February Market Update

So Far This Year…

Nothing can stop the real estate market here in Northern Virginia; not the rising interest rates, not the pull back of the FHA mortgage insurance premium reduction, not lack of inventory, and especially not this cold weather we are experiencing.

Sales are strong and we appear to be headed for a robust spring housing market.  In addition to the group of buyers we are currently working with, we are getting lots of online leads from additional buyers asking about houses; both new builds andrrg-logo_small resale. Typically, this group will become home buyers in three to nine months – stay tuned for more details as we get down the road with these leads.

Today’s buyers are looking in all price ranges and in all locations throughout Northern Virginia. As you would imagine, the lower price points are in very high demand, but so are higher priced properties in areas like McLean and North Arlington.  We have some soft spots (lowering of prices and accumulation of days on the market) in the Great Falls area, but typically, if houses are priced right, in good condition and have been staged, they are selling quickly!  Thus, inventory is at a four year low with just over 3,900 existing homes currently for sale. We expect properties to come on the market in February, but with the demand we are experiencing now, they too should sell quickly.

So, what are the lessons we have learned so far in 2017?  If you are a buyer, act quickly! If you find a home meets your criteria and suits your lifestyle, make an offer, don’t wait.  Many properties are receiving numerous offers; therefore they are selling quickly.

If you are a seller, get your house “right” and get it on the market sooner rather than later – there is a strong appetite for housing today.  Buyers are out there and ready to make a move.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, please feel free to call me today.  I would enjoy meeting with you to determine which is the best option for you to pursue.

Stay warm!

Scott can be reached at 703-652-5777 or scottmacdonald@remax.net.

The end of the year offers us time to reflect

Wow, November really WINTER SCENEflew by this year. It’s hard to believe that December is here already. At this rate, when we blink it will be a New Year. This being said, with December comes reflection and projection.

Let’s reflect, this year, what resonates with me is that it was odd to say the least. Looking back, for the real estate business it has been especially challenging. We have not had a year where we couldn’t predict the market because there were no trends that lead the way for us. The harsh winter weather carried into May so there was no momentum from a spring market to carry us into the summer months. We had overly choosy buyers, rising inventory, fewer first time buyers, fewer investors, more inventory coupled with more days on the market plus even more. You name it, it happened and we couldn’t predict what would happen next. What we did have this year were very low interest rates – stable house prices – inventory was plentiful but nowhere near historic highs yet we had a “different” year. In a year where buyers should have been coming out of the wood work, they stayed on the fence. There are many in the business happy to see an end to this year from a business perspective.

So, let’s talk about next year. We are expecting a strong spring market based upon what our top producing agents are talking about in our mastermind meetings. Many of them have buyers ready to buy homes, they have realistic sellers ready to put their homes on the market and rates will remain low through the spring market. We hit a low in first time buyers last year that we haven’t seen since 1987 but there are financing changes upcoming with lower down payment requirements and changes in regulations relaxing the tight underwriting standards we have had recently. These revisions will make first time buyers and Millenials a viable option that will help revive the housing market in the lower price points that will help the market flow up stream. We expect that the month’s supply of homes will remain between 3.5 – 4.5 months so sellers will need to be patient. Overall, we are optimistic that the real estate market will be strong in 2015.

Have a fantastic, safe and relaxing holiday season with your family and friends. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about your situation, feel free to call me.

Scott MacDonald

RE/MAX Gateway


How to Get Multiple Offers On Your Home For Sale In Northern Virginia

Unlike the weather, the real estate market is HOT!

WINTER SCENEWe currently have a 1.8 month supply of houses on the market in Northern Virginia.

Interest rates remain low so buyers are buying homes and jobs in the DC Metro area continue to be created so people are looking for housing in our market.  We expect this trend to continue for the next several months.  Sellers are in the proverbial driver seat if they do the right things to their property before putting it on the market.  If you are considering selling your house, read more below…

As I mentioned, right now our biggest issue is finding houses to sell.  We currently have 3,850 properties for sale in all of Northern Virginia – down from a high of the last year when we had 6,005 in the second week of October.  That is a 36% decrease in houses for sale in just 3 months.  We expect more properties to come on the market as the ice and snow melt, as well as, into the spring market but we have a lot of people looking so I don’t see that it will have a huge impact in regards to our inventory level moving forward.

The low inventory situation has resulted in multiple contracts on properties that are in great shape, priced well and show well.  As properties come on the market that are in the same situation, they too will have multiple contracts.  Therefore, buyers need to be prepared.  We have developed a strategy to help buyers position their contracts to win when in competitive situations – check out my blog to learn more – www.scottymacsblog.com simply search for multiple contracts or click the link here.  Sellers need to seek our advice when selling so we can help stage the house, give direction on what improvements/repairs need to be made and to price the home properly so they can take advantage of the market.


As always, I am available to answer any questions you may have in regards to your personal situation so feel free to contact me anytime.

Scott MacDonald

RE/MAX Gateway, LLC

(703) 652-5777


A walk down memory lane…

At the recent RISMedia Leadership and Social Media Summit,
several of us discussed where we were from a technology standpoint in real
estate and discussed what the “next” big thing in real estate will be and how
it will affect our business. This got me thinking how much has changed since I
got into real estate in 1988. 

Let’s take a step back in time and see how much has changed
and how amazing it is to remember how we ever functioned without the tools we
have today.  The list is in no particular
order and none is more important than the other, but when taken on the whole,
it is amazing.  The following list has
made us more productive, efficient and in some cases even better business
people if used properly.  If you have
others, please let me know.

We used to operate with no cell phones, but technology
stepped up and we used pagers to help keep us connected.  The pagers first buzzed then offered us
numbers to call back which we were able to do with car phones that were
attached to our consoles that took a day to install.  Luckily, technology allowed us to become
mobile with cell phones and now, we finally have smart phones.  What is next?

When we negotiated contracts it was face to face with the
sellers.  Next, we had the opportunity to
use data grams – a service that came over our thermal fax paper machines which
gave us permission to counter contracts on behalf of our clients.  Next, we were able to use fax machines, then
we progressed to scan to email, and now we use docusign and other e-signature
services.  In essence, we don’t have to
see our clients and can even be global with our business practice!

In order for clients to see properties, we used MLS cards –
postcards with a picture on the front and a very brief description on the
back.  Next, we moved up to MLS books
that allowed us to be somewhat more mobile, but the information was dated as it
took time to print and deliver.  After
this came, thermal paper and MLS printouts, dot matrix printers, online access
to MLS service with logins and now to mobile search capabilities from our smart
phones…what is around the corner?

In addition to these changes, the business itself has
changed substantially.  Some argue for
the better, some not – you decide.  At
first, it was a broker based business. 
The broker controlled the commission splits, the information made
public, advertising, etc.  We then moved
into the agent centered business where commission splits skyrocketed, the
advertising and promotion was about the agent and what they could do for the
client.  Now, we have entered the consumer
based business where everything is about the client and how we can serve the
client and provide them with as much information as quickly and efficiently as

Let’s look at access to properties.  First, it was all appointment only or agents
had to pick up the key from the listing office. 
Next we saw combo lockboxes enter the marketplace.  Then, in order to protect the sellers more,
we were issued circle keys.  When these
became easy to replicate, we move to the combo bar system, and now we utilize electronic
lockboxes of many varieties.

The controlling of Information started with the broker
controlling data to clients then agents were allowed to pass information to
clients and now information is controlled by the internet.  The internet offers virtually endless
information through blogs, websites, idx feeds, vow’s, public records and even
more sources.  It is critical for agents
to be on top of their game at all times when speaking with clients.

Wow, think about how much lead generation has changed.  It used to be we used the newspaper, cold
calling, door knocking and open houses to generate leads.  Then agents took on geographical farming to
gain recognition which lead to agents working their sphere in various ways to
obtain leads.  The onset of the internet
lead to pay per click and other pay for lead sources and this area continues to
blossom through lead generating websites.

The whole technology realm is amazing in itself.  We mentioned pager and progression to smart phones
but how about in the office and on the road? 
We have gone from office computers to personal computers to laptop,
tablets, netbooks, ipad, and mobile apps – the possibilities seem endless at
this point.

Marketing used to be almost strictly all newspaper
advertising.  Then we utilized direct
mail, billboard advertising, bench marketing, bus and car wraps and other forms
of mass advertising.   Agents have become
more practical in their spending habits by utilizing marketing to their sphere,
developing email campaigns, embracing social media outlets.

There used to be no websites then we had company websites
which paved the way for agent websites, and now we have multimedia social
interaction with our clients.

Our offices used to be brick and mortar offices often with
multiple locations.  Next came the mega
office concept where brokers consolidated into on large location.  As the market and technology  changed , offices downsized.  As more agents began to work from home,
wireless access points and wireless cards have become available, café offices
have emerged.

Initially, the way we worked was as Individual agents.  As our businesses grew, assistants became
more prevalent and more of a necessity. 
When lifestyle options and life balance became more important, buyer
agents and listing specialists lead to forming mega teams.  As technology emerge virtual assistants also
offered alternatives for agents to be more efficient.

 Our education avenues
have also changed.  We were first taught
to use the Haines directory, work expired listings and FSBO’s.  Then we took our education on the road and
obtained designations.  Next we worked on
database development, social media development. 
Our travel then gave way to on line training through RSN and other
correspondence classes.  These have lead
the way to webinars, techinars, and streaming video trainings.  Also agents have developed mastermind groups
to grow their businesses.

The agent’s compensation plans have also changed
drastically.  Initially, commission structures
started at 50/50.  Then we saw graduated
commission levels based upon production and then the 100% comp plans with a
monthly fee.  We have also seen transaction
fees become part of our compensation plans. 
There are also plans where agents are on a split until the company
reaches a level acceptable to them known as a CAP schedule and we also see
hybrid forms of these plans.

The world of financing also needs to touched upon.  It used to be 20% down loans, cash, VA loans,
and FHA low down payment loans.  In addition
to these, we had buy downs, high seller consessions and then guidelines
changed.  We had 100% loans, 80/10/10,
80/20, 80/15/5, NINA, 106%, There were COFI loans, Balloon payment loans,
interest only loans and now we have the tightest loan guidelines we have ever

The marketing of houses has also had a metamorphosis.  Initially we had simple brochures with the
exterior photo taped to the page then we had 800 call capture numbers to find
more buyers for our listings.  Next we
were able to take digital photos and create more elaborate brochures and
virtual tours.   We now market properties
through videos, dedicated listing websites, text for information technologies,
voicepad, and once again, social media outlets.

Advertising venues have also been through changes.  We used to utilize magazines, newspapers, published
articles, hosted TV and radio shows and now we have youtube channels.

Our communication with clients and other agents has also
progressed from the phone only to writing notes, then came email and IM
followed by text and coupled with Facebook messages, tweets, and even more…we
are more available today than ever before

As you notice, our business is always evolving which means
we too need to embrace change, be forward thinking and continuously move
forward if we want our business to only not survive but thrive going into the
future.  Get it?  Got it? Good!

The Numbers tell the Story

As many of you know – and as my DISC profile told me Friday – I like numbers to support my case.  Well, the numbers I am going to share with you are facts you need to know to help you in your business and show us trends in the business:


33% of agents have been licensed fewer than 5 years – just 2.5 years ago at the RE/MAX Broker/Owner Convention, that number was 59%!  In my predictions for 2010 I believe we will continue to see even more agents drop out of the business because of the continuous changes that are occurring and the specialization that is required of agents to serve their clientele.


53% of agents have been licensed fewer than 10 years – again, from the same conference just 2.5 years ago, it was 78% of agents were licensed fewer than 10 years.  The lower this number goes, the better it is for us ethical and professional agents.

And, in my opinion, you have to own what you sell – 91% of Realtors own a home compared with the national home ownership rate of 67%.


In a survey of buyers and sellers this information was gathered…the 3 things buyers want from their agent:


1 – Find them the right home to purchase.  Do you know what this means?  You have to listen!  Check out my blog from earlier this week… www.scottymacsblog.com and while you are there, click the RSS feed in the lower right hand corner to subscribe to my blog site please – you don’t know what you are missing if you don’t register!  Oh yeah, it’s free!


2 – To negotiate the price.  Quick question…when was the last time you practiced your negotiation skills?  What new techniques have you found valuable?  Have you read any good blogs, books or magazine articles lately about negotiating?


3 – To negotiate the terms of the sale.  Hummmm sound familiar to #2?  Are you marketing yourself as a negotiator?  Do you have testimonials to back you up if you do?  When you meet with clients, do you have specific stories that relate to how you negotiated on behalf of a buyer in a particular situation?  Oh, by the way, listening is a huge part of negotiating!


Now, here is what the sellers say they want from their agent – see if you realize what is missing:


1 – Price the home competitively.  You have to know your comps, market conditions, and trends to know how to price accordingly.  Basically, do in depth research of the market to get it done for you seller.  What are the per square foot prices, pricing trends – are they up or down and how much, the correlation between tax assessed values and sales prices, number of competing properties, average days on market, and where to price it to get maximum exposure while on the market.


2 – Sell the home to sell within a specific timeframe.  Again, this requires you to price it to sell and what else?  Get it in the right condition and get it to show well…let’s see what is next!


3 – Find a buyer for the home.  Well, what do you need to know to do this?  You have to know where buyers go to find houses…other agents, and the internet.  Basically, you have to market your listings where the buyers go to find them.  Research the sites that get the most exposure, the most hits from buyers, what agents sell the most homes in the price range of the house you are selling, etc.  It’s not rocket science.


4 – Market the home to potential buyers.  As previously mentioned – you’ve got to know how to market on the internet – Social Media sites, your website, other real estate related sites, etc.  Also you need to know what they want to see when they get there – multiple pictures and in my opinion, videos.  Pictures and videos of the house, yard, views up and down the street, neighborhood, schools, and shopping centers – get creative!  Also, do your research on MLS and get your listings in front of Realtors who have buyers in your properties price range – get the word out!


5 – Find ways to fix up the home to sell it for more.  Have the listing pre-inspected to have the home in the right condition.  When buyers see one thing wrong, they begin to look for more things that are wrong and then pick at the price.  Have the home staged to have your stager recommend low cost items that get the biggest returns for your sellers. 


When houses are pre-inspected, staged and priced right – they sell in the timeframe your sellers desire.


So you ask, what was missing.  Well, in my opinion – negotiating.  If you can’t negotiate, you can’t get them to price it right or get them to get it in the right condition to sell it in the timeframe they want it sold within.  Also, you have to negotiate with buyers and agents to get your sellers what they want when they want it so learn how to negotiate and market yourself as a negotiator.  Have specific stories that tell sellers what you have done for others to get them what they wanted from the sale of their home.


The more you appeal to buyers and sellers through showing your experience in areas that are important to them, the more success you will have in our business.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

We’re moving on up!

It is true!  The housing market is making its comeback.  Last week we reported sales of existing homes rose 3 consecutive months and that new home sales were up in June over 3%.  Well, guess what?  New home sales were up 11% in July!   This is more great news for us to “build” upon moving into the dog days of summer. 

What is the reason for this growth?  There are several factors in my opinion:  low rates, the right price point, multiple offers on existing homes, the tax credit and the market conditions.  As we all know, rates have been low for an extended period of time and according to Ben Bernanke in his economic update, they are going to remain low as a strategy to aid in our economy’s recovery.  Builders, banks and home owners alike have been reducing prices to encourage offers – well, it appears that the sale of the century for housing has worked and buyers are coming out of the woodwork.  As these buyers are making offers on resale properties and losing out to other buyers, the frustration has lead them to new homes – no multiple offers on to be builts!  As the tax credit has aided in getting first time buyers off the fence, it has also spurred activity in the move up market which is resulting in the increase in new home sales as well.  And lastly, the market has been decreasing for over 4 years – June or July of 2005 is when we earmarked the down turn in housing.  Additionally, as we all know, what goes up must come down and vice versa so it was about time for the market to change.  You can’t keep a good thing down.

The housing recovery is critical in so many ways to the general economy’s recovery – let’s keep the momentum moving in a positive direction by spreading the word.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!