Case Study: John Marshall
Preparing a former model home for the market for clients who decided to retire and move closer to family in Arizona. This home, located in Vienna, had sold three times in six years because each owner was relocated for work out of the area.
The Sellers decided to live closer to family and old friends now that they were retiring. They flew to Scottsdale, Arizona, and found some nice communities to watch for new listings.
A nice home popped up which they bought, and the house in Vienna needed to be sold.
The home was less than ten years old and had been a builder’s model. The builder had upgraded the home but it seemed a little worn. And the home had been bought and sold a few times already. There wasn’t anything wrong with the home, simply that the previous owners were relocated by work to other cities.
The goal was to refresh the house at a reasonable cost
Discuss updates that would make the home show well compared to new homes being built nearby. Immediate concerns were interior paint and exterior trim paint which was currently out of style and hurt curb appeal.
Selecting materials and contractors
Recommendations were made to update light fixtures in the dining room and kitchen. The bedroom carpets were in good condition although they needed to be professionally cleaned.
I like to highlight certain situations in these case studies. This home had a curb appeal problem that was obvious to me. Best of all, the issue was not a big expense and resulted in a more modern look to the whole house.
Before and After Photos
Before and after photos are always essential to help understand the impact of the adjustments that were made. And to underscore that these recommendations return considerably more than the money invested and deliver a higher return.
After relocating to Vienna only a couple of years earlier for a job in Washington, D.C., the owners made the decision to retire. Lifestyle changes have been very common in the “Covid era” as many clients have had a shift in priorities. After a trip to visit friends in Scottsdale, Arizona, the owners decided that the climate, golf courses, and having old friends nearby (who were also retired) seemed ideal.
- Updated landscaping and downspout drainage behind the house
- Repaved the entire driveway
- Replaced and expanded a drainage system under the driveway to allow stormwater to drain
- Added a high-end, wireless alarm system
The home is a common model built by Sekas Homes, and there are many similar to it built across the McLean and Vienna real estate markets. Since this one was the model home, it was used as a sales office to sell a community being built in McLean off of Kirby Road. With that in mind, this model featured Virginia stone fireplaces, a top-end kitchen, luxury baths, a side-load garage, and attractive landscaping.
The home also included two higher-end HVAC systems, and a special thermal insulation roofing system.
Like most newer homes, the exterior had “Hardie plank” siding which most buyers expect in a home built in Vienna. This siding comes with a 15-year manufacturer’s finish which still looked good.
Areas to Address with Owners
- Interior painting
- Exterior shutters and front door
- Bedroom level carpet – professional clean
- Various light fixtures
- Bathroom caulk
A high-priority item, in our opinion, is always the view of the house from the curb and how it would present in person but primarily in digital photography. The front door and shutters needed to be painted a traditional color, which in this case was black. The current light blue color pallet had been selected by the builder and actually looked more like a factory primer and simply unfinished. The light blue color made the shutters and front door look dingy and, honestly, faded and bland.
The current colors did not accentuate the architectural design elemements in person or in the preliminary photos.
Curb appeal is so essential as is the first visual appeal online. When I made my recommendation and pointed out that the color resembled a pre-finish or primer from the factory, the sellers immediately agreed that this was odd and that they had simply grown accustomed to seeing it every day.
The photos below show the plain front. The shutters blend into the siding and almost have a Williamsburg blue look to them. And the front door also has this Williamsburg blue look. Although this color was popular in Virginia in the 80s and 90s, it really looked out of style and did not enhance the architectural features like the Virginia stone front our the dramatic taper of the roof line to the garage.
Quick sidebar… I’m a content marketing expert. I totally get that today’s home buyers are starting to search for a home online and using Apps like Zillow or Redfin. All photos and descriptions they show come from the MLS, uploaded by the listing agent. The front photo has to be excellent (professional) or they will skip to the next listing. And honestly, homes that have a first photo of the kitchen or dining room are sending up a red flag.
The listing agents are creating “content” for the sophisticated content-marking world we live in. You need to know that the recommendations I make are to make the best impression online that will sell a home at the highest price.
Plan of Action
My plan was to work around their move with the contractors since they did not need to sell this home to buy the new one in Scottsdale. The contractors would be staged to begin a day or two after the moving truck packed up their belongings.
My recommendation was to update the walk-in closet lights with modern LED track lights which would highlight the size. The dining room light needed replacement, as did the pendant lights over the kitchen island. Various bulbs in recessed fixtures would need to be replaced for continuity.
- Update lights
- Paint interior rooms, closets, and ceilings
- Paint exterior shutters and front door
- Have bedroom-level and basement-level carpets professionally cleaned
- Have the house deep cleaned by a professional service
Having the interior painted a modern color transformed the look and feel of the interior. The home felt larger with the ceilings painted traditionally bright white.
Once the owners were out of the house and safely in Arizona, it took about two weeks for the contractors to finish painting, replacing light fixtures, cleaning carpets and deep cleaning the property.
Professional photos were taken, as was a 3-D virtual tour which is now essential to help captivate buyers who are viewing homes on their iPads.
From our first meeting to discuss their plan to the closing was four months. The “Contract to Close” period is still 30 to 45 days.
Since the sellers were already in Arizona, I was at the property ensuring that doors were locked and the house was secure. Also that it was “show-ready” with lights on and presented as clean as possible.
Negotiations were done over the phone or using Zoom, and then the owners were able to sign documents using DocuSign. DocuSign is a secure digital signature platform attached to each user’s email. This allowed for them to sign easily and respond to counter-offers quickly. I have used DocuSign for more than 10 years.
Overall the house was presented in excellent condition as it was competing with brand-new homes in Vienna too. It was also available immediately upon Closing. The Town of Vienna location close to the W&OD Trail, Wolftrap Elementary, and Town of Vienna events on Church Street.
This home hit the market in the middle of the summer vacation market, a hot July, and did get an offer within two weeks. The professional photos and 3-D Matterport virtual tour was viewed over 20,000 times based on data from digital platforms like Zillow, Redfin, and Sothebys.com. All of these sites receive content from Bright MLS, therefore the property description needs to be interesting and provide insight or specific area/lifestyle information.
The home sold for 99% of the Asking Price.