Everyone’s home buying/selling stories are a little different, and there’s a lot we can learn from them. Keith and Emily’s store seemed cut and dry but turned into a doozy.

They contacted me early in the Spring to help them sell their property in Woodbridge, VA so that they could purchase a new home closer to where they were actually living. This Facebook post from April 5th shows us celebrating a quick sale. How was I able to achieve this great result for my clients?

Staging: The house was occupied by tenants when we were preparing to go on the market and was extremely cluttered. I explained the importance of making the home as appealing as possible to buyers and doing it in a smart, economical way. After getting my clients on board, we worked with the tenants to employ our vision, starting with decluttering. We also rearranged a few pieces of furniture to create a good flow from the living room to the kitchen. I knew that a well-staged living room was vital to get this home sold because of its welcoming, open layout. We added inexpensive throw pillows, purchased a basket for the tenant’s kids toys, and took a bookshelf and turned it into a focal point in the room.

Photography: Good photography matters when selling a home. Nine out of ten house hunters search online during the process and if the photos don’t make them want to see the house, we’ve lost a potential buyer. I owe it to my clients to give them the ability to make the best impression on prospective buyers. You will not ever see any of my pictures taken with a cell phone. Instead, all of my photo shoots are done by award-winning photographers. I also do not allow my photographer to use tools that will distort the size of a room because I want the photographer to take the best pictures that give a true representation of the home.

Repairs/improvements:  Anytime you are selling a home, you have to look at it from the eyes of the buyer. Some homes need expensive renovations in order to keep up with the comparable sales in the area. In this case, the sellers had a limited budget and just needed to make smart, economical improvements to get the home sold at a price that worked for them. Starting with curb appeal, I asked the seller to weed, prune bushes, mulch, and plant flowers that would be in bloom at the time the home would be on the market. The front door and shutters were a faded red and I recommended painting them black which would cause them to pop against the brick. The front stoop railing was cracking and the stoop was chipping, so the seller scraped and painted to create a wonderful first impression for buyers as they walk in the front door.

Another improvement I recommended was painting. NEVER underestimate the makeover impact of painting walls with a neutral but appealing color. One of my standbys is Sherwin Williams Repose Gray, as it really contrasts the trim and molding (which should be painted with a semi gloss bright white) and still is neutral enough for a multitude of tastes. I also took a risk by recommending a bold accent wall color that I hoped would draw the buyer into the home when they walked in the front door. It paid off as several agents remarked how much they and their clients liked this touch.

I also advised them to stain the back deck because it was weathered and especially because the backyard was such a selling point with the home. They mowed the grass and tidied up the backyard, which doesn’t take long and makes a big difference in the overall presentation of the home.  These along with other handyman type fixes allowed this home to be presented in the best light.

As stated in the Facebook post, I was in the enviable position of having four offers in hand which allowed me to negotiate a better deal for Keith and Emily. I got the home inspection waived, got above asking price, and all without seller concessions.  We also intended to replace the carpet when the tenants left and this was struck from the contract as well.

While similar homes in that area were sitting on the market over 35 days and selling for 95% of asking price, my clients were under contract in 4 days and at over 100% of the asking price! Keith and Emily were thrilled and so was I. Everything was looking good and my clients were excited to close this chapter as they prepared to move into their new home in that they were closing on in a matter of weeks. But in the world of real estate a deal isn’t done until all closing paperwork is signed and payments are made. We were set to close on May 15th and two days before closing the buyer side dropped a bomb on us that brought things to a screeching halt.

Back to the story, Keith and Emily, my clients they were all ready to settle on the sale of their home. Offer after just 2 days on market, above list price, all was well in their world. They had a contract in on a new home in Fairfax which was closing in a few weeks.  Everything seemed to be working according to plan. As I stated in my last post, this was when the figurative bomb was dropped on us.

Two days before closing (Saturday!), the settlement company called to inform us that the closing would not happen as scheduled on Monday. Naturally, I contacted the Buyers’ agent and Lender immediately, but could not reach them.  I attempted throughout the weekend, to no avail.  Finally, late on Sunday, the Buyers’ Agent called me to inform me that the lender was not able to underwrite the loan due to a financial situation that should have been resolved prior to closing. If we had known of the condition at the time of offer, we would absolutely have passed on this offer.  We were in a position of strength with multiple offers to consider. In fact we had turned down another offer due to a similar condition. This put my sellers between a rock and hard place because the market was not as hot as it was when they first put the house up for sale but they also couldn’t afford to wait to see if the Buyers’ financial situation would work out. We decided to move forward with breach of contract and get the house back on the market immediately.

A large part of my job is to take any market fluctuations and other obstacles in stride.  This was an occasion to put my skills to use. The market had slowed, the house was empty and no longer staged and we were back to a fresh relationship with any buyer and their agent that might come along. The market slowing created the possibility of a lower offer. The unknown of a new buyer and their relationship created room for other obstacles and challenges. A staged home makes such a difference when selling because it gives buyers a vision for living in the home and gives context to any flaws and blemishes.

The sellers and I rolled up our sleeves and got the house back on the market in only four days and under contract in under two weeks!!! We restaged the house and I re-engaged with agents and previous potential buyers to inform them the house was back on the market. I share with my clients, Buyers & Sellers alike, that real estate sales is a messy process.  It is important to set that expectation so that when things go awry, in this case very awry, that they are prepared and ready to discuss options to work it out. I help them to keep perspective and calm throughout the process.

The new offer was a decent one, however communication with the Buyers’ agent was difficult which made the process longer than it needed to be. The previous offer had waived the home inspection but this offer required one.  The inspection brought up a variety of issues that needed to be addressed.  They missed the initial inspection deadline. Despite missing the deadline, the Buyer had other means of backing out of the contract.  I recommended that Keith & Emily address a few of the items in the home inspection report in order to keep the deal in place.  After agreement, we moved towards closing.  As we continued towards closing, difficult communication with the Buyers’ agent created doubt towards meeting the closing date.  Keith and Emily were now in their new home and were really hoping for a smooth finish to this sale.

Wouldn’t you know it, just before the closing (AGAIN!), the Buyer decided to change lenders. This pushed the closing date by weeks and we were left with the option of doing ANOTHER breach of contract and relisting the home on the market or simply waiting.  Listing the house again for the 3rd time meant putting it on the market during one of the slowest times of the year for real estate and having to disclose all of the issues found during the home inspection. Not ideal for selling a home at a good price and in a timely manner. I advised Keith and Emily to stick it out and wait for the financing to come through with this Buyer.  It meant using my negotiating skills for a variety of heated and complicated phone calls with the new lender and the Buyers’ agent. My priority was to make the process as easy and pain free for Keith & Emily as I could so that owning two homes would no longer be their reality.

We finally closed nearly three weeks after the offer was extended.  It was quite a process but it allowed my relationship with Keith & Emily to deepen, my negotiating skills to be refined and another successful sale to be completed.

Even in these complicated and somewhat frustrating scenarios, I love my job and am so thankful to be able to serve my clients throughout the whole buying process.

Thankfully, I have amazing clients to work with and I think the feeling is mutual.