Start cleaning, decluttering and repairing anything that a buyer will notice or that a home inspector will catch. You want your home to sparkle and welcome people to come in and explore, discovering all the wonders that they will love about living there. Think of it like going on a first date – you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
With fresh buyer eyes, stand at your curb and do a true assessment. What do your friends and neighbors see when they look at your home? Is it tidy and neat or are there old broken planters and half-finished projects that you don’t notice anymore? If there are cobwebs in the corners, peeling paint, cracked caulking or a musty smell – they will wonder what else you haven’t noticed or maintained while you have lived there.
If your kitchen appliances are more than 15 years old – consider doing an update and buy new appliances now, so you can enjoy them before you sell. If the cabinets are worn and old looking – consider refacing or replacing them too. Most buyers in this market want and will pay a premium price for ‘turn-key, updated, ready to move in’ homes.
What about the bathrooms? Do they have the original vanity, lights, flooring and tub that are tired or sad looking? For a reasonable price, you can do a remodel, which will get you at least dollar for dollar in return.
Walls, doors, windows and roof – Paint, clean and repair or replace if needed. You have the time to shop for a good price and watch for sales now or let the buyer triple that replacement cost in their mind when considering your home. Many times another home will sell before yours only because they have replaced the windows and roof, when you haven’t.
If your closets are bulging and unkempt with shoes randomly thrown on the floor – it screams that you don’t have enough closet space. Weed through your clothes and pack up or donate anything that doesn’t fit or is out of season. Thin out the entry coat closet too.
Pack away anything that will distract the buyer from seeing ‘the house’ – such as spoon collections, family photos, religious items or the ever popular award plaques, trophies or political photographs. The beds should have attractive comforters with matching pillows. Dresser and nightstand tops should be clear of anything that you don’t absolutely need everyday.
The kitchen and all bathrooms should have fresh new towels, nice rugs and a few decorative accent pieces. Put away all but the most important things you use every day to show off the counter space.
Heating and air conditioning – get them cleaned and serviced. Offering a home warranty to the buyer protects you while you are listed and gives the buyer peace of mind, knowing that if something breaks within the first year, they are covered without serious out of pocket expenses.
Give the yard a spring and fall clean up. Weed, edge, mulch and spruce it up as much as your budget will allow. But remember, don’t get your mulch from a mound of freshly ground up trees – it often has termites and you don’t want to introduce live termites to your home before you sell. Only use treated and bagged mulch, preferably without a smell.
Part of my services as a professional Realtor is a no-obligation assessment of your home and staging tips on what you should do to get it ready. The advice is free but often times saves sellers thousands of dollars by suggesting alternative options and whether or not to even do some projects. I am familiar with that the buyers are looking for and can help you make the most economical decisions for the best return on your investment for resale.
Need good service people? Call me for referral to any trade – I have a golden rolodex of providers that will offer a fair price, return calls and show up when promised. I don’t ask for or accept referral fees from any of them – just knowing they are providing the best service possible for my clients is all I want.
Leslie HutchisonFall Properties703-675-2188Leslie@VirginiaHomeTeam.com
When I got my license in California in 1986, there was no such thing as a buyer's agent. There were two agents in each transactions: the listing agent (who represented the seller and listed the home for sale) and the selling agent (who also represented the seller but, by 'bringing the buyer', actually sold the property.) So the listing agent listed it, and the selling agent sold it. But both represented the seller. Not a very comforting thought for buyers, who were making a huge investment.So buyer agency agreements, a contract between a buyer and a brokerage - Fall Properties, for example, were created in the early 90's. As of July 1st, 2012, per the new Virginia State law, all buyers need a signed agreement in place before a real estate professional performs any licensed activities, such as showing homes or writing a contract, or the agent shall be in violation of Virginia law.If a buyer has a signed buyer agency agreement, often referred to as a 'buyer-broker agreement', the selling agent owes his fiduciary duty and allegiance to the buyer, regardless of who is paying the commission, not the seller.Buyer agency agreements are legally binding so you should read them carefully before signing and you should NEVER have more than one in effect at any given time, or you may inadvertently obligate yourself to pay two agents. These agreements are negotiable, so don't let an agent bully you into signing one for a period of time longer than what you are comfortable with. Of course an agent wants a period of time long enough to give him/herself a fair shot at finding you a home, but until you get to know the agent and are confident that he/she is a good fit for you, why commit yourself to longer than necessary? Many agents will do a one day or one weekend agreement, or even allow you to cancel the agreement if you are not happy with their services - BUT GET THAT IN WRITING!Once you have a signed buyer broker agreement, make sure you contact your agent to inquire about properties or arrange showings instead of calling the listing agent directly. This is critical because procuring cause issues might be created and you could obligate yourself to two agents who both need to be paid and it's your agent's job to show you homes and do the research for you!If you have questions about buyer broker agreements, or are ready to start your search, please call me.
Leslie HutchisonFall Properties703-675-2188
I am adamantly against on the sale of a home because at the most basic level it deprives one or more of the parties of the trusted advice for which they normally hire me. Dual agency requires LIMITED representation and in many cases the Agent has already given plentiful advice, counsel and support to one party; the new party will not benefit from that counsel. Neither party will benefit from the agents service, if that advice or counsel disadvantages either opposing party.
Example: A buyer walks into my open house without an agent and isn't represented. They look around the house, tell me they love the house, want to write an lower offer than the asking price, but would go up to full price to get the house if they had to.
As a dual agent, my hands are tied and I have to deal with the Buyer and the Seller impartially. I cannot disclose to the seller that the Buyer is willing to pay a price or agree to terms other than those contained in the offer or reveal any other discussions that I had with the buyer that would harm them in negotiations.
As a listing agent representing the seller, I am able to strategize openly and counsel the seller to counter their offer at full price because A) I know the buyer is willing to pay full price, and B) I have a fiduciary obligation to look out for my client's best interest. If the home inspector reveals a serious issue that the buyer wants to have repaired/replaced, as a dual agent, I cannot counsel either side on how to negotiate if it would harm the other party. Both sides end up feeling that they don’t have anyone looking out for their best interest, because they truly don’t!
Dual agency means that I cannot provide full service or give any advice. That is not the way I do business.
Some sellers agree to dual agency to ‘save some commission’ as many agents will reduce their fee by a percentage if they represent both sides without fully understanding the ramifications. I offer to reduce my commission to 3% if there the buyer is not represented by an agent and they acknowledge that I only represent the seller. This allows the seller to save the additional 3% commission or offer it to the buyer as a closing cost credit or price reduction.
Call me for more details or to discuss dual agency.
Should I work with a small boutique firm like Fall Properties or a 'Big Box' firm like Long & Foster, Weichert or Century 21?
There is a common misconception that only large real estate companies possess the resources to market listings and get homes sold.
Here are a few reasons to consider using an independent firm like Fall Properties (and me) to market and sell your home. 1. Personalized Customer Service: Working with an agent in a small firm is much like working with a team - because there are fewer players, every person associated with the small firm is familiar with each transaction. You will always speak with someone who knows who you are. Since buying or selling a home is such a large financial transaction, this level of comfort can be very reassuring. Just for fun, call the main phone number of any large office and ask about a listing you have driven by and see how they respond. More often than not, you will be connected to a brand new agent that hasn't even seen the home yet and stumbles to find the information. In a small office, we are familiar with each other's listings, have seen them and will gladly show another agent's listing to someone calling in to see it simply out of courtesy even if it isn't our buyer. 2. Strong Marketing: I personally pay for full color display ads of every listing every week in the Falls Church News Press until it sells and run ads in the Washington Post for open houses. Large offices have a strict advertising budget and cannot afford to market every listing every week and other agents won't advertise as much as I do. I also mail out 1,000 postcards for every listing. Larger firms typically mail out only 200 postcards. 3. Market Knowledge: Who knows your market better than a locally owned and operated brokerage? Our office is in Falls Church, I live in Falls Church and I specialize in Falls Church. Why is this important? If a buyer calls me to see your home, I can meet them on short notice. I can tell them about the local culture, introduce them to the neighbors and share what is so special about Falls Church. I am just moments away from your home and can stop by regularly to fill the brochure box, check on vacant homes regularly, meet repair people or let you in should you forget your keys.
Please call or email me for a no-obligation appointment if I can be of service to you or help you in any way.
In a challenging economy, the small firm that provides quality customer service with a strong internet presence, knowledgeable agents, and attention to the fluctuations of the local market, will survive and thrive. Put me to work for you and discover that size really does matter.
Leslie HutchisonFall properties703-675-2188
Ask The Realtor....
Many people call or email me with questions about the current market conditions or real estate in general, so I am starting a new feature on my website and in my ads where anyone can ask a question and have it answered. The question I was asked this week is:
Senior Housing Choices -Assisted or Independent living?
This week I was helping a client make the right choice for her elderly Mom, who had recovered from a mild stroke but needed to move out of the family home to be closer to the adult children. Their initial choices were A) Buy or lease a single level home with a yard so she could maintain her independence and have some privacy, or B) Buy a condo in a smaller building with an outside entrance so she wouldn't feel so close to other people.
Sometimes it is hard to reverse the roles and become the parent to our parents and make difficult decisions for them. As a Realtor with the Seniors Specialist designation, I calmly explain all the options and weigh the positive and negative of each choice, allowing them to make the best choice together.
In this case, they had not even considered the expense of buying a home and selling it again quickly if Mom's health continued to decline, or having to break a lease should she not be happy there or need constant care. Even though it was not on their initial list of options, it soon became clear that the best solution for Mom was to find an independent living facility that also has round the clock onsite care to help should she fall or need other assistance in the middle of the night. She'll be happier there.
Please call or email me for a no-obligation appointment if I can be of service to you or help you in any way.
Leslie HutchisonFall Property703-675-2188
By Brent Arends at the Wall Street Journal online
Enough with the doom and gloom about homeownership.
Sure, maybe there's more pain to come in the housing market. But when Time magazine starts running covers that declare "Owning a home may no longer make economic sense," it's time to say: Enough is enough. This is what "capitulation" looks like. Everyone has given up.
After all, at the peak of the bubble five years ago, Time had a different take. "Home Sweet Home," declared its cover then, as it celebrated the boom and asked: "Will your house make you rich?"
But it's not enough just to be contrarian. So here are 10 reasons why it's good to buy a home.
1. You can get a good deal. Especially if you play hardball. This is a buyer's market. Most of the other buyers have now vanished, as the tax credits on purchases have just expired. We're four to five years into the biggest housing bust in modern history. And prices have come down a long way– about 30% from their peak, according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index, which tracks home prices in 20 big cities. Yes, it's mixed. New York is only down 20%. Arizona has halved. Will prices fall further? Sure, they could. You'll never catch the bottom. It doesn't really matter so much in the long haul.
Where is fair value? Fund manager Jeremy Grantham at GMO, who predicted the bust with remarkable accuracy, said two years ago that home prices needed to fall another 17% to reach fair value in relation to household incomes. Case-Shiller since then: Down 18%.
2. Mortgages are cheap. You can get a 30-year loan for around 4.3%. What's not to like? These are the lowest rates on record. As recently as two years ago they were about 6.3%. That drop slashes your monthly repayment by a fifth. If inflation picks up, you won't see these mortgage rates again in your lifetime. And if we get deflation, and rates fall further, you can refi.
3. You'll save on taxes. You can deduct the mortgage interest from your income taxes. You can deduct your real estate taxes. And you'll get a tax break on capital gains–if any–when you sell. Sure, you'll need to do your math. You'll only get the income tax break if you itemize your deductions, and many people may be better off taking the standard deduction instead. The breaks are more valuable the more you earn, and the bigger your mortgage. But many people will find that these tax breaks mean owning costs them less, often a lot less, than renting.
4. It'll be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want. You can move the walls, build an extension–zoning permitted–or paint everything bright orange. Few landlords are so indulgent; for renters, these types of changes are often impossible. You'll feel better about your own place if you own it than if you rent. Many years ago, when I was working for a political campaign in England, I toured a working-class northern town. Mrs. Thatcher had just begun selling off public housing to the tenants. "You can tell the ones that have been bought," said my local guide. "They've painted the front door. It's the first thing people do when they buy." It was a small sign that said something big.
5. You'll get a better home. In many parts of the country it can be really hard to find a good rental. All the best places are sold as condos. Money talks. Once again, this is a case by case issue: In Miami right now there are so many vacant luxury condos that owners will rent them out for a fraction of the cost of owning. But few places are so favored. Generally speaking, if you want the best home in the best neighborhood, you're better off buying.
6. It offers some inflation protection. No, it's not perfect. But studies by Professor Karl "Chip" Case (of Case-Shiller), and others, suggest that over the long-term housing has tended to beat inflation by a couple of percentage points a year. That's valuable inflation insurance, especially if you're young and raising a family and thinking about the next 30 or 40 years. In the recent past, inflation-protected government bonds, or TIPS, offered an easier form of inflation insurance. But yields there have plummeted of late. That also makes homeownership look a little better by contrast.
7. It's risk capital. No, your home isn't the stock market and you shouldn't view it as the way to get rich. But if the economy does surprise us all and start booming, sooner or later real estate prices will head up again, too. One lesson from the last few years is that stocks are incredibly hard for most normal people to own in large quantities–for practical as well as psychological reasons. Equity in a home is another way of linking part of your portfolio to the long-term growth of the economy–if it happens–and still managing to sleep at night.
8. It's forced savings. If you can rent an apartment for $2,000 month instead of buying one for $2,400 a month, renting may make sense. But will you save that $400 for your future? A lot of people won't. Most, I dare say. Once again, you have to do your math, but the part of your mortgage payment that goes to principal repayment isn't a cost. You're just paying yourself by building equity. As a forced monthly saving, it's a good discipline.
9. There is a lot to choose from. There is a glut of homes in most of the country. The National Association of Realtors puts the current inventory at around 4 million homes. That's below last year's peak, but well above typical levels, and enough for about a year's worth of sales. More keeping coming onto the market, too, as the banks slowly unload their inventory of unsold properties. That means great choice, as well as great prices.
10. Sooner or later, the market will clear. Demand and supply will meet. The population is forecast to grow by more than 100 million people over the next 40 years. That means maybe 40 million new households looking for homes. Meanwhile, this housing glut will work itself out. Many of the homes will be bought. But many more will simply be destroyed–either deliberately, or by inaction. This is already happening. Even two years ago, when I toured the housing slump in western Florida, I saw bankrupt condo developments that were fast becoming derelict. And, finally, a lot of the "glut" simply won't matter: It's concentrated in a few areas, like Florida and Nevada. Unless you live there, the glut won't have any long-term impact on housing supply in your town.
Off the real estate subject today for a bit of romance, whimsy and a touch of my other passion - travel...
Now an international tradition, “love padlocks” began humbly in the 1980s in the Hungarian town of Pécs. The custom involves two lovers, a padlock and a fence or significant landmark of some kind. The subsequent bond of lock to fence symbolizes of course, eternal commitment. From Europe to North America, Asia to Oceania, dozens of love padlock sites now dot the globe. Here are six of the most notable.
Click here for the story and great photos of locks...http://blog.hotelclub.com/6-perfect-places-to-hang-a-love-padlock/
There are NO homes currently for sale between $780,000 and $1,100,000 in Falls Church City, creating a great sellers’ market with so many buyers waiting for a new home!! My new FCC listing on Greenwich at $875,000 SOLD in 4 days, and I could have sold it 10 times!!!! And, with interest rates at the lowest we have seen in over 30 years, many buyers that would wait buy in the spring are trying to buy NOW but would still let you stay in your home until June if you need to keep the kids in school. If you are thinking of selling soon, call me for a no-obligation meeting to see what your home could sell for! With NO competition, you will always get a higher price for you home than if there are many others to choose from.
Leslie Hutchison703-675-2188Fall Properties
Dominion Virginia Power insures against water and sewer line breaks!
The Sewer Line Repair Program provides protection for the sewer line that runs from the main system or septic tank to your home. If a sinkhole, tree root, over usage or normal wear and tear causes your sewer line to leak, clog, or rupture, Dominion will make all necessary covered repairs. You make one simple, toll-free phone call any time, day or night and a professional repair crew will be dispatched to your home within 24 hours to quickly repair your sewer line. There are no service call charges or additional fees and you may cancel you protection at anytime without penalty. A typical sewer line repair can cost between $3,500 and $4,000.
The Water Line Replacement Program provides protection for the water line that runs from the curb to your home. If your line begins to leak, Dominion will make all necessary covered repairs. You make one simple, toll-free phone call any time, day or night and a professional repair crew will be dispatched to your home within 24 hours to quickly repair or replace your water line. There are no service call charges or additional fees and you may cancel your protection at any time without penalty. A typical water line repair can cost $1,500 to $3,000.
For more information - click this link... http://www.dom.com/products/home-repair-programs/index.jsp
At today's NVAR Economic Summit, 4 experts shared their thoughts and forecasts for the Metro area real estate market....
Dr Charles Capone, Director, FHA Office of Risk Management:
We have a unique market in the Metro DC area, with a much higher borrower annual income of $101,964 versus the US average of $54,216. Our home prices are higher at an average of $330,000 compared to the US average of $154,598. FHA loans allow for a higher mortgage payment to income ratio for this area at 3.14 versus the US average of 2.84, and our average FICO credit score of borrowers at 733 is higher than the national average of 692.
FHA had 35% of the area loans in 2009 compared to the nationwide average of 15% to 20%. Our FHA loan limit for the area is highest as well at $729,750 - which will also be extended into 2011.
However, FHA is tightening up their requirements for loans as of October 4th. Currently, you can obtain an FHA loan if you have a 500 FICO score with a 10% down payment. Starting October 4th, you will need a FICO score of 580 for that same loan. They will also be tightening up the loan to value ratios on refinancing.
Even with these new rules, they are much more lenient that conventional financing, which requires a FICO score of 660 to 680 with 10% down or 700 with 5% down.
John Courson, President & CEO, Mortgage Bankers Association:
Lenders are using stricter guidelines for lending that is required by FHA in order to protect themselves with an additional cushion.
14.5% of borrowers are currently in default, but 40% of them have never called their bank to discuss their options or to request a loan modification.
There are new loan modification programs available that allow lenders to defer a portion of the mortgage as a second trust without monthly payments, which allows the bank to reduce the monthly mortgage to a manageable payment.
25% of purchasers are buying a short sale.
Jerry Giovaniello, Senior VP and Chief Lobbyist, Governmental Affairs, National Association of Realtors:
Our mortgage tax credits and the benefits of home ownership are being threatened!
Under current rules, homeowners are allowed to deduct up to $100,000 of mortgage interest attributable to mortgage debt up to $1,000,000. The Congressional Budget Office has suggested that Congress either reduce the cap, change the mortgage interest deduction.
You can follow the latest news at http://www.realtor.org/government_affairs
Dr Stephen Fuller, Director, Center for Regional Analysis, School of Public Policy, GMU:
We are now in the 5th quarter of recovery and 2012 will be an excellent economy.
Of the 15 largest job markets, we are leading in new jobs with 41,800 new jobs created in the Metro area last year.
Our unemployment rate is the lowest of the 15 largest job markets at 5.2% in NVA.
Homes are selling as fast as we have homes coming on the market, and we have had more than 2 years of inventory reduction.
The market has come into balance.
We have had 10 consecutive months of price increases, at an average of 5.5%. Sale prices have firmed up and fewer sellers are willing to drop their price or negotiate terms.
In 2007, 65% of new construction home sales canceled, compared to under 10% cancelation since Jan of 2009.
Our current economy shows that we are paying off our credit card debts and living within our means, buying more modestly priced homes and not spending more than we make.
Why Rent When You Can BUY?
Yup, the cliché’ is true: Buying a home is one of the smartest financial decisions most people will ever make. Don’t take our word for it. Take the Federal Reserves.
Its Survey of Consumer Finances has consistently found a huge gap between the wealth piled up by homeowners and that accumulated by renters.
Home ownership builds wealth in two ways: through the forced savings of paying down a mortgage, and through appreciation -- the rise in the homes value over time.
The earlier you get in the game, the quicker you can get that appreciation working for you. The longer you wait - well, the consequences can be stiff....
Average net worth of homeowners vs. renters
$80,000 and up
$50,000 to $79,999
$30,000 to $49,999
$16,000 to $29,999
Source: VIP Forum, Federal Reserve Board
1949 Leonard Rd - Falls Church - $895,000
1976 Hopewood Dr - Falls Church - $580,000
4501 Arlington Blvd #219 - Arlington - $299,000
Thirty year mortgage rates held steady this week at an all-time low according to numbers from Freddie Mac. Money for refinances and purchases is cheap if you can qualify under today's tighter lending standards.
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