Despite a difficult economic environment, 2011 was Washington Fine Properties’ most successful year– the firm’s four partners share their secrets for success and provide insights on what to expect in Washington’s housing market this year.
Washington Life: You sold almost three times as many houses over $1.5 million than your closest competitor last year. How have you managed to turn the closing of luxury home sale into what is almost a science?
Washington Fine Properties: It all starts with the quality of our people. We are fortunate to have some of the most experienced and successful agents in the area who appreciate the firm’s core principles of collegiality and teamwork. Our clients know that when they list their home with any WFP agent, they get the whole firm working to accomplish their goal. This has earned us national recognition in 2011 as having achieved the highest average sales production per agent of any firm in America, as well as the highest average sales price of any firm in America. Additionally, while WFP dominates the luxury market sector, over half of our transactions are under $1 million.
WL: What are the unique challenges of selling very high-end properties such as Evermay and Halcyon House?
WFP: Market knowledge and position both locally and nationally, insight relative to what makes the property worthy of its price, instilling confidence to the principals of the transaction, and agent relationships are some of the key factors that make such deals come together. Our involvement in most high-end transactions in the region gives our agents the credentials necessary to make clients feel comfortable in proceeding with a high-value purchase.
WL: Your firm has earned a stellar reputation in the Washington area. How do you account for your success, especially as a relatively smaller company?
WFP: The firm just celebrated its 13-year anniversary and achieved over $1.4 billion in sales in 2011, making us the 71st largest firm in the United States in terms of sales volume. We are proud to be an independent firm in the powerful Washington market and not part of one of the conglomerate franchises. Our size provides agility and allows us to focus on supporting our agents in fully meeting their clients’ needs. We’ve earned our reputation by taking the high road in every aspect of our business and providing the finest service to buyers and sellers of homes in all price ranges.
WL: What real estate trends do you foresee in 2012?
WFP: Gone are the days of “For Sale By Owner” and buying based on computer-generated valuations. Today’s buyers and sellers are more cautious than ever and want to put themselves in the hands of an expert. Regardless of price range, there is an emphasis on quality in times of uncertainty. Because of the tightening of mortgage funds, today’s buyers are looking for homes that are fully renovated and in great condition. Real estate is often our clients’ largest single investment, so they rely heavily on the expertise and negotiating skills of their agents.
WL: In honor of our“The Young and The Guest List,” what neighborhoods are becoming popular for the under-40 crowd? What trends do you see with younger home buyers?
WFP: We’ve seen a surge in young people moving to Logan Circle, American University Park and North Cleveland Park in the District; Arlington, particularly Rosslyn and Clarendon in Virginia; and Bethesda in Maryland. One of the largest trends we have recently seen is that once there is volatility in a market, clients reach out to professional advisors, and this holds true for younger people as well. They utilize the Internet to gather information on their own, but when it comes time to write the check, they connect with the professionals who can properly guide them to maximize their investment and to negotiate the best deal for them.
WL: When is the best time to buy property in the Washington area in 2012 and why?
WFP: Contrary to the old “spring market theory,” the capital region experiences consistent sales activity throughout the year. It’s not “what” time is best to buy your house, but rather “when” the best property and investment is available. With interest rates at all-time lows, mortgage interest deduction benefits and sellers having realistically adjusted their expectations, there are unbelievable opportunities within the current market.