What Buyers and Sellers in Northern Virginia need to know before picking a REALTOR.
You are thinking about Buying or Selling real estate in the near future. The best consumer is one who prepares for what they are going to purchase or sell. be an educated consumer and get your ducks in a row so that you help your self to be successful!
You probably have your favorite APP to keep up with local trends and look at homes on the market all the time. You have seen hundreds if not thousands of homes on the big four sites such as Zillow, Truila and Realtor.com and Redfin. When it comes time to buy or sell statistics say on line buyers reach out to an agent when they are ready. Until then they spend up to nine months researching everything they can on home. Maybe your old school you are called the silent generation ( did you know that?) yup they have a name for people who enjoy the local news paper weekend section or Observer paper or look at the postcards that come in your mail box. All consumers typically reach out to a REALTOR once they are ready to do business and many will choose the first REALTOR who returns their call. The question I want you to ask yourself is this is that the best person for you and how do you decide?
Ask yourself what do I need from a REALTOR?
Most on line shoppers have a pretty clear idea of what they are looking for after all you have every home on the market in your hand on your phone or on your computer at work or home!
Caution should be used when picking the agent to help you make one of the biggest purchases of your life. Would it surprise you to know that Zillow , Trulia, Realtor.com are paid advertising sites and they sell your information off to the top paying agents! Then many of those agents are MEGA agents who then pass the lead down to their team member who may or may not have the knowledge and expertise you need. You see you are a lead, a number who may or may not do business with that agent. I have nothing against large teams in fact their are some darn good ones out there. But how do you the buyer or seller know who you are getting when you receive a call from an inquiry?
Ask yourself what are your specific needs?
I am not talking about a property here , I am talking about what it is you are looking for and does that agent responding have the expertise you need? Ah now that is a very different question that most have not thought about! But you should and here is why.
Are you a homeowner who has a property to sell?
You need a Top Listing Agent in your specific area who understands your community and all it has to offer. An agent with local knowledge can be a valuable resource.
- Think about it if I am an agent who specializes in condos will I know anything about your 10 acre farm in Nokesville, Virginia?
- Or maybe you inherited your mothers home in Mount Vernon area of Alexandria wouldn’t you want an agent who knows if the home is located on one of the original George Washington Farm parcels?
- Or that the community where she lives was built with redwood framing which you cannot even get anymore!
- Let’s say your ideal situation is to sell and buy and you want to move door to door. This is going to need an experienced agent to coordinate this for you.
- Does the agent you are speaking with have a track record in your price point and what are their stats when it comes closed sales.
Do they have systems and processes in place to attract your future buyer. Do they have the expertise to help you get the home prepared for the market and can they share with you proven strategies they will use to attract buyers. Gone are the days of putting a sign in the yard and the buyers will come!
Are you a first time buyer then maybe you need a first time buyer specialist who can guide your options.
What options you may be thinking?
- Well how about the real cost of buying an affordable condo vs buying a fee simple town home .
- What is the real difference in cost of buying a lower priced older town home vs a new one.
- Or maybe you have a specific area in mind and may not be able to get everything you want for your budget what are your options?
- Maybe you think you should wait for the perfect home to come on the market, does the agent have the experience to show you may never find what you are looking for and why.
- Does that agent know the market enough to show you what five miles difference will offer you?
- How will it change your payment, your commute, your life style?
- Do they know all the programs available to make your dream a reality?
- Can they explain to you the loss of buying power if the rates should go up while you are waiting for a home that is not there.
- Do they have a track record of exceeding their first time buyers expectations by coaching them on what is possible?
Maybe you are a move up buyer looking for help with both selling and buying.
This is not a real estate 101 transaction.
- This takes coordination and nerves of steel to get this to be seamless.
- It costs you nothing more to high an agent with the experience to handle this type of transaction.
- Ask them how many move up buyers have they worked this year?
- Are they a listing and buyer agent or do they have a team?
- Not all offers will work for you and you will need a strong negotiator working on your behalf and someone who can think outside the box if necessary.
The answers matter and at least give you an idea of how of what to expect during the buying and selling process. After all if you are going in for heart surgery do you want the inexperienced surgeon or the one who has done hundreds of heart surgeries? Maybe you say homes sell quick it should be no big deal. Not so fast anything can and will happen in real estate you need an experienced agent working on your behalf. Experience costs you no more and yet could save you thousands especially when a speed bump or what seems to be a road block in the transaction comes up. Experienced agents get you to closing and get you to the next home.
Have you been dreaming of a new home?
Buying a new home can be exciting and fun until it is not anymore and them the questions and fear come in. It costs you nothing to have a new home buyer specialist agent represent you. Make sure your agent is a new home specialist so they know what questions to ask and what to look out for, make them work for you! When you build a home it is a four to six month process of stress and emotions, selections, pre-dry wall and walk through appointments can be overwhelming and many people cannot take off time from work to oversee the build. It is so worth it in the end but it can feel like a second full time job unless you have your own advocate.
Remember you Don’t know what you don’t know !
A new home buyer specialist has represented hundreds of buyers and knows how to coach you through the process. Ask the agent, “How many new homes have you sold ?”
- Some REALTORS treat a new home sale as get the buyer to contract and I am done.
- Not true a new home buyer agent will be there every step of the way.
- They will understand how to read blue prints.
- They will consult with the builders representative on what is standard and optional and help you to understand what options will be preferred should you need to sell down the road.
- They will know the trends in the market place and will have a good handle on your future competition based on the recent new homes that have settled in that very community.
- They help you to make decisions not only for your comfort and lifestyle now but for potential resale which is important.
NOTE : Most important if you visit a new home community do not sign in and register or you will give up your right to represent for 90 days to 180 days depending on the builder! Did you know that most people do not since the builders do not tell you!
Let’s talk about Rental Homes in Virginia maybe you are PCSing into the area here is what you need to know!
Did you know not all agents work rentals?
Look for the agent who knows the price point and area you are looking to rent in. Also know that not all listings go on the MLS especially when rental supply is low like it is now. So check Military By Owner and AHRN because good rentals go at a premium sometimes as much a s 30% higher than buying in the same neighborhood. Forget about the idea of being able to rent a home for under your BAH and pocketing the rest it just does not happen here.
If you are lucky you will find a first time rental I’ll bet at a premium price but at least it will be clean and cared for. So many of our rentals have been cash cows for the landlords but for some reason not all landlords keep the property military clean if you know what I mean. If it looks to be to good of a deal it probably is and please be careful looking on Craigslist the scammers are renting homes that are not even on the market and cashing the deposits before you even knew it was a scam!
Get a referral to an agent in the area from a future co-worker in your new office or call a local real estate office and ask for the duty agent for help. When you speak with the agent ask them, “ Do you handle rentals or do you know an agent who does? ” Also know that inventory is low in most price points and depending on the time of month there may not be much to look at.
I have a couple who came to town looking to spend $2800.00 a month looking for a clean, neat, 4 bedroom open concept single family home with a two car garage in Fairfax County. They had hoped to spend no more that $2500.00 and wanted stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and it would be nice to have an office on the main level, at least a 1/4 acre of land. I already knew they would not find it since most homes in their target area are forty to fifty years old with small bedrooms, and cut up rooms. They may have been updated some but small older style bath would be the deal breaker. They actually only had seven homes to choose from that even came close to a few of the wants. The moral of the story adjust your needs and wants if you plan on renting unless you come the month before you are to arrive and grab the first good listing to come on the market the month before arrival. New rentals comes on the market on the 1st through 5th of each month for the following month. The good ones rent in a day or two. You may want to consider buying if you will be in the area 2.5 years or longer. It only takes 30 days to close on a home and with your VA loan or a Grant Program for the down payment you can buy for less than the rental deposits.
Are you a Veteran who wants to maximize your VA Loan benefit in Northern Virginia?
You worked hard and did your time to earn this benefit. So many REALTORS do not understand financing and just refer you to a lender. Not all VA Lenders are the same I highly recommend a local lender where the property is located. In the case of a VA Loan it costs you nothing more to find a REALTOR who is VA specialist as well as a local lender. Someone who understands how to make the loan work for you and your family. The agent you choose will be your advocate when it comes to educating listing agents who think VA loans cost the seller more and will reject your offer out of lack of knowledge. Don’t let this happen to you!
- Ask the agent how often do you do VA Loans? They should know the answers to the below questions.
- Can I buy zero down and zero closing costs and if the answer is anything less than yes it means you have not found the right agent!
- What is the maximum loan limit for a VA Loan and if they tell you $625,000 based on if you qualify find another REALTOR.
- Can I buy a home above the VA limit with my VA Loan? The answer is yes!
- I already have used my VA Loan can I use it again. The answer is yes based on the entitlement remaining. Look for a REALTOR who is a VA Loan specialist so that they can maximize your benefit on your behalf. It is true you do not need to make a down payment but you will have closing costs and a fee to use the VA Loan. We can minimize your out of pocket fees by understanding your specific situation and walking you through how to make an offer that will be the best for your situation. Not all sellers can or will pay all your closing costs. This is when a knowledgeable REALTOR and local lender working together can really help you the Veteran. I am a USAA member myself and I will tell you they do a great job with insurance and car loans but they can also cause stress and delays when it comes to getting a home loan. We do have a local USAA office now in Arlington ,Virginia as well as local Navy Federal offices. If you want to use USAA or NAVY FED let your agent know this before you submit an offer so they can build in the extra time needed to complete the transaction to try and keep your stress to a minimum.
Are you Renting and thinking you never will be able to buy?
Think about this a minute “You are already paying a mortgage just not yours!”
Are you a renter dreaming of buying and your savings pattern is telling you it will be years before your dream comes true? Do you wonder how friends are buying and you can barley pay the rental payment monthly and it is going up again! It’s what you don’t know that is holding you back. Stop thinking and pick up the phone and reach out to a local REALTOR you may be amazed at your options!
- Ask the REALTOR what programs are there for first time buyers?
- If they say FHA only move on.
- If they say you will need 3.5% down you may want to move on. These answers are a good start but by no means cover all that is available to you. If they do not know about grant programs move on. Call me I will put you in touch with the loan officer right for your situation. I just helped first time buyers buy a home and they used a grant program and we got the seller to cover their closing costs. They were able to keep their savings to personalize their home and have a nest egg as a cushion! They are dreaming of putting color on the walls and being able to just open the back door and let the dog out to the back yard instead of walking in the rain late at night or before they have had their cup of coffee. That is what home ownership means less compromises. They are thrilled they can’t get the smiles off their faces and they are tripling their square footage for the same price they were paying in rent! The grant programs can run out at any time and are wildly popular so hurry if you need a down payment.
Picking an agent to work with is an important step and if you can be referred to one by someone you know that is awesome. But remember you are the consumer and it is in your best interest to interview the agent even if referred.
Think of it like this, your Aunt Mary tells you about Linda her REALTOR who recenlty helped her buy her new home in a 55+ community and she was awesome. Great!
You: “Thanks Aunt Mary I will give her a call. ”
Referrals are a big part of real estate and can be awesome way to connect with the right agent. You are in charge of your experience and it may be entirely different than Aunt Mary’s because you are looking for a condo in Arlington and Aunt Mary lives in Bristow, Virginia. When you call agent Linda ask her does she know and understand the market you are wanting to buy in? If the answer does not give you a fuzzy warm feeling than just say you are doing your research and will get back to her.
We are REALTORS we can take rejection it’s OK it is not personal it is business!
Real Estate is a tough business and in this region to handle all the areas and be knowledgeable about all of it is next to impossible. You will meet agents who say they cover Maryland, DC and Virginia. It is my opinion it is not in the best interest of my client for me to help them in an area I am unfamiliar with. After all how can you be knowledgeable about a community you only sell a house or two in? I would not be up on zoning rules, road changes, new happenings in the community just to name a few.
You are looking for the agent to be your advocate and it is up to you the consumer to do your homework on the agent you choose to work with. Most agents understand their limitations and will say if they cannot do the job. Ask them if they can recommend someone who can. Try to read between the lines and be an educated consumer. Virginia is a buyer agency state and once you decide you are ready to look at homes you will need to sign a Buyer Agent agreement this is for your protection and spells out in detail the agents responsibilities to you the consumer.Before it is to late make sure you vet the person who will help you with one of the largest purchases in your life. Make sure you know how to cancel the agreement should your experience not be what you were expecting.
Homework always pays off!
I would be honored to help you with your real estate needs. I have been in and around real estate for 30+ years my new home experience as an on site representative for over ten years allowed me to sell over four hundred and fifty new homes in my career which more than qualifies me as a New home Sales Specialist. Over thirty years I learned financing and how to help Veterans to maximize their VA benefits.I enjoy working with numbers and problem solving on the more complicated move up sales and this has by far been one of the best tools that sets me apart from most agents. Weather this is your first home or your trophy home I know I can help you. I pride myself at looking at your specific situation and helping you to formulate a plan of action based on needs, wants and your budget. Our location in Northern Virginia has us working with our military personal and government employees relocating on a daily basis my areas of expertise cover Mount Vernon in Alexandria to Fredericksburg, Virginia and as far west as Haymarket.
I have a partner my identical twin Peggy James and together we make one heck of a team for our clients. She loves listings and I love buyers and when we have clients who have a home to sell and are buying forward they get two for the price of one!
I am happy to share my limitations as well. I work with investors interested in model home lease backs since I understand them so well other than that I do not get involved in investment properties. I also am not a short sale or foreclosure agent I feel there are other agents much more proficient at them. I would be happy to refer you to them should you need help. When it comes to condos in closer in locations inside the beltway I would refer you to someone who is in the know. Condo buildings are not created equal and some only allow specific financing and also have special assessments, limitations on pets and parking etc. I will leave that to those who have educated themselves to be the condo queens and kings of real estate! I hope this blog post has helped you to slow down and reflect on who do I want to be my advocate? Who will do the best job for you and your needs?
Start Your Home Search Now go to the APP store on your phone and download the Home Scouting App to your phone your information will never be sold! This is a great GPS APP that will show you all homes on the market in real time.Never miss a home in your target area again! Download the APP and use my VIP Code – PattyBlackwelder Check it out and give me a call or text me at 703-801-9367 with any questions