Alexandria, VA

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: Is now a good time to start a career in real estate?

Answer: Real estate has never been a career for those uninterested in hard work, maintaining focus in the midst of chaos, and having an optimistic view of the future. Why else would anyone take on a job where you don’t get paid until the end of the process? This is a career for entrepreneurs looking to build a business over a long period of time with highs and lows along the way.

But there is no doubt that what realtors are facing now is complex and challenging, tying together economic and health crises with a seismic shift in the way we do business.

No one has experienced what we are going through right now, so in some sense all agents are at the same starting point of learning to sell in the midst of a global pandemic. Of course, agents who were selling during the housing crisis of the late 2000s have a better reference level for what it takes to succeed in a challenging market.

But during the Great Recession it took years for our housing industry to recover and a great deal of overhaul in the businesses associated with real estate to reclaim public trust. That is not the case today, and there are signs that the strength of our local housing market prior to the pandemic — buoyed by low inventory and low mortgage rates, two things that have not changed — is keeping us in a positive position.

As local officials designated real estate as an essential service, realtors quickly ramped up to serve the public in the safest and most efficient ways possible. From stocking listings with anti-bacterial supplies to hosting virtual open houses and guiding clients through remote-access settlements, agents have ensured that CDC guidelines on public interactions have been carefully followed. And the results show that sales are still happening at a hopeful pace.

Local stats from throughout the D.C. area, as compiled by McEnearney’s David Howell, Executive Vice President & CIO, shows that for the last several weeks, contract activity still lags behind that of last year, but the previously very wide gap continues to narrow.

For the week of May 10-16, the total number of newly ratified contracts was down just 14.6% compared to the same week last year. To put that into perspective, the previous week was off 19.3%, and that was preceded by weekly drops of 30.9%, 40% and 45%.

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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: Other than less activity in the marketplace, how else has COVID-19 changed the way real estate is being conducted in Alexandria?

Answer: Do you remember Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

I re-read it for about the 20th time again recently, and it never fails to inspire me to look at my business from a different perspective. Having been in some form of sales for my entire professional career, this is far from the first time I have had to reinvent my normal way of going about my business. Luckily this time I have a terrific company in McEnearney Associates Realtors that is providing the support to make the evolution less difficult.

To highlight a few modifications and validations that have resulted over the past few months:

Professional Photography: This has always been a must at McEnearney — now more than ever. Over 95% of buyers start their home search online, therefore, high quality photos are essential in having your listing stand out. Not only still photos, but interactive 3-D Virtual Tours where you can move through the home with a click of your mouse, to narrated videos set to music, and my personal favorite, live Facebook and Instagram virtual open houses.

421 S Payne Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 — Offered at $1,350,000

I love the feedback that I received from a neighbor recently on a listing in Old Town Village…

“I watched your live Facebook Open House last Sunday and really enjoyed it! Frankly, I liked it better than an in-person tour because you went into so much detail about each room, the upgrades and improvements, and the exterior of the home and the community.”

Believe it or not… as I was finishing up the live tour and locking up the house, the doorbell rang… it was someone that had watched the live open house and wanted to check it out. She ended up buying it!

Advertising: Since I am not holding the traditional public open houses with groups of people in and out over a three-hour period, advertising has become even more important. Between mailings, print media, email marketing, online advertising, networking agent-to-agent and agent-to-potential buyers, and social media — the goal is to encourage agents and buyers to check out the various methods of viewing a home and to set up a private tour.

Private Showings: These are being conducted by appointment only — one group at a time — with a maximum of three people per party – and are scheduled to avoid overlap. Masks and gloves are required by all parties, and we are asking potential buyers and agents to stay in their cars until their appointment time to avoid contact with neighbors or other parties leaving the home.

Paperwork Signing: Electronic signing has become the norm.

Closings: Settlements are done virtually with all parties in separate locations and include a notary. As of now, the time from contract to closing has been extended a bit to at least 30 days.

Whether you are buying or selling, feel free to contact me to discuss the market, and how I can safely help you achieve your real estate goals.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA. 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 George Myers of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact George at 703-585-8301 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How are first-time homebuyers successfully entering our competitive market with low inventory?

Answer: The keyword from that question is successfully. Now more than ever, first-time buyers need to engage with a comprehensive and experienced team of experts to successfully access the D.C. area’s competitive real estate market. It is only a comprehensive approach that will ultimately leave the buyer (now homeowner!) pleased with their acquisition.

When working with first-time buyers I always quantify the subjective and objective aspects of the home buying process. Going to open houses (remember those?) and previewing homes in person or online is the “fun” and subjective part of this process — dreaming of hosting dinner parties with friends, backyard BBQs, the wall placement of a cherished piece of artwork, walking the dog to the dog park just around the corner, or strolling on a crisp fall morning to pick-up vegetables from a farmer’s market. That’s the fun stuff!

The objective nuts and bolts of the transaction — the contract strategy and negotiation, home inspections, mortgage application and underwriting processes — are far less glamorous but equally important to a successful acquisition. The subjective choices may rest primarily with the buyers, but the majority of the objective expertise will come from the experience of the real estate expert.

Our real estate market consists not only of the homes available for purchase, but also the lenders, settlement agents, home inspectors and real estate professionals that make acquisitions possible. When working with first-time buyers, it is imperative that I help them navigate the process by pointing out the potential issues, situations and problems they may encounter. The potential issues are numerous.

Our mortgage lending guidelines change every day and our buyers not only need to be aware of these changes but also need to be working with a trusted experienced lender. Appraisal guidelines are not the same as they were four months ago and are almost certain to change again before summer is over. Additionally, understanding a home inspection might be a hurdle for a first-time buyer. Home inspections often identify issues with properties that are unforeseen, but almost never unique.

Helping buyers understand that what they perceive as a problem in the inspection report, is oftentimes a situation that I have experienced and successfully navigated many times in the past, giving buyers a high level of confidence and comfort. And while it would be impossible to predict every possible issue, discussing in advance the potential or likely situations that may arise leads to fewer surprises and less stress in the transaction.

But before any of this can happen, the buyers must actually be under contract to purchase a home! How do first-time buyers differentiate their offer to purchase from all the other offers when the seller is going to receive multiple offers? Crafting a contract offer that both recognizes the needs and preferences of the seller and the uniqueness of the property and its value will help the offer rise to the top.

This is where most first-time buyers, who assume the contract negotiating process is primarily about the sales price, need the most guidance. The phrase that “the devil is in the details” is very applicable — more contract offers are dismissed by sellers because of the smaller, perhaps less-significant terms in the contract than on the sales price offered on the front page of the contract itself.

The single best piece of advice I can offer a first-time buyer is to find an experienced, local real estate agent with whom they are comfortable, sit down with them for an hour over a cup of coffee and discuss the entire acquisition process. Address the objective nature of the process and then move on to the fun.

George Myers is a lifelong Alexandria native and a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA. George is a calm, low-pressure agent who listens and keenly observes in order to confidently navigate each clients’ uniquely personal decision to buy or sell. Contact George at 703-585-8301 to learn more.

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: How do I navigate the current mortgage environment?

Answer: A great deal has changed in the mortgage industry over the past several weeks as the industry responds to COVID-19 economic concerns. Real estate agents and consumers need to be aware of the changes as they navigate the current residential real estate market.

The mortgage industry is facing a severe liquidity problem. Investors stopped purchasing Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) which is the source of capital mortgage bankers use to make loans to consumers. The Federal Reserve stepped in and began purchasing some MBS offerings but is limiting its purchases to true conforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac packages.

Securities based on larger loans and on VA and FHA loans are not being sold. When the mortgage industry cannot sell its MBS, there is limited cash available to make loans to consumers, evidenced by current disparity in rate and point structures.

Generally true conforming loans (< $510,401) are available in the low 3 percentiles at zero points for borrowers with good credit. By contrast, high balance conforming loans, jumbo loans and VA and FHA loans are in the upper 3’s to low 4’s.

In addition to rate/point increases, the past several weeks has seen underwriting guidelines tighten significantly. Across the industry minimum credit scores for all loan programs are being raised and minimum down payments for larger loans are being increased. Where jumbo loans are still available, minimum borrower reserve requirements are being increased and income standards are being tightened.

On some programs, maximum debt-to-income ratios are being lowered. Mortgage insurance companies are also tightening their underwriting requirements and have increased mortgage insurance premiums. All in all, many borrowers are finding it more difficult to qualify for mortgage financing.

On the positive side, both Fannie and Freddie began accepting exterior only and “desktop” appraisals for most scenarios. VA and FHA are following suit.

Our industry is beginning to work with the settlement industry to allow for hybrid electronic settlements, limiting those documents which must be “wet signed” to just a handful of the settlement documents.

Undoubtedly some consumers will decide now is not the time to sell or purchase a home. Others will recognize that this may be a great time to enter the market. For sellers, inventory is still low. For buyers, they may be competing against fewer fellow purchasers. As I always told my boys when they were standing at the plate, you cannot hit if you don’t swing.

Agents, buyers and sellers need to keep a couple of additional things in mind. The mortgage process for the next month or so will take a little longer than usual as lenders are processing very high re-finance volumes. The appraisal process where interior inspections are required will take longer and will require coordination between sellers and appraisers for safe practices.

More than ever, borrowers need to be truly approved for financing before writing contracts. In some instances, after being preliminarily approved, buyers will lose employment and or income prior to settlement and will end up not qualified for financing. Financing contingencies must remain in place from contract to settlement.

As the nation and the world work through the virus crisis and our economy stabilizes, the mortgage industry will stabilize as well.

If you would like more information to help plan your next move, please contact Brian Bonnet at [email protected]lc.com 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 Chris Perry and Kathy Hassett of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Chris at 610-733-0247 or Kathy at 703-863-1546, or by email at [email protected] or [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: As a buyer, what should I know before diving into the current Virginia real estate market?

Answer: Real estate sales are governed by state contract law and property law. Depending on the circumstances, buyers in Virginia can expose themselves to significant risk if they are not fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Virginia is one of only three states that follow the caveat emptor theory for real estate transactions. Caveat emptor is a Latin term meaning “let the buyer beware.” It is a legal principle that requires a buyer to assume the risk for the purchase and conduct the appropriate inquiries before completing the sale.

Sellers in Virginia, and their agents, are merely required to provide buyers with a signed notice of the Virginia Real Estate Disclosure Act, which alerts the buyer that the seller will make no representations or warranties about the property. As a result, sellers are not required to make any disclosures about the condition of the property or adjacent parcels, with the exception of known material defects which would affect the value of the property.

It is the obligation of the buyer to conduct the necessary inspections or to ask the proper questions to uncover any potential issues with the home.

In the “buyer beware” atmosphere what should a buyer do to ensure that they are purchasing a property in good condition? Including a home inspection contingency with the purchase offer allows the buyer to take a close look at the property and its various systems (i.e. heating/air conditioning units, electric, and plumbing) and become aware of existing or possible future problems. When necessary, the buyer may have multiple inspections take place during the home inspection contingency period.

For example, in addition to a general home inspection, the buyer may opt to have a structural engineer inspect the property and give an opinion on the foundation or have a contractor inspect the roof. The home inspection contingency gives the buyer the opportunity to discover systems or appliances that are in need of repair or replacement, or safety hazards present in the home that should be addressed.

During this time of the novel coronavirus pandemic, inspections are still taking place with extra safety and health precautions. Inspectors are wearing protective gear and performing the inspection without the buyer or buyer’s agent present in the home.

Video clips and texts, in addition to the written report, are used to provide information to the buyer about the home’s systems, appliances and structure, and the inspectors are available to discuss concerns and answer questions that the buyer and their agent have.

Following the inspection period the buyer has the opportunity to negotiate with the sellers to make necessary repairs in the home prior to settlement. As an alternative to negotiating repairs, the buyer has the option of voiding the sales contract if they determine they no longer want the property. The buyer is responsible for the cost of the inspection(s), but it is money well spent to gain information on the condition of the property.

Kathy Hassett and Chris Perry, Realtors® with McEnearney Associates in Old Town, have the experience and knowledge to guide their clients through the home buying process successfully and protect their clients’ interests throughout the transaction. Contact Chris Perry at 703-286-1204 or Kathy Hassett at 703-863-1546 today for assistance in your next real estate purchase or sale.

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 Joan Shannon, Founder of The Shannon Group and Lifetime Diamond Award Top Producer with McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Joan at 703-507-8655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What’s my best approach to buy or sell a house during COVID-19?

Answer: During these most uncertain times, one thing that is for certain is that people will need a place to live as we manage our way through the pandemic and return to a much more active time.

We have been beset by worry and woes and more virus media stats and daily charts over the past two months than we can digest. So, for a moment take a deep breath, give yourself a half hour break and look up into the blue sky and enjoy what beauty, rather than fear, nature has to behold.

Think about the family and friends around you and look at all the positive efforts strangers and those dear to you have undertaken to help protect you, your family and our American way of life. Turn the phone off, ignore interruptions, relax at your favorite spot and envision where you want to be a year from now.

For a number of you that vision may include a move and the purchase or sale of your home. However, you may be unsure of what steps to take, what strategies to employ and who to trust through this turbulence. Now, more than ever, is a time to look critically and choose very experienced, local, real estate agents with decades of expertise.

Individuals whose expertise in handling rapidly changing, complex deals and who truly care about providing you the “needed attention and advice for uncertain times” should be at the top of your list. Equally important, seek out local real estate offices that have provided guidance, goodwill and great service for decades. Look to those who are part of the local community, participate in local events, think out of the box and who care way beyond the dollar sign.

An Old Town listing I recently placed on the market — 109 S. Lee Street. My first thought was how could I make the home safe and place anyone viewing it at ease? I immediately decided I would not schedule any public or broker open houses. Instead, I conducted my “Quintessentially Old Town — Virtual Open House Tour” by live-streaming it on Instagram and Facebook. I limit on-site viewings to “private, appointment-only” and disinfect the home (doorknobs, counters and other surfaces) after every individual agent visit.

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This week’s Q&A column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual format. To learn more about this article and 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.

Produced by ACT for Alexandria, Spring2ACTion is an annual day of online giving that happens every April. Last year, the Alexandria community gave more than $2M to support causes that are important to us… but we can do more!

This year’s date was moved up because now, more than ever, the Alexandria nonprofit community needs our support. Because of the current crisis, organizations have had to cancel fundraising events and programs that generate revenue. Classrooms and theaters are dark, and programs are canceled in adherence to social distancing guidelines. Many nonprofits are depleting their reserves to purchase emergency food and supplies for their constituents.

Join us as we give to our favorite nonprofits through Spring2ACTion! To see a list of 160+ nonprofit organizations, and causes to support, visit spring2action.org/organizations.

Tips for Donating

Choose your favorite Alexandria non-profit! Don’t have one? McEnearney continues its support of SCAN for its efforts to stop child abuse and bring hope and community to Alexandria’s next generation. McEnearney will provide a $5K match for donations made to SCAN!

At checkout there will be a ‘business’ drop-down question — please select McEnearney Associates so we can recognize our donors!

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 Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What is happening in the Alexandria real estate market during COVID-19?

Answer: As we combat the COVID-19 Pandemic here in Alexandria, along with the rest of Virginia, by closing non-essential businesses, the real estate market is still very much alive. Though it is hard to trend where things are going, we can take the last 2 weeks of data to share how our market has been doing since our city started taking action against COVID-19.

The first week that Alexandria and Northern Virginia was affected by COVID-19 was March 15-21, and contract activity overall was down 5.1% compared to the same 7-day period last year, and it was down 25% for the week of March 22-28. Contract activity continues to move swiftly at the lower price-points, while the $1 million plus market is moving slower.

In the $300-$749K price range, which accounts for more than two-thirds of home sales, there was a 4.6% increase in new contracts the week of March 15. But this past week, a 15% decrease was seen in contract activity compared to the same 7-day period last year. Homes priced over $1million are moving slower and contract activity dropped 33% in this price range the week of March 15, and 46% the week of March 22.

Our marketplace has seen more properties taken to “Temporarily Off Market” than previous months due to people wanting to wait to sell until a later date. As of today, in our Alexandria City market, there are 23 “Coming Soon” properties, 79 actively for sale, and 52 homes that are under contract or pending.

*We will continue to monitor the market trends and how the economy will affect real estate and we encourage you to email us for the most up-to-date information.

Should I Buy During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Echoing what the Executive VP and Chief Information Officer of McEnearney, David Howell, always says, “Buy when you’re ready to buy, and sell when you’re ready to sell.” If you are ready to purchase a home, whether it is your first time, second time, or you’re looking for a new investment opportunity, there is no time like the present.

If you are looking at the higher price points over $1 million, recent statistics show that this price point has shifted away from being a “seller’s market”. Though we are still dealing with low inventory, buyers are looking at this downtime as a perfect time to find their next home. Settlements are still occurring and loans are still being underwritten (all while complying with the current CDC guidelines), although it is wise to allow a bit more time than the usual speedy settlement period to account for any delays due to COVID-19.

I Planned to Purchase This Spring. How Can I do That?

Now, more than ever before, having an expert real estate agent working for you is so important (we’d love to apply for the job). Our top priority is health and safety, and we have adjusted our standard practice to implement this priority. At this time, our Brokerage has halted all open houses to comply with CDC guidelines and Governor’s orders.

We are still touring by appointment only, and we are taking all the necessary precautions such as using Lysol wipes to open doors, wearing booties over our shoes, using hand sanitizer, and washing hands before and after tours. We encourage our clients to do the same, and we will not tour if anyone is feeling under the weather.

For the safety of our clients, sellers and ourselves, we encourage virtual tours and meetings utilizing Zoom or Facetime.

Whether renting or buying, always consult with your local real estate agent for advice. We’d love to help you with the process! Contact one our team members today — Jillian Keck Hogan, Kristina Eells and Adrianna Vallario.

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: The ads are everywhere for online financing sources such as R—et Mortgage and Q—en Loans, what is your experience with these kinds of companies?

Answer: Out of State, Out of Our Minds

Todd,* my delightful buyer, was a sharp, tech-savvy businessman determined to get a great rate mortgage over the Internet. He logged on to a well-advertised website and sent along the details of our Sales Contract. Appropriately proud of his sterling credit, Todd pledged 20% down and started to plan his move to Old Town Alexandria. End of story?

NO SUCH LUCK! Enter Chaz* from the California-based mortgage brokerage which had received the loan form. “I’ve made loans for 30 years, little lady,” he boasted to me, “Don’t worry. Where are you calling from? West Virginia?”

Chaz:

1. Didn’t know any local appraisers and chose one from Baltimore.
2. Had heartburn about any home over 60 years old, let alone this 192-year old classic.
3. Promised 3.25% interest rate and didn’t lock it in as rates drifted higher.
4. Blamed Todd for not telling him the building could also be used commercially.

After bragging about his California successes, “I’ve closed every loan I’ve gotten my hands on, missy,” Chaz demanded another 10% down, raised the interest rate to 5.25%, emailed a lame apology note and left early for a long weekend, three days before our settlement!

Epilogue: A local lender saved the day, jumped in, took the file and settled in four days! There are excellent area banks and mortgage brokers who know our Northern Virginia/D.C./Maryland homes, offer very competitive rates and give hands-on service. Start locally, save your sanity.

Not convinced, read on…

Can You Look Them in the Eye?

Another out-of-state lender played “yo-yo” with a buyer’s emotions early last week. “We’re just so swamped,” whined Jimmy from his XYZ Co.* office in Plano, Texas, “with interest rates at a 40-year low, everyone wants to refinance. I don’t know why our regional office hasn’t returned your phone calls this week; maybe they’re busy, too.”

For the next five minutes I heard a string of unbelievable admissions. “I know we’re supposed to settle next week, but I have to tell you that I don’t have the appraisal in yet, somebody here forgot to send the condo management office an important declaration form and, oopsie, the figures I used for Mollie’s* Good Faith Estimate were based on California closing costs,” he said.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Joan Shannon, Founder of The Shannon Group and Lifetime Diamond Award Top Producer with McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Joan at 703-507-8655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How do I sell a home during this coronavirus environment?

Answer: In good times and bad, there are few things more important to us then the place we call home. In uncertain times deciding to buy or sell a home can create increased angst and pressure on the individual that can influence the local real estate market. People who are being transferred in or out of the area may feel the greatest anxiety.

The limited inventory of houses available will, most likely, become even more limited as owners “hunker down and self-quarantine.” Buyers may reduce their number of physical viewings by also “hunkering down” or finding out that house hunting trips are not considered essential travel.

However, while these are extraordinary times, many practices can remain the same with a bit of tweaking. Sellers who are anxious about selling during this coronavirus challenge may find a bit of solace and opportunity in The Shannon Group’s Home Seller’s 11 Helpful Hints for success in today’s complex and jittery residential markets.

Home Seller’s 11 Helpful Hints:

  • Today more than ever, turn to trusted, local, experienced agents with a network of other agents who may be able to produce a timely purchaser, minimizing the home’s time on market.
  • As in ordinary times, have the home professionally cleaned to maximize the cleanliness factor, appearance and overall value of your home.
  • Ensure you have dozens of professional photos, videos and floor plans online to maximize social/traditional media exposure as physical viewing by the buyer may become more restricted.
  • Reconsider whether to conduct open houses where large groups of viewers may gather as “cabin fever” and warmer weather set in over the next few weeks. In recent months, listing agents have noted that some Old Town properties had 50 to 100 individuals walk through the home during a 2-hour open house.
  • Consider showing the home by appointment only with your agent and stagger showings by three hours.
  • Provide hand sanitizers and/or cleansing wipes as a considerate and practical act.
  • Remember, people who need to buy a house, still, need to buy a house and will most likely appreciate your consideration towards virus mitigation in spite of some inconvenience in scheduling.
  • In uncertain times, working with a real estate group/team provides additional team members to show your home to prospective purchasers throughout the week and can accommodate just about any owner’s and buyer’s scheduling needs.
  • Seek experienced agent with years of in-depth neighborhood and local housing knowledge who have expertise in producing successful home valuations over the decades of changing markets in Alexandria and surrounding areas.
  • Even if for just a few days, market your home in “Coming Soon” status to generate local agent/neighborhood/social media buzz. This enables you to get the word out to the market while you are finalizing your preparations.
  • Find the local listing agent who provides you honest and concise analysis on whether “to sell, buy OR stay put” — good advice is a soothing elixir in troubled times.

Remember, people who needed to buy a house before the virus outbreak, still need to buy a house and will appreciate your efforts to make your home available to them through enhanced digital methods as well as safe practices for all.

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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 suggestions do you have for dog owners when they are selling their house?

Answer: We all love our dogs and get used to dog hair, dirty tennis balls and bones throughout the house. When it comes to selling your home, however, these are distractions for even other pet owners.

Start by taking an objective look at your home and yard. Remedy any issues before you put your house on the market. You only get one chance for a first impression, and just think how bad your dog would feel if it was her fault that the house didn’t sell!

  • Clean your dog beds, blankets and carpets with a concentration on removing odors and stains.
  • Have a friend that does not have a dog come over to give your house a “sniff test”. If you don’t pass… replace your carpets and buy a new dog bed.
  • Have a game plan for each morning before you leave the house to put away extra toys, beds, leashes and other doggie “stuff”.
  • Repair or replace scratched doors, ripped screens and chewed up furniture.
  • Take a look outside for holes, trampled bushes, dead patches and dog droppings. People start looking at your home the minute they drive down the street, so a beautiful yard will start their tour off right.

Now the hard part. We all think our dog is perfect and everyone would be thrilled to meet them.

Unfortunately that is not always true. I had a potential buyer leave a home because he was allergic to cats. It was the perfect house for his family, but he could not even go in to see it.

So what do you do? There are choices and some tough decisions to make.

  • I had a client that decided to have her bulldog stay at a friend’s house while her house was on the market. She had dark wood floors and his short white hair seemed to be everywhere, so trying to keep it clean for showings was a big issue.
  • I took a client to see a house where there was the cutest older dachshund named Ernie. Luckily we were both dog lovers, so we were happy to have him follow us around and beg for attention. What if that was not the case?
  • If you leave your dog at home, crating is the best alternative. Lots of people are afraid of dogs, and the stress of having strangers in your home can be hard on your pet.
  • For me… I would make sure that my dog was not present when the house was shown. Work out a schedule with your dog walker, neighbors, doggie day care and real estate agent so that you can have more opportunities for people to see your home.
  • Ask your agent to make notes in the listing and details in the showing instructions concerning your dog. Their name, where they will be located, if they will bark, etc. Put signs on the doors to be careful not to let your dog out.
  • Check your homeowners insurance policy for pet liability coverage.

Keeping your dog (or cat) in mind when discussing the best way to present your house is an important topic to cover during your listing appointment. I am proud to say that I have been selected to represent sellers (and buyers) because of my understanding of my client’s pet needs and concerns.

Working with a pet friendly real estate professional can make all the difference in an already stressful situation.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA.  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 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: How can the Lender I use give me a competitive edge?

Answer: To say home purchasers are experiencing a competitive market is far more than an understatement. The inventory of homes for sale in Alexandria and Arlington is down approximately 40% from this time in 2019 and that inventory was down significantly from the year before. Most prospective purchasers find themselves competing against others for the limited property which is available.

In order to be an actual buyer and not just a looker, you must be more attractive to sellers than those you are competing against. Obviously, your offer price is a big part of the equation, but assuming you are in the hunt in that regard, there are several other considerations which savvy listing agents suggest their sellers consider. Among them are home sale contingencies, the buyer’s proposed lender, and the proposed settlement date.

When sellers have options, they are almost always inclined to accept an offer that is not contingent upon the sale of another home as opposed to an offer which is. For buyers, the trick is to determine whether it is truly possible to purchase the next home without first selling the existing home.

To be able to do so often requires some sort of bridge loan scenario, and that is a type of financing not provided by most lenders. Generally, bridge loans are provided by a handful of locally based mortgage banking institutions who tend to understand the local real estate market more than much larger or nationally based companies.

Engaging a local company which provides special bridge loan products when you begin to think about purchasing a new home may make the difference between your contract being accepted over that of someone else.

In our local market most applicants are approved for the financing they seek, but not all. In too many cases, prospective purchasers are sent down a path to purchase a home only to be denied the financing they understood they would receive. Often that unfortunate news comes just before the expected settlement date. To avoid this scenario, it is imperative that lenders truly know whether a buyer is going to be able to obtain the financing they need before the contract offer is made.

Wise and experienced listing agents are generally wary of contracts where the proposed lending institution or loan officer is either not known at all, or worse, known to fail from time to time. With two offers on the table at the same proposed sales price, the purchaser who proposes to get their financing from Bank of the World or Skippy’s Mortgage.com will often loose to the offer where the lender is a local lender with a positive reputation.

How quickly a buyer can close the transaction is often a consideration of sellers. If you are the seller, you generally want the transaction settled with the proceeds in your bank account sooner rather than later — even if you are not ready to move out of the home you are selling.

Successful buyers quite often propose settlement dates as soon as two to three weeks after the contract ratification in order to make their offers more enticing. Wise listing agents know that many, if not most, lenders cannot perform that quickly. Again, generally it is the well-known local lender that can process and underwrite an application and be ready for settlement in three weeks or less.

Some people enjoy the process of simply searching for a new home and writing contracts, but if your end goal is to be successful in purchasing a home, you truly need to consider every aspect of your offer and how attractive it may be to the seller. Purchasers should consider the reputation of the lending institution, the nature of the proposed financing and how quickly the lender is able to be ready for settlement. The seller likely will.

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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