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This week’s Q&A column is written by David Howell, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact David at 703-738-9513 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Is the number of home sale contracts in Alexandria City closer to normal levels this year than in 2020?

Answer: In August we wrote about our mid-year Market Report, which takes a look at closed sales in Alexandria City for the first half of 2021 compared to the same months of 2020. As expected, there were substantial improvements this year compared to the peak months of shutdowns and isolation due to COVID. But 2020 was definitely not a normal year as far as traditional spring and summer markets are concerned, so this week we decided to go a little further back and compare contract activity for this year with both 2020 and 2019, which was a more “normal” year for Alexandria real estate.

For the past three years, overall contract activity for the first eight months of each year breaks down as follows:

  • 2019 had 1,824 contracts
  • 2020 had 1,873 contracts
  • 2021 had 2,256 contracts

As the first two charts below show, those strong numbers for 2021 bear out for each price category and property type (condo, attached and detached homes). The third chart looks at contracts by month and demonstrates that this year mirrors 2019 with more activity during the spring months and a bit quieter in July and August. COVID was a major disrupter to that typical spring and summer cycle last year. (Source: BrightMLS. Data deemed reliable but not guaranteed.)

In August we included the following thoughts about what’s ahead for the second half of the year. We look forward to a strong fall market!

  • We expect buying activity to continue to improve — modestly — through the rest of the year.
  • While the abundance of condo inventory will gradually be absorbed, there will continue to be relative bargains available to the purchasers of smaller units.
  • Continuing a trend from the last couple of months, there will be marginally more new listings coming on the market than homes going under contract. That will gradually begin to ease the very tight supply of attached and detached homes.
  • Based on our own projections and the BrightMLS forward-looking Home Demand Index, almost every area of the city will be in the “high demand” category, signaling a healthy second half of the year.
  • The area with the highest demand will likely be the West End.
  • By price range, we will likely see detached homes priced between $700,000 and $1,250,000 continue to be exceptionally strong. For attached homes, the hottest price range will be $500,000 to $1,000,000. In both cases, these will be what we consider “extreme” seller’s markets.
  • For condos, the hottest part of the market will be for units priced between $500,000 and $800,000, but that price range will not be as strong as the market for attached and detached homes.

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.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Lisa Groover of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Lisa at 703-919-4426 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What updates should I consider if I’m thinking about selling my home in a year?

Answer: This is a frequently asked question and one I am happy to address here. It is also a service I provide to my friends, neighbors and potential clients on a regular basis.

Start at the street, remembering that you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Does your home have curb appeal? Based upon the condition of the outside, would a buyer be motivated to check out the inside? Or do you need to think about painting, enhanced landscaping, new front door hardware or gutters? Is the driveway or sidewalk cracked? Does the fence need to be repaired or power-washed and stained? How old is your roof? (All buyers ask this question!)

Take a look at the photos of recent sales in your neighborhood to identify what the sellers did to get ready for market. Then walk through your house room by room to make a list of what types of repairs and/or upgrades would best showcase the features of your own home.

Because you have time before you are seriously thinking about selling, you can spread the updates and budget over a period of time. So many people wait until they are about to sell their house to make changes, and then wish they had been able to enjoy them earlier.

Consider the condition and age of your floors, walls, light fixtures, countertops, cabinets, bathrooms, and appliances and systems like the A/C, furnace, and hot water heater. Once you have your list, determine the priorities based upon your budget, keeping in mind that there are ways to update without a full remodel.

Unless you are planning to sell your house “as-is,” meaning you are not going to make any repairs or replace any of the mechanicals, buyers may pass on a purchase that will require a new HVAC system or roof or a home that has previous water damage. Fix those things upfront rather than waiting until a home inspection creates an opportunity for your buyers to void the contract.

Keep in mind that fresh paint is the least expensive way to make a big impact. I have a lime green kitchen, hot pink bathroom, and orange accent walls in addition to my collection of colorful contemporary art. I love the look, but I know that the colors will be distracting to buyers when the time comes. Although I have no intention of selling, I just had all of my hardwoods refinished, added new light fixtures and ordered some new furniture. I am also painting the walls white and moving my artwork around for a fresh new look to a home that I have lived in for almost 24 years.

Keep in mind that your goal when selling your home is to provide the potential buyers the opportunity to picture their own furniture and accessories in the space — not to worry about what they need to fix or replace. Take a step back, keep an open mind and consider bringing in a professional to make some suggestions.

Whether you are thinking of buying or selling — or just need suggestions for updating your home — I am happy to provide ideas or recommend contractors for your specific projects. I am a resource for the duration of homeownership, not just the buying or selling process. Feel free to reach out anytime!

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA. As an active member of the community since 1989, Lisa specializes in Alexandria and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with her friends, neighbors, former clients and their referrals.

In addition to enjoying the Old Town lifestyle and the art-related events and activities, she is a member of a number of volunteer organizations. Having had eight Golden Retrievers, she is dedicated to helping other dog owners through the challenges of renting, buying and selling their home.

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. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria 

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Kim Peele and Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How much is my home worth?

Answer: Whether you just bought your home or you have owned it for years, it’s always fun to keep up with the current value and to see how your investment has appreciated.

As interesting as it is to see the recent sales and speculate your home’s worth, it’s important to note that many homeowners get a false idea of value by looking at online sites and other assessments. While those sources offer estimates of home value, most of them are not accurate and are just very rough approximate values. This is fine if you are not planning to sell anytime soon. However, it is super important to know the correct value range when it’s time to put your home on the market.

Your most important resource for a true value assessment of your home will be an experienced professional Realtor.

First, let’s talk about where homeowners tend to find information on home values. Everyone gets a city or county tax bill, which includes an assessment of value. The tax assessed value can be much lower or much higher than what your home would actually sell for on the open market. In most cases, an assessor has never seen the inside of your property. They use a software program based on sales data and a rough comparison of property features. Their goal is to provide a tax bill for town revenues, and they are not purporting to be an accurate source of value.

Another popular, yet misleading, source of home data is online valuation sites. Zillow is the main one that homeowners cite when discussing value. However, as with most of the online sources, Zillow gets its information from a combination of county websites, user input and recent sales. They publish their margin for error on their website, and in many cases, the error range can be significant. For instance, in Arlington County, Zillow lists the median error rate as 2.5%, so their valuation of a $1 million home is likely to be off by $25,000 or more. In other areas, the error rate is even higher. To view the Zillow margins for error in Virginia, check out Virginia Data Coverage and Zestimate Accuracy.

Another frequently used source of value is the neighborhood grapevine. Your neighbor sold their home, had multiple offers and it sold for well above list price. You think that your home is better than their home, and therefore, you decide that your home value is even higher. Unfortunately, unless you are planning on listing your home within a few weeks of your neighbor’s sale, this data can be unreliable. The real estate market can change drastically in just a short period of time, and it is important to look at not only comparable sales, but also the most recent ones. And, of course, the ages of the roof, HVAC, windows and other features must be accounted for in a value calculation.

So, as you can see, county assessments, online sites and neighbors are frequently used unofficial sources of home value. It’s fine to keep tabs on the market using these sources if you just want a general idea of value, but when the time comes to get serious about selling your home, it’s time to drill down into the details to determine value.

When the time comes to sell your home, what do you do to determine a good list price?

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This week’s Q&A column is written by David Howell, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact David at 703-738-9513 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Are there benefits to listing my home on the MLS vs. selling it privately?

Answer: In today’s hot real estate market, some sellers may be tempted to sell their home privately, though a private sale does not include full exposure to the market through the multiple listing service (MLS), the internet, and the thousands of agents and brokerage companies who work in this region. We’ve heard a number of possible reasons for wanting to do so, including convenience, privacy and security.

At McEnearney Associates, we believe homeowners have the right to make that decision. We also believe that it is crucial to be informed, and sellers should fully understand the implications of listing privately when making their decision. The simple fact of the matter is — regardless of the listing company — sellers almost always benefit from full market exposure, and the data validate our conviction.

BrightMLS, our regional multiple listing service, recently completed a two-year study looking at almost a half-million sales and analyzing the results of “off-market” sales vs. those sold through the MLS. To help ensure objectivity, the study was guided and validated by two Ph.D. economists who have no ties to the MLS. The results are conclusive.

The study showed sale records of homes that were sold through the Multiple Listing Service and promoted to the entire BrightMLS network of 95,000 real estate professionals, concluding that these homes sold for higher prices than homes sold off the Multiple Listing Service. The median sales price for homes sold on-MLS was 16.98% higher than homes sold off-MLS. Similar results are demonstrated across BrightMLS’s three major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

As a subset of off-MLS sales, Bright analyzed “private sales,” which are defined as office exclusive listings promoted only within a brokerage office or company. Those office exclusives make up a small percentage of transactions, and nearly two-thirds (63%) ultimately end up not selling off-market and are instead promoted through the MLS. Like the findings from all off-MLS sales, homes marketed on the MLS sold for a median sales price of 16.84% more than those marketed through office exclusive arrangements. Additionally, those office-exclusive listings typically took longer to sell: Homes entered into the MLS from the start went under contract faster than properties that started as an office exclusive and were later marketed on the MLS.

It’s stunning that the results are so similar and so compelling.

Now, doesn’t this stand to reason? No individual agent or company has access to all of the buyers or even the majority of the buyers. Thus, in a time of record-low inventory, does it make economic sense to artificially restrict the number of buyers who could be interested in a property? To intentionally curb the demand side of the supply and demand equation?

Furthermore, we believe it is in the best interests of our clients to provide all qualified buyers equal access to all homes on the market, not only to protect equal housing opportunities but to ensure that they maximize the value of the investment in their property.

We’ll leave you with the following two questions:

  1. Is almost 17% a big price to pay for the perceived “convenience” of selling off-market?
  2. Who benefits most from an off-market sale — the seller or the listing company?

Read the full Bright On/Off MLS Study on our 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. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is written by David Howell, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact David at 703-738-9513 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How did the real estate market for the first half of 2021 compare with 2020?

Answer: The City of Alexandria’s real estate market saw substantial improvement in the first half of 2021, but it would have been stunning had it turned out any other way given the doldrums of the COVID market during the spring of 2020.

Source: BrightMLS (data deemed reliable but not guaranteed)

Attached homes fared best, with a 52% increase in the number of units sold, and those homes sold in an average of just 16 days and for almost 1% above list price. Detached homes sold in an average of 21 days and slightly above list price. Condos, on the other hand, took almost twice as long to sell as attached homes.

The reason for the big difference in the time on the market boils down to one word: inventory. On average, there were more than twice as many condos on the market in Alexandria as the same time last year, and for smaller studio and one-bedroom units, there was triple the inventory.

Historically, condos make up about 40% of all the homes on the market at any given time in Alexandria, but during the first half of the year condos made up close to 60% of all homes on the market. That meant that buyers had plenty of choices and there was no rush to purchase.

And one other item of note: the 12% increase in the average sold price of condos is both mathematically accurate and a bit misleading. A smaller proportion of less expensive condos sold compared to larger, more expensive units, and that fact alone skewed the average price higher.

What’s ahead for the second half of the year?

It’s important to point out the first half of last year was the aberration, with a significant drop in activity due to COVID. While the rebound in the market is encouraging, in many respects it represents a return to more normal levels of buying activity. As one example, there were just as many detached homes that sold in the first half of 2017 as the first half of this year. The market looks and feels hotter because of the lack of inventory for attached and detached homes.

  • We expect buying activity to continue to improve — modestly — through the rest of the year.
  • While the abundance of condo inventory will gradually be absorbed, there will continue to be relative bargains available to purchasers of smaller units.
  • Continuing a trend from the last couple of months, there will be marginally more new listings coming on the market than homes going under contract. That will gradually begin to ease the very tight supply of attached and detached homes.
  • Based on our own projections and the BrightMLS forward-looking Home Demand Index, almost every area of the City will be in the “high demand” category, signaling a healthy second half of the year.
  • The area with the highest demand will likely be the West End.
  • By price range, we will likely see detached homes priced between $700,000 and $1,250,000 continue to be exceptionally strong. For attached homes, the hottest price range will be $500,000 to $1,000,000. In both cases, these will be what we consider “extreme” seller’s markets.
  • For condos, the hottest part of the market will be for units priced between $500,000 and $800,000, but that price range will not be as strong as the market for attached and detached homes.

Read our full mid-year Market Report online for more data on Alexandria City, as well as Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Kathy Hassett, a partner with the MPH Home Team. MPH is with McEnearney Associates Realtors, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Kathy at 703-863-1546 or email her at [email protected] You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What is home staging?

Answer: Staging is preparing a home for market by furnishing and decorating it specifically to attract potential buyers. Through the use of furniture and accessories, staging helps buyers envision how the space can best be used and makes the property appealing. It puts the home in its best possible light by accenting the home’s positive features and helping enhance the flow of the rooms.

Will the stager use the seller’s furniture or bring in furniture?

There are many different approaches to staging, depending on whether or not the seller has moved out of the property. In a vacant home, a stager will bring in furnishings, rugs and accessories. This is the most effective approach because the stager is working with a “clean slate” and is able to create a home atmosphere appealing to buyers with on-trend items that the stager has preselected just for that purpose.

A stager may also work in a home still occupied by the seller and use the seller’s furnishings. In this situation, the stager first goes through the home with the seller, removing and packing up as much of the seller’s belongings as possible. Off-season items, personal photographs, collections and infrequently used items are some examples of what is packed away. If there are packed items that the seller needs to use on a daily basis, the stager will ensure those items are accessible. Once the home is cleared out of excess items, the stager will rearrange furniture, rugs, window treatments and lighting to enhance the home’s atmosphere. Frequently, additional items are brought in from the stager’s inventory of furnishings to round out what is in the home and complete the staging effect.

Is the entire house staged or only certain rooms?

It depends on the size of the property and the staging budget. Standard rooms to stage are usually the living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, primary bedroom and a bathroom. The secondary bedrooms do not need to be staged unless one is to be staged as a home office. With everyone working from home in the last year, a home office is now also standard for home staging. Even if it is not a separate room, having a dedicated space for a desk and work area is an important feature.

Staging outdoor space is now popular as well. Outdoor spaces do not have to be full kitchens or outdoor wet bars as seen in luxury magazines and home television shows. Showcasing a patio off the kitchen with a table and chairs as an alternative dining area or highlighting a fire pit with Adirondack chairs in either the front or backyard as a gathering spot is appealing to buyers who value having that additional living space at their home.

How much does staging cost and what are the benefits to the seller?

Prices for staging vary widely in Northern Virginia depending on the company and services being used. On the lowest end, a staging consultation may cost several hundred dollars for a few hours of advice. For full service, a vacant home that has staging in the living room, dining room, primary bedroom and bathroom, home office, family room, and patio will cost approximately $3,500 to $5,000 for the first 30 days. Renewing for a second month will usually be slightly less.

Staging offers big benefits for the seller, including a higher sales price and fewer days on the market on average. Research shows that staged homes sell for 20% more than homes not staged, and they sell 88% faster than homes not staged. The seller must be willing to invest in the staging costs at the time of listing or be willing to pack up most of their personal belongings to realize these benefits.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Kim Peele and Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What exactly does a backup offer mean, and do they even work?

Answer: So glad you asked! There was a time when backup offers were rarely used or even talked about. Once a home is under contract, it did not seem likely it would come back on the market, so it was seen as a waste of time to put in a backup offer. However, in the past year, we have seen a resurgence in the use of backup offers, and sometimes they are actually successful! We recently had a buyer win the home of their dreams with a backup offer after losing the home in a bidding war less than a week prior.

This past year has been a tough market for buyers due to low inventory, and a huge number of buyers searching through a very limited supply of housing. It’s just been super competitive to get a home! In some areas of Northern Virginia and D.C., you can count on multiple offers, sometimes 10 or more. It can be stressful to look at homes, find one that you love and lose out. Due to this bidding frenzy, we’ve been seeing that sometimes buyers will move fast, make a quick decision to bid on a home, win with a high offer, and immediately have buyer’s remorse and cancel the contract.

Buyers in HOA or condo communities have three days to review the community association documents and decide whether to stay in the deal. They can cancel with no penalty and no explanation within that three-day period. Some buyers consider this a safety net if they have some hesitation about whether they really want the home. They offer big, win out over everyone else, and then try to decide if they really want it or not. This is not a strategy that we recommend — nor is it fair to sellers or all the other buyers — but we are seeing it happen more often lately.

Side note: A good listing agent will have those documents available prior to going on the market and deliver them immediately so that the three-day period happens fast, and all parties can move forward quickly.

Some other reasons that the first buyer may cancel are home inspection or financing contingencies. Including a home inspection allows them to cancel with little reason, even if the home inspection did not uncover anything major. And another reason that contracts fall apart is that the buyer does not get their financing, maybe due to a job loss or something on their record that gets in the way of finalizing a loan. So between loopholes for buyers with a change of heart and other hiccups, homes do go back on market. That’s where a backup offer can be a wonderful thing.

How does a backup offer work?

A backup offer is a promise to the seller that you will buy the home if the primary contract falls through. An addendum simply gets added to your offer, and all parties agree that if the first contract gets canceled, your offer will then become the primary contract and you will settle within a specific timeframe. You can even state that the earnest money deposit is not due until the backup offer becomes the primary contract.

Backup offers also give sellers the comfort of knowing that they will not have to put their home back on the market if the offer in hand falls through. Sellers also like backup offers because it can give them leverage with the first contract if they are giving them pushback on anything, so it does not always help your position, but sometimes it does.

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This week’s Q&A column is written by Sallie Seiy of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Sallie at 703-798-4666 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How do I make sure our next move isn’t too stressful for our dog?

Answer: We’re in the Dog Days of Summer. Even in this heat, a dog’s love is never wavering. Mine have certainly made my life whole and have made my home a happy (albeit 80% chaotic) place! I moved earlier this year, and it’s taken quite a bit of time for my dogs to adjust.

Whether you are a new or seasoned homeowner, the stress of moving is always there. That stress doesn’t go unnoticed by your four-legged family members. In preparation for National Dog Day (Aug. 26), I wanted to provide you a few tips for making a move a little less overwhelming for you and your dog(s).

Bring in moving supplies early on. Make a couple of boxes and leave them out for your pup to start to sniff and recognize. When I moved, I threw a few treats into an empty box to make the “intruder” more friendly and fun! In my experience, dogs can get anxious with the new scent, schedule and disruption to their space. Prepping them with enough time can make the amount of time you have left in your current place more enjoyable.

Head over your new neighborhood and walk around. Let your dog get used to the new smells and sounds. And, hopefully, meet a new neighbor or two! It’s less overwhelming to them if they can sniff out the new spot and then return home to their comfort zone. It will make the transition of moving that much easier.

Update your vet records and change your address on your dog’s microchip (if applicable). In case your pup is the wandering kind, it would be a good idea to tell your vet the new address sooner rather than later. If you’re looking for vet recommendations for your new neighborhood, check out the local Nextdoor page, or you may find a neighborhood pet page on Facebook.

Organize a playdate or make a doggy daycare appointment on the day of the move. Less stress and your dog can have fun! They’ll also be really tired when they go to the new place.

Set up your pup’s own special space in the new house before bringing them home. Make their crate or put together their special spot with all their favorite blankets, toys, and maybe even a treat or two.

Stick with some of your original, familiar furniture. Even though you may need a new sofa or a new chair, it’ll help your dog — and your wallet — feel more at ease.

Keep the routine. When you move to the new home, try to stick to the same times of feeding and walking. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t sleep well, aren’t eating or just aren’t feeling their regular self. It’s a lot to adjust to!

If you and your pup are looking to make a move, please give me a call!

As a fifth generation Realtor and the granddaughter of an architect and builder, Sallie has deep roots in real estate. She is passionate for the charm, history and architecture of Alexandria and its surrounding communities. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Sallie today at 703-798-4666 or visit her website SallieSeiy.com.

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. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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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: Can I avoid losing thou$and$ of dollar$?

Answer: Now, that I have your attention… it will not surprise you to know “the devil and the angels are in the details,” and you must keep your guard up during any transaction, especially in real estate.

Maybe my own experiences from just this past week can explain.

  • The lender forgot to add in buyers’ front foot MD tax fees, so the numbers were off by $1,000; we had to chase him down late on Friday night, so my sellers could remove their financing contingency for their out-of-state purchase today!
  • Digging deeply to find proof of the additional $500 security fee the tenant must cough up to a D.C. condo association and track down the mystery extra condo paperwork required meant lots of phone calls.
  • Ratified a contract with a long settlement date and had to specifically ask for my buyers’ sizable deposit to be placed in an interest-bearing account. It won’t total very much in the end, but maybe worth a celebratory night out on the town. (Remember those?)
  • Hit the books (or database) to find out when the property last sold and where, so my buyers can get a discount/reissue rate on title insurance. Sometimes this requires a trip to the city or county courthouse to check recordation dates and title company names, but it’s decidedly worth the 30% reduction. (The last sale must have been less than 10 years ago.)
  • “Moving” targets — seeded to hurry two different tenants along to get elevator and loading dock reservations nailed down to match their preferred packing/unpacking days. Stress reduction for both.
  • Accomplished two different remote settlements with far away sellers by arranging notary companies to appear, as if by magic, at their Paris hospital bedside (really!) and at their Colorado Springs retreat.

Specific suggestions:

A. Create a unique calendar for your purchase/sale/rental/tenancy and match it with a checklist. Watch those “exit ramps” and deadlines. Lean on your Realtor for guidance and keep track of your travel and commitments.

B. Get on “the list” now — whether you need a refrigerator, new carpet, painting or repairs, it’s hard to get work accomplished due to a broken supply chain or swamped resource people. COVID and those shutdowns have had layers of unexpected consequences. People are waiting months for A/C systems.

C. 1. Actually read the sales contract. Set aside a couple of hours, and pour a glass of wine, but do look at the terms, timelines and commitments involved. Written in English and scrubbed of ponderous legalese now, take time and a yellow highlighter to identify questions in your contracts and leases.

C. 2. Ask if any recent boilerplate language changes in the various jurisdictions will impact your timeline or protections — Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR), Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAAR), as well as Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR) and the county-specific affiliates, such as Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, all have different contract language, treatment of deadlines and enforcement! To know one contract is NOT to know all contracts, especially since the cancellation of the Regional Sales Contract which, at least, got things somewhat aligned. Get ready to really, really focus if you are selling, for instance, a Capitol Hill townhouse and buying in Arlington, or down-sizing from Potomac, Maryland, to Old Town Alexandria. Those boundaries take minutes to cross and make a world of difference!

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Lisa Groover of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Lisa at 703-919-4426 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How do I get a house ready to sell when I live out of town?

Answer: Funny you should ask… I have had the opportunity to help five sellers in the past year in this very same situation. One couple had been renting their home for over 10 years — they live in Canada. The second rented his townhouse for about 15 years — he lives 1.5 hours away. I am working on three more now. One is an estate with the executor living in South Carolina. Another is a large single-family home, and the owners have already moved to their farm in Tennessee. And one will close this week with the sellers signing remotely from California.

I cannot say that it is easy; however, working with an experienced team of professionals who can lessen the burden of getting a home ready for market makes a big difference in an already stressful situation.

Selecting a real estate agent who has long-standing relationships with contractors, painters, hardwood and carpet experts, plumbers, and decluttering and staging professionals will make your task more manageable. I have worked with long-distance sellers on projects from completely gutting and remodeling kitchens and bathrooms; selecting all new appliances, vanities, mirrors, window treatments and lights; to having the house painted and hiring contractors to make repairs and updates.

My list of contacts includes companies that specialize in clearing out unwanted furniture and taking items to donation sites and to the dump. I met with a decluttering and staging expert today to decide what to pack away or move out of the house and what items to use for staging. I am walking through a property with a landscaper later this week to discuss an expansive yard clean-up and ways to create more curb appeal.

I asked a current client to share some of her thoughts about working with me from another state, and she responded: “You managed the entire process of getting the house on the market so that I did not have to travel to Virginia at all. I also appreciated the way you handled the sensitive situation where the children had a difficult time going through their mother’s personal belongings.”

Here’s an example of the difference a powder room renovation can make. The old vanity was dated with a dark wood whereas the new one is crisp and bright.

In another situation, the seller initially said he did not want to do any updating to an older townhome. Once we explored a variety of options and compared the price of the renovations and the potential increase in value, he decided to do quite a bit of renovating. In the end, he made the decision to modernize his house, resulting in over $100,000 more in the sales price!

“In just several months Lisa valued my townhouse in relation to the market; made recommendations to help its presentation; suggested a pricing strategy for optimum positioning; and on an almost daily basis, managed, coordinated and communicated all the work being done,” the seller said. “Lisa has trusted loyal professionals she recommends, including painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and cleaners, and it seemed as though whatever needed to be done, she was able to make it happen.”

Check out some of these before and after pictures of the dining room and kitchen renovation that was done to list this home for sale.

Before the renovation, the dining room and kitchen were separated by a wall and the kitchen was very tight for food preparation.
After removing the wall, the ever-coveted open concept dining room and kitchen will elegantly play host to gatherings large and small.

Whether you are thinking of buying or selling — or just need suggestions for updating your home — I am happy to provide suggestions and ideas or recommend contractors for your specific projects. I am a resource for the duration of homeownership, not just the buying or selling process. Feel free to reach out anytime!

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA. As an active member of the community since 1989, Lisa specializes in Alexandria, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with her friends, neighbors, former clients, and their referrals.

In addition to enjoying the Old Town lifestyle and the art related events and activities, she is a member of a number of volunteer organizations. Having had eight Golden Retrievers, she is dedicated to helping other dog owners through the challenges of renting, buying and selling their home.

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. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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