Homeowners in the Northern Virginia housing market are fortunate to have a job market supported by the added traffic of home buyers related to Government/Corporate/Military Relocation. What does it mean to someone who needs to sell a home in our area? It means you don’t have to give your house away. But buyers are not interested in paying fair market value for homes in need of repair. This article discusses the necessary preparations to sell your home and successfully receive a contract offer on your home within 90 days without giving your home away. Home buyers coming to Northern Virginia to find a home are almost always interested in purchasing a home which is move-in ready. Why is this a general rule? Because the daily work commute and long working hours in this region will not allow time for home improvement projects. Home sellers must put in the time, money, and effort for general home repairs when selling a home to compete with other listings. Listed below is our best advice to attract buyers actively searching for their next home.

(1) Clean your home. We’ve never witnessed a client walk away from a home saying, “We can’t live here. This house is too clean.” We’ve said enough here.

(2) Make all minor repairs. This includes: paint (interior and exterior), new carpeting, any damage related to wear and abuse, and violations of local building ordinances. Nobody wants to move into a home and begin the process of repairing drywall which should have been fixed before the listing agreement was signed. Items like these can potentially stop lenders from providing financing to the prospective buyer. Common home inspection items which are considered lender required repairs such as plumbing, electrical, mechanical, (heating and air-conditioning, hot water heater, etc.), structural problems, and roofing deficiencies, should be addressed before listing your home for sale to avoid contract disputes over necessary repairs.

(3) Invest in landscaping. Getting a buyer to walk through your home and offer fair market value in declining markets isn’t easy. If you refuse to put sweat equity into your yard (along with mulch, plants, shrubs, etc.) potential buyers will decide to pass on your home instead of considering it in a home search. This occurs simply because the exterior photo posted on home search websites left them with the impression the house is poorly maintained. We’ve watched several buyers we have represented make this mistake during a home search while looking at single photo synopsis listings provided by the regional multiple listing service used by Realtors.

(4) Consider necessary renovations. We’ve sold over 700 homes. Each time our clients find a home they are seriously considering as their next residence, there are a series of questions they ask us before determining how much they will offer. These questions are listed below, and should be considered before deciding to sell your home. To better understand the home selling process we feel it’s necessary to give you typical questions asked by past clients while inspecting homes. The order of usual buyer questions when initially touring a home are as follows:

(a) How old is the house? Every prospective buyer will consider the age of the roof, HVAC system, and water heater before considering the purchase of homes which may require repairs/replacement of these items soon after purchase.

(b) Are these the original fixtures? Upgraded fixtures (electrical & plumbing), cabinets, windows, and kitchen appliances are major considerations for home buyers.

(c) Amount of finished square footage. How many finished square feet are in this home?

(d) Is the basement finished? Is there a legal bedroom with a window in the basement? Does it have the drainage required to finish a bathroom? How about a wet bar? What type of basement exit does it have?

(e) Has the electrical and plumbing been upgraded? Does it meet current building codes?

(f) Is this new carpet? Can this carpet be cleaned or should we just replace it?

(g) Is there hardwood flooring under the carpet? Should we consider refinishing or replacing this hardwood floor?

(h) Is the garage insulated and finished? Is there room for a work area with cars parked inside?

The remaining questions vary. We hear clients voice concern over doors, condition of exterior decking, rusted stairway railing, sprinkler systems (usually higher priced homes), siding & gutters, and fencing among several possible issues.

Many buyers will walk away from buying homes which appear to need heavy maintenance or have aging systems. The expenses which occur when buying a home causes many potential home buyers to become low on funds. The worry of replacing big ticket items like a roof, water heater, windows, air conditioning and heating systems, etc. can cause homes to be passed over until the price is lowered to attract both investors and home buyers with the cash reserve to make necessary repairs or renovations. These will always be low-ball offers, many times insulting the current home owners.

Long and Foster Realtors Associate Broker Maryanne Moyers is shown here getting a repair and cost estimate for a listing from a CroppMetcalfe air conditioning and heating technician. The smart plan to ready a home for sale is to service, repair, or replace items which have questionable service life. When a home is under contract a buyer will hire a home inspector to determine the condition of a home. Especially the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. These need to be in proper working order as they are bank required repairs and will need to be in proper working order before a loan is approved for the purchase of a home. Addressing these repairs and/or replacements gives listings great selling points.

Use the following upgrades ( a-f ) to attract more buyers. These are the upgrades which create value by considering construction costs and the eventual sales price on a ratified contract. These are also listed in order of smartest upgrades:

(a) Kitchen & Bathrooms. Put your money in countertops and cabinets. From Springfield to Spotsylvania. If your home has a selling point starting at $400K buyers now expect to see granite, or engineered stone (Dupont Zodiaq, LG Viatera, Cambria Quartz, and Silestone). Kitchen cabinets. No need to go overboard here. Using level 2 replacement cabinets from Kraft Maid, Thomasville, Merillat, American Woodmark, and Wellborn Cabinets will please any potential buyer.

(b) Flooring. Replacing the living room, dining room, and master bedroom carpeting with hardwood flooring. It gives these rooms a formal touch. Replacing vinyl with ceramic tile in the kitchen & bathrooms is necessary to match the newly installed cabinets and countertops.

(c) Lighting & Plumbing Fixtures. Let’s face it. Builder grade fixtures thrill nobody. Especially after they’ve been used for a few years. As mentioned earlier, homebuyers notice fixtures. High quality fixtures can change the focus of a room if they compliment room size, type, and style.

(d) Appliances. If your kitchen has been neglected for years and you decide to update it the appliances also need replacing. It’s funny to show a home with a new kitchen, and appliances which are old, different colors, or three different ‘as-is’ discount purchases. Here is our suggestion. Whirlpool seems to be a name accepted by most consumers, and stainless steel finishes please everyone for a few dollars more. For homes priced at $500,000+ take the plunge and buy Whirlpool Gold appliances.

(e) Utilities. If you are faced with replacing your furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump, there is a preference among buyers. We have to admit. We haven’t done our homework here. But several of our past clients and preferred contractors have. Here are the players (in order) of home heating & cooling: Trane (by Ingersoll Rand), Lennox, Carrier, Bryant, Rheem, American Standard, and Amana. We have actually witnessed a recent client become star struck with the TRANE XL20 with 20 SEER dual compressor, variable speed air conditioner with two-stage cooling and multi-stage fan (you get the picture). It was the deciding factor in purchasing one house over another which he considered buying.

(f) Roofing. It’s not listed as the smartest upgrade only because of the cost involved in replacing an entire roof. If your roof is close to expiring based on the manufacturer’s material warranty, have your roof inspected before your Realtor (Dwayne & Maryanne Moyers are a logical choice) places your home on the market and ready to receive prospective buyers. Why do this? It is the biggest concern of home buyers when considering the necessary repairs needed before writing a contract. Having a roof inspection and certification (by roofing contractors or home inspectors) on an existing roof is a material fact which can be marketed by your Realtor. If the inspection finds faults requiring necessary repairs, the problems can be corrected before a contract is ratified. The buyer’s home inspection which will occur during the contract process will now be clear of any roofing defects. The contract will probably be contingent on the results of the inspection so why not use the necessary repairs to your advantage by using a professionally certified roof in marketing the home. If a replacement is required, your Realtor can also highlight this to attract interest in your home by advertising the new roof. This allows your agent to market your home at a higher price to get the money back you paid for roof replacement. Another reason to repair an aging roof before selling your home: All FHA loans require appraisals to confirm the roof has a remaining physical life span of 2 years. VA loans require the roof to prevent the entry of moisture, and provide durability.

Feel free to call us before you consider selling your home. We will tour your home and offer advice to aid you in making the necessary improvements before you are ready to showcase your home to buyers. We will also give you a comparative marketing analysis on your home with and without improvements.

Related articles
Methods of Searching for a Good Real Estate Agent in Northern Virginia (moyersteamblog.com)
The Purchase of Foreclosures in Northern Virginia (moyersteamblog.com)
Strategies for Multiple Contracts During the Home Buying Process (moyersteamblog.com)