6 Ways to Sell Your Washington, D.C., Home Fast

Attract buyers quickly in the nation's capital.

U.S. News & World Report

Ways to Sell Your Washington, D.C., Home Fast

(Getty Images)

It's a seller's market in the nation's capital right now: Top agents say homes in desirable areas like Capitol Hill and the District of Columbia suburbs are going under contract in as little as five days.

Kimberly Cestari of W.C. and A.N. Miller Realtors has seen robust growth from the Northwest side to Anacostia to Chevy Chase, Maryland. "I would say almost every property listed under $1 million has at least four or five buyers," she says. Low interest rates and low inventory account for this growth, with buyers lying in wait for homes to come on the market. Inner-city dwellings have become especially popular, with empty nesters leaving four- or five-bedroom homes in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to downsize to a smaller place downtown.

This should inspire confidence in anyone selling that contemporary condo in Penn Quarter or quaint townhome in Georgetown.

To quickly close the deal on a District home, Cestari and other top area real estate agents, offer the following tips:

Don't rely on yesterday's prices. Mortgage lenders continue to edge up on prices, and Cestari doesn't see that trend quieting down anytime soon. Keeping that in mind, she says using recent sales to set a fresh, accurate price is key in selling a District home. "Our market is so dynamic that we can't pull comps more than 60 days old because prices have just kept going up," she explains, recalling a single-family home that was selling for $800,000 last fall – and has since gone up to $950,000 this past spring.

Know who the District buyer is. What makes pricing in the District of Columbia extremely important – more so than in other areas of the country – is the highly sophisticated nature of the buyers, says Nate Guggenheim of Washington Fine Properties LLC, who sells homes throughout the metro area. "These highly educated, analytical people often have very demanding jobs," he says.

Additionally, District buyers often have good credit and uncomplicated financial situations, and they're looking for properties that are turn-key ready. With this discerning population, sellers have to be on their game, Guggenheim advises. "They don't want to spend a lot of time working on a home or meeting with contractors. That is why sellers need to make sure their homes are ready to go."

Your listing should tell the story – quickly. Buyers in the area are also short on time, making it vital for a listing to highlight the most attractive details of the home early on within its narrative and photos. "It's like that scene where the Hollywood screenwriter hops in the elevator with the movie mogul and has 22 seconds to explain his screenplay to secure a meeting," says Carlos Garcia of Keller Williams Capital Properties. "What we're trying to do in listing our homes is to get people to come see it."

For example, the listing for a home that looks modest from the outside but is gigantic inside can say, "Lives HUGE inside; appears modest from the street," Garcia says. Given how rapidly some District neighborhoods are changing, the listing should also describe any new happenings that might boost the attractiveness of a home. Include details about that Whole Foods opening up soon or that park getting refurbished – things a non-resident might not know about.

Play up access to public transport. One of the first questions a buyer will ask is, "What's my commute going to be like?" Many District professionals are looking for accessibility to Metro, the District's public transit system. If your property is near public transport, that's an important feature to highlight in the listing. "Metro sells," says Cestari, who uses apps like Waze to help buyers determine the time it would take to commute from a prospective home to downtown at peak hours. "People love living near it, and they love walkability to shopping and restaurants."

Go local with your agent. With so many individual jurisdictions making up the District of Columbia metro area, it's important to choose a real estate agent with an inside track on your neighborhood, says Tom Faison, an associate broker with Real Estate in the District. Sellers often make the common mistake of choosing an agent based on familiarity, rather than experience. "They might pay a $40,000 commission to an agent on the sale of their D.C. home simply because he sold a home in Arlington, Virginia, to their family friend," he says, but that agent may know nothing about the geographical area where the home is selling – or for that matter, the area where the seller wants to buy his or her next house.

Faison, who works primarily with Capitol Hill and other downtown properties, will tell clients all the time that he can't help them buy or sell in Fairfax County, Virginia, or Annapolis, Maryland, because that's not his area of expertise. Bottom line is: If you want a great listing or a quick sale, go local with your agent.

Stage your space accordingly. Some sellers of District area properties face unique challenges, especially those that are big on charm but tight on living space. Victorian row houses of the late 1800s and early 20th-century homes built or inspired by real estate developer Harry Wardman are a staple of inner-District real estate, attracting many a buyer to the nation's capital.

The drawback of these older homes is they're not always designed for modern living, says David Bediz of the Bediz Group LLC. When space is tight, you have to get creative. “There are ways to arrange things so that you capture the essence of each room,” he says. For example, older homes often don't have multiple bathrooms, a big selling point with buyers. One option is to convert a smaller room into a second bathroom, but this could set you back $30,000. A simpler solution is to play up the home's one bathroom and make it as attractive as possible. "It's all about staging at the end of the day. Staging is even more valuable than painting," Bediz says. Bearing in mind the lack of a second bathroom, sellers may need to price their homes accordingly.

Looking for a real estate agent in Washington, D.C.? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.

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