The Second Key to Max Profit When Selling Your Home

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.

The MLS Remarks the Public Doesn’t See

The MLS Remarks the Public Doesn’t See

Another day, another not so startling realization that too many listing agents have no idea how their choice of words, photos and inaction affect their sellers. A buyer-client texted me a listing of Interest. Her words were, “I know that something has to be wrong with the property since it’s been on the market so long.”

It would be a lie to say I had no pre-conceived notions as I typed the address in the MLS. Afterall, she had found the home on a media website beginning with the last letter of the alphabet that is infamous for its lack of current information. I was certain I would find that the property was in fact under contract. Alas, it was not. Hmm. What was going on?

Public facing remarks told the tale of a perfectly pleasing remodeled home with more acreage than its surrounding neighbors. Days on market showed nearly two months on the market. That does’t jive with being on the market two months when conditions favor sellers. The photos weren’t bad, but the opening one showed a three car garage with all of the doors open and junk spilling out of them. Not great, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. That’s when I noticed the agent remarks had some very important information.

  • The seller was insisting on a contingency on him finding another home to rent and wanted the right to void a contract at any time without penalty.
  • The property was being sold “STRICTLY AS-IS”

The first one alone was a big issue. Who the heck wants to get into business with a seller who sounds like they don’t want to sell? In two months, he should have been able to find some sort of temporary housing. Add in the all caps announcement that the home was being sold as is and I smelled trouble. Evidently, I was not alone as the home had been on the market all this time without action.

Calling the listing agent when you get into territory like this as a buyer’s agent is key. The barrier to entry into real estate is low enough, not to mention the very minimal expectations of many brokerages that don’t care who they bring on board as long as they have listings and buyers. A phone call always clears things up one way or another.

The listing agent was cheerful enough. He had been in business a very long time, but that doesn’t mean anything as I soon found out. Not only did he express that his seller had already found a home and moved out, he was shocked his own listing still had those remarks. Really?!! It was his responsibility to make sure the information was accurate, but I didn’t care. Leave it be. Less interest means more opportunity for my buyers.

As for the “STRICTLY AS-IS” language, I asked why he put that in there. After all, every listing agent worth anything knows that our contracts are as-is any way. Saying the home is “STRICTLY AS-IS” just rouses images of costly problems lurking in the shadows. Nope. There was one unfinished project, a koi pond. The seller just didn’t want to make any repairs. Most sellers don’t, but stating from the get go that a home is as-is just drives interest and price down. The connotation behind those words is not good for seller’s bottom line.

Counseling my sellers on the lay of the land with regard to strategy and marketing is key to getting them the most interest and highest possible price. Most sellers have no idea how their own ideas and stubbornness can work against them. It is my job as a full-time real estate professional to make sure they fully understand each aspect of the sales process and that we have a solid plan of action to increase buyer enthusiasm, not arouse buyer suspicion.

When you are ready to sell, insist on hiring a full-time professional agent that will level with you about how to get that sought after top of the market price. The simple fact that demand may favor sellers is not a recipe to demand one sided negotiations and lackluster marketing that will leave you buyer-less.

Sellers: Is Your Home Ready For a Home Inspection?

Sellers: Is Your Home Ready For a Home Inspection?

In the seller market conditions that the Bristow/Gainesville market, and entire Northern Virginia area has been facing, home inspections have been more rare. However, after a dip in activity during the summer months, home inspection contingencies seem to be making a come back. Granted, buyers may be opting for Right to Void Home Inspections vs. the right to ask for repairs as part of the contingency. However, your property should leave very little cause for concern. You don’t want to cause undue alarm to buyers, their agents and inspectors for items that are well within your control to maintain for less than the cost of a dinner out at a very nice restaurant.

Here are some items that sellers can do to prepare their properties for home inspection:

  • Change your air filters before the inspection
  • Make sure all burned out light bulbs have been replaced
  • Gas fireplaces should have pilot lights lit and ready to ignite
  • Replace batteries in ceiling fan remotes and leave remotes where they are visible
  • Make sure your garage door opener safety sensors are aligned and free of cobwebs
  • Garage door remotes should be left out for testing
  • Downspouts should be connected and in good order with extenders if possible
  • Hose bibs should be winterized in mid to late fall and remain so until early spring
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are less than ten years old, have fresh batteries and all are the same model if hard wired into your home

These simple items can save so many headaches with buyers. Light bulbs that are burned out are called out as non-functioning lights by inspectors. Same with gas fireplaces that can’t be ignited. And dirty air filters can cause all kinds of alarm.

The photo at the top of this post was taken at a home inspection where I represented the buyer. There was zero air flow going through it, thus suffocating the air handler. The filter was being sucked into the air handler. This meams the HVAC was working harder than it needed to, which can lead to prematurely aging the system. In the case of the property where this drywall dust and paint particle encrusted filter was found, it was obvious that the renovations done to the property prior to hitting the market left a lot of debris in the air. Obviously, it all landed in the air filter, as it is supposed to. Unfortunately, the sellers, nor their contractors, thought to change the air filter during or after the improvements to lessen the stress on the HVAC.

Simple maintenance items can stop a lot of unnecessary panic.

Unwanted Leave Behinds

Unwanted Leave Behinds

Since beginning my real estate career in 2005, I have encountered many unwanted leave behinds in listings. They are brought to my attention by buyer agents on my listings and buyer-clients I represent doing final walk throughs. The latter I can report to listing agents and know they are not my responsibility to remove. The former often become my responsibility to avoid my seller-clients being charged unreasonable fees to pick up less than six paint cansm especially if they have already moved out of the area. My rule of thumb is simple, if it won’t fit in the trunk of my car, it is getting kicked to my seller-clients. And only one seller in all these years has required a junk removal fee. Not bad.

Paint cans and cleaners, toilet brushes and plungers are among the top items I remind sellers to get rid of as they move. If we get a communication from a buyer that they want paint cans and cleaners, great. Leave them. If not, get rid of them. And as far as my personal experience, no buyer wants toilet related products (outside of toilet paper on the roll) left behind. If there is a chance there is fecal matter on it, get a trash bag and dispose of it.

Recently, I was caught off guard by a buyer agent who flagged a coffin in the shed that needed to be removed from my listing the day before settlement. As I recalled, the seller had power to the shed. Were they talking about a coffin freezer? I reached out to the buyer agent and got clarification. No. It was a coffin, in the traditionally known shape of a coffin. However, he clarified it was small and light and should be easy to remove.

When I found it in the shed, standing about five feet tall, I hoped beyond all hope that it was made of lightweight plywood or balsa wood. Nope. It was going to be a two person job, only I was the only person there to move it. And naturally, it was one of the hottest days of summer. I hauled it out of the shed and used gravity of the downward slope of the back yard to get it started. Then it became a matter of hauling it to the curb. Oh the glamorous life of a real estate agent.

At that moment I heard the many voices of people I had encountered that had day dreamed of becoming a real estate agent with the phrase, “I really enjoy looking at houses. It must be so fun.” Really? How do you feel about hauling a sturdy Halloween coffin prop to the curb while in work clothes between appointments on a hot summer day? Too many times, being a real estate agent includes getting the dirty deeds done.

The coffin was truly the most bizarre unwanted leave behind I have encountered to date. And thank goodness for Facebook marketplace. Do you know how many people clammored for the free coffin? It was gone in fifteen minutes of posting after two dozen inquiries.

Bottomline for sellers is this: If you don’t want to be bothered moving it, odds are the buyers aren’t going to want it either. If you want clarification, alert your listing agent about items you wish to leave behind and see if they are indeed wanted by the buyers. If not, try giving it away on Facebook marketplace or taking it to the curb for trash pick up. Paint cans and cleaners will be considered hazardous waste and will require a special trip to the local landfill.

Simple Updates to Lift a Bathroom

Simple Updates to Lift a Bathroom

Lately I have been meeting with a decent number of home sellers interested in hitting the market with bathrooms that are showing their age. Small tiles and one piece vinyl installations that were builder-grade do not create buyer enthusiasm. And in a seller’s market, buyers are spending so much money getting into homes, they may not have funds to improve areas after they move in.

How can a seller lift the appearance of their bathroom inexpensively and without pidgeonholing the buyer on color themes?

Lately, luxury vinyl plank flooring has been a great solution. Waterproof and warm to your bare feet, it is perfect for a bathroom. And the wood like designs make it very fashionable. The photo above is a style of LVP with a good amount of color variation. When you are selling a home, you don’t want to make definitive color statements. The LVP in the photo can go with virtually any color scheme a buyer would want. It’s not too gray and not too brown.

Another great inexpesive lift to an outdated bathroom are faucets. The faucet pictured above was an immediate win, replacing a single knob faucet that had a plastic piece on top that had dirt from decades before. Sure, you could clean or replace the plastic piece, but a fifty dollar faucet was a much better investment in getting a buyer excited about the home.

Listing your home with an agent that knows how to help you spend your improvement money wisely and economically is always best. When you are ready to list your home, get in touch with me for a no obligation consultation. Getting show ready may not be the immense undertaking you may fear.

High School Districts in Bristow & Gainesville are Changing Fall 2021

High School Districts in Bristow & Gainesville are Changing Fall 2021

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

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

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

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

HOA Documents in a Real Estate Transaction

HOA Documents in a Real Estate Transaction

Selling a home in a home owner’s association (HOA) in Virginia there are mandatory disclosures that a home owner must make regarding the HOA to their contracted buyer. Thankfully, most HOAs are well versed in what documents must be provided in a resale disclosure. Every HOA that I’ve had to work with on behalf of my sellers has had a prepackaged resale disclosure package with the most up to date budget, meeting minutes, insurance, covenants and bylaws. Of course, the most important part of the HOA resale package is something called a compliance inspection.

Though folks that live in an HOA controlled community will often hear of regularly scheduled property inspections throughout the community, they are usually not as thorough as a resale compliance inspection. The HOA is charged with making sure the property being inspected is in good standing with the HOA and there are no covenants violations. Such violations would transfer with the property and could be costly to the next owner.

Even in the Residential Sales Contract used in Northern Virginia, the title section of the contract states that sellers will comply with all notices of violation from many state and local authorities, to include HOAs. So when HOA violations are noted on the compliance inspection in the resale disclosure package, the seller is responsible for correcting them. Not correcting noted violations leaves the buyer with the right to void the contract at the settlement table as the violations can result in a cloud on the title. No seller should put themselves in that precarious position.

My advice to home owners who live in HOAs is simple:

  1. Apply for every exterior modification you have made in which the HOA must have a say and keep the approval letters.
  2. Maintain the exterior of your home by weeding flower beds, fixing wood rot, keeping up with faded shutter and front door paint, and make sure to wash away any mold, mildew or algae growth from your siding and roof.
  3. Make sure your mailbox is in good condition from numbers, to wood rot and paint.

Ordering HOA resale packages ahead of listing will also give the seller an idea of what they need to fix that may not be general maintenance. They can work on those matters prior to listing and get that much needed HOA violation abatement letter that clears a seller in the title paragraph of the contract.

Of course, hiring a listing agent familiar with how HOA violations, or non-delivery of a legitimate resale package, can affect your sale is imperative. If you are in the market to sell in Gainesville or Bristow, or the surrounding areas, get in touch with me and let’s figure out the best plan for you.

Seller’s Market Madness

Seller’s Market Madness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There has been talk among agents that the real estate market in Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties is starting to slow down. Oh how I wish those rumors had some basis in reality. The extreme buyer demand that has sellers cashing out at unbelievable prices, has left buyers waiving just about every conceivable contingency and reaching deep into their savings or retirement plans just to have a chance at purchasing. Still, this past Memorial Day weekend I had buyers offer $30,000 above a fairly optimistic list price on a home that had plenty of outdated decor, and waived all contingencies only to lose along with ten other buyers.

The week or so that the gas shortage was causing anxiety in Northern Virginia, presented a great opportunity for buyers to get out and see homes while others were afraid to burn the gas in their tank to see property. That window allowed one of my buyer-clients, a first-time buyer, an opportunity to get under contract without having to waive home inspection. He was even able to negotiate some closing cost help. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Maybe that was the weekend the rumors of the slowing market started.

Alas, it was only an abbreviated window of opportunity which was created entirely out of panic, not actual shortage of gas. To me, it was like having a snow storm in winter during a seller’s market. Others may sit out the conditions and wait for the snow to melt, but not me. Striking while other buyers are sitting it out is the only way to give some buyers the leg up.

What we may be starting to see in the Northern Virginia marketplace is the typical slow down as we welcome summer and vacations are top of mind. For the first time since I became an agent in 2005, last year (2020) there was no slow down in July and August. Pandemic lock downs made vacations impossible. That makes summer vacations in 2021 even more of a priority for many who missed them last year. I believe the term I heard in some news media was “revenge travel.”

No matter what may ease up the buyer demand, even temporarily, rest assured that if you are a seller in Prince William, Fairfax or Loudoun County, your home will still sell and for a top price if you take time to prepare it and hire a listing agent that will professionally market it. We can shed some buyer demand and still be in a seller’s market.

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