Alexandria, VA

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: Is this a good time to buy an investment property?

Answer: Happy 2021! We are all hopeful that it will be a very different year than 2020 and that the pandemic will be coming to a close. We are looking toward the future, and for many people interested in growing wealth that could mean buying a new home or investment property.

We have witnessed an extremely strong market for single family homes and townhomes in the D.C. metro area. Condos, on the other hand, have not sold quite as well this past year. While condos further out from D.C. are doing better, we currently have an excess of condos on the market closer in — probably due to people wanting more space. This translates into good news for investors.

For those who are looking for smart investments, owning a condo in the D.C. metro area is a dream investment, and this is the time to do it! David Howell, Chief Information Officer of McEnearney Associates, reports that while contract activity for condos is up in the entire D.C. metro area compared to this time last year, condo inventory in Alexandria is up 433% and condo inventory in Arlington is up 500%. Yes, those numbers are correct! There are a lot of condos on the market right now. We fully expect the condo market to come back strong at the end of this year; however, at the moment, this is a huge opportunity for cash buyers to take advantage of immediate rental income and long-term appreciation.

We have worked with many investor clients recently, and here is a recent example of how you can put your money to work for you: Buy a condo with cash for $175,000. The likely rent would be $1,550, less a condo fee of $421 a month, and 7% ($108.50) to a property manager. A property manager will manage your condo for you, reduce headaches and simplify your investment. This translates into an income of about $1,020 per month. Where else can you get that kind of return on your investment?

Another strategy that some investors are using is to buy a home outside of the metro area and rent it out with companies like Airbnb or VRBO for short-term periods. Some HOA and condo associations have rules against these types of rentals, but that is mostly closer to D.C. It is, of course, important to completely understand regulations before you make your decision to purchase. However, those who are willing and able to put in the effort have seen some amazing payoffs. Mountain and lake areas within 100 miles of D.C, are rising in popularity, and there are many great investment opportunities.

And for those still renting, this is the year to buy! Interest rates are still fantastic and down payments are much lower than most buyers realize. According to the 2021 Housing Forecast with Realtor.com, interest rates will remain low throughout the year but will rise toward the end of 2021. Why not put that rent money to work for you?

Buying real estate is an important part of building wealth. Whether it’s your first home or a long-term investment, real estate can be one of your most important purchases. For information on buying or selling investment properties or your own home and for making informed decisions, call The Peele Group today!

We will be hosting a Virtual Buyer Happy Hour on February 2, 2021. We will be joined by a lender and a home inspector and will answer all of your questions on the home-buying process. For an invitation, please send an email to [email protected].

For a professional, confidential evaluation of your home, please call or text us at 703-244-5852. We have a Dream Team of experts — contractors, staging advisors, photographers and more — to help make the right preparations, minimize stress and maximize profits!

Kim Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc., lives in Old Town and works in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. She and her daughter Hope Peele are The Peele Group. Kim is a second-generation Realtor and fourth-generation Washingtonian and is dedicated to helping owners through the challenges of 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 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 Alexandria city real estate market finish in 2020?

Answer: Each quarter we take an in-depth look at contract activity in the City of Alexandria compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Not surprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 in the spring months resulted in a decrease in contract activity compared to 2019. The first half of the year saw overall contracts decrease 7.4%, but the third and fourth quarters tell a completely different story, and the year ended with an overall increase of 12.2%!

The charts below break down fourth quarter contract activity for 2019 and 2020 by price and by property type. Alexandria has seen increases across all categories, including the condo market, which has not been as strong in some other metro areas compared to townhomes and detached homes.

  • Overall contract activity in the City of Alexandria increased 40.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Contract activity in the condo market increased 43.0% and attached homes activity increased 44.1%.
  • The number of detached homes, the smallest part of the Alexandria City market, going under contract in the fourth quarter of 2020 increased 28.4% compared to 2019.
Data derived from Bright MLS
Data derived from Bright MLS

For more analysis of the real estate market throughout our area, please visit McEnearney.com/market-in-a-minute.

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 column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual Q&A format. To learn about relevant Alexandria market news, contact us at 703-549-9292. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Because of COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in cases of hunger.

This year, McEnearney Associates has partnered with the Capital Area Food Bank to help provide good, healthy food to people struggling with hunger and food insecurity. We have committed to a matching grant of $20,000. If we raise $40,000, it will provide 80,000 meals for people in need.

Now more than ever, they need our support. Please re-post and share. You can donate online now.

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: What did life look like for a realtor in 2020?

Answer: Oh, you could write a job description for realtor, and it would be pretty enthusiastic and likely glowing, but it would miss so much of the “fun!”

“Lean on me” never had so much meaning as it did this year as we worked around the unusual circumstances of 2020.

Chasing tortoises’ paperwork: You may have seen it in the news, but I tried to help our former CAPS’ goalie get his family’s two little dinosaurs across the border into Canada by sending photos of shipping documents. Even then, he was still stuck in Billings, Montana, for a few days with a full truck and turtles before getting home to Vancouver.

Trying to move a Tesla: Out of town, my clients also needed their car stored, and I don’t know how to drive a Tesla. The technology is vastly different from my vehicle, and I feared I’d run into a telephone pole, so I chased around town to find a seasoned owner of that spaceship-style car and, HOORAY, we found a friend who got the car tucked away safely.

1-800-GOT-JUNK: Just like the ads where the actress hops around looking at stacks of unwanted stuff, I played that role for some sellers and WOW was that fun. The power of the pointer is real; I was able to fill an entire truck without flexing a muscle and simply pointing. Two strong fellows did all the real work.

Previewing while taking videos: Fewer in-person visits this year meant creativity with an iPhone; now I just need advanced tech advice so I am not sending 10 videos per house. Spinning around in living rooms, back yards, climbing into attics, etc. and taking the extra views to explain the flow of the house, while providing some commentary, we’ve been able to streamline the places on the tour list and test how a place might “live.”

Long distance rentals, sight unseen: Seriously, two military families leased large townhouses I had listed relying only on photos, FaceTime calls and descriptions. Yikes, they didn’t even have a friend or relative visit, but whew, they love their choices.

Research by phone: I’ve advocated digging deeply into the history of homes and neighborhoods, but little did I know how helpful librarians working from home could be with the libraries closed. Great thanks goes to Patricia Walker, the Local History and Special Collections Branch Manager of the Alexandria Library, for going beyond the call of duty when helping me this past spring.

Photography from afar: Like a movie director, I like to oversee the professional photography taken for sales and rentals, but the pro’s rules rule! The very best real estate photographer, Peter, takes bright, helpful photos, and I rely on him. But with immune-sensitivity issues, no one else can be in the house while he is working. Oh, I can sit in the car and come back in to lock up, but luckily I deeply trust his talent, and I will have run through in advance to move those ubiquitous items clouding the vision.

Picking the colors: Out-of-state investors need their properties spiffed up for selling, and they often grant me the power of the palette. With Jason, my favorite, experienced local painter and his team, we get the ultimate decision for which shade of hip new, trending color to paint the walls. Gleefully satisfying.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by 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 703-244-6115 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Is it important to stage my home before listing it?

Answer: Everyone thinks they have good taste, but honestly, no one’s taste matters more when selling your home than the buyer’s. The goal is to showcase your home’s many features, while allowing the buyer to create their own vision for the home and to see a future for themselves in it.

Staging can seem overwhelming. In my experience, one of the main misconceptions about staging is that you need to be entirely moved out for someone to come in with new furniture to stage your home in boring colors and design. The fact is, stagers can offer a range of services, and the majority of my clients who sell their homes use mostly their own décor, just less of it and rearranged a bit. Many of my clients who sell their homes also choose to live in it while it’s on the market — so, of course, they still need their furniture. Many realtors are partnered with stagers who can stage the home with the owner’s existing belongings.

Typically, when someone decorates, the aim is to make their living space a reflection of their personality and lifestyle. Home staging is different from decorating in that it is actually DE-personalizing the space, so a wider range of personalities (buyers) can imagine themselves enjoying the space.

One of the biggest mistakes a seller can make is waiting too long to consult a stager. According to Kelly DeMaso, owner of Simplified Organizing and Staging, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s the key to a quicker sale… The best time to stage your home is BEFORE you put it on the market.” The cost of having your home sit on market for too long could far outweigh the cost and energy of having a stager come over for an hour or two to offer advice — or even having them spend the day to do the work.

Your home is one of the biggest reflections of who you are, and if you’re like most people, you’re proud of it! You’ve probably curated the artwork on the walls with love and to suit your tastes. The fridge is covered in magnets you’ve collected, holding up shopping lists, sweet notes and drawings by your kids. You found the perfect area rug — large enough for your dining room with the perfect shade of red that matches your chair cushions. On your windowsills, tiny potted plants are proudly on display and you tend them daily.

How can someone else picture raising their family in a home that is filled with you and your style? The goal is to have potential buyers imagining themselves seated in the adorable breakfast nook with their art adorning the walls.

Imagine you walk into a house with a gigantic statue in the middle of the living room. What will you notice first — the beautifully redone kitchen or the gigantic statue in the middle of the living room?

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This week’s column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual Q&A format. To learn about relevant Alexandria market news, contact us at 703-549-9292. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Instead of taking your real estate questions this week, we wanted to share details about an upcoming blood drive McEnearney Associates is supporting.

On Tuesday, December 15, stop by 301 King Street to donate blood for the Old Town INOVA Blood Drive. It’ll run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Go ahead and schedule your appointment online, and don’t forget to bring your photo ID and a face covering!

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 Rebecca McCullough of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Rebecca at 571-384-0941 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Should I list my home during the holidays?

Answer: At this time of year, we have many people asking if they should list their home now or hold on until after the new year? As always, if you need to sell, list it.

However, in most years, if you have flexibility, we would be inclined to wait until the new year. Many potential buyers may be thinking there will be more to choose from in the new year. This is generally true — we often do see an influx of listings and buyers in January. There is definitely a cycle of January shoppers that bring February contracts and March closings. Then the cycle is repeated in April, May and June.

However, 2020 — the year of COVID, working from home and social distancing — is truly a unique time. We have seen unusually high holiday season demand for detached homes, and decreased inventory. While not quite as “hot” as the pre-Covid market, there are more buyers than sellers leading this strong seller’s market. Multiple offers, while never assured, are not out of the question, and well-priced homes are selling quickly. For buyers, this is tough. For sellers, this is truly a “merry” circumstance. This year, in so many ways, is an anomaly.

So you decide to list… If you decide to list during the holiday period, you might wonder about holiday decor. Do you go full-bore holiday style, or keep the seasonal decor packed away? The answer lies somewhere in between: nobody expects sellers to ignore the season, but this is likely not the year to go all out.

Keeping decorations simple and somewhat restrained, while still honoring your family customs, is perfectly acceptable. Subtle and understated is the way to go, always keeping the staging guidelines in mind. Remember: accent the best features in your home. So, don’t put the Christmas tree in front of the window with the best view, or cover up beautiful mantles and railings with too much greenery. Use the décor to accent areas of the home that you want the buyer to see.

This time of year is fabulous to emphasize the warmth in a home. The smell of fresh baked cookies, glowing flameless candles and seasonal floral arrangements contribute to the ambience to make them want to linger.

Also keep in mind if you are launching your listing during the holidays when your home is decorated, photographs will include the seasonal items. If your home does not sell before the holidays are over, consider having new pictures done to promote the property. Note that seeing holiday decorations in mid-January will indicate to buyers that the home has been on the market for a while.

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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: Do you have any recommendations for ways to give back to other Alexandria residents during the holiday season and beyond?

Answer: As we all know, this holiday season is unlike any other. Many families are not able to travel to be with one another, group gatherings are out of the picture and dining in restaurants is not comfortable for most. But a common thread with this holiday season and previous ones is the importance of giving back.

As a member of the McEnearney Associates team in Alexandria, I am proud to live and work in a community that I love. You see, there is an important difference at McEnearney… “It’s not about us, it’s about you.” Not only when working with our clients, but also in giving back to the community.

This is the year to toss aside the “this is the way we have always done it” standard and think of different ways we can help. McEnearney’s long-standing support of the holiday event at Hopkins House will still include fun gifts for the children, but instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, he will be speaking to them via video. Target Gift Cards for The Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria will provide an opportunity for purchasing gifts of their choosing.

Between delivering Meals on Wheels, holding community coat and food drives, supporting of organizations that help with home repairs, and getting involved with stopping child abuse, women transitioning from prison, homelessness, and feeding the hungry… There are so many opportunities to make a difference.

Check out sites like ACT for Alexandria, Volunteer Alexandria and ALIVE! for a sampling of the types of ways you can volunteer your time or money. Or Google a cause you are passionate about and reach out to see how you can help.

As a TWIG, it is my pleasure to be on the fundraising committee in support of INOVA Alexandria Hospital. With the need to cancel the Annual Homes Tour and to have the thrift shop closed during the pandemic, our annual fundraising has been drastically reduced.

Are you familiar with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now)? Started by a local Alexandrian for a very important cause and like so many other organizations, their annual fundraising gala was cancelled this year, and they can use your help. For more information about SCAN, please visit scanva.org.

What about random acts of kindness? Do you know of someone who has been ill or could use a surprise? Drop off an unexpected little gift — you can always leave it on their front porch. The feedback I receive from my neighbors, friends and clients when I do this throughout the year is one of sincere appreciation no matter how small the gesture.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about any of these organizations or for help finding one that best fits your passions. I am also readily available to connect you with like-minded individuals in our community where you can make a difference.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria.  Having had seven golden retrievers since moving to Alexandria in 1989, 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 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 column

Question: With the pandemic and the recent election, when is the best time to sell my home?

Answer: As we all know, 2020 has been a year like no other. A pandemic. High unemployment. Low interest rates. An election year. Throughout it all, real estate has been steady and strong. Now we are on the brink of the holidays. With all of these factors at play, you may be wondering, when is the best time to sell your home?

First, let’s talk about interest rates. They are amazing — at an all-time low — and are expected to stay low for a while. This has had a huge impact on our real estate market.

According to the latest report by David Howell, Chief Information Officer for McEnearney, year-to-date 2020 sales in Northern Virginia have exceeded last year by 27.5 percent for homes priced at $750K and above. Homes under $750K have seen steady sales, as well, just slightly up over last year. Due to a shortage of available homes for sale, the average days to sell a home is 25.7 percent less in 2020 than last year. For the week ending November 8, contracts in the Washington Metro area were up over 30% over the same week last year. This is a great indicator!

Even with these fantastic numbers, real estate has slowed ever so slightly over the last several weeks. Some of this is due to the election and some of this is due to the normal cycle of real estate. Buyers typically take a pause leading up to an election. However, there is also a normal real estate slow down leading into the holidays.

BTIG, a research and analysis company, has data showing that for the last 60 years, there has been a decline in home sales of 9.8 percent in November anyway, compared to October. In presidential election years, sales have dropped by as much as 15 percent in November. Myers Research and Zonda reports that “the slowdown is largely concentrated in the month of November. In fact, the year after a presidential election is the best of the four-year cycle.”

Here in the Washington D.C. metro area, the presidential election has a very short-lived effect. Once a new president is elected, there tends to always be some growth in the housing market in D.C. Combine this with the fantastic interest rates and limited inventory of homes on market, in my opinion, there is even more pent-up demand coming our way. So, depending on your unique selling situation, the best time to sell could be right now, or it could be in early 2021.

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This week’s Q&A column is written by Karisue Wyson, Director of Recruiting & Agent Support at McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article, contact Karisue at 703-615-0876 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How can I plan for a successful real estate career?

Answer: When you embark on an exciting and challenging career in real estate you are not just signing up to show houses, write offers or manage your time autonomously. You are launching yourself as the CEO of a start-up company, with all the time, effort and expense that entails.

No successful CEO runs his or her company without having a clear and trackable plan for how to achieve their goals. Here are a few of the basics in setting yourself up for success as a realtor that should be completed before you register for your Principles of Real Estate courses and prepare to take your licensing exam.

Create a Written Business Plan

To meet your goals, you need to DEFINE what you want your business to look like. This process will take some time and is a mix of practical, logistical and aspirational thinking. Have fun mapping out your dream company! But be sure to write your business plan in a way that is clear, measurable and adaptable as you progress in your first years as an entrepreneur. A simple plan will contain:

  • Your vision and/or mission statement — WHY are you in real estate and what is the purpose of the business you are creating.
  • A description of your company and your services — WHO you are: Are you creating a business entity? Are you working under your own name? WHAT work you will be providing: Are you focusing on residential or will you also be taking commercial clients? Will you offer staging services? Do you plan to host Open Houses? Will you work with rentals? Be specific if you are planning to specialize in an area of real estate like investment buyers, seniors, vacation homes, etc.
  • The target area you will do business — WHERE you are selling real estate: Will you be in multiple jurisdictions or focus on a specific neighborhood (often called a “Farm” area)? What are the average prices in this area and how quickly do homes sell?
  • An analysis of the current market where you want to focus and your competitive advantage — HOW you will stand out among the thousands of Realtors in the region, and WHAT is special about what you bring to the real estate experience.
  • An organizational chart — WHO will make up your company. Will you be a sole proprietor, or will you have partners or team members? Early in the process, it may just be you, but if you have plans to grow your business you’ll want to have a plan for when that expansion begins (when you hit $8M in sales, $10M in sales, are working 60 hours a week?) Think about what your “tipping point” may be and make a plan.
  • A marketing plan — HOW you will let people know you are open for business. The brokerage you sign with will have many options to assist your marketing efforts, and I will say that McEnearney has The BEST marketing vision, hands down! However, you will need to create a personal plan for what you want your personal brand to look like, a calendar of marketing projects, mailers or events and a budget for what you want to spend.
  • Financial Projections — WHAT income do you want to make and how many real estate transactions will it take to get you there. If you want to make $100,000/year, calculate how many homes at what price range with a commission range of 2.5%-3% will it take to make that $100,000. Also, create an estimated expense sheet that will be deducted from your income and be sure to set aside estimated quarterly tax amounts as you are now self-employed and will be paying taxes directly to the government.
  • There are many free online templates available, like this simple version from the Small Business Administration. If this one is not the right fit, a Google search should turn up the right one for you.

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