signs

Settle Down Real Estate signs located off West Street in Culpeper. 

The wild ride that is the Northern Virginia real-estate market has been, in some ways, wilder than usual, starting with the pandemic’s initial impact and then the subsequent market boom.

Does that translate into more challenges for those in the real-estate profession? The Sun Gazette went to the source and asked around:

Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “Working in this market definitely requires creativity and resourcefulness, and causes you to have to pivot sometimes and think on your feet. It might be harder or easier depending on who you are working with or representing. Sellers and buyers present different challenges. It is always easier to sell in a rising market, like we have now, than in a correcting market.”

David Howell, McEnearney Associates: “This is probably the most challenging time to work with buyers I have seen in the 37 years I have been doing this. The lack of inventory creates real stress for anxious buyers, and it requires patience, persistence and the ability to act quickly for agents and for buyers. Sometimes the best advice to a buyer is to step back and realize there will be more listings. We still have to keep our sellers informed and properly manage their expectations. So counseling sellers that pricing strategy is still really important is more challenging than one might think.”

Diane Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “This market has been great in many ways, but has made our jobs very challenging. Buyers are frustrated having to pay high prices for homes and waiving many, if not all, of the contingencies put in place to protect them. We are also finding it challenging managing sellers’ expectations, as every seller is not getting multiple offers with escalation clauses, free rentbacks, etc., as many media sources are reporting.”

Rob Ferguson, Re/Max Allegiance: “The biggest challenge is there are so many buyers in the market that we have clients losing several offers before getting offers accepted, and many times they have to waive many protections to be competitive. On the sales side, a lot of the challenge comes into navigating the offer process to maximize the best terms for the seller. Sometimes that may mean having an offer deadline or working with the first offer that comes in. Every seller client has different things that are important to them for a sale, so we have to listen and create an experience that matches up best with the seller’s goal.”

Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “It’s definitely harder now, primarily because there is such a low inventory and a high demand. It’s easier in some ways, because buyers have reduced their expectations in what they will finally get in the type of house they want. It’s all challenging, because an agent has to go through so many multiple contracts on each property.”

Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “On the listing side in this new abnormal market, it has been a challenge, but with some terrific results for the clients. But we have to make more callbacks than normal telling buyers they didn’t get a house. On the buying side in this low-inventory market, there is such a high degree of competition, sometime you need to write multiple contracts.”

Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker: “Definitely harder. The general media chatter is not one-size-fits-all. That heady message can cause overconfidence for sellers and their agents and can lead to a disappointing end. The sure path to failure in my business is to knowingly or unwittingly recommend or support an unrealistic asking price. Doing so wastes valuable time for the seller, risks the seller’s economic stake in a sale and destroys trust and credibility. I spend considerably more time compiling, poring over data and reaching conclusions so that I have absolute confidence in the pricing recommendations that I make to sellers so they can succeed. Harder conditions exist when working with buyers, as well. Prolonged disappointment can result in prospective buyers giving up. Being unable to help those prospective buyers get where they want/need to go is heartbreaking.” Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “If you are representing buyers in this market, it is extremely challenging. Writing several offers for the same clients in competitive situations is emotionally draining when your clients do not get the house. On the other hand, there is a misconception that agents in this market are making a lot of money for little work. Sellers are expecting top dollar for their homes, but there is a lot of work to be done prior to listing to achieve top dollar. Counseling clients on decluttering, arranging for contractors for painting, floors, landscaping, then there is staging. A house has to show its very best to get the most money. So yes, a house will fly off the shelf if it shows well and is priced well, but there is a lot of work to be done before you even get it on the market. Also, with emotions running high, keeping the deal together and getting it to closing can present a different set of challenges.”

Lori Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “I believe uncertainty in the marketplace does provide an additional challenge when working with both home buyers and sellers. It becomes more important to clearly communicate with my clients, sharing with them fact-based information about supply and demand, market trends and historical data to help them evaluate their own personal decisions when it comes to buying or selling a home. My goal is to work closely with each client and focus on the fundamentals of the home buying/selling process to help minimize the risks and maximize the reward.”

Archie Harders, Long & Foster: “The toughest part of working in any kind of market is managing expectations. This task is somewhat more complicated at present, due to confusing and sensational analyses in the media.”

Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “It can be a challenge to get to see the homes and then make a quick decision about purchasing. It can be a challenge to get around to all the homes on a homes tour that could include multiple homes over several hours and make each scheduled appointment. Some sellers are signing contracts while the homes are in the ‘coming soon’ stage and before they are active, which means buyers have not been allowed to view the homes in person before the contract is signed.”

Casey Samson, Samson Properties: “Our job is 10 times easier than previous years. We have sold 45 homes and had only one home inspection. A home-inspection release is by far the toughest part of the job. The challenge is getting the highest price for a home. Agents make huge mistakes by allowing escalation clauses. Highest and best offers produce the highest sales price. We just sold a home where [buyers] offered list price with an escalation clause. We said, ‘no escalation clauses, highest and best offers only.’ The buyers bumped their offer $150,000, with no inspection. They were the only bidder. If we allowed escalation clauses, they don’t get the $150,000.”

Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “This market has made working with buyers more difficult because so many homes are getting multiple offers and the outcomes can be unpredictable. Excellent offers can fall short if you run into desperate buyers (and there are many). Homes also sell so quickly that it can feel like being on-call 24/7. In many ways, this market has made working with sellers easier because homes sell faster, for great prices (usually), with relatively few, if any, opportunities for a buyer to back out. Pricing in an appreciating market poses challenges because prices are not fully established and requires a strong understanding of current market conditions and buyer behavior. Overpricing can lead to losses because, in a hot market, buyers start to have concerns about homes that have been on the market for only two weeks, so missing your buyer in the first week by overpricing can be damaging.”

Craig Burns, The Redux Group: “The current real estate market has made my job much harder, and it is okay. Meeting that challenge with daily trainings with real-life experiences within the current market has resulted in exponential growth in ability and skill. Though ultra-marathons are ‘harder’ than a 5K, they are doable with proper training. Representing buyers who have to limit or eliminate all contingencies, as well as offer above-list prices has necessitated deeper conversations, and to tap into each client’s hopes and dreams in order to facilitate their dreams. Negotiating with other agents on the other sides of deals are never easy, but always fruitful when we both work together to bring both sides of the deal to resolution. These challenging times reinforce how important it is to have a professionally trained realtor.”

Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “My job is neither hard nor easy. My job is to manage the challenges and solve them and work through them. There are challenges because buyers are becoming weary and more apprehensive, because they don’t want to make extreme offers on houses anymore. People are cranky and tired and don’t want a real-estate aggravation. An agent has to work through all of those challenges.”

Dee Murphy, Compass: “For experienced agents, it didn’t make our jobs harder, but it did highlight how important it is for people to hire a skilled agent. In fact, choosing the right agent is what decided a lot of bidding wars. In this environment, you need a seasoned negotiator and communicator with pricing expertise. The unique challenge this market presents is managing the unprecedented amount of offers on each listing. A great buyer’s agent knows how to present an offer that will be accepted over the competing offers. On the listing side, we negotiate the best terms and help the seller to evaluate the nuances of multiple offers. It’s more work, but creating win-win deals is the best part of the job.”

Steve Wydler, Wydler Brothers: “It has become more important than ever to have an agent who can find off-market opportunities and has the skills to write and negotiate intelligent offers. My background as a transactional attorney and my large network of agents, builders/developers and past clients have made it easier for me to show value to our buyer clients. For sellers, having a coordinated and powerful marketing strategy and the human and technical resources to properly implement that strategy is key to optimizing the outcome for sellers.”

Gloria Adams, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty: “I love what I do, so it has been and is a challenge to be current with the market at all times and at all levels during this time. But helping clients who are buying, selling, leasing, investing and seeing their happy smiles when they find what they want is worth all the effort.”

Jean Beatty, McEnearney Associates: “Due to the lack of inventory, it is more challenging to find a home that will suit the individual needs of a buyer. Two years ago, I would take out buyers to look at six to eight homes a day. Now I take out six buyers to see one to three homes each. Another problem for sellers is overpricing their property. Overpricing a home in this market is significantly worse than overpricing a home in a normal market. This alone brings unique challenges to every real- estate transaction. The current market just makes meeting those challenges a little bit more interesting.”

Carol Ellickson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “On a recent Saturday, I put a home on the market. Soon, I had back-to-back reserved showings for prospective buyers accompanied by agents as well as a two-hour open house for the public. There were 70 groups through the listing. As a result, my client received eight over-list-price offers. There are buyers and sellers who understand the market very well, and there are buyers and sellers who still do not understand what is going on.”

Barbara Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “This market has definitely made our job harder. When a home receives multiple offers, which often happens, there are many frustrated buyers whose contracts were not accepted. It is hard to tell a fully qualified buyer, especially one who has made an offer over the asking price, that they still cannot purchase the house they want. Agents like to have happy clients and it is hard to see so many buyers so disappointed.”