Selling In Reston

Should You Sell Your Home Now? (as in, during the holidays)

Chanukah begins today, and Christmas is approaching right on its heels with New Years around the corner. With everything going on this time of year, many sellers opt to wait until well into the new year to list their home. Some believe summer is the best time to sell, and others simply don't want to interrupt their favorite holiday traditions. Should you sell your home now?

Selling at this time of year can actually be very beneficial to the seller. I recently came across an article on Realtor.com that discussed 10 reasons why you can sell your home during the holidays. There are three points in particular that I like.

  1. More international buyers The number of home buyers from other countries has increased dramatically--especially in Reston. These buyers don't observe the same calendar of events as most Americans.
  2. Seller competition is lighter during the holidays There are plenty of buyers out there right now. But with sellers reluctant to list their homes during the holidays, there is a shortage of inventory. Take advantage of that.
  3. You don't have to forgo holiday decorating or take phone calls during the holiday feast. You can set boundaries about when you show your house (and even set up black out dates), and decorations don't turn off most buyers. But having your house listed means it will be on the website, and during the holidays the number of online searches soars. This means your house will be viewed virtually, and that's a good thing.

Read the article for more insights as to why this is a great time of year to sell your home. Or call me and I can help you get ready.

7 Steps to Boost Your Curb Appeal

First impressions matter. And that means the curb appeal of you home influences whether a prospective buyer even wants to look inside. Boosting your curb appeal doesn't have to break the bank. Here are seven simple things you can do to make your home more appealing to prospective buyers.

  1. Install lights along the sidewalk

    Lights lining the path to your home are cheery and inviting...and not very expensive. Lighting can also emphasize your landscaping and any other features you want to highlight. And, lights improve security. Solar lights are perfect for this job. Since they don't require running electrical cable or extension cords, you can put them wherever you want--down the sidewalk, around a tree. All you have to do to install them is stick them in the ground. There are so many designs today that they can add a nice, decorative touch. It's a small thing that has a big impact.

  2. Plant Flowers

    Need I say more? Just thinking about flowers makes me smile. And I'm not alone. Whether they're in flower boxes, hanging baskets, or berms, they provide a huge boost to your curb appeal. Planting flowers is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to make a big impact. We have tons of nurseries in the area that can recommend exactly what to plant for your yard conditions. It won't take long or break the bank, and it will make you happy.

  3. Cover Up Dead Spots on Your Lawn

    Oh how we love our trees in Reston. Alas, we don't love their constant shade, and the inevitable dead spots that surround them. I say surrender to the dead spots. Rather than fight them by constantly planting grass that will never grow, cover them up. Plant some shade loving flowers or plants around them (hostas do particularly well here). An even easier solution is to mulch them. You will be amazed at how clean and appealing your yard looks when you cover the dead spots!

  4. Upgrade the Hardware on Your Door

    Another super simple upgrade is to change the hardware on your door. Styles change, even for door handles and locks. Swapping out old light fixtures and mailboxes (if you have one by your door) can also add new life to your entrance. And while you're at it, painting the door will add new vibrancy. You can refresh the entire entrance to you home with those simple fixes.

  5. Replace Rotted Wood

    Many of the homes in Reston have wood exteriors and HOA requirements forbid any other type of siding. In our moist climate, wood will sometimes rot--especially around window casings. The good news is that fixing it may not be as costly as you think. Sure it's not as quick a fix as planting flowers, but it will drastically boost your curb appeal.

  6. Clean the Gutters

    Cleaning the gutters really doesn't take that long. Whether you do it yourself or pay to have it done, it will help make your house look more inviting. Something about weeds growing out of gutters just looks untidy.

  7. Power Wash Your House and Decks

    Over time, your house and deck can start looking grungy. Sometimes a new coat of paint or stain is called for (you should do that every six or seven years), but often a good power washing is more than enough to make your house look brand-spanking new. Your house will look so fresh, you may wonder why you've never done this before!

There are many more things you can do to boost your curb appeal...some small, some more involved. But these seven things alone will drastically improve how your house looks to potential buyers and will make them want to come in and see more.

Getting Ready for Your Appraisal, Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted some tips for getting your home physically ready for the appraisal. Whether you are selling, refinancing, or looking for a home equity loan, the shape your home is in will make a difference in the home appraisal. But there are a few more things you can do to make the appraiser's job easier.

  1. The appraiser needs to know what kind of improvements you've made. So keep a list of anything you've done in the last 15 years--the date and the approximate cost. It matters whether your air conditioner is 5 years old or 25 years old. Something as seemingly small as replacing a toilet also counts.
  2. Find a plot map of your home. Some HOAs will give you one when you buy your property. The appraiser will go look it up, but they'll appreciate it if they don't have to. Regardless, they need to know your property lines and the actual square footage of the structure.
  3. Find comps and have copies of them. This is also something they'll do, but if you have already done it for them, it helps--especially if it's a recent sale that didn't go through a real estate agent. Those comps can take a while to show up on their databases.
  4. Make a list of all the improvements in the neighborhood, such as the Metro line coming in, a new high-end grocery store, or a recreation center--anything that makes your neighborhood more appealing to buyers. It's unlikely that your appraiser lives in your community, so let them know what a great location you're in!

Once you hand over your helpful information, step back and let the appraiser get to work.

By making your property look it's best and by giving your appraiser the additional information they need to make a good assessment, you will be well positioned to get the highest valuation from your home appraisal.

Home Appraisals 101

Don't Let Your Appraisal Kill the Deal (Part 1)

The other day, a friend told me her appraisal for a home equity loan came in $40,000 less than comps in her neighborhood. Why did this happen? Because she didn't realize she needed to clean and straighten the whole house (especially the huge cobwebs in the windows); it was a dark, rainy evening and the house looked dingy from the outside; and they need to do some upgrades. Granted, the home equity loan is to pay for the upgrades. But still, $40,000 below market value? That is significant.

Do not let this happen to you.

Here is the thing to remember for any appraisal--whether you're refinancing, apply for a home equity loan, or selling: appraisers are people, and they are just as influenced by physical appearances as buyers are. Your house has to look it's best when the appraiser comes through lest they appraise the property much lower than it's worth.

My friend's story is so common, I decided to do a two-part series on home appraisals. Part one includes the steps you need to take to make your property physically appealing. In part two, I'll discuss the things you can do to make the appraiser's job easier.

Preparing Your House for Home Appraisals

To start, know that physical appearance matters. A lot. Appraisers can assign an "effective age" to your home--this is the age they assign after considering how recent the updates are and the overall condition. Torn wallpaper, vinyl floors curling, threadbare carpets, chipped paint--all of these things add up to the overall age of your home. And that will drive appraisers to comps with the same effective age. So, make your house look good.

1. Spruce it up. Every appraiser I know agrees that it's important to keep the look, feel, and condition of the property as updated and cared-for as possible. Appraisers probably won't look under your bed, but they will look at overall how clean the home is. Clean the marks of your walls and the fingerprints around door handles. Wash your windows. Replace the peeling vinyl floor. All of these things actually affect the value of your home, and they add up.

This is also a good time to do some of the upgrades you've been thinking about. Paint, new carpets, lights, and plumbing fixtures are relatively low cost upgrades that can make a huge difference in your appraisal.

And keep in mind that appraisers often value houses in $500 increments. Repairs that should be made count against your property. So fix leaky faucets, stained drywall, and cracked windows. Make a list and call your handyman--these things can often be knocked out in one day.

2. Address the curb appeal. The appraiser will start the appraisal at the curb, so make sure the exterior of your house looks good. Mow the lawn and do some weeding. If your home needs a good power washing, do it. Many Reston homes tend to collect algae on the roofs (a downside of the wooded communities)--get it cleaned. You want the house to look like it's in mint condition so that it isn't compared to foreclosures or other lower-value homes.

3. Make it comfortable. Along the lines of making your home physically appealing is ensuring it's physically comfortable while the appraiser is there. You may be comfortable in a cold house, but your appraiser may not be. Turn on the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer. You also don't want them to think the heater or air conditioner is broker!

Improving the physical appeal of your property alone will increase the value of your appraisal. In part 2, I'll talk about some of the other things you can do to boost that appraisal.

 

Lake Anne Condo - What it is and what it can be - Buying Potential

I have a great new listing located in Heron House on Lake Anne in Reston's  first Village Center. It's a great little unit with a ton of potential. The unit is completely livable as it is but it's ready for a redo.

Lake Anne, Reston

Lake Anne, Reston

This unit has what we call "great bones." It's on the 11th floor so it has amazing expansive views just above the tree line. This floor plan is a rarity because on the first 4 floors of the building it has been divided into 2 efficiencies; so there are only 10 of this particular floor plan. Foremost among its charms is a 30+ foot long balcony that goes across the entire unit.

Below is a link to the unit that is for sale, and a link to same floor plan that has been remodeled.

For sale 11400 Washington Plaza W #1101 $275,000.00

Same floor plan remodeled.

A great opportunity to create something unique in a stunning setting and wonderful environment.

Random thoughts on Real Estate and Reston's numbers

One of the biggest surprises of being in real estate was realizing how little the work turns out to be about houses, and how much more it is about walking with people as they navigate different life transitions. I love the HGTV real estate shows where the real estate agent shows a buyer 3 homes and voila, they pick a house, write a contract, move in and the next time you see them they're at a house warming party - all this in 30 minutes. As is often the case with realty TV, it's not very real.

In real life people are dealing with all kinds of events that are driving them to move from one place to another place. Some are happy, some are sad, some are speculative but it is mostly about life changes, marriage, births, deaths, retiring, divorcing, new jobs and lost jobs. Sometimes it's about more than one thing, a new marriage and a new job. Change is almost always hard for people; we are rarely at our best when we're moving through transitions. Real estate agents spend a lot of time with people who aren't at their best, but they might be more real than if you had met them at a cocktail party. It isn't always easy, but the realness of it makes it feel important, even if it's just for that short period of time when you help someone move from one place to the next.

So those are my random thoughts on real estate.

Here are the Reston numbers. There are currently 128 fully active properties on the market inReston. 41 Single Family Homes, 45 Townhouses the remainder are Condominiums. Inventory of homes continues to be very low.

Sales June - today: 262 properties with a sales volume of $114,500,000.

Sales year to date: 639 properties with a sales volume of $265,851,000.

There goes the neighborhood ... Understanding Cluster Bylaws

When your cluster board won't keep things up...

Living in a townhouse means that you live in very, very close proximity to your neighbors. It also means that what your neighbors do or don't do will have an impact on you and on your home's value.

Spawling Concrete Sidewalk

Spalling Concrete Sidewalk

I recently showed a great townhouse in the Lake Anne area. The place itself was in fairly good shape--it needed some updates but generally it wasn't too bad. What stopped the buyer wasn't that the home needed a new kitchen it was that the areas of the property that are owned in common, the parking lots, sidewalks, retaining walls, large trees and even light poles all needed attention, everything looked under cared for and a little worn.

I started looking more closely; the buyer was right. The asphalt in the parking area was in kind of shabby condition at best, the sidewalks needed power washing, the light poles were peeling, the trees needed trimming and a few significant retaining walls were in bad shape.

The buyer asked me to get information about how the Cluster Board was going to address these issues. The listing agent relayed there was no active plan in place to address any of the issues my buyer identified. End result; the buyer just couldn't get comfortable with the lack of action on obvious maintenance issues and so decided to keep looking.

Neglecting your property has consequences. Next to location, condition is the next single biggest factor in determining if your property will fetch a price at the top of your market range or at the bottom of your market range. When you live in a townhouse this means that it's not only the condition of your home that counts; it's the condition of all of the property you own in common with your neighbors.

So, what do you do when the "powers that be" don't or won't take action to address maintenance issues?

Missing mortar in brick

I think the first thing to do is to read and understand your Cluster Bylaws and to know your Cluster financials. Most Cluster Bylaws state specifically that the Board is directly responsible for maintaining the commonly owned parts of the property in a way that keeps it safe and that maintains and enhances the property values. It's important to know your Cluster financials because if the Board has been under reserving, (not saving enough for repairs, replacement and maintenance), the problem is bigger than just inactivity.

The next thing to do is to get involved. Cluster Boards are notoriously over committed. Volunteer to get bids for work that needs doing, organize a Cluster clean up day, and be willing to participate on committees. Do not just be a person that complains.

And if that doesn't work...

It's time for a Coup. Organize your like minded neighbors, identify candidates and get them elected to the Board. In most communities this isn't too difficult to do. I think that 99% of what doesn't get done is really a function of inertia and a lack of leadership.

You can have a huge positive impact on your community and your property values if you are willing to take on the responsibility and the time it takes to get projects done.

What you will find once you've taken over the reins of power is that it's easy to understand where the inertia comes from. One day you'll find yourself looking at bids from asphalt contractors and you'll realize, "hmmm...I don't actually have any experience with replacing a parking lot" then you'll know why it's so easy to do nothing. When you are seized with anxiety...push past it, your neighbors need you and you won't regret it, well you might regret it but do it anyway.

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The State of Real Estate in Reston

The number one question I'm asked whenever people discover that I'm a real estate agent is "how's business" or" how's the market?"

Everyone it seems is interested home values--some are hoping to revive the daydream of triple digit appreciation, others I'm sure are wondering if their number one asset has stopped losing value.

Property in North Reston

A Home in North Reston

A few years ago when I was trying to decide if I could make a living by focusing my real estate practice exclusively in Reston I ran some numbers that convinced me that focusing on Reston was not only reasonable it was smart. The Reston real estate market is a large, about $400,000,000 in transactions per year. Our market is also diverse with a wide range of housing types.

The most striking feature of today's market is that the inventory is painfully low. There are a total of 164 fully active properties on the market in the 3 Reston zip codes. The 20190 code has 47 active listings, 20191 has 68 active listings and 20194 has 49 active listings. Prices on those 164 listings range from 1,500,000.00 - 125,000.00.

A good time to sell or not?

If you're thinking of selling your property the rules of supply and demand would suggest that now is a great time to sell. Many sellers are seeing a very short number of days on market and are even receiving multiple offers. But, the other striking feature of this market is how price sensitive it is. Sellers that list above market because they think they need "room to negotiate" are seeing their homes sit, and sit, and sit. Sellers that put their property on to the market priced within (or even slightly below), spitting distance of reasonable com-parables are receiving multiple offers.

So--how's the market in Reston? If you're priced right it's great, if you're not it's slow.

Uplands Neighborhood in Reston VA

In a few weeks the Spring Peepers will begin to sing. It's one of the things like fireflies and the Fall colors that remind me how much I have come to love living on the East Coast.

Uplands Neighborhood Map VA

The Uplands area of Reston has a wide range of housing types.

I first heard the little frogs when Rick and I moved with our tribe of daughters to Reston. We lived on Buttermilk Lane in a beautiful modern Bonner home in the Uplands. This area of Reston is bordered Wiehle Avenue and Lake Fairfax Drive at one end and by Baron Cameron and Lake Fairfax Park at the other end.

Family properties in the Uplands Neighborhood

Uplands includes several townhouses clusters and single family homes in a wide variety of types from small ranch styles houses to large contemporary and pretty much everything in between. The neighborhood has a great layout with just two access points; while there is a convenient cut over to Rt. 7 mostly the people driving through the area live there.

The neighborhood boast a great kid oriented pool and a huge recreation area that includes 2 tennis courts, a full sized basket ball court, a baseball diamond, hiking trail along Buttermilk Creek and the huge Winter attraction of sledding on King Kong Hill. Forest Edge Elementary School is there for the educational needs of the little ones.

The Uplands is the quintessential suburban Reston neighborhood. It was ideal for our large family. The safety of the cul-de-sac for learning how to ride a bike, the freedom of letting the kids walk to school and to the pool, for us it was the perfect Reston neighborhood.

Plenty of Nature around too

Like most of Reston the Uplands is beautiful; full of nature with deer and foxes a common sight. The walk along the Buttermilk Creek trail to the back of Lake Fairfax is hushed and wooded; if you walk towards Lake Fairfax park when the first few evenings get warm you'll be rewarded with the sound of the Spring Peppers.

Comments

  1. Maggie on

    To this day that sound makes me feel sleepy and happy... instinctively I know Summer Vacation is coming. Ahhh, nostalgia.
    • Susan Rose on

      I grew up in Uplands...your post made me nostalgic for summer days when we would either walk to Lake Anne to buy candy at the Pharmacy or wander along the Buttermilk trail to go explore Lake Fairfax Park. Then when I was a teenager, I just spent my days at the pool. Who needed summer camps when there was so much to do? I loved growing up in that neighborhood!

      A few bad apples ... make us all look bad

      A Bad Apple

      Don't let the few ruin it for all

      It's just sad...we're a hair above used car salesman. The worst thing about it is that by in large--I know the reputation has been earned.

      It's probably always the case that the stinkers are always the ones you hear about--the agents that do it right, that work hard--that really do put your interests ahead of their own, they're boring no one wants to hear about them, but they are out there.

      If you are in the market for an agent here's a list of things that will help you weed out the good from the not so good.

      Full Time Agent

      • Given how tough the market is a lot of agents are not working full time as real estate agents. If you are the person responsible for putting food on the table and making ends meet you gotta' do what you gotta' do; but if you're hiring someone to sell your house you need someone whose head is in the game full time; who can return calls in a timely manner and who can respond as needed. Real Estate is a demand driven business--and mostly it's someone else's demands.

      Technology Savvy

      • While real estate is still a relational business if your agent can't expose your property in a sophisticated technological way, keep looking. Your agent should have a strong web presence in the market that they serve. It should be easy to find your agent online and it should be even easier to find your agent's listings.

      Added Value

      • Competitive pressure should create a higher level of service. We all have to do everything we can to stand out from the crowd. Your agent should be an expert in their market; they should help make your home the very best, most appealing product it can be. That includes
      1. Helping you price it right
      2. Recommending improvements
      3. Offering staging
      4. Producing beautiful print and digital materials
      5. Exposing the property to the broadest possible market and to the appropriate "move up" market,  and pretty much anything else that it takes to get the house soldIf they only offer you a discount in commission--well I guess that's all they have to offer and that's something your should think about.

      Honesty

      • Obviously your agent should be honest but more importantly you and your agent need to have a relationship that is based on the ability to have an open honest exchange of ideas and information--even when the information being relayed doesn't make you happy.  If you have your agent walking on eggshells then you're not going to get the best from your agent. If you feel like you can't trust them then don't hire them.

      It's always surprising to me to see an intensely negative attitude applied to a whole profession--Real Estate is like everything else--if you're  not  satisfied with the service you vote with your feet. Find an agent that merits your business--and be willing to pay for the service.

      I suspect that a big part of the horror story scenarios are in part a function of people seeking the bargain before they understand the level of service that's needed to effectively get the job done...and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

      Send me your experiences!

      Comments

      1. Koki on

        As the market tightens the bad apples continue to rot and leave the business. It just makes more room for the "fresh" apples like us :-)
        • Kathy Nosal on

          Nice description of the blend of factors that go into deciding how and who to hire as your real estate agent.
          • Monica Florio on

            Agreed. This will give you some great questions to ask when you look for a Realtor to work with on your next real estate transaction. And if you only focus on finding someone who will work for the lowest commission, you may find yourself working with a "bad apple."