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.
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.
Why Are So Many Sellers Lowering Their List Prices?
Summer 2022 saw a shift in buyer behavior, brought on by sharply increasing mortgage interest rates. We had started the year about 3.5% and by late summer, rates had more than doubled. The frenzy to jump into a multiple offer scrum and make above list price bids with no contingencies all but came to a halt. Multiple offers were still seen on homes that took the time to create buyer enthusiasm, but of the entire summer’s worth of multiple offers I encountered with sellers, no buyer was willing to give up home inspection contingencies or finance and appraisal contingencies. Most buyers felt a strong offer was list price. And seller subsidy was becoming a normal request.
As a full-time real estate agent, the shift in buyer behavior has been palpable. Obviously, I can’t speak to the advice sellers I don’t represent are getting, but my sellers are given an in depth look at what has sold, what they are competing with, any shift in the tides of the market and are given advice about where to price. They are also tracking competing listings and overall market activity to judge whether or not what they are experiencing is on par with competing listings.
Just because buyer behavior has changed with rising mortgage interest rates doesn’t mean buyers suddenly have gobs of homes to choose from. They are able to visit multiple homes and not have to make an immediate decision. Inventory to this point is still not meeting demand, hence we remain in a seller’s market. Unfortunately, to some sellers that had watched their friends, family or neighbors sell during the feeding frenzy that was 2020, 2021 and even early 2022, they equated a seller favored market to that level of frenzy. That leads to three main factors for list price reductions.
PRICING TOO HIGH FROM THE START
From what I can observe in the market, and feather in with what I watched some of my sellers struggle with, sellers were caught off guard and didn’t want to hear that their home wasn’t instantly worth more than the last home in their neighborhood that sold. Therefore, they listed even higher than that most recent sold price. When the market didn’t gobble them up right away, they were stunned. And when some even got list price offers, but included seller subsidy, they rejected them thinking the seller’s market must have more to offer.
Overshooting on list price is a problem a lot of sellers seemed to have faced in the summer and even into the fall. Changing buyer behavior does not mean you still price high and give yourself negotiating room. Price right and get the job done. As days on the market tick by, buyer offers get less and less impressive, assuming that the seller has been over priced. Sellers were forced with lowering list prices to what were more reasonable list prices and would have been appropriate prices at the outset. Some even ended up listing lower than offers they received at the outset. Those were the sellers trapped in the thinking that it was their turn for over list price offers and seller favored terms. Any offer outside of that was insulting.
UNDER IMPROVING A HOME AND RELYING ON MARKET DEMAND
To say a home is under improved for what the sellers are asking is another way of stating it is over priced. In the 2020 and 2021 buyer frenzy, many sellers relied solely on market conditions rather than primping their home for market. The insane level of buyer demand gobbled those homes up with multiple offers, reinforcing to those sellers that they didn’t need to do any preparation, their home would sell regardless. True. Those homes sold. However, there were plenty of examples of sellers who left money on the table with this mindset. Multiple offers always level at market value. Improved homes that peak buyer enthusiasm always see the highest sale prices, even in that buyer frenzy from which we are still experiencing a hangover.
Now that we are in a more typical seller favored market, listing preparation is even more important than it had been. Skipping it and relying on the too few homes for too many buyers to bring top dollar is a lost cause that is resulting in some price reductions were are seeing.
REACTING TO TOO MANY DAYS ON THE MARKET
Days on market has been freaking out a lot of sellers, not to mention their agents. When homes that used to sell in a matter of four or five days were still on the market two and three weeks later, panic set in. Many listing agents working in the market were licensed in years where they have only experienced extreme seller market conditions. Two weeks on the market to them meant it was a buyer’s market. If they represented buyers, they wrote offers reflecting that. If they represented sellers, they were ill prepared to handle negotiating on a seller’s behalf.
Having lived through the housing crash post 2008, I can assure you that two weeks on the market is not a long time. Neither is a month. Try being on the market for six months with no offers. That, my friends is a buyer’s market.
Sellers should be informed of what average days on market for homes like theirs is at the outset of their listing and kept abreast of what is selling before them, or if homes are coming on the market priced below them with more to offer. Many listings in the current seller favored market are going to measured in weeks, not days. When is it time to lower to the price? When other homes like yours at a lower price are being chosen or with more to offer. If nothing is moving, it is the market and you could do yourself a disservice by lowering the price too soon. On the contrary, you don’t want to sit around with a bad price for too many days on market because at some point, buyers and their agents wonder what is wrong with the home. That’s why it is important to know expected marketing times going in after a look at current comps.
Our real estate market is a living, breathing thing that changes. The most important thing a seller can do for themselves is hire a full-time, professional, local agent that can help them through the process.
The fall real estate market in Northern Virginia is changing, just like leaves on our deciduous trees are undergoing a transformation. Many had become used to the frenzied pace of extreme buyer demand that stormed in during 2020 and lasted through 2021, that had sellers setting record high sales prices and collecting multiple offers. Those for whom that was a baseline for the real estate market are left feeling the market is a buyer’s market now that the frenzy has quieted down. That is not at all the case.
While buyers are enjoying the fact that they no longer have to make rushed decisions and waive every contingency, they are left feeling pinched by rising mortgage interest rates that have doubled since the start of 2022. Combined with housing prices that are still trending up, though not on as steep a trajectory, buyers are acting more deliberately. In a lot of cases, they are requesting seller subsidy to help buy down their mortgage interest rate. These factors that have slowed buyers down, has not changed the lack of housing supply to meet buyer demand. We are NOT in a buyer’s market. Believe it or not, the market still favors sellers.
Being in a seller’s market, however, does not mean multiple offers or always selling above list price. Real estate markets are defined by the absorption rate of available homes on the market. We could still have four months of inventory to sell and be considered in seller favored conditions. Our inventory in Northern Virginia, and particularly my primary service area of Bristow/Gainesville/Haymarket has not seen available inventory measured in months for a long time.
The current seller’s market is one where those looking to sell their homes will be advised to consider more than the most recent SOLD listings to figure out a suitable list price. Yes, sold listings are comparables. However, as we begin to build a bit of inventory, home sellers need to also look to a number of other types of listings.
COMING SOON AND ACTIVE
Looking at the available inventory there is to purchase will help a seller to figure out how to price competitively. Just because there are four comparable sold listings at $450,000 doesn’t mean that is the place you should price, or higher, as you would have in 2020 or 2021. Looking at active listings and those coming soon with similar features to your home is critical. If you have three similar competitors on the market priced at $450,000 that have been on the market for a few weeks and aren’t getting chosen, that suggests $450,000 is no longer a reasonable list price. If it were, those home would be under contract. So what competitors have been chosen?
Competing listings that have gone under contract were chosen by the marketplace. Those list prices are much more valid, if all things are equal from a value proposition, than solds. Maybe the solds are at $450,000 and the three actives are at $450,000, just sitting there, but there are two under contract that were listed at $430,000. Do you think pricing at $450,000 or $430,000 is a better play? Clearly $450,000 isn’t working for the three sitting on the market.
WITHDRAWN, EXPIRED & CANCELED
As we build inventory, there are also clues in the listings that have been pulled from the market. If there is a withdrawn listing at $460,000 that was on the market for sixty days, that is a big hint that if you were just looking at sold listings, going higher is a no-no. The listings not chosen are as full of valuable information to choose your placement in the market as those active and under contract.
Suddenly we are seeing price reductions in the market, where they were unheard of in the previous two years, with the exception of sellers who were really taking the frenzied buyer demand for granted and placing exorbitant list prices on their homes. There are sellers in every market that expect their inflated feelings of values to pan out on the market. It can be crushing when they don’t. Buying into an unfounded value as a list price can also be costly in a market undergoing a shift. Wasted time when a market is building inventory means wasted buyer opportunities and inviting more attractively priced competitors. Looking at who is lowering their prices and still lingering on the market is informational as well.
The real estate market is still favoring sellers, but that doesn’t mean sellers are seeing ten percent lift above their list prices or are getting buyers willing to waive contingencies. As the insane pace of the previous two years is slowing to a more measured pace, sellers are still likely to get under contract quickly and with reasonable terms when their homes are priced right, properly prepared and professionally marketed. Buyer demand is still high and inventory is still not enough to meet it.
Tread carefully when deciding how to present your home to the market of interested buyers. Overpricing is a real pitfall that will lock up sellers unable to grasp that the market dynamics are changing. Partnering with a full-time professional agent with experience beyond a seller’s market where the highest and best offer is chosen from a pile of offers is highly recommended. Skills that encompass all kinds of market conditions are not a given just because someone hold a real estate license. The soft skills to start the conversation that leads to getting an offer are absent in those that thought being a listing agent was putting a sign in the yard and collecting offers. Hire your listing agent wisely.
I have been at this since 2005. Making deals that put my sellers ahead of market conditions is what I do, no matter the current dynamics of the market. My listing process starts with detailed analysis of the market and listing preparation advice that will lift buyer enthusiasm. Combined with professional level marketing, sellers go under contract faster and walk away with more money than their competing listings. It would be a pleasure to help you do the same.
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.