Steve McIlvaine Home Sales

    Client Story: Keith & Emily's Home Sale PART 2
    Did I say check back in a week to find out what happened with Keith and Emily? Oops. Good thing I?m not a professional blogger! So many real estate stories to tell but so little time to write them.

    So 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. 

    Signing off and on to the next,

    Client Story - Keith & Emily's Home Sale
    One of the things I?d love to do with my blog is feature client stories once in a while. 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 gives 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.

    Check back in next week to see what happened!

    Spring Home Maintenance
    Tips for Seasonal Home Maintenance

    Spring has certainly taken it's time showing up in Northern Virginia this year! Let's hope it sticks around for a bit before the heat of summer sets in. As always, I wanted to provide you with a helpful list of seasonal home maintenance tips. Have you gotten the Spring cleaning bug yet? This list will help you determine where to start of what is most important at this time of year:

    - Inspect roof for damage or missing shingles due to Winter weather, repair as needed.
    - Check window screens for damage or dirt; repair or wash as needed.
    - Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves and debris that may have been missed during Winter maintenance.
    - Inspect foundation around house to check for any cracks and repair as needed.
    - Check on tools/lawnmower to clean/repair as needed.
    - Turn outdoor faucets back on.
    - Trim bushes when there is no longer a risk of freezing temps/frost; clean garden beds of debris.
    - Plant new trees/bushes/flowers, fertilize gardens, add mulch if desired.
    - Trim tree branches that might be too close to house or gutters.

    - Clean windows inside and outside.
    - Clean fan blades that have gathered dust during Winter months.
    - Clean air duct grills and replace HVAC filter.
    - Schedule HVAC maintenance to ensure air conditioning is ready for warmer days in June.
    - Check attic to look for any roof leaks from Winter snows and Spring rains.
    - Check smoke alarms and replace batteries as needed.

    If you need any referrals for home maintenance care this Spring give me a call 202-359-2483! I will connect you to professionals I trust to help keep your house in top shape.

    Kitchen Renovation - AFTER!

    When taking on a full kitchen renovation, prepare yourself to be catching up on life for a while even after the project is completed! Many have been asking for this update and I'm are sorry we've slacked off in sharing the update. The wait is over! I hope you enjoy the pictures, we are definitely enjoying our new kitchen.

     The renovation took 2.5 weeks to be *mostly* complete so that we could use our kitchen again; it probably took a month or so to get all the punch list items checked off. Living through a renovation could be a blog in itself. A few quick tips - send children away for as much time as you can. Sarah and the girls were gone for 10 of the worst days. Set up a mini kitchen in another part of your house so that you don't overspend on eating out (and gain 15lbs). When Sarah was back she tried to keep us eating at home by buying bagged salad and microwavable meals, not the healthiest,
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    Home Improvement - Kitchen Renovation
    Why we decided to renovate our kitchen...

    Our kitchen in 2008 (at purchase)
    Everyone knows that kitchens sell houses. That fact alone does not mean that you should renovate your kitchen. As I shared in my previous home improvement blog, you always need to make sure you aren't spending more on updates than you will get on return if your primary motivation is to sell your home. Caveat: if you plan to live in the home for several years you don't need to consider the ROI nearly as much. But when selling you should be sure to update your home according to the ROI on the updates. There are cheaper ways to improve a kitchen than doing a full kitchen renovation.

    My wife hated our kitchen from the start. I can't say I blamed her since there was cheap, pealing laminate on the floors, dark wood cabinets and old appliances in a dimly lit kitchen. We made changes early on that significantly improved the look of the kitchen, including painting the cabinets white, installing more updated drawer and cabinet hardware, laying a better quality floor, installing a nicer light fixture and painting it a brighter color. Though we dreamed about a full renovation, we never thought we'd really do it because the ROI was questionable for our neighborhood. Plus, the few times we looked into bigger renovations, the price tag seemed way too high.

    Fast forward to this summer when I sold one of our neighbors homes within 2 days of being on the market at the highest price the neighborhood has seen since 2007. They had done a beautiful update
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    Winter Home Maintenance
    The temps are starting to drop! Get a head start on winterizing your home so you aren't caught in the cold. Also remember to do quarterly maintenance to keep your house and appliances running smoothly!
    Outdoor Tasks
    • Walk around your home's exterior and check the crawl space vents located at the foundation to close any that are open.
    • Check windows and doors for any cracks in the frames or separation from the home. Caulk and/or make needed repairs.
    • Clear debris from gutters to ensure water flow. Removing build-up prevents icicles and ice dams from forming later and damaging gutters.
    • Shut off outdoor water pipes to prevent freezing.
    • Protect your central air conditioning unit with a cover.
    • Store unneeded patio furniture/cushions, garden tools and summer toys.
    • Move snow shovels and snow blowers to a convenient spot.
    • Resist the urge to cut back shrubs and garden debris. Doing so now
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    Annandale/Alexandria Residential Construction News
    New residential construction plans for the Annandale/Alexandria area!

    How Do I Price My Home?
    Pricing your home right is a critical aspect of selling. No one wants to undervalue their home, but overpricing it can be just as costly. You could miss out on buyers who are ready to make an offer, resulting in longer days on market and potentially needing to do multiple price drops before finding a buyer. Price drops are often necessary in the real estate world, but too many can make you appear desperate to sell, which impacts your leverage during contract negotiations. This article does a great job of explaining this in greater detail, and how to watch out for realtors who over promise on price just to secure your business, only to reduce the sale price down the road, impacting YOUR bottom line. Want an honest and thorough assessment of your home's value? I'm happy to talk with you anytime!

    Home Improvement - Where To Start?
    Here?s What I Did In My House? 

    Our backyard when I purchased the house. Old bricks
    and rotting wood were under all those leaves!
    When I bought my house in 2008 it needed a fair amount of work. It was a foreclosure and the bank had done the minimal amount of work needed to sell the house. The basement was completely gutted from flooding, the bathrooms and kitchen were all original to the house (and UGLY), and the backyard had a 9 foot petrified rose bush (no joke), among other problems.

    My first priority was finishing the basement and updating the master bath. The basement was an obvious place to start and the master bath was a more affordable (and just as necessary) update than the kitchen. I was able to secure a 203k loan that gave me the cash I needed to get these projects completed within the first 6 weeks of home ownership. These projects alone significantly increased the value of my home and also allowed me to get cash flow out of my house because I was able to rent out the upstairs rooms and live in my basement. If you are comfortable with doing that and are looking for a
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    MARKET MONDAY - FED Raising Rates?

    The New York Times gives their take on the impending raising of interest rates by the Fed  The next meeting ends on Dec 16th (Less than a month away!) and a rate increase is expected. If it's not announced then, its almost sure to come in January or March. Don't hesitate to call me to discuss your home buying goals!

    Why Winter Is A Great Time to Buy
    Winter 2014 outside our house with my older daughter
    It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2008 when I called Sarah (my girlfriend at the time, now wife) to see if she could leave work early to meet me and my realtor at a property that just had a significant price drop.  I had been house searching for months with little success.  Although we weren?t engaged yet, I was hoping to pop the question soon so I really wanted Sarah?s opinion if I was going to move forward with this home.

    We toured the home, a foreclosure, and although it needed some work we knew we could manage it and the price was right. I made an offer that night which was ratified over the holiday weekend.  I settled in late December and started 2009 off in my new home!  Granted
    I bought at the bottom of the market which was great for me, but it has turned out to be a great home AND a great investment.

    You don?t need the market to crash to take advantage of a great housing market.  There are aspects of the Winter Market that I was able to take advantage of and YOU can too! Veterans United has a great infographic. Essentially, they point out the following:   
    • Sellers Are Motivated to SELL   People that sell in the Winter often do so out of necessity. 
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    Selling During the Holidays - Good or Bad Idea?
    Have you been thinking that waiting until life settles down after the holidays is the right time to sell your home? Maybe not. In fact, I actually bought my home two days before Thanksgiving after searching for the better part of a year.
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    Home Sale Happenings - November 2015
    Current homes for sale, coming soon, under contract, and just SOLD for Steve McIlvaine Home Sales. Take a look at what we have on the market in Fredericksbug, Alexandria and Arlington!
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    Fall Home Maintenance

    Doing quarterly home maintenance is a smart way to retain the value of your home and avoid costly repairs due to years of neglect. Some tips for Fall maintenance:
    Outdoor Tasks:
    - Clean gutters and downspouts.
    - Inspect roof and chimney for cracks and damage.
    - Rake leaves and shred to use as mulch or dispose of them based on local guidelines.
    - Remove hoses from spigots and drain and store indoors, coiled and flat.
    - Store outdoor furniture and cushions.
    Indoor Tasks:
    - Grab that caulk gun and look for gaps around windows and doors and fill them. Install weather stripping.
    - Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you set clocks back in the fall (next weekend!).
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    Client Event: Pumpkin Carving Contest
    What does a Halloween contest have to do with buying and selling homes?
    I want you to know I am here for you, whether it is to discuss real estate or even if you need help finding a great referral to a good trade person or professional service. My goal is to become your trusted real estate resource. In fact, I strive to help people before, during, and after a transaction. My real estate business is not just about selling and buying homes... I provide added value through building and developing relationships... and sometimes that means just plain fun!!!
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