintains a right to void under the title paragraph of the contract? Professional, local agents know the most frequently seen HOA violations and can help a seller prepare for their HOA resale inspection before the home is ever listed.
Details abound in the contract to close period of a home sale. Getting the major points of negotiation handled before there is an issue is a major part of that. Hiring a professional agent to lead the way is always the path to the highest profit. Again, it may seem intuitive to cut commission to save money, but he best don’t work for less. If a seller wants the best result (highest bottom line,) the agent they hire matters.