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DC-Area Real Estate: What It Takes to Close a Deal This Spring

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Whether it's spring or not, the housing market in the D.C. area has a reputation for being tough. And with an ongoing pandemic and little inventory, things are harder than ever.

If you’ve ever bought a home in this region, sold one or even tried, you know we generally live in a sellers' market. Add to that social distancing and people working and learning from home who are looking for more space, and it can get even more challenging.

A. knows that buying a house in the D.C. area can bring with it a rollercoaster of emotions.

"Losing a house after you kind of mentally prepare where you’re going to put your furniture and like imagine having your family live there was really hard," A. said. "I had cried on the phone with my realtor."

A. and her family were first-time home buyers. They started house hunting back in August, with little luck. Even with offering several thousand dollars above asking price, they heard no, and no, and no. They lost out on three houses.

"The first two houses that we put offers, we were one of 13 other offers, and I think almost like 95% of them were all cash and went way above market price and waived all contingencies," A. said.

A.'s story is a familiar one.

Just look at how long the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says a house sits on the market: In just the last two years in Fairfax County, Virginia, that length of time went from 38 days down to 24. You can see an even bigger difference in Montgomery County, Maryland, where homes went from spending approximately 50 days on the market to just 20. And in Prince George's County, homes are flying off the market after just seven days.

NAR says the pandemic has people looking to change their homes to reflect their new lifestyle, whether that’s more space for a family to work and play, or no longer having to contend with a commute.

"We've really got the perfect storm of a sellers' market right now, and what that is, is that there are more buyers chasing fewer properties," said A.'s agent, Corey Burr of TTR Sotheby's.

To have a fighting chance if you're trying to buy, Burr says, you should:

  • have an inspector at the ready. Be quick to the draw. You don’t want to waste time trying to get onto someone's already-busy schedule.
  • get familiar with escalation clauses: increments of how much more you’re willing to pay if need be.
  • come with your best offer. You may only get one chance.

"And what makes a winning bid, really, no contingencies, the timing working out for the sellers and an escalation price which will make it that much more desirable to the seller," Burr said.

For A., their fourth time was the charm, and Mother Nature seemed to be on her side, too. A February snowstorm canceled an open house she was going to in Chevy Chase, Maryland. However, Burr got in early and a deal was done on the home before anyone else could see it.

"I'm very glad the others didn’t work out," A. said. "This has been a perfect house."

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