In just a few years, when we all look back on the Covid-19 trends and takeaways, we’ll marvel and despair at what we did and didn’t know during 2020 and 2021. The widespread uncertainty impacted everyone in ways big and small, and no industry was left untouched.
Count real estate transactions and the people attached as some of the heavily affected populations. Very few predicted the wild roar back to the sellers market after just a few weeks of a slow down in the early months of the pandemic.
Alexandria, Virginia, embodies many of the nationwide pandemic real estate trends that continue to occur, including low inventory, aggressive buying tactics, and a severely squeezed rental market. And as part of the greater Washington, D.C., area, Alexandria produces its own nuanced real estate trends that have to be considered.
Did you know MilitarybyOwner publishes a monthly blog about Living in Alexandria, Virginia?
Buying, selling, and renting in Alexandria is an extreme sport. Without the help of a seasoned agent and a team of local real estate professionals with years of experience working in the area, you’ll struggle to keep up with the speed and intensity of the market.
To help us understand what we need to know about Alexandria real estate, I’ve asked Kristy Crombie and Erika Olsen, the duo working as Crombie & Olsen with McEnearney Associates, to help sellers, buyers, and renters get ready for what Alexandria’s market has to offer.
How to Prepare for a Move to Alexandria
Crombie & Olsen emphasize the importance of vetting an agent with proven results. More often than not, referrals from friends and family are the surest way to meet a match you can trust and who will work doggedly on your behalf. You’ll need someone who has built relationships in the area and is respected by their peers. These connections are the make and break points of the real estate industry.
Here are a few more of their suggestions to help you prepare.
1) Advocate for yourself.
There’s no substitute for personal research into the general areas you’re considering moving. Talk with people already living in Alexandria neighborhoods and ask about the quality of life issues that are significant and unique to that neighborhood. With a better understanding of the features you prefer, proximity to a Metro or bus stop, for example, your agent can dial into what is available and show you the properties that suit your needs.
2) Obtain a pre-approval letter.
Buyers are often confused about the difference between a pre-approval and a pre-qualification letter. A pre-approval letter shows the lender you’re serious about buying a house, and they can begin vetting your purchase power. This information leads to creating an appropriate offer according to your finances. A pre-qualification doesn’t hold this weight. Kristy and Erika recommend discussing with your agent the exact differences and how your finances relate.
3) Choose a local lender.
Local lenders are small businesses, and they work hard to get to the settlement table with the lowest rate and best experience possible for their clients. They’re driven by a tight real estate community that values a trustworthy reputation.
Crombie & Olsen endorse local lenders for multiple reasons. They are readily accessible and easier to communicate with than big box lenders, making for a happy seller who’s ready to close the deal and hand over the keys. Local lenders are also in tune with the enduring fast-paced market in Alexandria and can make quick adjustments as needed.
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How to Prepare to Sell Your Alexandria Home
The Alexandria’s sellers market is beyond thriving. Right now, agents recommend that any homeowner who is considering selling their property to communicate with an agent about their options to ensure they don’t miss out on a worthwhile sale.
Across the board, experts are predicting slight upticks in the interest rates over the upcoming months. These increases may cool buyers’ desire due to unaffordability. But, of course, Alexandria’s market often bucks national trends when demand is of concern.
Although sellers are in control right now, Kristy and Erika have notes for those thinking about putting their homes on the market.
1) You need a complete marketing plan.
Any agent can generate one offer, but a prepared, experienced agent will create a complete marketing plan that brings in multiple offers with the best terms.
Excellent photos are essential. Buyers constantly search online and often return to the images to inspect every inch and examine more details. This is especially true for military buyers who regularly search for and buy a home without ever having stepped foot into the house.
Top 4 Don'ts for Your Home Listing Photos teaches what not to take pictures of for your online marketing.
Photos are a solid start to the marketing plan, but there’s more prep work needed to entice the best buyers.
In an occupied home, decluttering and light staging help capture your home at its best. Traditional staging and sometimes virtual staging are helpful tools to prepare a vacant house. Crombie & Olsen highly recommend trusting your agent with determining which option will be best for your property.
2) Go ahead and make some repairs and updates.
Kristy and Erika agree it’s always better to prep your home to sell. Money effectively spent ahead of the sale will save time and money by shortening the number of days listed and generate the best price. Never give a buyer a reason to question the value or integrity of your home.
They offered these quick fixes to start.
- Fresh paint goes a long way in updating a home. Work with neutral paint colors to allow buyers to envision their furniture and belongings in each room.
- Boost your curb appeal. One of the most affordable and impactful improvements, landscaping such as fresh mulch and window boxes, are proven marketing strategies. There’s also no denying the fact that a clean yard clear of weeds, overgrown bushes, and trees draws buyers to the front door. In fact, consider a new coat of paint for the front door, too!
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Helpful Tips for Renters in Alexandria
Renters are struggling to find vacancies for a couple of reasons. Many buyers are frustrated with the selling process that includes bidding wars and budget-busting asking prices. They’re seeking refuge in the rental market and competing with traditional renters who prefer the lifestyle or need a short-term living situation. And sellers have been holding onto homes due to the virus spread, winter weather, and fear of the inability to find a home after they’ve sold.
This is the advice Kristy and Erika shared with would-be renters in Alexandria.
Contact a real estate agent. For some newcomers, this might be unheard of; they’re used to directly speaking with the homeowner or property manager. But in Alexandria, many real estate agents base a part of their business working with rental homes. Typically their services are free for the renter(the owner pays the fees), but talk with your agent on how their business operates.
Expand your search. Whether it’s a different part of Alexandria or a different housing style, flexibility allows for attractive options you might not have considered. For example, although you might have preferred a single family home, townhomes are prevalent in the area and could fill your need for less money. The same is true for condos.
Expect to apply for multiple properties. Rentals are moving lightning fast as the spring and summer approach. It is not uncommon for rental homes to change hands through word of mouth without ever becoming a public listing. This is another reason to have an agent working on your behalf. They’re privy to rentals that the public hasn’t had the chance to see.
More Alexandria Real Estate Tips
To make a comfortable real estate decision, you’ll need all the pertinent information you can get. Take these tips from Kristy and Erica into consideration as you make plans.
The VA loan is often misunderstood. It’s important to work with an agent and a local lender who have exceptional experience working within the VA loan process. It’s an outstanding loan with so much to offer from both a selling and a buying perspective. A knowledgeable buyers agent will assist the listing agent by educating them about the misconceptions.
Your agent should clearly advise you on what a property is worth based on the comps in the area while taking into account the home’s desirable features and location. Based on the nature of Alexandria’s hot market, buyers often feel pressure to buy an overpriced home. Work with your agent to guide your decision on how high to escalate the offer while respecting your spending threshold.
Remember that Alexandria and basically the entire Northern Virginia region have their own real estate personality compared to national trends. Experts forecast market corrections as interest rates increase, but home values in Alexandria tend to hold even during stressful economic times.
Crombie & Olsen agree that the entire Northern Virginia market is an excellent investment and has historically proven to yield a good rate of return for its investors. But, as of now, and in the short term future, buyers and renters will need patience and preparedness to make quick decisions with the help of an experienced Alexandria-based agent.
Many thanks to Kristy Crombie and Erika Olsen for their input on this article!
By Dawn M. Smith
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