Selling a House in Northern Virginia: Read This First

Posted on Jan 26, 2022


It's been a wild time to be a homeowner. Home values in 2021 shot up around the country, and homes in Virginia - and around the beltway - have been no exception.

For homeowners who have been considering selling their homes, there has likely never been a better time to do so. If you’re thinking about selling your home in Northern Virginia, here’s what you need to know. 

Is it a Good Time to Sell in Northern Virginia?

It’s a good time to sell in Northern Virginia, for several reasons. According to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the median home price climbed to $620,000 by the end of 2021 - up 5% from the year before. Although the region made steady gains, home prices are climbing at a more leisurely pace compared to the rest of the country - so there isn’t as much to gain by holding on to your home for another year or two.

Beyond that, it’s an extreme seller’s market right now thanks to extremely low housing inventory and low interest rates. If inventory increases, though, or the interest rates rise enough (and they’re predicted to go up by a full percentage point this year) sellers may see demand soften a bit. It truly pays to sell your home while the market is red hot.

“It’s a fantastic time to be selling a home in Northern Virginia because there are a lot of extremely qualified buyers out there trying to get in a home before the interest rates really rise over the next couple of months," explains local Realtor John Marcario. "It’s been a little slow for a couple of months over the holidays, but now that interest rates are rapidly rising - to where they should have been, pre-COVID - buyers are aggressively trying to find homes before they get priced out."

How Do I Sell My Home in Northern Virginia?

Your first step to selling your home is finding an experienced agent to handle the transaction. In today’s highly connected world, it’s easy for home sellers to believe that this is a task they can take on themselves. However, keep in mind that your home is likely your most valuable asset, and this is likely the most complex transaction of your life. If you wouldn’t trust yourself to Google how to fix your clothes dryer, why would you use it to sell your entire home?

"If you're thinking about listing your home, the best way to start preparing is to reach out to a real estate agent and have them come over, chat with you, look at your house, and give an assessment on the condition and what they think improvements should be," recommends Marcario.

The key to getting your money’s worth from your Realtor is making sure they’re experienced, available, and familiar with your local area. Don’t choose the first agent you’re recommended from Zillow or after submitting your information through a website - do your research. To learn more, read 15 Essential Questions to Ask a Realtor.

If you're ready to sell your home, though, don't wait until you talk to your Realtor to start taking care of small fixes and eliminating clutter. 

"Make sure your home looks good for showings - make sure it’s tidied up. You always want to check in on your home and make sure it presents itself well. If you walk into a room and think wow, something feels a little bit off, clearly a buyer’s going to walk into a room and realize something’s off," advises Marcario.

Closing Costs for Northern VA Home Sellers

 If you’ve never sold a home before, keep in mind that a portion of your profits will need to go toward closing costs, which include the transfer taxes.

  • The biggest portion of your closing costs are the commission fees for the two agents - in a typical real estate transaction, this is 3% for the buyer’s agent and 3% for the listing agent, for a total of 6%. 
  • In Virginia, it’s typically the seller who pays the grantor tax, which amounts to $1 per every $1,000 of the sale price, or approximately .1%. In some areas of Northern Virginia, this amount jumps to .15%. 

So to take the example of a $600,000 home, as the seller you would pay $18,000 in commission fees and $600 - $900 in taxes.

You will also likely need to pay a title fee that allows the property to transfer from you to the buyer, which will cost around $1,000.

You will also need to cover other various, smaller expenses, such as the recording fee, which is typically about $50.

The Virginia Seller’s Disclosure

When you sell a home, you typically need to disclose any major issues associated with the property.

Though it can sometimes feel to sellers like the disclosure form is going to scare away buyers from a perfectly good home, it can be an important document when it comes to reducing liability for the seller. You want the buyer to know exactly what they’re buying.

Luckily, Virginia follows a rule of “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Unlike in other states, the Virginia disclosure form is relatively short and sweet, limited to a single page of disclosure information, which makes it easy for sellers to handle. While you'll need to tell buyers about potentially hazardous features like asbestos or the presence of Radon, most things are legally the buyer's responsibility to discover - often through the inspection report.

How to Market a Home in North Virginia

Like with anything these days, the search for a home in Northern Virginia often begins online. For this reason, it's imperative that home sellers invest in good photography. Regardless of your home's specs and amazing features, if you're advertising it with grainy, dark phone photos while your neighbors are showing off their home with brightly-lit, professionally shot photos, you won't stand a chance at maximizing the number of offers you receive.

"It’s the overall package and the presentation that you provide that matters," explains Marcario. "Your description has to be good and if your photos are on point, professionally done, and showcase the house really well, then that really catches peoples’ eyes. The photos are the most important thing because photos are what get buyers into the home, and you have to get them into the home for them to fall in love with the home."

comparison of real estate photography

Left photo: Cell phone photo. Poor staging and a vertical shot mean the photo is focused on the trash bin, and it’s difficult to see the room’s size or its features. Low resolution means a blurry light fixture. 

Right photo: Houwzer’s photo uses a wide-angle lens and a strategic angle to make the room feel open and inviting. It’s easy to see the room’s entire layout.

Why is Houwzer a Top Brokerage for Northern Virginia?

Houwzer is one of the top-rated brokerages for home sellers in Northern Virginia for several reasons.

  • They charge a $5,000 flat fee (with 2.5% for the buyer’s agent) regardless of how much your home sells for. On average, home sellers save $15,000 on commission fees this way. This full-service fee includes everything you'd normally receive: professional photography, marketing, an open house, an agent who's focused on your goals, and more.
  • Agents specialize in one side of the transaction, ensuring that whoever you work with is an expert on listing and selling homes. 
  • Houwzer agents are salaried employees who receive benefits. This means that they can focus on client goals, rather than commissions. 
  • If you then buy a home with Houwzer, Houwzer will give you half of the listing fee back ($2,500) which you can use toward closing costs, your down payment, whatever you want. 

The cost of selling a home often comes as a surprise to first-time sellers who have only experienced it from the buy side before - that's why we recommend exploring your options, so that you can maximize your profits.

Should I Wait to Sell My Home in Virginia?

Plenty of people have been wondering whether it's worth it to wait to sell their home. Not only do they want to see their home appreciate more - they also want to avoid competing against other buyers for their next home. 

The reality is, though, that it's tough to time the market. It may continue to be a strong seller's market - or rising interest rates could lead to fewer home buyers, which leads to fewer offers for your home. And when it comes to maximizing your profits, more offers means you can pick and choose the best one.

"If you're just saying 'hey, I wanna wait for the market to get better,' you don't know if the market's going to get better or worse. Especially during COVID, the market’s really good one month and not so good the next," says Marcario. "So if it’s just an arbitrary deadline, you want to list as soon as possible because we know what the market is right now. We have no idea what the market is doing in the future, and if there’s one thing we learned from COVID it's that you can't assume the future is predictable. We can see that the market is good, so you want to list as soon as possible."

What's the Future of the Northern Virginia Real Estate Market?

Although nothing is for certain in real estate, Northern VA is likely to remain a very stable housing market thanks to its proximity to DC. 

"This region is always going to be a competitive region. There are just so many people who have to work in the area due to various contractor jobs, construction jobs, government jobs, etc.," advises Marcario. "It's been recession-proof and bubble-proof anytime there’s been housing problems. People realize this area is a really great area to live in, a great area to buy and sell in, people move to this area for certain reasons and it’s something you can take advantage of either as a seller; and you can fall in love with this area, as so many of us have."

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