I am sure you have listened to it on the radio and television, read it on-line or in the newspaper, this Spring we are in a Seller’s Market!
What does that mean to you, as a Seller? Does it mean you plop a sign on the front lawn and start accepting contracts? Not hardly.
In Northern Virginia, we are short on inventory. Yet, we all know of houses that are sitting there unsold. How can that be?
First of all, not all price points are selling quite as quickly. Yes, there are buyers with pent-up demand, but that doesn’t mean they are in a hurry to buy. Sometimes, it means they are back in the game, but they are being very picky.
If you are listing your home, this new Seller’s market means that you need to do your homework. You need to get some advice on what needs to be done to make your home shine–and then do it!
You need to understand how to price your home competitively. That DOES NOT mean taking the last comp in your neighborhood and taking on $10-$20K. We are still struggling with appraisals. If your home does not appraise for the sales price, you will be back to the negotiating drawing board. You need to understand how an appraiser will value your home and price it accordingly. A lack of comps last winter is still making pricing difficult. If you price your home too high, it will likely languish. Often that results in a lower sales price than if you priced it accurately to start.
Finally, if you prepare your home well, set your price and you don’t see the traffic and/or a contract, you need to reevaluate your price. There is a price at which every home will be snapped up. If you push the upper boundaries, you may find that your house sits–and sits, and sits.
Pricing and preparation are key to selling your home quickly and for the most money. Don’t let reports of the ‘Seller’s Market,’ make you greedy. The fundamentals are still important!
If you are thinking of selling your home, I would be happy to sit down with you to create a plan to get your home sold quickly and for the most money possible.
If you are thinking of buying or selling a Northern Virginia home this Spring, you might want to gaze in a crystal ball to see what you can expect. Unfortunately, none of us knows where to find that magic crystal ball that will tell us what the Spring market will bring. Anecdotally, I can share with you a little bit of what I am seeing and how that might affect the local real estate market.
1. Inventory is historically low. Sellers are holding on to their homes. Besides making it difficult for buyers to find a new home, it is making it difficult for lenders to appraise the homes that are under contract–and possibly creating financing issues. If there are no comparable sales, it is difficult to determine if the contract value of a property is correct
2. Buyers have increased buying power. Interest rates continue to be historically low. The interest rate on your loan affects your monthly payment. Your monthly payment affects the amount of the loan you can qualify for. With lower interest rates comes greater buying power.
3. Competition exists between sellers. Unemployment remains low in our area and companies continue to transfer people to Northern Virginia. Add in the locals who want to move-up or downsize and we have a many people going after few homes. When you begin looking be sure you are serious, and ready to write a contract, otherwise you might lose out (time and time again). I am seeing escalation clauses in contracts.
4. Buyers need to prepare. Despite the lack of inventory, buyers are still reluctant to jump on houses that are not properly prepared. Remember, no Buyer wants to take on an issue that you aren’t willing to tackle. Examples of things that bug Buyers: deferred maintenance, no updates, rooms of wall paper, gross carpeting. This list is not complete…your listing agent can help you evaluate your home and help you to position it for a quick sale.
If I had a crystal ball, and obviously I do not, I would expect to see a busy Spring market, based on these conditions. The key to a robust 2013 Spring Market is a willingness for sellers to put their houses on the market. If the homeowners decide to stay put, the market for buyers will continue to be extremely competitive. Supply and demand drives prices; continued demand and limited supply will ultimately result in prices that continue to go up in Northern Virginia.
If you want advice on buying, selling or other real estate related subjects, call me. I would love to assist you in buying or selling a home this spring!
If one of your financial goals in 2013 is the purchase of a new Northern Virginia home, it is important that you begin preparing now. I am certainly no fortune teller, but inventory in Northern Virginia has been tight, so I suspect that there may be a bigger inventory from which to select from this Spring (I sure hope so). Over the past several years, sellers have been reluctant to list their homes, fearing that values had not returned. Consumer confidence, at least in Northern Virginia, is up, so more sellers may be ready to make their move. If you are a buyer, this is great news!
The NOVA market has shifted from a buyer’s market to something leaning more toward a seller’s market. That doesn’t mean that buyer’s should stay away–interest rates still make this a really great time to buy. It means, however, that an unprepared buyer will be one who won’t end up with a new home. But there are things you can do to get ready to buy. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare to purchase a new home.
1. Select a Buyer’s Agent. Gone are the days when you will get a better deal by working with the listing agent. A Buyer’s Agent can help you negotiate for the best deal by being familiar with current market conditions, current inventory and nuances of both. Home Buyer Resources is a great place to help you find a Buyer Agent.
2. Clean up your credit. I know you are tired of hearing that you should pull your credit report and review it, but you really must if you are going to buy a new home. You are entitled to run your credit report for free once a year. The site that the big three credit reporting comanies have set up to facilitate this is: annualcreditreport.com. Once you have pulled the report, make sure that it is accurate. You are responsible for identifying and correcting errors on your credit report. It can be time consuming, so the earlier you do this the better.
3. Understand your financial position. Make an appointment to talk to several loan officers. One of my favorite sayings is ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’ This is really accurate when applied to purchasing power. The job of a loan officer is to tell you what you are qualified to spend. It is your job to decide what you actually want to spend. Make sure you don’t get in over your head, by buying more than you WANT to afford. A good loan officer will help you understand exactly what your income and assets will give you in purchasing power. Meeting with a loan officer and being pre-approved is a must in the competitive Northern Virginia real estate market!
4. Identify your ‘wish list.’ This is where you need to really think about how you would like to live. Would you rather pay more to commute less? Rather have some land and a longer drive? How about privacy versus an open floor plan? Think about how you picture yourself living and start to create your wish list.
5. Clarify your ‘must have’ list. There are the things we wish for and there are the things we must have. If you are leaving your one bedroom apartment because you need a separate office, then your must have is a two bedroom or one bedroom/den. You may have a dog and believe that a yard is a must. A houseful of children might require that you buy a home with a second living space for the toys. Be very clear here on where you cannot compromise.
6. Begin by looking on-line. Work with your agent to start looking at listings on-line. Have them send you listings that meet your must-have list and hit some of the things on your wish list. Start refining your areas of interest and your lists. The more you look around, the better idea you will have about what your money will buy.
7. Get out and drive around. Get out and look at the neighborhoods that seem to have houses that meet most of your needs. Make sure you like the area and amenities. It is one thing to read about an area, or see it on line, but there is no substitute for seeing it in person.
8. Begin looking at properties. Once you have chosen some areas of interest, head out with your Buyer’s Agent to see some properties. I usually like to choose a representation in a couple of the favored neighborhoods. Once we have looked a couple of homes, we can see if the area will remain on the list.
9. Revise your list. Keep in mind that things will begin shifting on your Wish List and Must Have List as you see more homes. You may decide to get rid of an area that used to be at the top of your list. That is okay…it is all part of the process.
10. Buy your new home. Believe it or not, eventually, you will walk into a house and know that it is the one! If everything goes right, it will be yours.
Unfortunately, sometimes a buyer will lose out on a house because they are not quite ready to write a contract. Following these 10 steps and being ready to buy before you walk into your first showing will ensure that you are in the best possible position to make an offer, if the house is right.
If your plans for 2013 include the purchase of a new Northern Virginia home, give me a call and find out how my background as a Buyer’s Agent can help you buy your new house!
Every New Years brings new resolutions. It is the time of year when many think that it is finally time to make a change. That change is often a new home.
But before you buy, you often have to sell. Preparing your house for sale can be daunting, but here are 10 tips to get you moving toward a quick sale and your new home!
1. Check out the street view. Buyers have often made a split decision about your home by the time they get out of the car. Clean out your scrubby landscaping, mulch the beds, make sure the trees are trimmed away from the doors and windows and that the trim is in good condition and painted.
2. Front doors welcome them in. After the street view, the front door is the next most important part of forming a positive impression of your home. Make sure it is freshly painted, replace the mat, keep the porch swept and, if appropriate for your climate, add some fresh flowers or plants.
3. Clear out the clutter. Go through each room and remove personal photos and collectibles. Just having cleared those items out, your house will look bigger! It also allows buyers to focus on the rooms, rather than trying to figure out information about the seller (which is irrelevant to the sale).
4. Move out extra furniture. The longer you stay in your house, the more extraneous furniture seems to collect. If you will need it in your new home, consider renting a storage unit. If you just have it–and don’t need it– donate it.
5. Clean off the counters. If you want your kitchen to look big and functional, the easiest thing you can do is clear off the counters. Keep only the most essential items on the counter.
6. Clean out the hall closet. It is every buyer’s fantasy to actually use the hall closet for guest’s coats. Don’t disappoint them! Clean out the closet, leaving only a couple of coats behind.
7. Toss the Broken items. If you have a whole house humidifier that doesn’t work, have it un-installed. Same goes for a broken ceiling fan or garage refrigerator. If an broken item remains in the house, you will likely be asked to have it fixed following the home inspection. Get it out, or list it for sale ‘as-is.’
8. Clean out the junk drawer. If you attack one drawer a day, you will have them cleaned out in no time (and, yes, most people have more than one junk drawer). Buyers WILL open your drawers…give them clean, organized drawers to admire.
9. Spruce up the bathrooms. Shop the discount stores and buy new shower curtains and accessories. Don’t forget to check the grout and caulk to make sure it is in great shape.
10. Organize the storage spaces. If you rent a storage space, you can move out some of the less frequently needed items. If that is not an option, make sure your storage is neatly organized. Use large rubber containers for a unified look (they also make moving easier). I often label them with my label maker or masking tape, for easy identification.
I hope these tips help you get started with your listing preparation. If you are selling a Northern Virginia home, please call me and we can sit down and discuss my personalized marketing plan.
The day after Thanksgiving is the traditional kick-off to the holidays at Reston Town Center. For 2012, the events will begin on November 23 at 8:00 a.m.
For ‘Black Friday,’ shoppers, the stores will open at 8:00 a.m. Get your shopping done and meet up with the rest of the family for the Holiday Parade at 11:00 a.m. Have lunch after the parade and then stick around for visits with Santa, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and the tree lighting at 6:00 p.m.
The schedule of events for the day include:
8 am – Stores Open
8 am – Gingerbread Man Mile (for kids!)
9 am – Ice Skating opens at the Pavilion
11 am – Reston Holiday Parade, sponsored by RCC & RTCA
12:30 pm – Visits & Photos with Santa
6 pm – Tree Lighting and Sing Along
6:30 – Carriage Rides
Stop by all day long at the Hyatt and enjoy the Gingerbread Village.
Part of the ongoing events at the Ice Skating Pavilion, Friday night will feature the Rock ‘n’ Skate from 8:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.
For the past several years, the real estate market has been unpredictable. It felt like every year, and every season, things were just a little different than before. There was no ‘typical.’
This Spring marked a return to the ‘new normal.’ Buyers came out in droves in the Spring. Well-prepared and well-priced homes received competitive bids, lenders weren’t holding the money so tightly that buyers couldn’t get loans, and things were getting to closing on time.
I like to look at each ‘season,’ in retrospect. There were definitely were some lessons to be learned from this year’s market:
1. Appraisals matter and they aren’t a ‘given.’ I show up, provide my comps and justifications and let appraisers know how we reached our price. The only listing I had that didn’t appraise this year was the only contract without an appraisal contingency.There were just no comps to support a price that everyone agreed was fair. It still happens that homes don’t appraise for the sales contract price; Realtors must do their homework as they establish prices. The good news is that this property has now established a new baseline.
2. Surveys and property lines matter! If you are doing any work on your property, don’t pour cement or build a fence or structure without knowing your property lines. The neighbor at one of my listings had to correct a very expensive hard-scape mistake just days before closing. Spend the money to get your property staked before you pour!
3. With the right lender, quick closings are possible! One of my listings closed in 20 days–from contract to close. The property was vacant, which obviously helped, but the lender (Wells Fargo) got the loan done and every party did their part. It was a whirlwind, but it was worth it.
4. Follow the paper trail. One of my clients bought a property with the intent of installing an in-ground pool. We closed and they submitted the paperwork to the county for permits. All of the sudden a tree-save was identified on their property and the project was stopped. With careful follow-up, my client found out that the tree-save had been removed before the subdivision was developed and, today, they have a lovely in-ground pool. If something doesn’t sound right, it might not be…don’t give up, follow the paper trail!
5. Little things count. Two years ago, I met a young couple at a cocktail party. As the evening wore down, they mentioned that they would be selling their home in a couple of years. When I got home, I dropped them a note. I let them know how much I enjoyed meeting them and sent them my card, saying I would love to talk to them if they ever decided to sell. They called this summer, I listed the home, we sold it in a weekend and they are in their new home. If I hadn’t followed up, they might never have reached out to me. A handwritten note is a little thing that can have a huge impact.
I don’t know how long it will be before we can feel like we can predict how a year in Real Estate will evolve. Those days might be past. I do know that every year, and every transaction, gives us a chance to learn new lessons and remember those we have learned in the past.
Some will tell you it doesn’t matter how long a property is on the market; the strength of the market is the indicator of the sales price NOT the ‘Days on Market.’ But most Realtors will tell you that the first two weeks is usually the best time to sell your home for the most money. Interest is high in new listings. Buyers feel competitive. As a seller, you would do yourself a favor to position your home to sell in this brief window.
What are some things you can do to minimize your DAYS ON MARKET? Here are 10 ideas:
1. Clean up & throw out: You are moving. Get the junk out of there! A storage unit, a relative’s basement, the trash truck and the local charity are all great places to send your stuff.
2. Prune your trees: If prospective buyers can’t see your house, they aren’t going to stop to see it.
3. Make it available: While it is tempting to make your listing, ‘by appointment only,’ try not to. If you must have notice, try a 1 hour courtesy call.
4. Clear out: Whether you are selling your home yourself or listing it with a Realtor, it is best for you to leave the house during showings. You may feel like you can provide additional information, but sometimes what you see as a positive, can draw attention to a negative.
5. Pamper your pets: This is the time to take them for long walks or register them in doggy-day-care. Buyers prefer to view houses without friendly dogs following them about or angry, crated dogs barking.
6. Go out to eat! Food smells are a turn-off, so use this time to check out local restaurants, take a picnic basket to a local park, or eat carry-out on the back deck.
7. Grab the paint brush: Touch up the high traffic areas, the front door and the visible interior and exterior trim. If the whole house is looking dingy, it will be worth taking a weekend and some paint and getting the whole house freshened up.
8. Caulking and grouting: Whether or not you are diligent with your home maintenance, now is the time to replace all the old caulk and re-skim your grout. It is cheap to do and gives the impression of a well-maintained home.
9. Plant some flowers: You might think annuals are a waste of money, but they warm-up a front entrance and can distract from a lot of other yard issues.
10. D-I-Y Front Door Make Over: It is time for a Do-It-Yourself makeover! Spend some time and money on a new front door mat, new plant pots, pretty annuals, clean-out the spider webs, sweep off the porch and generally make your entrance warm and inviting.
There are many, many more things that go into getting a quick home sale, but if you start with these 10 items, you will be well on your way to showing your home to its best advantage–and hopefully getting a quick sale!
I recently wrote a blog entitled, Northern Virginia Real Estate Market is STRONG. Everything thing that I have seen over the past couple of months would indicate that, here in Fairfax County, we have pretty much recovered from the bursting of the real estate bubble.
Sellers might not agree if they consider the prices at the height of the market as their previous value. Most practitioners will tell you, however, that the prices in the 2004 time frame more accurately reflected home values. I think most homeowners will find that their Fairfax County homes are close to those 2004 price points.
The Washington Post ran an article today by Ken Harney, House hunters in many areas are finding it’s no longer a buyer’s market. While the article addresses markets around the country, it specifies that in Washington D.C. and the suburbs, the number of listings are down by 28%. Basic college econ taught us all that increased demand and reduced supply will cause prices to go up. We are seeing both conditions in the local market.
If you are a buyer, and have waited on the side-lines, all is not lost! Home prices are not inflated; they reflect supply and demand here in the area. The bonus will be the interest rates, which are significantly lower than in 2004! This is not the time to go in making low-ball offers and with a list of demands. Frankly, most sellers can move on to the next contract. Just put your best foot forward and be prepared to pay market value.
This doesn’t mean, either, that sellers are back on top. Finally, I think I see something approaching equilibrium between buyers and sellers. We are back to negotiations in which each party must compromise to reach a deal that works for both.
As a Realtor, and a homeowner, it is pretty great place to be!
Exquisite Custom Build Estate Home in Great Falls, Virginia
Located in the lovely Great Falls neighborhood of The Estates at Longwood, nothing has been overlooked in this southern-style estate home. From the moment you enter this elegantly appointed custom built home, you will know that it is special. Yet, for all its sophistication and top of the line appointments, this home is warm, comfortable, and inviting. With nearly 9000 square feet of living area, on nearly two acres, it is spacious enough for grand-scale entertaining, but designed for easy day-to-day living. The gorgeous gourmet kitchen is a cook’s dream with a Viking and Subzero appliances, a huge island, a generous desk area, and an enormous breakfast room. The family room, the center of any home, adjoins the kitchen and features a beautiful coffered ceiling, built-ins and masonry gas fireplace. The dining room and living room each boast a masonry fireplace (with custom mantles) and the dining table is topped by a gorgeous 16 arm chadalier. The backyard is a haven from daily life with a two-tiered deck, a beautiful swimming pool, and a fenced in yard ,with plentiful hardscaping and landscaping. Located in the Langley High School Pyramid, this beautiful home is close to so much, yet so private. Offered at $2,195,000.