A Quick Sell
Smart home pricing and some “good housekeeping” will help sellers navigate a buyer's market
1. Jonathan Taylor
Taylor is the managing partner of Tutt , Taylor & Rankin
Sotheby's International Realty. With over 50 agents
in offi ces in Georgetown and Downtown Washington
and nearly $500 million in sales in 2005, TTRSIR is
one of the top independently owned and operated
real estate fi rms in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The
recent affi liation with Sotheby's International Realty
brings an international network of contacts, marketing
and technology to the clients of TTRSIR.
2. Karen Briscoe
Briscoe recently partnered with Sue Huckaby of
Weichert Realtors to form The Huckaby Briscoe
Group. The Huckaby Briscoe Group consistently
sells over $100 million in the Northern Virginia
market specializing in McLean, Great Falls and North
Arlington. Briscoe began her real estate career 25
years ago developing residential lots for the Trammell
Crow Co. in Dallas and relocated to the Northern
Virginia area about 13 years ago.
3. Melinda Estridge
Estridge, of the Estridge Group, Long and
Foster Real Estate, has been selling real
estate in the Washington area for 25 years. She
focuses primarily on Bethesda, Chevy Chase,
South Potomac and Northwest Washington.
Her full-time staff, buyer specialist and 7 daya-
week real estate advice provide the highest
level of service possible, placing Estridge in
the top 1/2 percent of all agents nationwide.
4. Mark Bisnow
Bisnowhas been a lawyer, politico and
businessman in Washington for nea r l y
three decades and publishes a growing
number of electronic newsletters, including
Real Estate Weekly, which features
i n t e r v i ews with top Wa s h i n g to n - a rea
experts. He also writes a column called
“BizKnow,” a weekly personality column in
the Washington Business Journal.
Top local real estate
Taylor, Karen Briscoe
and Melinda Estridge
agree that it's a buyer's market
out there, but a realistic
attitude on pricing and making
the most of a home's potential
will still help those wanting to
sell property here.
Mark Bisnow: Where is the real
Karen Briscoe: I know the buyers
are buying because I lost two
contracts in a bidding war two days
ago! If you look at January, February
and March, we're pretty neck and
neck with last year on the number
of houses that have gone under
contract in those three months.
But what's different is that we have
huge inventory and so buyers can
be much more selective.
Bisnow: So days a house is on the
market is longer than a year ago?
Briscoe: Double what it was
Bisnow: Jonathan, how is D.C.
Jonathan Taylor: We're seeing a
tremendous improvement in March.
Bisnow: How about all the condos
that have poured into the market?
Would you say the condo market looks
overheated and overbuilt?
Taylor: It appears that way. Although
March condo sales were really up. It
was the second-highest condo sale
month in the history of D.C.
Bisnow: What about singlefamily
Taylor: In the last month I
have seen a huge increase in
townhouse sales in Dupont,
Kalorama, Columbia triangle
and Adams Morgan. These
townhouses in the $1.5 million
to $2 million range have been
selling quite quickly. We just
sold one on the 1700 block on
R Street listed at $2.25 million.ea
and his wife Elizabeth. The purchasers Rachel
and Theodore Georgelas paid $65,000 less than
the asking price.
Bisnow: How about the other areas
Taylor: It is definitely a little sluggish
and very price sensitive. People
aren't afraid if they go away without
making an offer on the house that it
won't be there later.
Bisnow: Melinda, what are you
seeing in terms of current trends in
Melinda Estridge: Houses are
staying on the market longer - we
have a glut of new homes in the
$1.5 to $2 million range in Bethesda
where builders are not able to sell
them because there are so many
choices. If the home is priced
slightly above market then you
might find the right buyer within
30 days. I always tell the seller if
you have eight qualified people for
your property then there should be
a buyer for your property and those
statistics work over and over again.
Bisnow: Are you seeing differences in
the high end between Chevy Chase,
Bethesda and Potomac?
Estridge: Not so much. Inventory
in Chevy Chase is pretty low for
certain kinds of product, so if you
have something special that comes on
the market buyers are all over it with
The Price is Right
Bisnow: How do you arrive at the price
for a client's property? And how do you
persuade them if they don't agree?
Briscoe: I would have to say a lot
of it is viewing properties. It is a
bit of a gut reaction. You have to
know what your wildcard is on
a property. Does it sit on a lot?
Is it close to a busy street? How
updated is it? Everybody knows
it is a buyers market… price is
everything. If it is priced right, it is
going to sell. If people understand
pricing strategies, they are much
more likely to price where they
need to be.
Bisnow: Do you have a formula of
how long to wait before you have
a heart to heart with the client if a
property doesn't sell?
Briscoe: If it is overpriced then I try
to do it within one week.
Taylor: Get feedback on why buyers
aren't making offers and let the seller
know. Sometimes it works. One of
the lines I hear a lot (from sellers) is
'let them make an offer'. Well, they
aren't making offers. People are far
less prone to make offers now.
Bisnow: So if a qualified buyer doesn't
come back for a second look that tells
you to talk to the client about pricing.
Briscoe: Right. Then we will do
comparables to try and show them
what their house compares to and
what other houses our selling for.
If they are serious about selling
they will adjust their price.
Bisnow: What is the name of that Web
site where you can type in your address
and get the value of your house? Is it
Estridge: Zillow.com. Yes, it's good,
but most of the time prices are either
too low or high depending on certain
weights and calculations.
Briscoe: I think the hard thing
we are seeing right now is
people gettting their tax bills
and their houses are worth less
than their assessments.
Bisnow: Do you lose valuable
time and momentum if you price
wrong at the beginning?
Estridge: People are competing.
A perfect example is a home on
Bradley Boulevard that we priced at
$1.2 million and then dropped it to
one million. It opened up a whole
new price range of buyers, and we
had three contracts that drove the selling price up to $1.1 million.
Bisnow: If you ask other agents to
drop by a house, fill out a form and let
you know what they think, do you get
a concensus on price?
Briscoe: You have to ask the right
Taylor: We just did that in-house
last week and we asked people
from other companies too.
People who are professionals in
the market generally see eye to
eye. A good agent will trust a lot
of other agents to come in and
assist pricing it.
Bisnow: I was very surprised Dan
Snyder's house didn't sell for more. It
was actually listed for over $5 million.
It was on a well-known, beautiful
street but only sold for $3.6. Do you
know why it didn't sell for $5 million?
Apparently he mis-priced it and he's
Estridge: He's not a marketeer in
Taylor: Lots of these high-end buyers
are cautious because they don't want
their friends to think they made a
mistake and overpaid.
Bisnow: Suppose you are thinking
about putting your house on the
market for $1.5 million or above.
What things are reasonable for you
to do to maximize its appeal?
Taylor: It depends on what your
daily maintenance patterns are with
your house. For some people it is
virtually nothing; for most people
it's a lot of work cleaning up and
putting clutter away.
Bisnow: Should you take out
50 percent of the things from
Estridge: That's a very good idea
for some people. Sometimes it's 90
percent - including furniture. Just
move it on out.
Briscoe: That's what Pods are
made for. Drag it away.
Bisnow: Would you paint it if it
hasn't been painted for five years?
Taylor: Yes. Or if the colors are
Estridge: I have used interior
decorators to help clients
understand what they need to
do. They meet with the clients to
introduce some cleaning and paint
colors. It's worth it to get that
perspective on everything.
Bisnow: Would you hire a
handyman for a month to go
around and fix every little thing in
Estridge: We do pre-inspections
and get a pretty good idea of what
is wrong with the property. Then
you choose what to fix and what
not to fix so you essentially have
an asset sale.
Bisnow: If your front lawn has
lots of weeds but you're going to
put it on the market in a couple of
months would you dig up the lawn
and put in sod?
Taylor: It makes a difference, curb
appeal is critical.
Estridge: If you price it low
enough they might overlook
Briscoe: Yes, but if you are in a $1
- $2 million price range, I don't
see how it would be acceptable to
have a house with weeds.
Taylor: You're selling a lifestyle as
well as the property.
Briscoe: People want to see
themselves living there.
Estridge: And it needs to be sexy.
Bisnow: What about updating
interior features like dated kitchens
Taylor: It's worthwhile if at
the end of the renovation your
house is worth that investment
plus a substantial profit.
Bisnow: If it's a really high-priced
house would you advise against
renovating because the people who
can buy that particular house
would have their own taste and
would end up ripping it out?
Estridge: I hear more people
in that price range say I would
rather have nothing done so we
could tear it out and do what we
want. Kitchens and bathrooms
are very particular for people.
Briscoe: If you get a $3.5
million house and it has an
amazing kitchen and bathrooms
that have been done tastefully
then you would pick that over a
house that is tired. Renovations
take energy and time.
Bisnow: What should people do
if they want to live in the house
for a year or two and then sell?
Briscoe: Paint, redo floors, new
Taylor: Proper master bedroom
and closet space. A lot of times
in some of these renovations
they would blow out the kitchen
or family room in an older
house. Let's say in Northwest
a buyer is looking for that
$1.5 million price range. But
then it's got an old master
bedroom and a bathroom that
two people can't stand in at
one time and it doesn't work
for the person that has the $2
million dollars to spend.
Estridge: Proper landscaping.
You have to drive up the appeal
to make it more inviting.
Bisnow: And if you do the whole
redo to perfection then spending
all the money pays off?
Taylor: Yes. It's not that hard to
do it tastefully. It's amazing how
many people personalize things
too much - it just eliminates
others from liking it.
Bisnow: You know people like
glamour. What's the highest end
thing you're dealing with? Anything
to get excited about?
Taylor: We have some loft-style
condos above what used to be
City's Restaurant (now Left Bank
in Adams Morgan). The properties
are listed for $2.4 and $1.8 million
and both of them are being pursued
right now. We have a house in
Kalorama at 1824 23rd Street that
we have a great new price on. It
started at $3.85 million and been
on the market for about 6 months
and just got to $2.995 million. It
would have been history if had
we started there - as we said high
prices diminish the enthusiasm.
Estridge: I have a great town
home in Gaithersburg. It's probably
about $1.6 million and is not that
huge, but it is a very interesting
property because there are not
many contemporaries around.
Bisnow: Fantastic, it's a wrap!!