Mackenzie Weiss spent the last decade updating a 3,000 square-foot 1985 home she and her podiatrist husband, David, bought for $289,000 in 2000 in the Richmond, Va. suburb of Henrico. They put in hardwood floors, stainless steel kitchen appliances, energy-efficient windows and travertine tiles with a stream of river rocks accent in the master bath. “We knew if we stayed we were going to love it, and if we didn’t stay it would make it more sellable,” she says.
And sellable it was when they put it on the market this spring. On the first day of showings, 14 potential buyers came through, and they got three offers: the Weisses took the all cash deal for the $425,000 asking price and closed in 30 days. “They ended up walking away with $30,000 more than what I thought the house was worth,” says their agent, Suzanne Saunders, an associate broker with Napier Realtors ERA in Richmond. “We were aggressive on the list price; there were no comps giving us this kind of value.”
In the meantime, the Weisses had already bought their next dream house, upsizing by 2,000 square-feet to a $640,000 home with a ground-floor bedroom-bath suite perfect for Dr. Weiss’ mother who visits from Florida, and a third-floor game room perfect for their two elementary school age kids. A huge plus: the house was just rezoned to their old, desirable school district. With the proceeds from their paid-off first house in, the Weisses replaced a temporary adjustable rate mortgage on the new house, locking in a 15-year-fixed conforming mortgage at 3%.
“We’re smack in the middle of multiple offers,” says Mark Joyner, managing broker at the agency. “Buyers have to be ready to rock ‘n roll.”
Here are some tips on how sellers can best position themselves to get multiple offers, and how buyers can best position themselves to get the house of their dreams.
Spruce it up. It helped that the Weisses house was turnkey, says her agent Saunders. Despite the tens of thousands of dollars of work the couple had done over the years, the house still needed some spring cleaning: repainting the inside, repointing the front steps, power washing the outside, and cutting the bushes back. “It was definitely worth it,” Mackenzie Weiss says.
Build up excitement. MacKenzie Weiss leaked word in the neighborhood that she would be putting the house on the market in the spring, and her agent Saunders started getting calls before the listing even went up. Then Saunders listed the house on a Tuesday with no showings until Friday to generate desire.
Use a seasoned agent. Weiss attributes the quick and easy sale in large part to Saunders’ handholding. Saunders, an agent since 1980 and a real estate broker since 1993, has lived in the Richmond area her whole life. Her best advice: not getting emotional when the three offers came in. One of the offers was for $435,000--$10,000 more than the offer the couple accepted—but it came with lots of contingencies, so instead of having to nervously wait on an appraisal, they took the sure thing.
Put down a big deposit. The deposit, or earnest money, can speak volumes. The more earnest money you put down, the more serious you appear to the seller. Joyner’s divorcee client bumped her deposit from 1% of the contract price to 2%.
Limit contingencies. If a buyer demands too many contingencies, that can decrease the appeal of the offer. In the case of the divorcee, deleting the contingency for financing put her on strong footing. If there’s no financing, buyers can waive the right to an appraisal (typically a house has to appraise at or above the purchase price in the contract). Joyner has even seen buyers bring a home inspector or contractor with them to a first or second showing to look at structural issues and help the buyer make a fast decision, without a home inspection contingency.
Pay cash. “The best offer for a seller is cash and a quick closing,” says Joyner. He had a client, a divorcee with two kids, fall in love with a house the first day it was on the market, but there were seven showing, and two other brokers went back for second showings. She said she had to have it, so he recommended a cash offer at full price--$300,000—and she got it.
Happy house hunting—or selling.