Northern Virginia Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

May 16, 2019

Why You REALLY Shouldn’t Trust Zillow Zestimates



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients— 

When you go to Zillow, you are able to get something called a Zestimate, which gives you the value of your home. Can you trust those Zestimates? 

Unfortunately, no. Most of the time, Zestimates are not very accurate.

According to Zillow’s website, a Zestimate is a starting point in determining a home’s value. It is not an appraisal. As I like to say, if it was, it would be called a Zappraisal. The Zestimate is based on public and user-submitted data. 

Public data is usually fairly accurate, as it includes information about the square footage of your home. The problem is that Zestimates rely on user-submitted data. 

If you are a homeowner who wants to sell your house and you know that people are going to Zillow to see what your home is worth, wouldn’t it benefit you to go to Zillow and add some home improvements to your property? There are some agents out there who actually help people increase their Zestimates to make it seem like their home is worth more than it is. In short, Zestimates can be tweaked and manipulated.

Zillow goes on to say that they encourage homeowners to supplement the Zestimate by speaking with a real estate agent and getting a comparative market analysis or getting an appraiser to visit the house. After all, Zillow has never been to your house; that Zestimate has no idea how your home stacks up against others in the area.

If you live in a major metropolitan area where there are a lot of homes for Zillow to pull from, then your Zestimate might be more accurate. If you live in a rural area without a lot of data or if you live in an area with a variety of unique homes, then that Zestimate can be a long way off. 

Zillow even admits that more than three-quarters of the homes in San Diego County have Zestimates that are off by 10% or more. That means if you have a $700,000 house and your Zestimate is off by at least 10%, then your Zestimate is either $70,000 too high or too low. 

Ultimately, Zillow is kind of like WebMD; if you are curious about a health condition, then you can look up some data on WebMD. If you are seriously concerned about your health, you will go to the doctor. You won’t trust your health to information from WebMD. Why trust the value of your house to some website? 

In order to know what your home is worth in the current market, you need to contact an agent about the value of your home. In fact, I invite you to look up your Zestimate and send it to me. I will then compare your property to recently sold homes in your area and we’ll see how accurate Zillow actually is. 

If you are interested, let me know. If I get enough Zestimates from you, I’ll cover them in our next video so that you can see exactly how accurate Zillow is about our area. 

Of course, if you have any other questions, give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you.


And if you have questions about your home's worth or need help buying or selling a home, give me a call at 703-328-3434. I'm here to help.

 
 
April 22, 2019

Five Things That Do Not Increase the Value of Your Home



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients— 

Deciding to renovate before listing your home can be a challenge. It’s tough to know what will or will not return results. Here is a list of things will NOT increase the value of your home. 

1) Extensive Professional Landscaping

You can build an entire amusement park in your back yard and it won't bring you big bucks upon resale. If you want to put in a waterfall, coupled with a flowing river dumping into a Koi pond, for example, do it because you enjoy the water feature, not because you're hoping to recoup the investment. Landscaping choices are a personal preference, and all the hand-crafted bridges and unique pergolas in the world won't dramatically boost your bottom line.

2) New Roof, Gutters, Sprinklers or HVAC

There are certainly buyers in the marketplace who appreciate a home that features a brand new furnace, but they won't pay extra for the home because the furnace has been replaced.
Ditto regarding a new roof. The life expectancy of average composition types of roofs is about 30 years. Again, replacing a roof that is past its life expectancy is considered a maintenance issue. It's like expecting to get paid more because you swept off the front steps.

3) Swimming Pool and / or Personal Spa

The TV commercials for water-related improvements make it seem like non-stop frolicking among kids in the pool (zero focus on drownings) or late-evening soirées in the spa sipping adult beverages, but the cost and expense of installing a pool or spa never finds its way back into your pocket. If you want to put in a pool or spa, do it because you will enjoy it. Realize that at resale time, a buyer might insist that you tear out the spa and, further, some buyers will not buy a home with a swimming pool.

4) Painting Your House

Although painting is the single most cost-effective improvement you can make before selling your home, it won't return any bang for your buck unless you do the painting yourself.
Painting the exterior or interior of the home certainly makes any home more saleable, but an appraiser will not give you a credit boost because the paint is fresh.

5) Solar Panels

Unfortunately, the Kool-Aid the sales people at the solar panel company handed you to drink is spiked. Sure, they tell you that solar panels will improve the value of your home and add to your bottom-line profit, but that's just not true. You get zero improved value for solar panel installation. On top of this, if you have financed the solar panels, you probably can't sell the home without paying the balance at closing, something else that most likely was not disclosed.


And if you have questions about making home upgrades or need help buying or selling a home, give me a call at 703-963-5500. I'm here to help.
 
 
April 11, 2019

5 Things You'll Love—and Hate—About Buying a Home This Spring



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients— 

Welcome to the best—and worst—time to buy a home: spring! Yes, it's peak home-buying season. However, it’s no bed of roses. Knowing what to expect is half the battle, and can help you use these highs and lows to your advantage! So consider this an essential prep course. Ready to dive into the best of times and the worst of times for home buying?

You’ll love: All the inventory

One of the best things about buying a house during the spring is that you have a lot more options to choose from. New listings tend to flood the market in April and May, but keep in mind that with so much inventory out there, you’ll want to make sure to stick to your search and price parameters to avoid getting overwhelmed.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Busier times mean more buyers and, thus, more competition—which explains why bidding wars are more common during the spring. As a result, you have to act fast when the right listing pops up. In hot markets especially, listings may be scooped up before they are even posted online, which is why most housing experts suggest working with a real estate agent throughout the home-buying process.

You’ll love: All the open houses

More homes on the market mean more open houses for you to attend. That’s exciting news for buyers who relish ogling homes in person. Going to more open houses means you’ll get a better feel for the neighborhood you’re interested in, while also giving you the opportunity to size up the other home buyers you’re going up against. But with so many open houses to hit, make sure to plot out on a map the ones you want to see, with the times they're open, in order to maximize your time.

You’ll hate: The time pressure

Great listings get snatched up quickly year-round, yet home buyers are under even more pressure when there's more competition among buyers. You have to be prepared to make an offer 
fast, since indecision could potentially cost you your dream home. That’s why it’s crucial to zero in on what type of home you’re looking to buy and what your price range is before you start seriously looking.

You’ll hate: Higher prices

Home buyers generally have more wiggle room to make lowball offers during the slower seasons, since there’s less competition. However, buyers have less negotiating power during the spring. Therefore, be prepared to pay full list price for a house, assuming it’s been priced at fair market value.

Spring home-buying season has its pros and cons, but by preparing for them you’ll be in a much better position to clinch your dream home. And, if you don’t manage to buy a house this spring, summer is still a great time to buy a house, too.


And if you have questions about selling or buying a home, give me a call at 703-963-5500. I'm here to help.

 
 
Posted in Real Estate
March 27, 2019

What should you do to prepare your home for a spring sale?



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients— 

Spring is here, which means one thing: The spring housing market is off to the races! The hot season is here NOW for the real estate market.

You see, every April, May, and June, we see the highest number of buyers enter the market.

However, this year is a little special, because there are more homes on the market today than we've seen in the past few years. In the DC Metropolitian area, these homes are selling just as quickly as they come on the market!

That’s why you'll want to put in a bit of extra effort in order to sell your home quickly and at top price. Here are three tips to help you do that:

#1 Renovate and rearrange

Home renovations can make good financial sense.

A few thousand dollars’ worth of renovations can raise your sale price by more than you paid. If you do decide to go this route, know that kitchens and bathrooms give the best returns. Also, repainting everything is an absolute must!

However, even if you don't opt for a major renovation, you can easily improve the appearance of your home with a few small, free tweaks. Give your home a thorough cleaning, declutter to create more space and light, and put away personal items to allow buyers to imagine themselves in their new home.

#2 Price your home right

Setting the right price for your home is a balancing act. Pricing your house at or slightly below the current market value actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search!

On the one hand, a sky-high price will turn off many potential buyers. Homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to drop the price. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drop was caused by something wrong with the homes when in reality nothing was wrong, the price was just too high!

This is important because, in my experience, the first three weeks on the market tend to be critical. That's when you will reach buyers who have been in the market for a while and are extremely serious.

So what can you do? To get started, check out this home value calculator, which takes into account recent sales in our area:

Enter your home address here to find out what your home is currently worth. 


#3 Market appropriately

As I mentioned, there are more homes on the market this spring than we've seen in the past few years.

That's why you'll want to go beyond just listing your home on the MLS.

Whether you work with a Realtor or you list your home yourself, I encourage you to try social media advertising, to print up some flyers that you can give away during viewings, and even to consider a postcard campaign for certain neighborhoods around your home.

If you apply all three of these tips, you will have a great chance of selling your home in record time and for a very handsome price.

And if you have questions about pricing or marketing your home, or you're ready to kick off the process in earnest, give me a call at 703-963-5500. I'm here to help.

 
 
Posted in Real Estate
March 19, 2019

Mistakes to avoid when buying your 1st home



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients— 

No matter how many home purchases you’ve made, there are always lessons to learn during the home buying process. If it’s your first time, however, you’re definitely at a big disadvantage.

According to NerdWallet, first-time buyers have to put in 3.8 offers on average before an offer is accepted—experienced buyers only need to make 2.5.

On top of this, 56% of newbie buyers had to offer above asking price before getting a deal, while other homebuyers only needed to 35% of the time. On top of this, 34% of first-time buyers felt financially insecure about their purchase, but only 17% of experienced buyers reported the same.

Needless to say, it’s tough out there for people new to the home purchasing process. And with high demand for entry-level homes, buyers are facing a lot of competition—simple mistakes can mean losing out on a great opportunity.

Here are some simple things you can do to even out the playing field when you’re making your first (or seventh) home purchase:


1. Shop around. Half of all homebuyers fail to shop around for a mortgage, instead opting for the first lender they applied to. Shopping around can save you hundreds a year in interest. In fact, if all Americans shopped around on their mortgages, they’d save around $776 million in one year.

2. Put less down. You don’t need to put 20% down to purchase a home. It’s possible to put much less down, especially if you have good credit. In a lot of cases, it makes more sense to buy now instead of saving up, but remember: Your mortgage payments will be higher and you’ll likely need mortgage insurance.

3. Use an online calculator. Various websites offer home affordability calculators, helping you understand how your salary and debt affect what you can afford.

4. Compromise. You’re not going to find everything you want in a home, so identify your biggest priorities. For example, do you care about square footage, commute time, local schools, and location?

5. Get ready for emotions. Buying a home is definitely an ordeal filled with excitement, anxiety, and even disappointment. Be prepared for the ups and downs and you’ll be able to handle them more easily.


The best way to make the process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible is to speak with a great real estate agent. If you’re ready to become a homeowner, I’d be more than happy to help you, step by step, throughout the entire home buying experience. 

If you would like to get the process started, have any questions, or simply need more information, feel free to give me a call at (703) 963-5500 or email me at janet@simplyyourbestmove.com. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 
 
Jan. 21, 2019

4 Key Trends to Watch for in Our 2019 Market

There are four key trends that buyers and sellers need to look out for in 2019.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?

 

Here are the top four takeaways. For more information, see the full Realtor.com 2019 forecast.

 

1. There will be more homes for sale—especially luxury homes. I can attest to this prediction, as I’m definitely seeing more luxury homes come on the market and sit unsold for long periods of time. In general, inventory is increasing, but we don’t expect to see an increase greater than 7%.

 

2. Affording a home will remain tough. Interest rates have been increasing, and home prices have been steadily increasing as well over the past few years. Even a rise in inventory can’t stop home prices from increasing in hot markets—especially here in the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area.   


"In general, inventory is slightly increasing, but we don’t expect to see an increase greater than 7%."

 

3. Millennials will still dominate the market. Millennial homebuyers account for 45% of all home sales. Gen X homebuyers, on the other hand, account for just 35%, and baby boomers account for 17%.

 

4. The new tax law is still a wild card. Unless you have a savvy accountant who already knows how the new tax law will impact your taxes, you won’t really know how it affects you until you do your taxes later this year.

 

If you have questions about how any of these trends impact you specifically or you’re thinking of buying or selling a home soon in our marketplace, give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I’d love to help you.

 

Jan. 9, 2019

2019 housing market forecast: Arlington up, Alexandria down


The Northern Virginia housing market forecast is for home prices in Arlington to rise, while home prices in Alexandria are expected to fall.


WASHINGTON — The number of homes sold in Northern Virginia in September was down almost 12 percent from a year earlier, and active listings throughout the Northern Virginia region are down 9.3 percent from September 2017, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

The Association’s data include Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton.

But prices continue to rise, with the average price of what sold in Northern Virginia in September 2018 at $573,555, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier.

“Although Northern Virginia sellers remain in the driver’s seat, our September data regarding rising home values is a positive indicator to those wondering about market headwinds,” said NVAR chair Lorraine Arora.

“Despite volatility in the stock market and Federal Reserve decisions, homes that are priced and show well are selling,” she said.

Not everything on the market in Northern Virginia is selling.

“If a home is not in tip-top shape, it is sitting,” said Gary Lange with Weichert Realty in Vienna. “Sellers are trying to get top spring market prices and that just isn’t going to happen in fall and winter months,” he said.

Lange said he’s seen instances of buyers keeping a home on their radar, and then pounce on it with other potential buyers when the seller decides to lower the price. A price reduction often triggers multiple offers and can actually benefit the seller in the end.

The NVAR has also issued its forecast for early 2019, most notably calling for prices in Arlington to continue rising and prices in Fairfax and Alexandria to pull back, with inventory declines in all three jurisdictions to continue.

 

Posted in Market Updates
Dec. 18, 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It truly brings us joy to help you make your real estate dreams a reality. Thank you for working with us. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your help.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?

We hope you and your family have a great holiday. May the Christmas season fill your home with joy. It truly brings us joy to help you make your real estate dreams a reality. Thank you for working with us. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your help. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you in any way we can. Have a fantastic Christmas and we’ll see you in the new year! To hear my full message, watch this short video.    

 


"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

 

 

Posted in Real Estate
Dec. 11, 2018

Amazon HQ2 is coming to Northern Virginia



Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?
Friends and Clients, 

As everyone knows, Crystal City, Virginia has been chosen as the site of one of Amazon’s two new corporate headquarters locations, Amazon HQ2. What does Amazon HQ2 mean for the Washington region?

The Stephen S. Fuller Institute, the Washington Region’s premier source of information for economic analysis, has compiled a full report on their website that may answer any questions you have about this development. 
You can find that report here, but our team would also like to share a few highlights of what this news may mean for Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia in general. 

First, there are rumors that receiving Amazon HQ2 could lead to a massive housing shortage in our region due to the influx of new jobs; however, I would advise my clients and fellow Realtors alike to not panic yet. 

There is cause to believe that, when put into context with the Washington Metro Area’s general growth projections, the aptly named “Amazon effect” may not contribute to the housing issues some suspect. 

As stated in an article by the D.C. Policy Center, “Small changes in household size could make a big difference in the region’s ability to absorb new households.” 
You can read more from this report, which fully breaks down how the region may respond to the introduction of Amazon HQ2, here

In addition to the counterarguments against negative rumors listed in the D.C. Policy Center article, the earlier-mentioned report from the Stephen S. Fuller Institute also makes a strong case for our area’s capacity to absorb the impact of Amazon HQ2. 

For one thing, the D.C. area has absorbed the equivalent of more than one “Amazon’s worth” of job growth each year for the past three years. This has, indeed, contributed to our existing housing shortage, but may also be evidence that the coming addition of Amazon HQ2 will not be the monumental strain some anticipate. 


Also, while there has been much talk of the potential challenges this development may pose, we should also acknowledge the distinct fiscal and economic benefits that Amazon HQ2 will bring to our region. More information about these projected advantages can be found here, in another great report from the Stephen S. Fuller Institute. 

All in all, the introduction of an Amazon headquarters into Northern Virginia is sure to elicit significant growth within the region.

If you have any other questions about this development, feel free to give my team or me a call or reply to this email. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Best,

Janet Gresh
Nov. 15, 2018

Tips for Making Sure You’re Given a Fair Shake on Home Repairs

Nobody likes dealing with expensive home repairs. Here are a few tips to help you make that process easier.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?

I recently read an article in The New York Times titled, "Why do all home repairs cost $1,000?" The author was complaining that it didn't matter much what went wrong at home—be it a leaky faucet, broken garage door, or failed sump pump. In each case, the bill came out to at least $1,000. 

Most homeowners woefully underestimate the costs of various home repairs, often by as much as four times the actual cost. Can anything be done about this? Here are three recommendations to help you deal with home repair costs:

1. Save for a rainy day. The average homeowner spends $2,000 a year on maintenance. The trouble is that those repairs are often unexpected. To deal with this, consider starting a maintenance account and adding a little bit to it every month.    


"Sometimes it can make sense to look for a new home that won’t require frequent repairs."

 

2. Take time to enjoy being a homeowner. In short, this means giving do-it-yourself home fixes a try. You might balk at this suggestion, but many of those $1,000 repairs can be solved with $15 worth of parts and a few YouTube tutorials. Start small and build your skills, do what you feel confident about, and pay somebody to do the rest. 

 

3. Negotiate smart. No matter what you are quoted for any sort of repair, it's likely that somebody else will do it better for less. Make sure to get a few quotes. 

 

When you do hire a professional, realize that their fee covers not only their expertise and labor, but also various kinds of insurance, certifications, workspace rent, and so on. If you've done everything else on this list, you can accept the final repair price without feeling cheated or worrying that you're wasting money. 

 

Of course, sometimes it can simply make sense to look for a new home that won't require frequent repairs.  

 

If you're considering selling your current home or if you need recommendations for contractors to fix those things you don't want to deal with yourself, give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I can recommend several reliable businesses and I'm always here to help.