Alexandria, VA


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 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What does a contingency period mean?

Answer: Like any industry, real estate has a ton of lingo that isn’t common to most people. To me, it’s incredibly important that someone who is buying or selling a home has all of the information and resources that they need — before the stakes get high! There is nothing worse than trying to make a difficult decision when you are unfamiliar with the terms.

When I am working with both buyers and sellers, some of the most frequently asked questions are about contingency periods. These are lengths of time written into the contract in which one of the parties has the option of voiding the contract without penalty.

There are many different types of contingencies, and they can vary greatly depending on the contract. No two contingency periods are alike! However, there are some that are more common than others, so here is a quick guide to the top three contingencies that I am asked about most often.

1. Inspection Contingency

In some home sale contracts, there is an agreed-upon number of days in which the buyer can hire a licensed inspector to examine the home for defects. Sometimes the contract allows for the buyer to void during this contingency period, and sometimes there is also the option to negotiate repairs with the seller. If the buyer chooses to either void or negotiate, they must provide the seller with a report from a licensed inspector. In a hot “seller’s market,” buyers can sometimes make this period very short, or even waive it entirely, to appeal to the seller.

2. Financing Contingency

This contingency protects the buyer in case something happens to their loan. Changes in things like a buyer’s employment or credit could potentially put the loan in jeopardy. If there is any risk of this happening, it is important to have this contingency in place so the buyer is not bound by the contract terms. Depending on where the buyer’s loan is in the lender’s pre-approval process, this contingency can be confidently waived in some instances.

3. Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency gives buyers security in case the appraisal from the bank does not come in at the contract price. The bank wants to know that the loan they are approving is worth it. So, if they conduct an appraisal that values the property less than the contract price, the buyer either needs to make up the difference or come to an agreement with the seller. Without an appraisal contingency, the buyer is responsible for what they agreed to in the contract — with or without a loan. An appraisal contingency protects the buyer in case the bank will not allow the loan to go as high as the contract price.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and please remember contingencies can vary greatly from one offer to another. Each buyer and seller should work closely with their Realtor to decide what is best for them in each particular situation.

To learn more about contingencies and other real estate topics, we will be hosting a Virtual Happy Hour on April 22. We will be joined by a lender and a home inspector, and we will answer all of your questions about real estate! For an invitation, please send an email to [email protected].

Hope Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. She and her mother, Kim Peele, are The Peele Group serving Virginia and D.C. They are dedicated to helping clients through the challenges of buying or selling a 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 Brian Bonnet, Senior Loan Officer (NMLS ID# 224811) of Atlantic Coast Mortgage, LLC (NMLS ID# 643114). To learn more about current mortgage rates and the home loan process, contact Brian at 703-766-6702 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What are residential closing costs and how do they affect me?

Answer: One of the realities associated with the purchase and financing of residential real estate is the fact there will be transaction costs generally referred to as closing costs. Understanding, well in advance, what those costs will be is useful in planning for the purchase.

Transaction costs can be broken down into two broad categories — closing costs and prepaid/escrow expenses. Closing costs include fees charged by the lender, fees charged by the settlement company, and fees charged by state and local jurisdiction where the property is located.

Lender fees often include charges for the appraisal, credit report, processing fees, flood certifications and tax service fees. The total charges generally run between $1,800 and $2,300. Appraisal fees will vary depending upon the value of the appraisal and the complexity of the appraisal effort.

Settlement company charges generally include fees for their service, fees associated with the title search and preparation of the title binder, and lender’s and owner’s title insurance. Not including the cost of the title insurance, the settlement company fees usually total between $800 and $1,000.

Title insurance costs are driven by the sales price of the property, whether the borrower chooses to purchase owner’s title insurance, and further, whether the borrower chooses standard or enhanced owner’s title insurance. For a $300,000 purchase price with standard owner’s coverage, the title insurance costs would be somewhere between $1,550 and $1,700. At a price of $600,000 with the same election, the costs would range from $2,850 to $3,000. At a sales price of $1 million, the title insurance costs would range between $4,550 and $4,800. If the borrower chooses to purchase the enhanced type of owner’s title insurance, the total title insurance costs would be higher at all price points.

State and local jurisdiction costs vary from location to location and are also determined by the sales price and loan amount. In Virginia at a sales price of $600,000 with 20% down, the tax stamp cost would total $3,600. In Montgomery County, Maryland, the transfer and recordation taxes at that same price point and loan amount would total $6,955. In Washington, D.C., the recordation tax would be $8,700. Maryland and The District do offer some discounts for first-time purchasers in their jurisdictions.

The last group of costs associated with the purchase of residential property are prepaid and escrow expenses. If the purchaser is obtaining a mortgage loan, he/she must also obtain homeowner’s (hazard) insurance, which will vary in cost based on the price of the property. The premium for the first full year is generally collected at the time of settlement. In addition, three months of the annual premium are collected at settlement and placed in the borrower’s mortgage escrow account to ensure enough will be available the following year to cover the second-year premium. The borrower will also be responsible for covering any property tax due to the seller and the amount required in the escrow account necessary to cover the next real estate tax bill.

Lastly, if the property is a condominium or located within a homeowner’s association, the purchaser will be responsible for any refund to the seller of monthly dues, which had been paid in advance and for any fees required by the homeowner’s association.

If you would like more information to help plan your next move, please contact Brian Bonnet at [email protected] or call 703-766-6702.

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 Peter Crouch of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Peter at 703-244-4024 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Have the stars aligned for downsizing?

Answer: Despite the pandemic, or partly because of it, the seller’s market in real estate has continued. A several-years-long trend toward fewer houses on the market has only become a more acute shortage. As we all obeyed stay-at-home orders, even fewer of us were selling our houses than in prior years.

As safety measures became standard protocol, however, buyers and sellers returned to the market after the first month or so of C-19. But more buyers than sellers returned, and the number of homes for sale remains extremely low. The overall effect has been that prices have accelerated, and most well-maintained homes are receiving multiple offers when they go to market. It is tough to be a buyer these days — but great to be a seller.

That dynamic can keep a seller from considering a move, since they will likely become buyers for their next house. When you look more closely, however, it could be a wonderful time to move to smaller housing. The statistics show that the housing shortage is most acute in the single-family arena. The number of detached houses, in particular, is way down over previous years, followed by townhouses. That makes sense — shortages have been building for several years, and the pandemic has driven some folks out of apartments/condos and into single-family homes, increasing demand.

Condominiums, however, have not had as much demand. In fact, the supply of condos on the market overall is up from years past. It is much less of a seller’s market in the condo world. I’m not sure it is a buyer’s market for condos, but it certainly is different from the demand for single-family homes.

So, what is the opportunity for downsizing? First, single-family prices have accelerated by as much as 15% in the last 12 months, depending, of course, on location and condition. For many existing homeowners, that means their homes are worth much more — often $100,000 to even $200,000 more. Plus, condos are the softer area in the market, again depending on location and condition. For anyone who was considering downsizing before the pandemic, this could be a wonderful opportunity to sell high and buy low (and close in/”walkable”). If downsizing away from our high-cost area, the benefit could be even more accentuated.

Another factor is the treatment of capital gains taxation on the sale of a principal residence. Every taxpayer selling a principal residence is entitled to an exclusion of gain of $250,000 or $500,000 for a couple. (Read IRS Publication 523 for conditions, and always check with your tax professional regarding your personal situation.) So, if a house has gone up dramatically in recent years, and you are thinking of going smaller, you could have a nice opportunity to go smaller with a great tax benefit. There is, however, a hint that capital gains tax treatment may change under the new administration, so it could be the best time to take those winnings off the table, so to speak.

With the roll-out of the vaccines and the lifting of some restrictions, there is a prospect of life getting back to somewhat “normal.” It might be time to consider — or reconsider — that move to smaller housing. The opportunity right now is to take advantage of the strength of the single-family market, the relative weakness of the condo market and the current very favorable tax treatment of housing gains.

Dad always told me to buy low and sell high. Have the stars aligned for you?

Pete Crouch is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, which means he is well-versed in all aspects of moving as we age. His own downsize gave him tremendous insights into what is involved, from emotional matters to real estate considerations. Pete is a Board Member of At Home in Alexandria (AHA), our local Senior Village, and was the 2018 National Recipient of the “Outstanding Service Award” by the National Association of Realtors for his work with Senior Moves. Text 703-244-4024 or email [email protected] for a copy of his Downsize Alexandria! Booklet about living more simply in Greater Alexandria.

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 Susan Craft of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Susan Craft at 703-216-4501 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How do I create an outdoor room?

Answer: Think about how you will use the space.

What are you trying to create? Additional living space, scenic views, privacy — all of the above?

The first thing an outdoor room does is provide additional living space with the added bonus of enjoying nature — the warmth of the sun on your face (wear sunscreen, you’ll thank me later), the chirping of birds (wow, loud!) and, yes, the occasional red fox trotting by during morning coffee. I’m used to Mr. Fox now. Initially startled, it quickly became clear that he had places to go and no time to bother with me. I look forward to his next visit. And the greatest entertainment has to be Chip & Dale who chase each other through the flower beds and occasionally peek out from under the chair as if to say, ‘We’re back for another summer of fun!’

Group your space according to the way you’ll use it. For me, that’s a conversation circle — chairs arranged in a circle (or square) to chat with friends (socially distanced, of course) or to sit and read decor magazines. The lounge chair is essential for a 15-minute power nap.

Bistro tables for an intimate dinner for two or pushed together for larger gatherings provide a fresh take on dining throughout the day — complete with an outdoor grill, which makes for easy kitchen cleanup. The umbrellas over the two bistro tables provide shade from the sun and keep a light drizzle from spoiling a meal or sending me inside. Hang a lantern under the umbrella for evening dining.

Before, during and after patio construction

You’ll need a quality contractor. Choose a patio material like flagstone or brick and determine the amount of space you have to work with. Go as big as you can — you want to be able to walk around without bumping into furniture. And don’t forget to put a PVC pipe under the patio to run wires for landscape lighting because that, my friend, is the secret to the outdoor room lasting long into the evening. Bring out a Bose wireless speaker and a few citronella candles, and you can rock the night away. Add a firepit or heater and extend the season (though a mohair blanket and a hot drink work, too).

For the landscape plan, think spring, not summer, for planting, and remember to constantly water the new trees, bushes and plants while they establish roots. Delight in blooms and color, but start with evergreens as your base. The green wall offers privacy and fabulous views even in the winter.

An essential element of the outdoor room is how it looks from inside as it draws your eye outward and makes the interior feel larger for extended, blended living spaces. Low windows and/or patio doors help create this seamless outdoor room extension.

Enjoying nature… 1) Azalea season; 2) and 3) Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal as viewed from inside; 4) Winter landscape with lighting

Give some thought to bloom timing. What blooms early spring, late spring and summer? What changes color in the autumn? (Fire bush!) What will stay evergreen all winter so you always have a serene view and privacy? Enjoy the evolving personality and color as you time the blooms. A professional landscaper — most garden centers have them — can guide you on bloom timing.

Susan Craft is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town. Her success has been built on the art of listening and providing excellent personal service to deliver the results people want, expect and deserve. For a no-obligation consultation, call or text 703-216-4501 or email [email protected] today!

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 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 balance purchasing and selling a home at the same time?

Answer: To meet the needs of today’s seller-friendly market, agents must juggle more than ever before to bring all the pieces together. I am often asked which should come first: finding my dream home or selling my current home?

To answer that question, I looked back at my sales for the past 14 months and discovered that over 90% of my buyer clients purchased prior to selling their current residences. I know that sounds scary; however, with the current lack of inventory, most buyers are writing a number of contracts before they “win the deal.”

Establishing a financial game plan to make this possible may be your answer. Between cash purchases, bridge loans, rent-backs and borrowing against your investments, your agent and a good local lender will help you explore a variety of options. Keep in mind that your house will also be on the market during this competitive environment when you go to sell. If this strategy is not doable — and since home sale contingencies are not an option at this time — you may alternatively consider selling your house and moving to a rental prior to finding your next home.

I recently had the opportunity to help a client buy an Old Town condo in a building that she had been interested in for almost two years. For one reason or another, every time a unit came up, the timing just wasn’t right. My client said: “Thankfully, Lisa kept her eye on the listings for me and alerted me immediately when one came on the market. She suggested I attend the brokers open house with her, and I did. The unit was absolutely perfect for me, and I made an offer that was accepted right away.”

Lisa’s team of contractors and service providers help her sellers prepare their homes for today’s fast-paced market.

The next step was selling Jane’s “beautiful home of 23 years during the busy holiday season of a pandemic year.” We worked together to create an action plan that allowed for her house to be on the market in a timely manner. This included decluttering, donating furniture, completing a few repairs, conducting minor staging, and procuring both photography and video of the property. With help from my team of contractors and service providers, we were able to quickly check off all the items on the list, and we even dealt with a few tricky issues as they came up along the way.

“Shortly after listing the house, mold was discovered in the basement, which required immediate remediation,” Jane explained. “Throughout this process, Lisa kept everything firmly on track while reassuring my many concerns. Following remediation, showings resumed, and the house sold to attractive buyers who presented an excellent offer and agreed to closing before my important deadline.”

I often hear from clients making the move from a single-family home to a condominium that they are worried about transitioning their furniture and accessories to a smaller space while still having the comfortable feel of their home. In Jane’s case, she “knew that this was the right move” for her and said she “did not have buyer’s remorse for a second.”

Lisa’s purchaser is happily settled in her comfortable new home.

As a follow up, I visited Jane’s condo with my fabulous photographer to take pictures of her new home. I was not surprised to feel that I was walking into her home in Jefferson Park. She had painted the walls the same color, added similar carpet in the bedrooms, and arranged her furniture and accessories beautifully. (I have included a few before and after pictures for you to see.)

I was extremely honored to receive a testimonial from Jane, which I would like to share: “Throughout this very stressful process, Lisa served as my cheerleader, advocate, confidante and knowledgeable real estate expert. I simply could not have asked for more responsive and capable representation when buying and selling. I recommend her highly!”

If you are thinking of making similar moves and need guidance on where to start, feel free to reach out to me for a private and confidential conversation. I would be happy to help!

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 hard is it to sell a home in today’s market?

Answer: The short answer, it’s not too difficult to sell a home in today’s market. The longer answer is, to sell a home well in any market, it takes skill, expertise and experience. Selling a home well involves a lot more than just putting a sign in the yard or even getting it sold. Selling a home well means getting the home sold at the best price possible, with good terms for the seller and with the least amount of stress.

In the past six months, there have been 374 expired, withdrawn or canceled listings in the City of Alexandria alone. In a great market for sellers, those canceled listings were unsuccessful at selling, had to adjust, possibly sold later or just pulled the listing from the market. Considering that 1,429 homes sold in the same period of time, that’s a pretty substantial number.

There are many reasons selling a home may not succeed, and we would venture to guess that in most of these cases there was not a clear understanding of how to price the property well, or the property was not “show-ready” for the market. Many people believe that in a strong “seller’s market” such as this, a home can just sell itself. These numbers suggest otherwise.

It’s really important that your listing shows up on all marketing channels. Your Realtor should have access to all the traditional channels, but a strong digital presence and great media partners are especially important. Not all companies are able to provide this, but it is important so that your listing reaches the maximum number of potential buyers. Online marketing should include local news sources as well as national and global channels. Social media has now become a source of first glimpses at listings, so your chosen Realtor should have strong skills in putting out professional exposure in all channels.

Preparing for the market is a huge step in the process. Your home needs to be 100% show-ready, before buyers see it. Your Realtor should have excellent, reasonably priced contractors that can get any work done quickly. We often get homes painted, add granite counters, power wash, refinish floors and more — all in just a week or two. The contractors that a Realtor recommends know how important the “getting on the market” timeline is and work in tandem with your real estate professional to get the job done well and on time.

(The Peele Group has a Dream Team of experts — contractors, staging advisors, photographers and more — to help make the right preparations, minimize stress and maximize profits!)

Creativity is huge in real estate. Not only is it important in marketing your home to the fullest extent, but it makes a big difference once you are under contract as well. Every real estate transaction is different and just when we think we’ve seen it all, a new wrinkle develops. This is normal, and a seasoned professional has a vast toolbox of resources and other professionals to keep the process going smoothly. Our team has trained with everyone — from the Ritz Carlton Hospitality team to FBI hostage negotiators — in order to expand our toolbox and accomplish our clients’ goals!

Your Realtor should be there throughout your entire process, guiding you through every stage. They will keep every step of the real estate transaction organized and on track to close. They will assist with preparation, the selling process, the final sale and even beyond. Their expertise will be key in realizing the highest profit for your home and the best match for your goals.

Selling a home well is an involved process, and it takes a professional to know how to make a plan, implement the steps and to sell your home smoothly. And it certainly means NOT having to be withdrawn or canceled, because it was not planned properly. For more information on selling a home in today’s market, contact Kim or Hope Peele of The Peele Group at 703-244-5852.

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 real estate market for the second half of 2020 compare to 2019 in the City of Alexandria?

Answer: The City of Alexandria rebounded from COVID-19’s impact on the market, but as is true for other close-in jurisdictions, that rebound has been a little uneven.

Total unit sales were up a very healthy 37% in the second half of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. That increase would likely have been higher had there been more detached and attached homes to purchase. There was an average drop of 33% of these types of homes actively on the market, but it was a different story for condos.

Historically, condos make up about 40% of all the homes on the market at any given time in Alexandria, followed by attached homes at 35% and detached homes at 25%. But COVID changed that relationship almost overnight.

As the region emerged from the COVID-induced shutdowns in May, some clear patterns emerged. Attached home inventory was down an average of 22% and detached home inventory was off 44%. But condo inventory began a steady and significant climb as the charts below indicate. A high percentage of Alexandria’s condo units are in buildings with elevators, and it is clear that a growing number of the owners of these types of properties wanted to exit that lifestyle. By the end of the year, active condo inventory constituted 80% of all the homes on the market. Overall condo inventory was up 254%, and the inventory of smaller units — studios and one-bedrooms — was up even more.

That shift in the supply vs. demand equation gives condo buyers more negotiating leverage that buyers of attached and detached homes do not have in this market. And that is among the reasons that condos were on the market 32% longer in the second half of 2020 compared to the second half of 2019.

For more in-depth, local real estate news and to read our full market report for the second half of 2020, visit 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 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’s the process of divesting look like, and why is it important to do it sooner than later?

Answer: So many people have had to tackle this task, but it was new to me, and I want to share what I have learned from a long weekend. (Yes, this relates to real estate and the human condition.)

My parents were married for 70-plus years, and they traveled the world, read voraciously and raised three remarkable daughters. (Well, two are remarkable, and I’m the outlier.)

Their out-of-state home needs selling, but first, it needs sorting out, and they aren’t around to tackle it. On Valentine’s Day weekend, the family convened to open boxes, files, envelopes and trunks of tax returns, holiday cards, keepsakes, jewelry, silverware, art, and decades of darling correspondence from “the girls.”

This is what I can share from what we all learned:

  • Organization was critical. We are scattered across the U.S., and an Excel list was created by one special granddaughter with photos identifying the special, keep-in-the-family items. Sign on and claim your favorites or forever hold your peace.
  • Hire a trustworthy, experienced estate salesperson or company. Sign a fair contract splitting the proceeds by certain percentages and give them the freedom to price, arrange and accomplish the goal of emptying the house.
  • Find your Realtor (hoping you’ll find someone like a seasoned McEnearney Associate) — and I did! She will do all of the things I wrestle with in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — from getting rugs cleaned, appliances shined and touch-ups accomplished. Using her Realtor resources from afar, we’ve been able to treat for termites, tackle some landscaping and totally replace the two-zoned HVAC system.
  • Shred, shred, shred — especially when you find check stubs from the 1980s, tax returns from the 1990s and years of medical records. Alas, there won’t be a taker for the thousands of unlabeled travel photos, which might be of Sweden, Italy or Ireland… we are clueless.
  • Keep an eye out for surveys, landscaping plans and blueprints. The Realtor and the buyers will appreciate them. Open every cupboard and drawer. Surprises await!
  • Go home and do the same at your home. Sit down with your immediate heirs, and tell them what you have. Laughter will ensue because you will find out that your “treasures” are simply yours and there is a limited audience for your books, vacation art and certainly clothing. After doing this deep purge and donating items to charities, you will feel a great relief. Clients often feel lighter and more nimble — able to think about moving with less stress or continuing to love living in a home, which now feels distinctly less cluttered.

When buyers come into my parents’ home now — or yours in several years — they will be able to imagine their own lives and lifestyle within the home, instead of seeing every closet jammed with boxed memories and every wall covered with personal photos of mystery people.

Carry on, hang on to the memories, save only the best and shred the rest.

Ann Duff is a licensed real estate agent in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Ann at 703-965.8700 or visit her website AnnDuff.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 Susan Craft of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Susan Craft at 703-216-4501 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: I want to remodel my kitchen. Where do I start?

Answer: Everyone can’t be the star of the show.

Just like any good movie or TV series, everyone can’t be the star of the show. Someone has to play a supporting role, which adds depth and texture to the storyline and balances out the heroine or hero. The supporting cast members are important in their own right, but they don’t outshine the star. On occasion, it is said that someone ‘stole the show’ as an unexpected character touched more deeply than expected.

Let’s translate this to your next renovation project: a kitchen. First, gather everything you love — your favorite cabinetry, countertop, backsplash, flooring, light fixtures, appliances and paint color. OK, now, decide who will be the star of the show. Evaluate the supporting cast members and the role they play compared to your star. Do they add the depth of design and contrasting texture that you’re looking for, or do they steal the show? Perhaps have a second focal point, but let the supporting cast give the eye a rest to create serenity of style. Far from boring, this will make the star shine even brighter.

For example, if you select white or solid color cabinetry, then you can add a dramatic countertop or backsplash. But if you pick an exotic wood grain, like Zebrawood, for your cabinets, then you will want to have a solid color countertop and/or backsplash.

Imagine if you chose a very patterned woodgrain for cabinets, a busy design on the countertops and a completely different color palette for the backsplash. All could be gorgeous on their own, but the combination detracts from each and diminishes the whole. This is much like all the cast members of a play speaking at once — where to look and to whom to listen? It’s too confusing. Everyone is competing to be the star since it wasn’t decided beforehand.

The entire space doesn’t have to be serene; punches of color and pattern are essential to design. There has to be some fun and excitement, a reason to shout encore!

Lastly, if you find that you have competing cast members that simply can’t get along, then save one for the next show, perhaps the bathroom.

Susan Craft is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town. Her success has been built on the art of listening and providing excellent personal service to deliver the results people want, expect and deserve. For a no-obligation consultation, call or text 703-216-4501 or email [email protected] today!

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: What are your top three tips for getting ready to sell a home?

Answer: This is a question that we are asked frequently, as sellers begin to think about their home sale.

First, and most importantly, use a Realtor AND choose that Realtor early in the process!

Why? Many sellers think they should get their home looking fantastic before they invite a Realtor to walk in the door to discuss their plans for selling. First, we have seen every stage of selling a home, so nothing will surprise us, and we don’t judge — we kick into gear and help. Realtors are problem solvers, and we can often save you lots of time and worry.

Along the way, there are lots of steps, starting with a complete evaluation. Your Realtor should be the one to conduct this early evaluation of your home, give input on which improvements will increase your return and which repairs are most important for the sale. They will conduct a market analysis, show you what your financial return should be if you do the recommended tasks and then assist with coordinating contractors. Your Realtor should also bring in a professional staging consultant to weigh in, getting your home in the best shape possible for presentation to the market.

These steps are all just the beginning of the sale process, the part leading up to your home going on the market. If you wait and hire your Realtor after you’ve worked hard getting ready, you may have missed some important things, and you are doing yourself a disservice, as it does not cost you any extra to take advantage of the full array of services your Realtor offers. More importantly, you may possibly do the wrong things to prepare.

The average “For Sale by Owner” home sold for 26% less than homes sold by Realtors, according to the 2020 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That’s because Realtors know what works. Most sellers have only bought or sold one or two homes in their lives. A professional Realtor sells two to four homes a month. Their tips and suggestions for selling your home at the highest price possible are based on experience and reliable data. They know what upgrades and repairs sell homes and what will matter most to buyers in today’s market. Their suggestions are made from solid evidence for the things that will help you sell your home for the highest sale price.

So, bring a Realtor in early to guide you through this journey. You are paying them to sell your home — why not get them started working for you early in the process? They will have you on the right path from the beginning, making sure you do the “right” updates and repairs and are getting them done by reliable, trusted contractors.

Our second tip is to clear the clutter — ALL of the clutter!

We live one way and sell another. What seems stark to you, looks open and spacious to a buyer. It’s important to clear every surface, except for a few accent pieces. Bookshelves should be culled, systemized and only partially full. Each room should be evaluated for style, to show the space, but should appear uncrowded. All evidence of pets should be minimized. Floors should be free of extra items, and carpets should be neutral and used sparingly. Bold, unusual colors and interesting decorations are what makes a home “our home.” However, open, neutral space is what’s needed for a buyer to realize the beauty of a home and to picture themselves and their own personality in the home.

Your Realtor’s staging consultant can help you identify which of your belongings can best be used to stage your home and what should be packed up and put in storage or the garage. Remember: You are selling your home, so make it the buyers home.

Our third tip: Make all of the repairs and updates needed. Don’t leave it so “the buyer can choose what they like.”

Trust your Realtor to give you guidance on what needs to be done to look great and to get the buyers into the home. Your Realtor will help you balance the cost of the list against the likely return. Sometimes, the cost of updating a bath is as simple as a new light fixture, new hardware on the cabinets and some paint. A kitchen may just need a new countertop, which can make a huge difference and costs less than most expect. We even have contractors that will take payment at settlement, if needed.

Contrary to what some believe, most buyers do not have the money or the time to do the updates after settlement. They look online and if the photos don’t look great, they won’t come see the home unless it’s priced significantly lower than market value. The overwhelming majority of buyers want the home to have basic updates, and they want them to be neutral so they can just add the accents to make it their home. If they have to do the work, then they will want to pay considerably less than the cost of those updates, and the home will sit on the market longer.

A good Realtor will help you to get quotes and will coordinate with the contractors to get the work done on the timeline needed. Your photos will look fantastic, the buyers will come and your potential for multiple offers increases.

Don’t forget about curb appeal. As soon as buyers park in front of your home, they should be welcomed by a tidy lawn, trimmed bushes, a wreath on the door and maybe even a power-washed walkway. When they walk in, they should be happy with the condition and the degree to which you have updated your kitchen, baths, flooring and fixtures. So don’t shrink your pool of buyers by leaving the work to the buyer. Remember, more buyers equal more contracts, which translates into a higher sale price.

So once you’ve done the first most important step and hired your Realtor, how long will all of the prep take? It really depends on your preference and your ability to swing into gear quickly. If you start out four to five months early, you will have a slow, leisurely approach to getting your home on market. This may be what works best for you. However, with a dynamo Realtor and your willingness to trust their judgment and recommended contractors, you can accomplish great things in just a week or two. If needed, a home can be painted from top to bottom in seven to eight days. Decluttering, purging or moving things to storage can happen within days as well. Granite counters can be measured for and installed within a week, at the same time other tasks are happening. Presto! You could be ready to go on market within two weeks or less!

To figure out and implement the best approach for your home sale, pick your Realtor early, talk through the process and your goals. Your plan should be written out, with some flexibility for the unexpected, but should be a very clear path to your projected launch date.

Kim and Hope Peele sold 40 homes in 2020, and their listings sold on average for 102% of list price. For a no-obligation consultation, call or text 703-244-5852 today!

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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