Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Making Your House Market Ready in F.C.

The real estate market remains as strong as ever in the City of Falls Church – just ask any realtor who specializes in our town.

We are all incredibly busy, and houses are moving fast. Signs come up and down and new people move in. It is a great place to do business.

Currently there are 32 active homes on the market – 19 are detached houses, two townhouses and the rest condominiums. What is unusual for our little town is that seven of those houses are priced over $1 million! Not long ago a house in that price range was rare – but not anymore.

What is also unusual is that we are in the middle of August, which tends to be one of the slowest times for realtors, but this year is different. On Tuesday I had a Brokers Open House, which is when all the local real estate agents are invited to preview a home before it officially goes on the market – over 25 agents showed up – which is a great turnout anytime, let alone in August! This property will join the ranks of the houses priced over 1 million and based on agent feedback and my own familiarity with the market, I expect it to sell quickly – maybe even before August is over.

July had record setting temperatures and the real estate market last month was equally as hot. According to RealEstate Business Intelligence (RBI), the official data provider for the real estate industry, the dollar amount of sold property in the City in July was $18,151,800.00 compared to $10,813,990.00 in July 2010. Twenty-six units were sold compared to 18 the year before and the average price this July was $698,146.00 as opposed to $600,777.00. Now that’s a good month!

When you walk into a house that is market ready, you look at the windows, the crown molding, the arch of the doorways – the features that make the house.

So while the market remains strong, anyone contemplating selling always wonders whether his or her house will get top dollar. The mantra location, location, location bears repeating and we all have that going for us…but there is competition in this great location – so your house must be more than just in the City, it needs to be market ready and marketed well!

What is market ready? Well for most of us, and I would definitely fall into this category, it is a fairly formidable task because more than anything it means de-cluttering and organizing! In the big picture it means showing off the features of your home and not your collectibles, pictures or gadgets. For most people it means filling a lot of boxes and either storing, selling or donating. The good thing is that it makes moving day much easier because you are already part way there. When you walk into a house that is market ready, you look at the windows, the crown molding, the arch of the doorways – the features that make the house.

While less is definitely more, too little isn’t good either. Staging has become a huge business because many people cannot envision how an empty room will look furnished. Furniture and décor should enhance the house, and not take away from it.

Most real estate agents help with this process by walking through the house with their clients and making of list of things that need to be done, hiring someone, or getting boxes and packing too. An excellent stager described how a master bedroom should look – like checking into the Ritz Carlton. It should have furniture, décor, but nothing personal – especially toothbrushes! Some houses lend themselves more to the bed and breakfast analogy, which also works. A cute cape cod can be just that.

Just remember that potential purchasers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home with their family, and not becoming part of yours.

Once the house is ready to go, how should it be marketed? It used to be that only real estate agents had access to photos and information about homes for sale. But this is no longer the case. Most buyers search the Internet themselves and work hand in hand with their agents in identifying the houses they want to see. Nothing drives buyers to see a house more than photos. It is imperative that they be done right. Even in our small market, houses will sit for longer than they should because of bad photos. Professional real estate photographers charge a nominal fee for their service and it is so worth it. It really needs to be done right!

There are many prongs to marketing and every agent has their own approach. If you are considering selling, interview a few and see the differences. Come to open houses and see the agents in action. It is likely your biggest investment and should be treated as such.


Stacy Hennessey is a licensed real estate agent with Fall Properties.