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Ask McEnearney: Who’s scurrying behind the real estate scene at holiday time?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Ann Duff of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Who’s scurrying behind the real estate scene at holiday time?

Answer: Behind the scenes, the elves are at work…

Holidays are “down time,” when the joys of family, traditions and worship can gently wash over everyone. But if you are not the clone of a Hallmark movie character, not swimming in eggnog or not on vacation, you might just be working in the real estate world, behind the scenes.

The world doesn’t stop between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day; in fact, many real estate settlements occur in those 5 weeks. Instead of reindeer hooves on the rooftops, you might just hear closing clerks clomping up the courthouse steps to make a deadline before it closes for several days. Not everything is electronically processed, there are real humans involved and, alas, humans are not perfect (except those of us reading this!)

A. If you are the Buyer, your POD is full to bursting, you are “in discussion” with the city because your move-in date is the same as the holiday parade with Santa and your new home is smack-dab in the middle of the route. You have used up all of your vacation days to accomplish your packing, but the tenants in the new property have gone traveling and won’t be back in time to move their boxes and clean. The 401K disbursement allowable for a house purchase is threatening to be delayed.

B. If you are the Seller, you have committed the proceeds from the sale to the purchase of beach front property two states away. Or maybe you have pledged the funds to your financial advisor to cover stock purchases or retirement investments, or need to send a big ol’ check to the Federal government to cover taxes before the end of the year. You are desperately trying to track down those tenants, see above.

C. If you are the Settlement Agent, you are suddenly hit with last-minute title problems which appear with no one to be found in the city or county offices. Maybe the survey just arrived and the rear boundary goes right through the neighbor’s playhouse, or the fences are wildly off kilter and don’t match the deed. A mystery heir has appeared during the title search and must be found ASAP.

And for everyone else, it is going to snow and Santa will visit on time! However, you can’t make this stuff up — from past years we have stories of PODs stuck in the snow, wired funds being held up in the Federal banking transfer system, power outages, and overseas scammers trying to get monies diverted using last-minute “we’ve changed the wiring instructions” emails — YIKES.

(By the way, this year Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington recordation offices are closed December 23 and 26 and January 2, with District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s closures on December 26 and January 2.) Not to be overlooked, Sellers, if you have an FHA loan on your house and the sale is not officially RECORDED before the last day of the month, you will owe interest for the entire next month — worth $$ to watch those calendar dates and settle a bit early!

For A, B and C above, we, including Realtors, can fix almost everything with awareness, doses of patience (and wine) and ample contingency plans by carefully working together. We will find those emergency cleaners. We will have chosen lenders who will stand on their heads to make paperwork happen on time. We will make sure the movers are the best of the best, able to climb over snow drifts (I know I did). We will ZOOM, call, text and work every communication angle, short of smoke signals, to make certain everyone is on the same page and calendar with the same urgency and positive attitude.

Maybe, we’ll laugh about it all after the fact, when finally nestled all snug in our beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. With worries aside, we’ll be ready for a peaceful New Year. Big thanks go to all of the elves in our lives — from the settlement agents, government clerks to the poll volunteers and the generous bell ringers, food bank staffers, kind neighbors, smiling strangers, and the community of friends we cherish. On to a glorious 2023…

These thoughts and years of experience are brought to you by Ann Duff, Realtor, with McEnearney Associates. Based in Alexandria, Ann is busy day-in and day-out in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, listing, selling, and leasing distinctive properties with and for wonderful people — and all with a splash of fun! Let’s Get Busy… contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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