Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Best Time To List Your Home For Sale (Surprise!)

Yesterday I circulated the chart showing home sales in Loudoun County for the last 5 years.  You probably weren't surprised.  June has the highest number of closed sales, January and February have the lowest number of closed sales. 

But this chart may present more of a surprise for some.  It is showing the cycle of new contracts.  In other words, this shows you the months the buyers are out looking for homes and making offers, and (with a little luck) ratifying contracts. 

2007: January and March
2008: January and March
2009: April, May and June
2010: March and April

2011:  Who knows... but you could be missing it right now!

While you are thinking about when you want to move, planning to repaint, packing things up into storage, and generally just waiting... people are out there buying homes!  RIGHT NOW.  TODAY. 

Vicky Chrisner

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Your House Listed Yet?

I am often asked about what our local seasonal cycles are for real estate, so I thought I'd pass along this chart (thanks MRIS) for real estate sales volume in Loudoun County since 2006.  Despite fluxuations due to weather, tax programs, loan programs, interest rates and many other things, this chart shows a definitive cycle for our area.  Lowest sales have been occurring in January and February and the highest number of sales usually in June of every year. 

Keep in mind, this chart represents closed sales.  Most residential contracts are 30-60 days in contract (of course, with short sales that is longer, but I am speaking "generally" here). 

Is your home listed yet?  If you're thinking of selling this year, you may want to get a jump on things.  Buyers are out in force now, and are looking.  Many people won't put their homes on the market until June (they'll wait until school is out, etc), so often the early bird does get the worm.

Vicky Chrisner

Also see:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tell Congress Mortgage Interest Needs To Be Fully Deductible!

Congress is looking at many potential revisions to the tax code, including limiting the tax deductions for mortgage interest. This change could truly have a negative impact on our local & national real estate market. We need to let Congress know we want the mortgage interest deduction to be left alone! Click the link, follow the prompts.

Contacting Congress is easier than you'd think: CLICK HERE!

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Vicky Chrisner

It's Taste Test Tuesday!

It's Taste Test Tuesday!

OK, I will admit that I am stealing the "game" from, but I liked it.  Every Tuesday I will post pictures of 2 or more homes and ask for your favorite.  I might shake it up a bit just for variety, but in this case, I have posted 2 pictures of Single Family Homes, both in Loudoun County, both currently for sale, and both priced the same.  So, which do you like? 

Like "The Real Estate Whisperer" on Facebook and let us know!! Tomorrow, I will post details on the facebook page, and you'll learn the price location and other such fun facts about both homes.

If you are looking for a home like these or any other, I'd love to help!

Vicky Chrisner

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That's Not In My Job Description

I recently completed a series on getting your home ready to sell

In one post, I mention cleaning... but the focus of that post is about staging...about selling fantasy.   Today I stumbled across a post about the opposite of that... about a true nightmare.  Take a look!

This post is by a stager.  Although I applaud the completed job, the real transformation was *cleaning*. 

Sure, the final "AFTER" photos include many staging elements.  (Please do check out the after photos).  But,  I can not overstress the importance of cleaning up the mess.

And, despite some implications, no... cleaning is not the job of a REALTOR or stager.  If an owner wishes to sell a property that looks like this, well, best of luck to them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Types of Sales in 2011

We're well into 2011 and the market is very different than a few years ago. 

In 2008, almost the only properties selling were REOs.  

By 2009/2010, the banks had seen the value in working with short sales and had enough trained staff that they were able to start processing the requests in enough time to avoid foreclosure and actually get to the closing table. 

In order for production builders to stay in business, they had to keep building, but they had to adjust their price and product.  This meant they needed to renegotiate deals with investors, the localities and their lenders.  In 2009 we started to see these entities also face the reality of the market, and by 2010 new homes sales were once again returning to the market in force.

Traditional sellers also realized they had to face reality.  Market recovery was going to take many years, and recognizing that 2005/2006 values are never likely to return (when you consider inflation).  In 2010, traditional resales noticeably re-entered in the market, but hoping to get every dollar they could, these sellers did all they could to make buying their home an advantage - the homes were well prepared for the market, well priced and owners were flexible on terms.

I was pleased that in 2010, my business, and probably that of most local agents was about 15% REOs, 25% Short Sales,  25% New Construction, 35% Resales... nearly balanced between "normal" sales (New Construction and Resales) and "distress" sales (REOs and Short Sales).  The market in 2011 continues to show signs of recovery.  Inventory is currently very tight.  Here are the stats for the last 90 days for Leesburg VA.  Check them out:

368 Homes on the market right now
269 Homes under contract right now
195 Homes sold in the last 90 days

This paints the picture that we have less than a 6 month inventory of homes available, which is great.  What also is encouraging is the "Types" of sales that are in the marketplace right now.

REOs represent 4% of the Homes Available and 17% of the Sales in the last 90 days
Short Sales represent 12% of the Homes Available and 18% of the Sales in the last 90 days

It's a good sign that distress sales are continuing to decrease in the market.  In some neighborhoods, particularly those built during the height of the market, distress sales continue to dominate.  However, in other neighborhoods, stability is returning. 

Wondering how you're neighborhood is faring?  Get a free automated report at:

Notes about Neighborhood Sales Reports: 
  • You must include your address and info about your property so the program can pull appropriate comps.
  • You must include a valid email address - the report takes a few minutes and is emailed to you.
  • You will NOT receive any spam... no bulk emails at all.  Promise.
  • It's automated, so it's not perfect.... if it doesn't make sense, please contact me directly for more information.
  • This program works only in the Northern Virginia area.

For a personalized report by a human with a brain, don't hesitate to reach out to me.  I am here to help you evaluate your circumstances and make good decisions for you and your family.

Vicky Chrisner

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Your Home Ready For The Market?

I have completed a series of blog posts to help you, Mr and Mrs Seller, get your home ready for the market.  Check out the posts referenced below.  Or, better yet, give me a call and let's meet. 

Part of the service I offer when I list your home is a personal consultation on all of these things!  As you read these posts, I hope you'll see how much analytical study has gone into these words of wisdom.

Painting For the Market - Color & finish choices

Show Me The Space, I'll Show You The Money! Creating visual space

Knick Knack You're Getting Whacked! - Removing the small obstacles

Vignettes that Sell - Highlighting features, selling benefits

Create the "Not So Lived In" Look - Selling the magic house

PRIORITIES, PRIORITIES - Which staging suggestions are most important?

It's Show Time!  (Final touches before a showing)

* * *
If you're really interested in how buyers react to different homes,

* * *

Selling Your Home? 
Hire a real estate sales consultant who understands
 the marketing and selling process! 

Vicky Chrisner

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Show Time!

This is the final post in our series about getting your home ready for the market.  We've discussed curb appeal, when you might need to repaint (and how), how to create visual space, how to create focal points, and creating the not-so-lived-in look.  Now....

It's Show Time!

The first few days your home is on the market are typically when you get the most traffic through your home, so making sure your home is 100% ready is really important.  Buyers are not going to come back because your agent calls their agent and says "Sorry about that first showing... the owners have staged it now... I think your buyers will like it".  So, on day one and every day after that....
Homes must look good, feel good, smell good, and sound good.

Look Good
We've focused on a lot making sure the home looks good.  Before leaving your home, take 15 minutes to make sure the stage is set and everything is in its place.  This may include final touches like opening blinds, turning on lights, taking the trash out, turning the gas fireplace on, etc.

Feel Good
Make sure the temperature of the home is right - not too hot, not too cool.  The man on the right~he is not going to buy your house.  Also make sure (especially the surfaces most likey to be touched) are clean. Remember, woman are kinestetic evaluators - they will touch things....stick is a problem for them. 

Also in this category is neighbors... make sure you've appealed to your neighbors to assist you.  Nothing turns a buyer off faster than a neighbor that fusses at the buyer for parking in the wrong space.  No matter what is "right", no one can overcome an unfriendly neighbor.  This does not mean that neighbors should "interview" prospective buyers either... it's best that interactions with neighbors, even the well meaning ones, are brief and pleasant - a wave or hello - and nothing more. Hopefully, your neighbors will leave the selling to the sales people.

Smell Good
The biggest thing here is to make sure that your home doesn't have any bad smells... trash, garbage disposals, bathrooms, laundry areas, kitty litter boxes or pet areas are sources for bad smells; and some foods (fish, ethnic foods) create unpleasant odors.  Avoid and eliminate these kinds of smells.  Usually I do not like air fresheners in a home - some people are sensitive to these kinds of smells, and buyers could think you're trying to cover something up, so if you use these don't over do it.   No matter what the smell is - the man on the left... he is definately NOT buying your house.

During an open house, or perhaps on a Saturday morning before several expected showings, you might choose to bake a pie or cookies, or pop popcorn to give the home a "homey" smell.   Real candles create a fire hazard and I do not encourage them, even during open houses.  There are electric candles that can provide a nice visual affect and sometimes also offer a light scent....but again, don't over do it. 

Sound Good
Again, here the important thing is to avoid and eliminate negative sounds that can impact your buyers perception of the home.  Talk to your neighbors and let them know you're expecting a showing, especially when you're having an open house - hopefully it is not when they are having band practice next door, or cutting down the tree in their front yard; maybe they can even keep their dogs inside their home so they aren't barking at your potential buyers while they walk around the back yard.  Don't leave alarm clocks on, try to avoid setting home alarms that may be accidentally triggered, and turn off the children's cartoons, the teenager's stereo or Uncle Ed's opera music.
Sometimes we'll suggest you leave music on in your home when you're expecting showings perhaps some light jazz or a holiday instrumental which "loops" (you don't want empty static playing when buyers are there).

Price and promotion are what get people to walk in your door.  Staging is what closes the sale.  Don't skip it. 

Ready to talk to me about listing your home? I will bring all of this knowledge, and much more, to the table and will help you acheive your goal - getting the most money for your home in the shortest amount of time.

Vicky Chrisner, Real Estate Sales Consultant

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Interesting Notes:  Sight and sound are the strongest senses for adults.  Women are more kinestetic (meaning they touch things to see if they like them).  Smell is stronger for men and children.  Men prefer vanilla, apple or cinnamon smells,  women tend to like fruity or flowery types of smell (i.e. berry, lemon, lavender).  The most widely appreciated smell is vanilla.  Understanding this is all part of understanding the psychology of selling, so that you can stage appropriately for all senses.  Details matter.


For the last couple of weeks, I have been creating posts which, if you try to do all of it, can completely overwhelm a seller.  So, here is the reality... no, I do not expect anyone to do everything in these posts.  There are limits.  And, there are priorities. 

If you know who your most likely buyer is, and you understand general buyer psychology, then you can easily prioritize so you're making sacrifices where they are most important.

In general, here is the sales process for most buyers:
  • Buyers shop first online via a search engine (with or without their agent).  They put in search criteria:  Geography; Price and Minimum requirements - (i.e. 4 bedrooms, garage).  You can not change the geography of your home.  It's not too practical to change the basics of your home (like the number of bedrooms).  So, what you can control here is price.  Determine your listing price carefully so that you will be considered by buyers - with the wrong price (too high or too low) your home will not even be on the radar of the right buyer. 
  • Buyers (or their agents) see your ad.  They look at the picture and price FIRST.  Then they look at the details and additional pictures.  Always have additional pictures in your listing, a good description and lots of details.  Photo staging is critical here so you get good pictures.  Sometimes it is necessary for more than one photo shoot. 
  • Buyers schedule a tour - make it easy for them to show your home!
  • Buyers look at your home.....
When buyers come inside your home, here are some principles to keep in mind when choosing which areas are most important to stage properly:

  • View from the front door - the first impression usually lasts, so it needs to be impeccable.
  • While in a typical "married couple/family" scenario, the men usually determine the price range, the women usually choose the house.  So, if you must choose between areas to stage, focus on the areas that appeal to women first (if your home is likely to be sold to this type of buyer).
  • Women focus on kitchens, baths and master bedrooms - and women seek fantasy (relaxation, quiet, romance).  Candles by a bathtub rarely will appeal to a man.  Dirty dishes in a sink or a full trash can can kill a sale for a woman.
  • Areas of importance to men are basements, garages, storage spaces (incl. sheds), outdoor spaces, gyms - and men focus on functionality (organization, space for tools, toys and building, and grilling).  A workbench in these areas sells.  A TV or "party fridge" in the basement or, better yet, a garage, will make a strong impact.  Women will barely notice these things.
  • Children must see some spaces for playing - a few visible toys go a long way with children...even in a home without children, a guest room with a playful motif and a couple of stuffed animals of popular characters will make a friendly impact.  It's important that even childrens rooms are not "too" busy with toys or even an over abundance of colors - Adults find this overwhelming and will translate this as chaotic - not a thought that sells. This is even overwhelming for children who will (especially young children) immediately pick up toys that aren't theirs and get into trouble.  :(
  • If your home is likely to be sold to a "typical" suburbian family with children, and your home has 3 or 4 bedrooms, there are a few areas of importance:  Make sure bedrooms show as bedrooms - not libraries or dens.  Also, make sure there is a table in the kitchen if at all possible (even if it is a small bistro set).  Parents like to feed small children in the kitchen.
  • If your home is likely to be sold to someone who might have extended family living with them, or perhaps have a live in nanny, then staging additional sleeping areas separate from the main living areas will have a strong positive impact.  Even if it isn't a true bedroom, basements often have rooms which can easily transform to sleeping areas.  Kitchenettes and wet bars are also attractive spaces in basements which appeal to this type of buyer.

Of course, we're talking in generalities here but we always like to stage with the target buyer in mind.   When you contact me to help you sell  your home, part of my initial investigation is attempting to determine who your most likely buyer will be, so when talk about staging we can strategize together, balancing your need to get the highest amount possible for your home, quickly, with your ability to continue to live in your home.

This series is nearly complete... but there are a few more details to discuss.  Next Up:  "It's SHOWTIME!"

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A special thanks to my friend Dawn who is allowing me to use her "foot in bubbles" picture in this blog. 
ONLY A WOMAN would take a picture like this, am I right?  That's my point. 
This is what sells, for women.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Create the NOT-So-Lived-In Look

So far, we've learned how to create visual space, to depersonalize and to highlight features and sell benefits with staging, but I have not mentioned the single most important thing you can do to increase the chances of your home selling. 

The home must be clean.  Dirt does not sell.  You knew that, of course.  Well, I hope so. (I am surprised sometimes.)

Not only does the home have to be clean, but it must appear "beyond" organized....It needs to look "lived in" as if life has no negatives. 

The typical "lived in" look does not sell. 
Ok, it will sell... but it will sell for LESS.

You know that line from the movie when the girl has been shopping for a week and trying on a million outfits and her date finally arrives and says she looks great and she replies: "Oh, (blushing) This old thing?"   It's the same concept as the model on TV that washes her face and still has make up on.  Yeah, right!  And yet, we buy the product.

That's what we're going for here.

When we sell homes we sell fantasy... and in a fantasy, the children never have homework to do, or bookbags thrown on the couch, the jacket is never draped on the kitchen chair, the laundry never stacked in a basket waiting to be put away, bills never come in the mail, the trash never needs to be taken out, there are never cartoons on and toys are never on the floor.  

Sure, all those things happen in life... but not in YOUR house.  NEVER in your house.  In YOUR house, life is perfect.  There are only features and benefits and problems, tasks, work, challenges, chores or obstacles.  Nope. All that stuff might happen in the last house the buyer looked at, but not here.  Which house are do you think they are going to buy?

So unfortunately, before every showing, it is critical that you run around the home and be sure it looks like a commercial marketing space and not like your home where your family lives and has bills, and work, and school and homework and sick people and broken legs and cars that have flat tires and a big honkin headache. Nope.  NOT HERE.  

At YOUR house:
  • Books and magazines are purposefully displayed properly and neatly, and have all the right titles.
  • You don't get bills... so there's no mail on the counter top.
  • Everything in your home works magically without the need to be plugged in... or at least that is what one would think because the surely don't see any chords, wires or plugs. 
  • Kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders, etc. should be tucked away. The food here also magically appears when you're hungry.  In fact, there's probably a bowl of fresh fruit right there on the counter top.  Always fresh.  Not plastic. 
  • Window blinds, when in place, are open evenly, to bring in natural light or otherwise create the desired effect.
  • Nothing happens at your house that is accidental or by chance - everything is always perfect.  From the outside, if you see open windows, every single window is opened to the same level.  Always.
  • Your home is so perfect that you don't even need a trash can... at least not one that people can see, and definately not one people can smell.
  • Oh... and your closets?  They aren't cluttered or packed.  Your closets are SO BIG that you have an entire wardrobe in there and still have extra space.  How do we know it's your whole wardrobe?  Well, golly, you've got something from every color of the rainbow... in fact, it's actually in order by color.  Wow.  This is a house I want to live in.  What about you?
I think you sort of get the picture.  I know it is a hard standard but I am telling you it sells. Please understand, buyers have no idea that they are as critical as they are....nor do they realize psychologically how gullible they are to these tricks of the trade.  I have shown many homes to people that they think DO look past all of these things, but they don't.

I know trying to live like you're not living in a home is, well, darn near impossible.  The good news is that if you have priced well and you actually do most of the things suggested here, your home will not be on the market for very long.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Vignettes that SELL!

My goal with this post is to help you understand how to create a pleasing focal point, and why it's important.

Remember earlier in this series when I told you to walk through your home like a buyer? Do it again now. When you talk into a room, where do your eyes go? Is that REALLY where you want the buyers eyes to go?

A home is nothing more than shelter, right?  If a home's only purpose is to protect you from the elements then why are they so expensive? Our homes have evolved to be much more than shelter.  They are filled with various features, each one of which has its own benefits....and THAT is where the money is. 

Our goal with staging is to sell those features and benefits.  Here's an example:

Feature: Window/View
Benefit: Sit by the window and read or bird watch.
How to sell that story: The window is clean, has no screens, may (or may not) be framed by sheers on the side. Beside the window sits a comfy chair (turned to welcome the buyer to the room). Beside the chair, sort of behind it but still visible, is a floor lamp and off to the same side is a small footstool with a book, as if someone was reading it and has just walked away - the book is open and upside down. Ah! Maybe it is a book on identifying birds.
When you look at that picture (Chair, lamp, footstool), it's sort of a triangle, and sits beside the feature you're highlighting. Ta-da! You’ve created a “vignette”( a staged focal point).  There is NO WAY someone is going to walk in that room and not notice that window and that view.  No Way!

Every room should have a strategically placed focal point.
  • It could be (as in the example above) to highlight a feature and sell a benefit. These would be focal points near fireplaces, windows, etc.
  • Or, you do the exact opposite, using a focal point to divert attention. For example…a radiator may keep you warm at night, but they aren’t really “pretty”… so you might want to have a staged focal point opposite the radiator so as to detract attention.
  • You could just be “naming the space” (Often we see areas of a home that people say “what is this room”? Staging eliminates that question.)
  • By default what you’re highlighting is the space. In that case, the focal point should be the point furthest from where the buyer will enter the room.
  • You can even stage outside~ Is there a fabulous tree outside where you can create a focal point, perhaps a bird bath and feeder? (Be careful attracting wildlife, though - it's not everyone's cup of tea and no one likes bird poop too close to the house.)
Once you know where your focal point should be in each room, and you know how you're going to create it, then stage the rest of the room around it. Accessories should be in odd numbers - 1, 3, or 5 - and should be varying shapes and sizes but a similar color palette with the exception of your focal point which may be brighter. When you step back and blur your eyes, each "display" will look sort of like a triangle, just like the above picture.

Once stage 3 is complete, you're probably starting to see pieces of this madness come together. The end is in sight!

Our next post is: Creating the Not So Lived In Look!  Don't miss it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Knick Knack, You're Getting Wacked!

Continuing our series on preparing your home for the market, (check our the previous post "Show Me the Space, I'll Show You The Money"), we're going to tackle the little things....

Step #2: Kick Knack: You're Getting Wacked!

I touched on this in the prior post but it bears talking about again, and more in depth.  Some people will delicately refer to this stage as "decluttering" and "depersonalizing".  I have seen how some sellers interpret this, so I am taking the delicate out of what I am saying: 

If you love it, if it's very presence is what makes this house feel like home to you,
then it probably needs to be hidden.  
The pictures of the kids, your parents, your college diploma, the letter from the President, pictures and momentos from your world travels... they are all awesome.  But they really need to be put away.  They are telling YOUR story.... they tell us about your life.  Your life is not for sale.  Your house is.  We need to display your house,  not your stuff.

On that note, got collectibles? Knick Knacks?  Check the general "THREE" rules:
  • Anything smaller than 3 inches tall needs to be hidden.  
  • If there are more than 3 of anything in a room then there are too many.

Keep in mind, your idea of "happily ever after" may not be the same as your buyers'.  They are looking for a place where their dreams can unfold....not on picking up where you have left off on your journey. 
Emotionally, these are the hardest things for sellers to do.  But I promise, it makes a difference.  You will get a quicker contract if you're willing to sell your house without your story.
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Our next post is coming soon: Vignettes that Sell!  Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Show Me The Space, I'll Show You The Money!

When we live in our homes, we surround ourselves with things that make us happy - pictures of loved ones, favorite places, gifts.  We put things where they make sense and are readily available for everyday use.  We make our homes comfortable and convenient.  But when it's time to put your home on the market, you have to make a decision.  Do you want top dollar for your home?  Then you must be willing to give up some comfort and convenience in exchange so that your home shows its best at all times.  Here are some tips to make that happen.
Step #1: Show Me The Space, I'll Show You The Money!

Much like a model will have portfolio shots in a bathing suit, we need to strip your home down to the bare essentials. (Play striptease music now.)

"Let There Be Light"

You have blinds and drapes up to keep people from looking in... but when your home is on the market is exactly when you want people to not only look in but come in.  So, we need to thin out window treatments.  Remove screens, wash windows, remove heavy drapes. Open blinds or remove them. Consider leaving sheers or valances, just to add a splash of color or accent, but make sure you can see out and the light can get in.  This creates a bright happy space and it always makes rooms look larger.
Next, let's talk floors.

Usually an area rug's purpose is to protect the floor underneath.  When it's time to put your home on the market its time to show off those floors that you have so valiantly protected over the years.  So in most cases runners and area rugs should be pulled to expose the floors beneath.  Rugs take up visual space.... so the only time I use them in staging is when the room is otherwise cavernous or has no color. 

Important Never-Never Notes: (1) Never leave carpet in a bathroom. (2) Never leave an area rug on a carpeted area.   These always get negative comments from buyers.

Musical Chairs! 

Walk through the home as if you are a buyer.  Enter through the front door, and bring your entire family and a REALTOR with you...everyone walking side by side. This is how a buyer looks at your home. See how crowded everything is when 4 people try to walk through a home together? 

In an unstaged home, sometimes showing is remineiscent of a game of musical chairs where, as you walk through the home, it seems you are always standing directly in front of a chair you can sit in when the music stops. Not good. 

Move or remove all the furniture you touch. If it's crowding doorways, it's got to go. If you can't walk through walkways, say "bye bye" to the pieces that get in the way. Got furniture blocking windows or doors? Not good. Most rooms can, as a general rule, lose at least one piece of furniture, sometimes several.

Take the leaves from every table you can. If you have those larger dining room chairs with arms, hide them, quickly, even if you must borrow ugly chairs from your daughters house.

What's In A Room?

Buyers must be able to tell what the intended purpose of a room is by the first piece of furniture they see. Bed=bedroom; couch=living room; dining table=dining room; desk=office.

Avoid having beds in the den or desks in the bedroom. Unless you have dedicated "gym" space, originally intended to be gym space, then the treadmill has to be packed away. A treadmill in an office says "there's no space for a home gym in this house". A bedroom used as an office screams "this house has no office, and now no guest room".

Welcome the buyers to every room. (Huh?)

You won't be home when the buyers come (no, you shouldn't be home), so make sure every room is welcoming your buyers... the furniture should be turned to face them as they enter. The buyers shouldn't walk into a room to see the back of a couch, TV or other furniture... it should always be the front. Even pillows on a couch should be turned to "face" them - not the center of the room, but the doorway, as if they are saying "hi".
"As far as the eye can see" For a seller, there is much wisdom in thinking about this phrase.

Look at specifically what is eye level in your home. Buyers are measuring space with their visual perception, so what is that? Can you remove a hutch, a bookshelf, a canopy, a headboard? Consider putting away tall back chairs and keeping the stools, for example.

Generally, there should be no pictures of any kind in a hallway or stairway; and most walls are meant for only one picture....and only in the rarest occaisions should more than 3 pictures be on one wall. Pictures should be used sparingly and not be family pictures.

Get rid of doilies, table cloths, and the seat cushions on chairs (you know, the kind you tie in place). No lace, no frills. This includes the comfy blanket or hand made afgan from Aunt Betsy that is displayed on the back of the sofa.  Unless that blanket serves a strategic purpose, then it probably needs to be tucked away.

Trust me here, no one is looking at your beaten up old table or the cheap chairs. They are, however, looking to purchase the floors and space behind and beneath these things, so let them see the space. All this extra stuff is simply a distraction and they will think about your stuff, and not about your house.

Stay tuned, because this is only the beginning of this series.

Next up - "Knick Knack: You're Getting Wacked"

Staging to Sell.... The Series Begins

You're putting your home on the market, you want the most money possible for your home in the least amount of time. I can help you get that. I've got a plan! But, I am going to need your help.

It goes without saying that if your home is obviously in disrepair then be prepared to sell it at a discount. Otherwise, make the repairs. Then, be willing to "earn" the extra dollars you wish to get from your home...

And with that little tidbit, I begin a series of posts about preparing your home for the market. Ready? Read on!

Also see prior posts:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

FHA Short Refi Program - Hmmm....

Five of the largest US lenders are signed up to participate in the FHA Short Refi program... but don't count on it helping you. While 50 MILLION dollars have been allocated to the program, a whopping 44 (yes, forty four) people have been helped. (Source: Housing Wire - see article here
This falls under the category of "Things that make you go Hmmm...."  Sort of.

Why aren't they actively participating?  And, for that matter, why don't banks just adjust the loans that are in place rather than doing a short sale?  

By and large, banks need cash, so if they are going to write down their "receivables" (aka - reduce the amount due to them) then in exchange they want cash, the highest amount they can get.  Simply modifying the loan doesn't provide them with a lump sum of cash... so they it really isn't in their best interest.

This is yet another reason short sales are their preferred way to dispose of risky loans.

For news tidbits like this, stay tuned to or

Need help evaluating your options?  Give me a call!

Vicky Chrisner
Keller Williams Realty

Monday, March 14, 2011


Red Day is coming! Red Day is coming!

At Keller Williams we celebrate the birthday of Mo Anderson, who is the Vice Chairman of Keller Williams and who founded the affiliated KW Cares, a 501c3 organization, with a day called 'Red Day'. Mo is known for having a true servants heart and it shows in all she touches and in the culture of Keller Williams offices everywhere. So it is only fitting that 'Red Day' is a day of service where agents in every office internationally are encouraged to stop business as usual and dedicate their time and energy to giving back to their community.

The type of work to be done is up to each office who can decide to serve their community in the way they feel is best. Last year, collectively, KW agents across the continent completed 80 years of service and collected over $600,000 in donations - in ONE DAY.  I hope we can top it this year!

I wonder what project our office (Keller Williams Leesburg) will take on....In the past we've done food collections in Leesburg and done service hours for Habitat for Humanity benefiting those that are living in Loudoun County.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information as the story develops.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

RED SUNDAY March 13, 2011~Open Houses in Loudoun County

It's RED SUNDAY! Look for Keller Williams Open House Signs all throughout Loudoun County.

I will be at 10 FIRST ST SW in Leesburg, VA 1-4. Stop in and see me! 

This month, we have open houses in Aldie, Ashburn, Leesburg, Sterling, Hamilton, Round Hill, Stone Ridge, Middleburg and ChantillyAt this link, you can see details on each of these homes for sale, and then come and check them out!

Thinking of buying a home in Loudoun County?  Give me a call and let me know how I can help, or check out my web site for listings for homes for sale that are always current!

Interested in having your home participate in RED SUNDAY?  Contact me to find out how!


Friday, March 11, 2011

FHA Increases Mortgage Insurance Premiums on April 18th, 2011

On April 18th HUD will be increase the mortgage insurance premiums on all FHA loans by 0.25%. Any FHA financing originated after April 18th will be subject to this higher MI premium. For more information regarding the FHA changes, feel free to contact Marc - contact information below.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do We Need To Repaint?

“I will be putting my house on the market soon and I’m wondering~
Do we need to repaint the whole house?”
Common question; but the answers vary.


Clearly, if your home is overdue for a paint job, then yes, to get the highest amount possible for your home, you should repaint. Otherwise, I hate to give a blanket response to that.
Many people have highly personalized d├ęcor and coordinating wall coverings; but it may not be necessary to undo all that work when you sell.  Having said that, here are some simple guidelines and tips:

A VACANT HOME: If the home is going to be vacant when it is shown and marketed, then it becomes more important to have a fresh paint job, with color selections from a neutral palette so as to appeal to the widest groups of people. [Click here to see repainting guidelines]

WALLPAPER: Because there is a general perception that wallpaper is hard to repair, touch up or remove, it's generally advised that wallpaper be removed, or perhaps painted over before putting the home on the market.  This is particularly important if it is in poor repair, dated, highly personalized or a busy pattern.

PANELING:  The “circa 1970-something” paneling is outdated and an obstacle to selling today.  But did you know you can paint over it? It is far more practical than removing it and hanging drywall, and so that is a common recommendation.
BUYER PROFILING:  Who is the most likely buyer for your home?  What is their age, origin, family composition, gender?  Where do they work and play?  Based on that information, we make staging choices which may require some repainting.  Here is an example:  Women buy for entry ways, kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms. Men buy for basements, garages, and storage areas. We try to make sure those areas are appealing to those gender groups. So, for example, a basement family room that looks too feminine (pink paint or flowery wallpaper) may need to be repainted.

The buyer profiling part of these guidelines gets tricky and requires an analytical market study.  This is all part of the services I offer when you hire me to represent you to sell your home.  So, for a personalized opinion, give me a call and let's set up an appointment!

Vicky Chrisner
Keller Williams Realty
Leesburg, VA

(Notes about pics on right:  While the top picture with green walls will not appeal to most people, it isn't likely to interfere with a sale in most submarkets.  The lower picture with the pink bubblegum family room could keep a home from selling.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Painting For The Market

If you’ve decided you need to repaint to get your home ready for the market, here are some quick and simple guidelines:

•  Make sure drywall repairs are complete before repainting.

• COLORS: Since you’re repainting, select from a neutral color palette. Currently, warm colors are “in”… so choose a light beige type color for the walls; and use white for the trim – this two tone look adds richness and makes the trim “pop”. Ceilings should always be painted white.  (See image on right.)

• TYPE: Flat paint is more forgiving of flaws in the drywall, so be sure most of your home is painted in flat paint (if you were repainting for your family you might choose a more durable, washable paint, but you’re painting for the market here). Flat goes everywhere EXCEPT the kitchens, bathrooms, doors and trim – those are all painted in white semi gloss. Ceilings are painted in flat white paint, if they need to be done.

Keep the end in mind – this just needs to spruce up your home enough to sell it, so it is not necessary to use the highest grade paint… you just need it to cover up what’s in place.

• If you don’t have to repaint all areas of your home, don’t. Very often, ceilings do not need to be repainted.

• If you’re repainting the whole house, consider repainting it all the same color to keep costs down, unless you have a floorplan that is “too open” and you need to do have color variations to define spaces. This becomes critically important in vacant homes, but even so, you can generally choose just two tones of the same color and use them strategically to define the spaces. Get a second opinion if you’re not sure if you need to do this.

• Do consider options for painting over paneling and wallpaper rather them having them removed.

Last but not least, please remember this: A bad paint job is worse than no paint job, and despite what you may think, very few people paint well. Please consider hiring a professional (not your brother who needs the work) to do this job, and hold them accountable for the end result and staying on schedule.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Creating The Best Curb Appeal

You've heard it before... when it comes to selling, curb appeal is 50% of the sales process.  To really understand that, you need to understand the home buying process.
Most buyers will see an ad - online or in print - for your home before they visit.  Almost always there is going to be at least one picture, and the one most prominently displayed is the exterior front picture.  They will decide to look at the ad, or not, the moment they see the picture of your home.  If the buyer is still interested after seeing a picture and an initial advertisement (which usually includes price, general location, and number of bedrooms), then it meets their initial criteria.  At this point, they are 25% sold!

Next comes the drive by.  This often happens before they contact their REALTOR to see the house.  Here they will check out location and condition of the home in person and the neighborhood in general.  They will see the things they can't see from most ads - how the sun hits the house, what the street looks like, what the house "feels" like when they look at it.  From the drive into the neighborhood to the front door of the home, accounts for another 25% of the sales process. 

If they still want to go in, they are 50% sold.... maybe more.  When I bought the house I live in, my husband and I saw it from the outside and said to one another "Unless this place is trashed on the inside, this is THE house"....and this happens far more than you would expect.  The opposite is equally as true.  Many times, I have been showing homes to a buyer, pulled in the driveway and had the buyer say "never mind, let's not even get out of the car".

Keeping this process in mind, you can place the appropriate emphasis on evaluating your curb appeal. If you want people to come inside, they have to like the outside.  Here are some tips:
  • Start at the street:  Keep the street clear of trash and debris.  Consider painting the house number on the curb so it's easy to see.  If there are yellow curbs nearby, repaint them.  The mailbox should stand straight and be repainted, with the address prominently displayed.  Consider flowers around the mailbox or the driveway.
  • Driveway and sidewalks:  The driveway should be in good shape, easily navigated, clear (after snow/ice) and a paved driveway should be freshly resealed.
  • Lawn:  Green it up (in season). Fertilize and water it.  Reseed it if you must.
  • Landscaping:  Make sure flower beds are freshly cut in, have fresh mulch and no weeds.  Consider adding a touch of color if you don't already have colorful flower beds.  Even a home without flower beds can usually add a pot of annuals near the front door.
  • Home Maintenance:  Does your home need to be repainted?  Are there shingles missing from the roof?  Does your roof need to be washed (yes, you can clean a roof that has stains on it)? Are the gutters clear and in place?  Should you repaint or replace shutters?  The front door should be repainted or stained - this creates a huge impact.  Perhaps the front door should even be replaced.  Keep screens out of storm doors and leave only the glass in so the front door can easily be seen, or remove the storm door completely.
Again - this is 50% of the sales process, so please don't skip it!

Stay tuned to the Real Estate Whisperer... this spring I will be doing a comprehensive series on preparing your home for sale.  This is the first of many posts to come.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Word on the Street (Loans)

A quick tid bit: Rumors were circulating through the Mortgage Bankers Assoc meeting this morning are that the high balance FNMA/Freddie Mac loans will NOT be extended past September 30th. There have been previous expectations that this could change, but right now it's not looking good. If this happens it means $417,000 will be the limit for these loans. Anything over that could require 20% down.

On another (related) note: I did meet with a local lender at George Mason Bank today that is currently offering 80/10/10 loans which means they are offering Conv financing, 10% down, and a 10 percent second trust which is a 5 yr balloon with a 30 yr amoritization. If anyone needs contact info pls let me know.

Real Estate, Dr Seuss Style

A Realty Quiz~ Dr Seuss Style!

In honor of Dr Seuss's Birthday, I've put together a real estate related quiz.... try your hand; then Fan The Real Estate Whisperer on Facebook to get the answers which will be published tomorrow morning!

1. What were the name of the apartments where Jo Jo lived?
2. Where are you likely to find Sneetches?

3. Where does one celebrate their birthday?

4. Gerald McGrew fantasizes about catching a "big bug" that is said to fly between Texas and what city?

5. What is the name of the city "where they never have troubles, at least very few"?

6. Where is Stilt Walkers Hall located?

7. Where did the Grinch go to punder his Christmas Eve decent?

8. What is the name of the county from which the news of the Yawning Bug was received?

9. Where "on some dead ended road" does the narrator suspect he'll find himself if he followed the Spookish Hunt's suggestion?

10. What is the name of the traffic clogged road within G-Zayt?

Bonus: Who has been to the place in the picture and can tell me what it's called and where it is?


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This Month In Real Estate (March 2011)

This month in real estate.....

For more information on loans, the real estate market, and how to prepare your home for sale, stay tuned to The Real Estate Whisperer!

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