Should You Sell Your Bethesda Home During the Holidays?

gingerbread house

gingerbread house

Many of you have been warned not to sell your Bethesda home during the holidays and to wait until Spring when your house looks it’s best. Phooey, we say. There are a lot of reasons for ignoring this advice.

Inventory is still low

While the market is slightly more balanced than in years past, it’s still pretty much a sellers market as long as homes are presented properly. If you’ve got a nice home to sell and you don’t over-price it, there are buyers out there looking.

Holiday Buyers are not tire kickers

True! Life gets crazed at this time of year. Fitting in a house tour between shopping for turkey or Chanukah candles is not for the faint of heart. These buyers are serious and ready. As a seller, you may get fewer showings, but they’ll be of a higher quality.

Homes look their best during the Holidays

Holiday decorations can liven up any property. As long as you can keep the kitsch to a minimum and not overcrowd the property, you’ll be creating an inviting atmosphere, which future buyers may want to replicate. Turn up the thermostat a degree or two if it’s chilly outside. Think warm and cozy. Buyers will!

Beat the Spring rush

Listing a house in November or December can help you stand out. Come January/February you will be one of many. If you want to be the belle of the ball it’s best to arrive early.

How to avoid the Inspection Jitters – a checklist of things a Seller can do before the home inspector arrives.

Asking Price vs Selling Price – the spread between the asking and selling price lets you know about the mental health of the real estate market.

The Good, The Ugly, and the Toilet Plunger – why you want a professional agent on your side (let us obsess about all of the tiny stuff!)

Use the additional helpful articles to get information on selling your home in any season. These tips will help whether it is before or after the holidays are over.


About the Authors: The above Real Estate information on Should you sell your Bethesda home during the holidays was provided by Marcie Sandalow & Catarina Bannier, award winning real estate agents in the DC region. They can be reached via email at or or or by phone at 202-487-7177 (Cati) or 301-758-4894 (Marcie). Marcie & Cati have helped hundreds of people move in and out of multiple DC-area locations for the last 15+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? We have a passion for Real Estate and love to share our marketing expertise!

We service Real Estate sales in the following areas: Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Washington DC markets with an emphasis on Colonial Village, Rock Creek Park, Shephard Park, Rosemary Hills, Chevy Chase and numerous downtown locations including Dupont Circle, Cleveland Park, Kalorama, Shaw, and more. Last, but not least, we are also licensed in Virginia and service those areas closest to DC.

When Should I Lower the Price of My Home?

House with a large question mark, jpeg illustrationIf you have to ask, the answer is NOW!  Sellers- the local DC market remains strong. Inventory is low. If your house has been sitting for two weeks or more, lower your price. Failure to do so can result in a house that is stigmatized. Buyers see the days on market and wonder what’s wrong with your house. You could have a perfectly nice house, in great condition. Price it too high and you’ll be a disappointment to those looking to buy AND you’ll miss your target audience (assuming they can’t afford your inflated asking price).

Here’s the scary part.  By the time you do get around to lowering your price, the damage may well have been done. You’ve missed out on taking advantage of the flurry of activity that occurs when a listing is new (and priced correctly). Nope, you’ve wasted that on a crowd that won’t be buying your overpriced home. You can’t get that back.

Ironically, when a house is overpriced and manages to get an offer, often it’s the best offer that house will receive. On more than one occasion I have seen sellers turn down a reasonable offer, only to accept a lower price at a later date, after their listing has languished.

Don’t be that seller!


Your House – The Star On Stage

Staged dining room in a vacan home in Washington DC
Staged dining room in a vacan home in Washington DC
Even minimal staging can make a vacant house look a lot more appealing to potential buyers

There’s a lot of buzz about “staging” your home for sale these days. It’s become a must for anybody who wants to get the best price for their house. We spend much time discussing such options with our seller clients. Every house is different, so staging can mean different things, from decluttering, depersonalizing or rearranging some furniture to painting or exchanging artwork. Sometimes, the tweaks are small, and sometimes, we think it better to bring in a professional stager (or team). But what when the house is vacant?

Actually, when the house or condo is vacant, a staging job can be even more important. In trying to explain this to a seller today, I came across this little video in which a crew from Red House Staging explains and demonstrates how they’re making a rather small condo look inviting, big and functional to potential buyers. Have a look, it’s no too long:

When I bought my first house in DC in the 1990s, most of the places our Realtor showed us were vacant. And it wasn’t just that they were empty, they were often also in sad shape, or at least it didn’t look like the sellers had put any effort at all in making them look appealing to us. Yes, most of them sold in the end, even without that effort. But before they did, most of them also spent 6 or 9 months or even more than a year on the market.

(P.S.  We love Jaye and Sam and Red House, but they’re not the only stagers we’ve worked with. Depending on your unique needs and situation, there might be other designers, organizers or companies we would recommend.)

The Perils of Overpricing

Overprice at your own peril

Overprice at your own perilSeller Beware…  overpricing is dangerous for your health. And ours.

We like to think that we offer great advice when it comes to pricing homes.  We scrutinize the comps ad nauseam. And to play it safe, we usually have our office mates over for a look to let us know if we’re overenthusiastic, or even stingy in our assessment of our upcoming listings.  The reality check has come in handy on more than one occasion.

Still, it’s the seller who sets the price.  So what to do if a seller wants too much? Sellers often have an inflated view of what their house is worth.  And with good reason. They’ve generally put a lot of money and time into improving their investment, and damn it, there should be a 400% return on that bathroom remodel.  Right?  Ummmm… not so fast.

Just about every agent in our office has a tale about a listing that starts off too high whereby the seller rejects solid offers left and right because they are just “insulting”, or “too low”.  Ultimately, after much (much, much) time has passed, these same listings sell for considerably less than the first offer that was made.  We call this “chasing down the market.”

Not only is it frustrating for sellers, but for agents, too.  Ultimately, we’re the ones who get blamed… for bad marketing, unflattering pictures, strange wording on the brochure, not enough open houses, lack of advertising…. just about everything BUT the true reason for failure… overpricing. Sellers get frustrated, part ways with realtor #1, get a stern talking to from realtor #2 (if they are lucky), list it at a reasonable price, and voila, house sells.

“We want to be your second realtor” is a line we’ve been practicing lately (when faced with an over-zealous listing price).  Sometimes it makes sense to walk away.  Overpriced listings make for lots of work, and no one is ever happy.

Hey- occasionally we realtors are to blame.  Sometimes good comps are lacking, and it’s an honest mistake. Or, we take a listing at an inflated price (enabling our sellers to “test the waters”) because we’re hungry for business.  Or we’ve agreed to list it at the ambitious seller price, believing in the promised price drop if it doesn’t work out.  When a price reduction doesn’t come fast enough, the initial shine of the new listing wanes. So the listing lingers.  Thus begins the long spiral downward, with the house selling for less than what it might have received had it been put on at the right price to begin with.  Overpricing can really backfire.

We generally find that the first offer is the strongest.  A listing can lose momentum as time goes on.  The best way to combat market ennui is with well-timed, aggressive price reductions. With any luck, the proper pricing will result in a flurry of activity.  On more than one occasion we’ve seen these situations reverse course, sometimes producing multiple bids and better than expected results.

Sellers – about the worst thing you can do is “test” the market and list your home for too much money.  Take a realistic look at the recent comparable sales. It’s a fools errand to price your home where you hope it will sell.  If it’s too low, we’re solidly in a sellers marketplace… it will get to where it needs to be. Price it too high, buyers count up the deficiencies. Price it ever so slightly low, and they’ll be raving about all of the positives.

Which side do you want to be on?

Fun Fix For The Floor

Floor fixes on a budget

It’s getting harder to surprise us. We’re getting to see a lot of houses each week, and much of what we see repeats itself. Design trends, fashionable features, architectural styles. We can date the kitchen cabinets after just a glance, and we can tell you in what decade those kinds of windows were used. It doesn’t help that the DC market and home owners have been incredibly traditional in their choices. (Yes, we do have some eccentric outliers, but let’s leave those out for now.)

So, it’s always fun to discover something that’s whimsical but not weird, that’s economical and not too hard to replicate. Painted floors as a design feature have not been widely used in the past hundred years, but they can be a really great idea. I took these pictures in a couple of houses that were recently for sale. It might not show too well in the photos, but in each of these cases, the paint made a huge difference in cleaning and cheering the place up.

In fact, we’re often asked by our sellers about their floors – brittle old linoleum in the laundry room, cracks and oil stains in the garage floor, stairs covered in un-revivable carpet, or even the bare floor in an attic playroom that was originally only intended for storage. The owners have long gotten used to overlooking the sore spot. When getting the house ready for the market and trying to look at it with the eyes of potential buyers, they suddenly find it embarrassing.

If you want to paint a floor, why not turning it into an opportunity? It’s certainly a way to make the house look pretty on a budget. whether time- or money-wise. Companies such as or Cutting Edge Stencils

And you don’t even have to wait — you can reap the benefits of your beautification while you’re still in the house. If the fix was inexpensive enough, you can always repeat it later on. You might surprise yourself (and us!) with some great new ideas.

Housing Affordability Best In Years

Housing Affordability Reaches Record High

According to the National Association of Realtors via the Daily Real Estate News/Tuesday, May 15, 2012, home affordability is at an all time high:

“Housing affordability conditions for all buyers reached a milestone in the first quarter, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

NAR’s composite quarterly Housing Affordability Index rose to a record high of 205.9 in first quarter, based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate. The higher the index, the greater the household purchasing power. This is the first time the quarterly index broke the 200 mark; record keeping began in 1970.

NAR President Moe Veissi said market conditions are optimal for home buyers. “For those with good credit, we’ve never seen better housing affordability conditions or market opportunities than we see at present,” he said. “Although home prices are stabilizing and sales are rising, some buyers still have to jump through a lot of hoops to convince a lender that they are creditworthy, even for a mortgage that would be well within their means. This is especially true for self-employed buyers.”

Veissi noted home sales would be much higher if lending standards would return to normal (my take: What’s normal?  2005 normal? Do we really want that? Isn’t that what got us into trouble in the first place???)

The index shows the median-income family, earning just under $61,000, could afford a home costing $325,500 in the first quarter, which is more than double the national median existing single-family home price of $158,100. The median monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for a median-priced home would take only 13.5 percent of gross income.

A companion index measuring the ability of first-time buyers to purchase a home also set a record, with the first-time buyer index reaching 135.8 in the first quarter.

Assumptions for the first-time buyer index include a lower-income, at 65 percent of median family income, a starter home costing 85 percent of the median price, and a down payment of 10 percent. This index means the typical entry-level buyer could afford a home costing $182,500, which is well above the overall median price.

“It’s never been easy to buy a first home because of the cash required for down payment and closing costs, but conditions for first-time buyers who are able to get a mortgage have never been better,” Veissi explained.

Most first-time buyers choose a loan with a lower down payment, often an FHA-insured loan with 3.5 percent down, and some use the VA program with no down payment.

Both home prices and mortgage interest rates are expected to edge up modestly as the year progresses, but housing affordability will remain very favorable with the median-income household well positioned to afford a median-priced home. For all of 2012 the index is projected to set an annual record, averaging 191 for the year.”

Source: NAR (National Association of Realtors)