Two real estate agents say it’s been an unusual summer for buying and selling homes in Northern Virginia.
Val Klotz, an agent for Compass in Alexandria, says it’s been an incredibly busy summer, particularly coming after a slow spring. Carrie Shokraei, an associate broker at RE/MAX Allegiance in Burke, won’t go that far, but still calls the market “crazy” in recent months.
They both recently talked about what they are seeing in real estate.
“The buyers that are out there are definitely more picky,” says Klotz. “They’re not willing to just jump into anything.”
Shokraei agrees: “Buyers today are more picky than they were before,” she says, “because interest rates are higher, and they’re having to pay more for mortgages. So whereas before, people were just scrambling to get a house, it’s not happening like that anymore.”
Buyers are looking for “turnkey” homes, Klotz says — ones that are ready to move into, without a lot of work required — and they’re ready to pay the price that entails. “They don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of doing repairs and having contractors come in,” Klotz says. “They’d rather pay for it upfront in the sales price, and have it all done.”
That said, the most competitive properties, in high-demand areas close to DC and in excellent condition, are still getting multiple offers, Klotz says, and potential buyers who will forgo contingencies (even financing contingencies) and are willing to pay above appraised value — even pay some of the seller’s closing costs.
Some are even forgoing home inspections, which makes Shokraei nervous. “When a buyer really, really wants something, and they’ve lost out a few times, then they are kind of willing to give up their firstborn still,” she says. “But I would say the majority of the people are wanting home inspections today.” She recommends that for the buyer or the seller, “because we live in a very litigious society.”
Klotz says more people are doing home inspections differently. For example, under a void-only home inspection, buyers aren’t asking the sellers to make repairs or give credit toward repairs. “They’re strictly saying, ‘We want to find out more about the condition of the home and decide if we want to move forward or not.’” Others are using pre-inspections — “sort of a mini-inspection” before making an offer, Klotz says. That way, “they feel more comfortable moving forward with not including a home inspection contingency.”
Differing Pricing Strategies
When it comes to pricing a home for sale, one tactic some real estate agents take is a price point slightly lower than comparable houses. Klotz says that starting the price a little lower can encourage multiple offers, which can often result in better outcomes for the sellers, namely higher sales prices and fewer contingencies, such as buyers waiving home inspections and appraisal values.
“They have to price it where the fish are biting,” Shokraei says, “because if they don’t, the house will sit. And in this market, anything that’s sitting, it’s kind of like the kiss of death. If it goes more than a week, people wonder what’s wrong with it.”
Deadlines on offers have become “more popular and more standard” over the past couple of years, Klotz says. “And I think agents and buyers actually prefer knowing where things stand. So if they come in and look at a property on a Thursday or Friday or over the weekend, it’s nice to know that you have a certain amount of time to get your offer together.”
Shokraei says there is a flip side to that. “The con to it is that you don’t get any offers, and it looks foolish,” she says. “I usually don’t set a deadline until I have one offer in hand. And then if I know that I’m getting a ton of showings on a property then I will set an offer deadline, but I typically don’t do it unless they already have something in hand.”
Should You Renovate?
When it comes to getting your house renovated before putting it on the market, both agents say, it depends on how much work needs to be done.
“If I have an elderly [client], I try to have the house be sold as-is as much as possible,” Shokraei says, “because it can be challenging for someone who’s older to try to get the home cleared out and in great shape. But people who are capable of it, I do recommend it.” A client of hers did a full renovation and ended up with $100,000 more than the asking price, she says.
Klotz says she recently worked on selling a house “that was a strictly as-is” listing, at a very low price for the area. “For a property like that, that it wouldn’t make sense to do some repairs here and there.”
But for properties in reasonably good condition, she recommends “pretty basic cosmetic fixes,” such as painting, refinishing any hardwood floors, and maybe some minor kitchen and bathroom upgrades that include light fixtures, faucets, and vanities.
Both brokers say the choice of whether to have an open house is really up to the seller. “Some people don’t want a bunch of strangers coming through their home,” Klotz says, adding that serious, qualified buyers will likely want a private tour with their agents. “I don’t push open houses.”
Shokraei says the traditional open house — generally Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. — can work as one of “a lot of different touches to try to get the buyer to write an offer on your property,” to include internet exposure, word of mouth, and communication with other agents.
And they both say that even though it’s a good time to sell a home, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to buy.
“A good time to buy is when you’re ready to buy a house — when you have the financial security, and you’re ready to make that move,” Klotz says. “Interest rates will move up and down over the years, but I always tell people: The sooner you can buy, the better, because it is a long-term investment.”
“It’s time to buy real estate,” Shokraei says. “It’s always still a good time.”
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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