Case Study: Colonel Lindsay
Helping the original owner make final updating decisions and marketing the home for sale. The home was well located close to Tysons Corner (work) and close to shopping (Whole Foods), and had the potential for an attractive backyard.
When the owner contacted me in the fall, her objective was to determine which additional projects needed to be completed to maximize the value of the home.
The home had been built in the 1990s. Over the previous year, the owner’s bathroom had been nicely updated and the kitchen had been remodeled.
The basement had been left unfinished and there was a contractor’s proposal to finish it including a full bath. This project would have taken a large investment of money and time to complete.
Upon inspection of the home, I noted that the deck was in poor condition, the inside of the house needed painting, and it needed new carpet on the entire bedroom level.
After reviewing Fairfax County tax records, I noted that the rear property line cut across one corner making the yard odd and unappealing to typical buyers. The rear area appeared to be owned by another owner and was only about 1,200 square feet.
Buying that lot and combining it would add significantly to the home’s value.
Before and After Photos
Photos are intended to demonstrate that significant work was done by the owner and by contractors. The finished work improved the marketability to a broad audience of home buyers who would appreciate the location, interior updates, landscaping, deck and beauty of the property.
The owner had lived in the property since it was built in the 1990s and decided to “right-size” and find a smaller home with a first-floor primary bedroom.
This home was built in a subdivision carver out of land surrounding a historic home (of Colonel Lindsay) in a series of cul-de-sacs in Falls Church. This community layout maximized the builder’s ability to build as many brick-front colonial-style homes as possible.
Significant Marketing Updates
- Brick front Colonial
- Side-Load garage with new door
- Updated white kitchen
- Large Remodeled master bath
- Bedroom-level laundry room
- Five bedrooms on the bedroom level
- Four-foot extension on the formal living room
- Hardwood floors on the main level (not in ideal condition)
- Newer Roof
- Updated HVAC systems
The home was the first home located on a pipestem, which is the same as a shared driveway. A pipestem lot is not the most desirable for many buyers, so time was spent on landscaping for a great first impression and an emphasis on the “side-load garage”.
The house is well-oriented to get morning light in the kitchen and family room area, with the sun on the front of the house in the afternoon. When the home was being built, the owner paid the builder to extend the formal living room four additional feet which made the room big enough for a grand piano.
The fifth bedroom was located over the garage and was really designed as a second primary bedroom. It had a vaulted ceiling, dormer windows, and a large Palladian window. To present this best, I sent the professional photos to my digital designer/stager in Texas who used two angles of the bedroom. These were very realistic (see below) giving an online representation of what it could look like for a young adult.
The odd shape of my client’s lot and the small parcel behind the house were a big concern for me, and I knew it would be a deal-breaker for many buyers. I knew the value to the current owner was literally zero, and acquiring it would solve their problem and add significant value to the house. See Real Estate Lab below.
Areas to Address
- Acquire the 1,200-square-foot lot behind the house
- Replace deck
- Do not finish the basement but must be cleaned out
- Have the house painted (I recommended colors)
- Repair or replace loose and rusted iron railing at the exterior basement stairs
- Replace bedroom-level wall-to-wall carpet
- Replace damaged window in the fifth bedroom
- Add better light fixture to the walk-in closet
Most properties in Fairfax County, Virginia have a square or rectangular shape. In the case of pipestem lots with shared driveways, each owner owns a sliver of the driveway out to the main street.
What was immediately noticeable to me was that there were small lots behind the property owned by different people. They appeared to be once part of a street or entry into a property that no longer existed. In this case, the 1,200-square-foot lot cut off a rear corner of the property in an odd manner, and that specific property was owned by a local church.
That lot was useless to the church, but highly valuable to the owner of this property. My recommendation was to hire a land surveyor to map the properties, and submit a request to the trustees of the church to see if they were willing to sell the property. The result would be some money for the church, and a big benefit to the marketability and value of our property.
I recommended a real estate lawyer who advised the owner after conducting a Title Search of the property to make sure the owner would be buying the property outright to be combined with her property.
Solution: Combine Outlot 3 with Lot 3 where the house is located
As you can see, Outlot 3 cut across the rear corner of the property, and acquiring it was a smart thing to accomplish before putting the house up for sale.
I put this into the Case Study as a “Real Estate Lab” because it was the first time I had a situation where a useless wedge of property owned by the Church could improve the value of a client’s property. Using my network and resources, I was able to help my client talk with the best counsel helping all parties.
The total time from the first meeting to the final Closing was five months. That time was used to get on the deck contractor’s schedule (delayed two months). The owner clean out, sold and donated items from the house. It was actually within the original timeframe that the owner preferred at the first meeting.
The combination of Lot 3 and Outlot 3 as shown on a new property survey allowed the buyer to know they could now fence the yard for a dog or swing set.
The owner’s relocated temporarily to a vacation home to allow agents to show the property easily. Most furniture had been removed, but there were some tables, couches and chairs in the home.
This home was launched on the market just as the traditional “spring market” started. Good weather
The professional photos and 3-D Matterport virtual tour was viewed over 200,000 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.
Location is always important, but the timing in real estate factors in too. This home did have multiple offers and sold for 118.8% of the asking price. This was a significant jump from another brick-front colonial in the same neighborhood that had sold 3 months earlier and was used as a “comp”/”comparable”.