Are you thinking of buying or selling a home in the Fredericksburg Area and are unsure of what to expect? The local housing market has been pretty unpredictable the past couple of years.
Betty Westerlund from RE/MAX Allegiance has agreed to answer a few of our questions about the current real estate market.
Betty Westerlund is a licensed Realtor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. From the last several years, she has been a Top Producer in the Fredericksburg real estate market and she specializes in first-time home buyers, short sales, foreclosures and investment properties.
Q: How long have you been in real estate?
I started as a full time Realtor in 2009. Due to the economic crash and housing decline, this was probably the worst time to get started in real estate. If you can make it through that mess, you can get through anything. I truly feel that I have seen it all.
Q: What trends are you seeing in the current market?
Remember, all real estate is local. Regarding the Fredericksburg real estate market, we are definitely headed in a positive direction. I see price increases at a steady rate and am seeing more multiple offer situations; interest rates are reasonable and the unemployment rate is low compared to the national average. We are geographically positioned near many bases (Dahlgren, Quantico, Fort Belvoir, Fort A.P. Hill) and have the VRE to help with the morning haul to higher paying jobs in Northern Virginia. I think our local market is healthy.
Q: What exactly does a "buyer's market" or "seller's market" mean?
If there is a lot of inventory to be sold (homes for sale) and not enough people wanting to purchase, it is a "buyer's market." Meaning, as a buyer, you can negotiate better terms because you don't have as much buyer competition for property. The opposite is also true. If there are few homes on the market and a lot of buyers eager to purchase, it's a "seller's market."
Q: How large of a down payment should I save up to buy a home?
There are down payment options of 0% down, 3.5% down, 5% down, 20% down and more. My advice is to sit down with a reputable loan officer and discuss all options so as to determine the best financing route for you. Please consult with two or three different loan officers and/or lending institutions. There are a lot of different loan products offered and I want you to consider all options so you make an educated decision. It pays to shop around.
Q: What is the difference between a short sale and a foreclosure?
In my opinion, the number one difference is the amount of time it takes to get to the settlement table. Short sales are not short. Remember, both short sales and foreclosures are being sold "as-is". But with a short sale, there is a very extensive checklist the seller must complete, like providing updated pay stubs and a valid hardship letter to the bank. Foreclosures are more straightforward and faster to get to the settlement table because the property already belongs to the bank when it goes on the market.
Q: What is your best advice for staging a home?
Remove all your clutter and make sure it smells nice! The goal of staging is to demonstrate to potential buyers how a space can be used. For example, you may stage a master bedroom with a king-sized bed in order to help the buyer see how their own bed would look in the room or you might set the table to mimic a nice dinner; this helps the purchaser see the potential of the space.
Q: When I start looking for a home, what things should I keep in mind?
Please keep in mind that the unfortunate wall color can be changed, the hideous 1980's wallpaper can be torn down and the dirty carpet can be replaced or shampooed. Please look at the location of the property, the lot and interior architectural layout. Will the hilly backyard work for your child's playground equipment? What are the average costs of utilities? What does the HOA fee cover? Ultimately, will this home work for your family?
Q: If I wanted to update my home but only had funds to cover one area, what room would you suggest investing in?
The kitchen — hands down. The kitchen is the heart of the home. The owner will be in the kitchen every single day; they may not enter the guest bedroom or guest bathroom for weeks at a time. The majority of buyers love the updated look of tile backsplash, undermount lighting, updated appliances, rollout cabinets and recessed or pendant lighting.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages to building a home vs. buying one already built?
When you build a new home, most of the time the walls are hospital white, there may be no deck and it may have builder-grade features. That said, you can really make it your own; it is like a blank canvas. When purchasing a resale home, the walls are hypothetically painted (not always perhaps to your choosing) and the deck may already be installed. I find that brand new construction is perfect for the pickiest of buyers; they have more control over location, layout, countertops, features and fixtures.
Have questions you want to ask Betty Westerlund? She will be hosting Ask The Expert live, on our Facebook Page, June 11th, at 8 pm.
Come join the conversation!