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Home Buyers Are Back

May 2, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Columns No Comments
Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer

It’s been a long wait, but residential homebuyers in the under $500,000 price range in Loudoun County are back in sizable numbers.And they are carrying their checkbooks with them when they go house hunting!

After a very long five-year hiatus, homebuyers have finally emerged from wherever they were hiding, and on any given weekend, especially when the weather is good, they wander about the countryside and throughout the individual subdivisions, either with their agents in tow, or armed with reams of data on every conceivable property that might fit their needs.

And they know what they are looking for.

These are not the buyers of old. Today’s homebuyers are very much up to speed on what questions to ask, what attributes to demand, what diversions to ignore.

And for the most part, they don’t waste time with over-priced listings.

The model has changed

There once was a time when sellers would price their properties based on their wishes, rather than on the carefully crafted research offered by the real estate professionals who advise them. The general belief was: “If they don’t like my price, let them offer what they are willing to pay….”.

That may have worked from time to time way back when, but no more.

If your property is not correctly “positioned” in the market, you may get no showings at all, or lots of showings and no offers.

But when you do it right: Nirvana!

One anecdote:

About three months ago, I was referred to an out-of-town property owner who had a nice older house in a great neighborhood, and he wanted to sell it. After inspecting the home, I made recommendations for some work that needed to be done. And I recommended an offer price to be placed on the property when all that work was completed.

That’s not exactly what he opted to do.

So the property was put on the market at the “final asking price” while he sought estimates for the work to be done. Buyer traffic began almost immediately, but the house was not in a state of repair to justify the asking price.

We had loads of traffic, but not one offer.

Five weeks later, the repairs were done, but now the listing was “old” in the MRIS system, meaning that DOM (days on market) had become noticeably long, so wary buyers looked elsewhere.

What to do: lower the price by not that much ($10,000) to get it into the “hot zone”, based on the comparable alternatives.
Immediately, the feeding frenzy was on. The very next day an offer came in; too low, and the seller rejected it. The following weekend, with fourteen showings, five offers came. Two were too weak, one was unqualified, and two were serious.

With two knowledgeable agents doing the best they could for their clients, one “bidder” successfully presented an over-full-priced offer, and that property is now on its way to closing.

Lesson 1: With buyers present, price to sell!

No one knows how long this spurt will last. There have been fits and starts over the past six months, but none, in my opinion, rise to the level of activity that I am seeing in the market at this time.

It’s still too early to tell if this market strength will extend into the higher price points, but one thing is for sure: the inventory of affordable homes in the under $500,000 price range in western Loudoun is down dramatically from what it was a few short months ago. And so, when the competition for available properties heats up, prices rise, just as in the example above.

Lesson 2: If you’re “buying up,” you better move now…

Selling your existing home with a heated market gives you the best opportunity you’ve had to take top dollar now, and still have the advantage of a somewhat-depressed price for the more expensive home you may have set your eyes on …

And remember, prices change in the market based on perception, not on reality. You don’t get a chance to “wait for the comps to catch up;” it happens right before your eyes.Good luck!

Carl Fischer is the Broker/Owner of United Country Real Estate, specializing in commercial, investment, and selected residential properties, as well as Northern Neck of Virginia waterfront homes. He is licensed in Virginia and West Virginia, and is a member of the Dulles Area Association of Realtor (DAAR) as well as the Northern Neck Association of Realtors (NNAR). He has been in real estate since 1989. To contact Carl, e-mail him at carl@uc-nova.com.

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