Tips To Prepare Your Home For Sale

When listing your house for sale your top goal will be to get the home sold for the best price possible! And we’re sure you’d also like to sell it quickly. After all, who likes keeping their home spotless day after day, week after week, month after month – especially if you have children and pets!

Well, there are a myriad of small projects you can get started on NOW to help make that happen. Check out the infographic below and when you’re ready for a FREE consultation from one of our Listing Specialists, call Terry Belt & The Belt Team at (703) 242-3975.

When you schedule your appointment, they will also share with you our FREE REPORT “Ninety Tips To Prepare Your Home For The Market”! And they can help you with finding contractors if needed in the preparation process.

Credit: Keeping Current Matters
Credit: Keeping Current Matters

Selling Your Home During The Holidays – Good Idea or Bad?

Northern VA Home sales As Thanksgiving approaches, we often get the question, “Should I wait to go on the market until after the holidays?” or “My home is on the market now, should I take it off during the holidays?”. Well, the answer is “It depends“! Here are some things you might want to consider if you’re thinking of selling your home during the holidays (and you can start here with a FREE online estimate of what your home is worth.)

  • If your home is already on the market, it may be a good idea to stay on the market. Buyers who are looking at homes during the holidays are usually “Real Buyers” and not just “lookie-loos”. Tom Reilly, Lead Buyer Specialist for The Belt Team, says “I have multiple buyers who are VERY motivated to buy during this timeframe, especially since interest rates are forecast to rise next year.” And Gail Belt, Founding Partner of The Belt Team says, “My experience is that Buyers who are out looking at property during the holidays tend to be serious buyers. There may not be as many people looking at your house, but the ones who come NEED to buy or they wouldn’’t be out looking at this time of year.” Beth Dadisman, The Belt Team’s Showing Partner added, “My husband and I have moved 3 times in January. So we were some of those serious buyers looking in December!”
  • During the holidays, many Sellers take their homes off the market. This means we often see inventory drop and therefore if you’re on the market, you may have less competition. Kevin Kleifges, Belt Team Listing Partner, says: “It depends on your situation. I’m advising most of my sellers to stay on the market. We can work with you to restrict showings on special days like Thanksgiving. But selling now before Spring competition picks up might be in your best interests.” Terry Belt, CEO of The Belt Team adds, “If you do go off the market now, consider coming back on immediately in the new year. In many areas, homes sell for more money in January-February than they do in the typical “Spring Market”  of March-April.
  • What is your true motivation? Do you truly want/need to sell? If you’re just “testing the market” (IE – if you are not realistically pricing your home to what TODAY’S Buyers are willing to pay), then now is NOT the time to go on the market. Your home will likely not sell, and then when Spring arrives – your home will be “stale on the market”. Tom Hanton, Realtor Partner with The Belt Team says “Prospective Buyers will wonder what’s wrong with your home and why it’s been on the market so long.” (This is true at any time of year. Overpricing stigmatizes your home and hurts your eventual bottom line significantly.)
  • Set your expectations properly.” says Kevin. “Plan accordingly and prepare yourself & your family to be ready to juggle preparation & showings with other seasonal activities. (And if you have little ones, maybe Santa’s upcoming visit will encourage them to keep their rooms clean!)”
  • Some Sellers really should wait until Spring. While most homes look better in the Spring when the trees fill out & flowers are in bloom, this is not usually a reason to wait for Spring. (That’s what everyone does and that just means more competition.) However, some homes are an exception to this rule. For example, Terry Belt shares, “We had a listing that backed to a cemetery. And while some people like that idea (quiet neighbors!), most people don’t like the reminder when they look out the window of their home. This is an item that can severely impact salability and price. In this case, we advised our Sellers to wait a few extra months and put their home on the market when trees were fully blossomed and the cemetery was not visible. You cannot get rid of extraneous factors like a cemetery, but you can mitigate their impact.”
  • If you do go on the market, don’t forget that Buyers looking at your home are trying to picture themselves & their families in your home. This is hard to do if your home is over-decorated with holiday knick knacks. “You may want to be a little more restrained than you normally would be when putting up your decorations” says Tom, “Too many decorations can also make your rooms look smaller than they really are. In addition, Winter is a dark time of year, so make sure you keep your home as light-filled as possible. Open the drapes, raise the blinds and turn on all your lights. The few extra pennies will be worth it!

If you need help working through what is the best time to put your home on the market, contact The Belt Team – or give Terry Belt or Kevin Kleifges or Tom Hanton a call at (703) 242-3975. Every situation is different and we would be happy to help you figure out what is best for YOU!

FREE online estimate of what your home is worth.2424Best Real Estate Agents in Northern VA

Selling Your Home in 2017? Easy Tip to Do NOW!

If you’re thinking of selling your Northern VA home in 2017, it’s never too early to prepare. Here’s an easy tip to get you started!

If you’re thinking of selling in the January to April timeframe, now is a great time for a photo shoot. Get some shots of the autumn leaves. Then when you put your home on the market this winter or early next year – when things are dead and brown – you’ll still be able to showcase your home at its best!

(Don’t forget to email The Belt Team and ask for our FREE Report “Questions To Ask Your Realtor When Selling A House”)

Inverness at Penderbrook Fairfax TH

Snow landscapes made lovely shots to show in that “in between” time in February-March, when it’s almost Spring, but the flowers aren’t blooming yet.

Snow Day in Vienna VA

(If you’re really organized, you can do what some of our past sellers have done and sign your listing now so we can have our professional photographer come out and shoot photos for you!)

Give Terry Belt or Kevin Kleifges a call at (703) 242-3975 to schedule a pre-listing walkthrough. Fall and winter are a great time to start thinking about the updates and repairs you might need to make in preparation for next year. And you’ll want to talk to them first to ensure you don’t waste time or money on things that really aren’t necessary.

If you’re wondering about Northern Virginia Market Statistics – click the links below to find out: How fast are homes selling? What’s happening with prices? Buyer’s Market or Seller’s Market?

Buyers & Sellers – Interest Rates Remain at Historic Lows . . . But for How Long?

If you’re pondering buying or selling NOW or waiting another year or two – you might want to take note of the latest info below from Keeping Current Matters!

Interest Rates Remain at Historic Lows… But for How Long? | MyKCM

The interest rate you pay on your home mortgage has a direct impact on your monthly payment; The higher the rate, the greater your payment will be. That is why it is important to look at where the experts believe rates are headed when deciding to buy now or wait until next year.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has fallen half a percentage point since the beginning of the year and has remained at or below 3.5% for the last 11 weeks according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The chart below shows how far rates have fallen this year (on the left), and uses an average of the projections from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of Realtors (on the right). As you can see, interest rates are projected to increase steadily over the course of the next 12 months.

Mortgage Rates - 30-Year Fixed Rate | MyKCM

How Will This Impact Your Mortgage Payment?

Depending on the amount of the loan that you secure, a half of a percent (.5%) increase in interest rate can increase your monthly mortgage payment significantly.

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, national home prices have appreciated 6.0% over the last year and are predicted to be 5.4% higher next year.

If both the predictions of home prices and interest rate increases become a reality, families will wind up paying considerably more for their next home.

Bottom Line

Even a small increase in interest rate can impact your family’s wealth.


Interest rate changes don’t just affect Buyers. They affect Sellers too. As rates rise, some Homebuyers are priced out of the market they want to move into. And they decide to stay where they are. Less Buyers means less demand and more competition. And that can put a downward pressure on prices.

If you’re wondering whether you should buy now or wait – or sell now or wait – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There are lots of things that should factor into your decision. Interest rates are just one. Call Terry Belt & The Belt Team at (703) 242-3975. Our team is one of the top teams in the entire country, with lots of resources at your disposal, and we are more than happy to consult with you and help you and your family make the RIGHT move!

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What Realtors Say To Other Realtors About YOUR House

Home Selling Mistakes

If your home has been on the market, and it’s not selling as fast as you expected, it could be that your home is one of the ones Realtors are talking about to each other! (But don’t worry, these are all fixable issues!)

Here are some real life examples of “What Realtors Say To Other Realtors About YOUR House”:

1. “Interesting” MLS Descriptions:

Here’s a real example from our local MLS: “Basic rancher in good shape, but has working Single Father Decor“.

A Realtor friend posted this on Facebook and asked “I wonder if THAT was approved by the Seller?!

It may accurately convey the state of the home, but it doesn’t help you sell. It night be wiser to list your home with a professional who will provide a free consultation with a professional stager. Even if you don’t choose to hire the stager, she will provide you with no cost ways to prepare your home so you put your best foot forward.

2. Inaccurate MLS Entry:

If your home hasn’t been shown much, it could be that your agent entered it wrong in the MLS. Check out this Facebook post from another Realtor friend of mine:

Why My Home Isn't Selling

This happens a lot. Sometimes the number of bedrooms is wrong. Sometimes townhomes are listed as condos. Sometimes homes are listed in the wrong zip or city!

3. Oops, We Hid The Property Address:

Why My Home Isn't Selling

This could possibly be a tactic to get people to call, but we think it works in reverse. Most people will just go on to the next home for sale. Kind of hard to find an open house when you don’t have an address, right?!

4. Typos That Make You Cringe:

Why My Home Isn't Selling

Enough said here!

5. “Charlie” Is Home:

Why My Home Isn't Selling

The reaction above (even from “dog” people) is not unusual. (Here’s how we advise our clients if they are selling a home when they have a pet.)

6. Ugly Christmas Sweater:

Wallpaper Room

You should see the pictures agents post. If you think the paint or wallpaper in your home doesn’t need to come down, you might think again because your home may have been entered in someone’s Facebook contest for UGLIEST ROOM. (It’s kind of like the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party – except online.)

How Do We Fix This?

The one thing we see in common in most of the cases like the above, is that Sellers sometimes choose Realtors who are not full-time, who are not professional, who don’t work with professionals and/or who work solo without teams to handle the details.

If you’re selling your home, don’t be short sighted. Listing with your sister, your neighbor, your friend, or your local discount broker just might not be in your best interests!

You deserve the BEST Realtors in Northern VA to protect your asset. Call The Belt Team at (703) 242-3975 and ask about a FREE staging consultation with a professional stager, FREE listing photos from a professional photographer and FULL SERVICE from a professional team. Belt Team listings sell FASTER and for MORE MONEY than average.

Don’t be the house everyone is talking about, but no one is selling!

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Best Real Estate Agents in Northern VA

The Northern VA Real Estate Market Is Shifting – Special Message from CEO Terry Belt

I’ve lived in Northern VA for almost my entire life. And I’m a third generation real estate agent. I know both our area and real estate well! One thing I know for sure is that the real estate market is not a straight, static line and it never will be. It is always moving.

I believe we are going to see our next shift in the next 12 months or so. Local bankers and experts are giving it 12-24 months in the Northern VA – Washington DC area market before it hits. I’m calling it sooner, and yet who knows? This means I believe we will move into neutrality, then back into a Buyer’s Market. We are likely at the peak of this Seller’s cycle between now and Spring. In fact, some parts of our market have already shifted notably over the past 3 months.

I recently returned from masterminding with Gary Keller, the Chairman of the Board of Keller Williams Realty (the world’s largest real estate company with over 140,000 Realtors), and with our Top 100 agents. Approximately half of the metropolitan areas in the USA are already undergoing this shift. I am tracking it closely. We may or may not have one more spring as crazy and frenetic as this past one was, with multiple offers in the entry price ranges and buyers beating down seller’s doors. As one of the area’s top teams, The Belt Team has been privileged to help 71 families buy and sell homes so far this year, and we expect to help many more in the coming months. We have an excellent handle on the market and especially the micro markets throughout Northern VA and Washington DC. Sometimes those micromarkets are geographical and sometimes they are price driven.

What does this mean for you? Well our market has two primary seasons, although we are lucky that we don’t have extreme seasonality here. The majority of our residential real estate sales come in the spring. Our secondary market is fall: September/October. If you have been thinking about selling your home in the next few years, I highly urge you to email or call me (703-242-3975) so we can begin the conversation about home prep, pricing, and timing. You may not decide to sell now, and yet I highly recommend having the conversation now. I think selling in the next 60 days is outstanding timing.

Call, or email any time. We are happy to talk and meet with you, advise you on preparations & timing, and to give you a property and pricing analysis of your home with no obligation. Feel free to browse our website. I look forward to a continued conversation.

Best,
Terry Belt
CEO, The Belt Team

CEO The Belt Team

Unparalleled Trust Necessary Before Listing Your House

The article below came out last week from Keeping Current Matters. We thought it was right on target. It surprises us how often people trust the sale of their largest asset to someone who may not be an expert – just because they are a family member, a neighbor or a friend. They list their home with this person out of obligation. And then they take a BIG leap.

Questions To Ask When Selling Your Home

While they may be able to trust them in terms of their personal relationship, they often cannot really trust this person’s expertise, negotiating skills & problem solving abilities. When you’re selling your home, you need it all. Personal trust (integrity, To be able to trust they will have your best interests at heart) AND to trust they have the ability to do the job at a high level.


Here’s what Keeping Current Matters had to say:

You and your family have decided to sell your house. It is now time to choose a real estate professional to help with the process. One of the major attributes this agent must possess is trustworthiness. To what degree do you need to trust them?

You must have enough trust in them that you feel comfortable they will accomplish all four things below: 

1. Sell possibly the largest asset your family owns

In many cases, a home is the largest asset a family has. Studies have shown that the equity many families have in their home is the largest percentage of that family’s overall wealth. 

2. Set the correct market value on that asset

Pricing is crucial even in the best of markets. You want to get the best price for your home without putting your house at a value that buyers will have little interest in.

3. Set the time schedule for the liquidation of that asset

Your family probably has a certain timetable for the sale of your house and the move into your next home. Coordinating the home selling process to meet certain schedules can be tricky.

4. Set a fair fee for the services required to liquidate that asset

You will need to pay a commission to an agent for selling the home and coordinating all elements of the selling transaction, including possible future negotiations (ex. with a home inspector or appraiser).

That’s a lot of trust. Make sure you pick a true professional to help with the sale of your home.


So how do you know if you can trust the sale of your home to someone?

1. Interview them.

Ask questions. Ask for statistics – things like: how many homes they’ve sold (that will tell you whether they have good problem solving skills, relationships & resources for you to use), what their list to sell price ratio is compared to the average (that will tell you about their negotiation skills), and what their average days on market is (that will tell you about their expertise). Spend more time asking questions like these than asking where they advertise and what kind of videos they do. And don’t choose the realtor who just throws out the highest number. The results they get are what you’re after. If they are experts, you won’t need to tell them how to do what they do best.

2. Ask for references.

Call people who have sold their home with the team you’re interviewing and find out first hand what it’s like to work with them.

3. Google them.

You’ll be surprised what you see (or don’t see).Pay special attention to third party sites like Zillow. Realtors cannot control what is posted there (unlike the testimonials you see on their personal web sites.) And when you read the reviews, read between the lines. Are they generic (“she’s great”) or are they specific (she sold our home in 9 days over list price and has the patience of Job”)?

Whether you’re selling in Vienna or McLean, Great Falls or Falls Church, Oakton or Oak Hill, Arlington, Ashburn or Annadale – wherever you live – you deserve the BEST real estate team. For a FREE report of “Questions To Ask Your Realtor When Selling Your Home” – email The Belt Team or call (703) 242-3975. We are listed in the Top 20 Best Real Estate Agents in Virginia and are happy to help you make the RIGHT move.

Click here for Reviews on Zillow about Terry Belt, Kevin Kleifges, Tom Reilly, Beth Dadisman, Gail Belt & Tom Hanton

Top Realtors Northern VA

3 Tips For Surviving The Northern VA Real Estate Jungle

An experience with a longtime friend got me thinking about the Northern VA real estate market and how it’s become a jungle out there. “Kill or be killed” as the saying goes.

Monday morning I got a Facebook message from my friend Tarzan that said “So Jane and I stopped by an open house yesterday just for grins . . . Uh Oh Chongo, we need The Belt Team!“. (Note: Names changed to fit the jungle theme – and to protect our clients.)

Apparently Tarzan & Jane had been debating over the past few months whether or not to renovate their current home – or whether to buy another home that was already updated. As part of their decision process, they had been stopping in to open houses to see what was out there, what other people had done and how much homes were going for. They weren’t ready to jump in to anything. Just gathering info.

But lo & behold, they walked into an open house on Sunday and fell in love. Hence the call to our team.

Well, if you have been following our Northern VA real estate blog, you know the market is crazy – with many areas (maybe even most areas) in a Seller’s Market. The home Tarzan & Jane were interested in had gone on the market the previous Friday. So, by the time they contacted us it had been for sale for 3 days. We reached out to the listing agent on their behalf and it turned out they had already received a contract and were close to ratifying it. Unfortunately, Trazan & Jane did not already have a loan approval letter (since they were not “serious” about buying until they saw this home). Jane works for a credit union and could make that happen quickly. But the Seller preferred the “bird in the hand”, did not want to wait and so their dream home home sold to another buyer.

Moral of the story? It’s a jungle out there! Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell now – or whether you’re just thinking about it – you have to proceed like animals do in the jungle. “Kill or be killed.” Here are 3 Tips to survive the real estate jungle:

Act Like A Cheetah:

Northern VA Real Estate Market Tips

Cheetahs don’t closely approach their prey and then slowly go after them. (Like what Tarzan & Jane did.) Instead, they stalk the animal and then charge it from a slight distance – at speeds no other animal can match. They also often hunt in groups. In the Northern VA real estate market, buyers need to act like a cheetah. They need to stalk the market, gather facts from expert hunters in their group (top notch Realtors), and then when they are ready – go in for the kill and do it fast. Realtors with long term partner relationships can make things happen fast.

I think folks who are contemplating buying or selling often hesitate to call a Realtor because they don’t want to be pressured, especially if they are not ready to do anything and are just in the fact gathering or mulling over the options stage.  While this might happen if you speak with a Realtor who does not do much business, it’s not the case if you talk to a trusted Realtor with years & years of happy clients. Our reputations have been too hard won to risk losing by pressuring a client into buying or selling when they are not ready. People also tell us “we don’t want to bother you until we know what we want to do”. But, really, it’s not a bother. We want to make sure you make the best decision you can and one that is right for YOU. Talking to us can provide clarity and additional things to think about that you had not previously considered. And it’s our pleasure to provide that service.

Protect Like A Lion:

Lion Yawning

The lion is known as the “King of the Jungle”. They protect themselves with their roar, their large mouths and their claws. This jungle animal also travels with other lions (in prides). In the Northern VA real estate market, you need to protect yourself like a lion. And a top notch real estate expert can help arm you with the claws you need – with counsel on loan approval, inspections, pricing, staging & more.

Free Reports from The Belt Team

Eat Like An Elephant:

Elephant

Elephants are known for eating massive amounts of food (some say African elephants eat 600 pounds in a day!). We’re not recommending chowing down at your local “all you can eat” buffet; but if you’re contemplating buying or selling a home – you need to consume information the way an elephant eats. Now, you can do this yourself or you can do it with the help of a professional. In the African elephant’s case, he eats like this every day, day after day. He’s an “expert eater” so to speak. On the other hand, if you took that African elephant and put him in Antarctica every 5-7 years and watched whether he was good at gathering food, we’d guess probably not as good as the penguins. The same thing goes for real estate. You need to eat real estate info the way an elephant eats – market statistics, interest rates, renovation costs, buying conditions, legal implications, resale issues, tax considerations, etc. And since you probably don’t do real estate on a daily basis year after year, it’s kind of like the elephant in Antarctica. He’d find a lot more food if he consulted the local eating professional (the penguin). And so will you by consulting the best Realtors in Vienna, Oakton, McLean or wherever you are looking to buy or sell.

Click here if you would like to set up FREE email listing alerts for Northern VA about homes coming on the market in the area you’re looking to buy or sell. It’s a great way to be educated to the market BEFORE you’re ready to make a move. (There’s no obligation.)

For more tips on how to survive the Northern VA Real Estate Jungle, contact The Belt Team or call (703) 242-3975.

Sell Now or Wait Until April?

Sell Now or Wait Until SpringIf you’re wondering whether you should sell now or wait until true Spring – April, May or June – you might want to read the latest info from Keeping Current Matters:


Just like our clocks this weekend in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon “spring forward!” Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale in the market right now is what is holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest, and traditionally they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it, which usually falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic temperatures and conditions.

That hasn’t happened this year. Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows.

 

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the top 10 dates Sellers listed their homes in 2015 all fell in April, May or June.

 

Those who act quickly and list now could benefit greatly from additional exposure to buyers prior to a flood of more competition coming to market in the next few months.


CEO The Belt TeamKevin Kleifges, Realtor, The Belt Team, Keller Williams RealtyBottom Line

If you’re planning on selling your home in 2016, NOW is the time to meet with The Belt Team to evaluate the opportunities in YOUR market. Call Terry Belt or Kevin Kleifges at (703) 242-3975 to schedule a consultation.

Will Appraisals Continue to be a Challenge in 2016?

Our friends at Keeping Current Matters have provided us with some research indicating low appraisals could continue to be a problem in 2016. Here’s what they say:


Will Appraisals Continue to be a Challenge in 2016? | Keeping Current Matters

“First American Title issues a quarterly report, the Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI), which “measures title agent sentiment on a variety of key market metrics and industry issues”. Their 2015 4th Quarter Edition revealed some interesting information regarding possible challenges with appraisal values as we head into 2016.

“The fourth quarter RESI found that title agents continue to believe that property valuation issues will be the most likely cause of title order cancellation over the coming year.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In a housing market where supply is very low and demand is very high, home values increase rapidly. One major challenge in such a market is the bank appraisal. If prices are jumping, it is difficult for appraisers to find adequate, comparable sales (similar houses in the neighborhood that closed recently) to defend the price when performing the appraisal for the bank.

Another monthly report by Quicken Loans measures the disparity between what a homeowner believes their house is worth as compared to an appraiser’s evaluation. Here is a chart showing that difference for each month through 2015.

Will Appraisals Continue to be a Challenge in 2016? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Every house on the market has to be sold twice; once to a prospective buyer and then to the bank (through the bank’s appraisal). With escalating prices, the second sale might be even more difficult than the first. That is why we suggest that you use an experienced real estate professional to help set your listing price.”


We concur. Our Northern VA market may not be seeing huge price increases, but there are still pockets where homes are selling with multiple offers and above sales price. In this situation, there are a number of strategies your Realtor may employ to protect you. For example, sometimes you can strike the appraisal and financing contingencies, or look for contracts where the buyer is making a large down payment. This is why who you select to represent you when selling your home is SO important. There are a million ways a sale can fall through. This is is just one. Make sure your Realtor knows how to bulletproof a transaction. Ask your agent LOTS of questions before you hire them!

Call Terry Belt or Kevin Kleifges at (703) 242-3975 for more info about selling your home.