Real Estate Blog by Alexandra Serrano, REALTOR®

5 Tips to Prep Your House for Sale

You have decided to Sell your Home, now what do you do???  

If the title of this post caught your attention and is an accurate reality for  you, you obviously didn’t call me to sell your home, so please stop reading  now and call me. If you have someone else selling your home, stop reading and call your agent for advice. I am only kidding, keep reading. Karma and I are close and she’ll get you Smile 

Tip 1: Get out the trash bags and donation bins and purge your house like  a Priest performing an exorcism. You can never get rid of too much and the cost of moving your “stuff” when you sell your home will be expensive and wasteful. If you haven’t used it since you moved into the home 7 years ago, you probably won’t use it at your new home.  

Donate!! Get the tax write offs from the 501(c)3 non profits and their tax id,  they are happy to give you a receipt for the items. Most of the  organizations will even pick up the items for you. You are also helping the  community by donating gently used items to be resold to a struggling family or individual looking to buy the item at a deep discount. It is a win-win for everyone! Remember, you still live there and you are allowed to have your belongings. Just keep the clutter at a minimum.  

Tip 2: Have your Real Estate professional do a thorough walk through with you at the home. Their expert eyes and nose can detect and address any possible issues with the property before you list the house. Some agents like to do a pre-home inspection with their home inspectors. I do not usually recommend that...

Home Inspections: My Clients Don't Have A Choice

My clients will have a home inspection, no matter the market trends. This is a non-negotiable for my clients unless they sign a hold harmless agreement me, it is new construction or I am provided an inspection report from the listing agent within the last two months and I speak with the inspector personally. I have lost many offers I wrote for clients because of inspections and I had to  work a little harder to find them their perfect home. Fortunately, one thing that doesn’t scare me is putting in the extra work for my clients.  

Have I found every single one of those clients a home they purchased after? Yes.  

Have they thanked me multiple times for standing my ground on having a home inspection? Yes.  

Have they since referred me to their friends and family to use me as their Realtor? 100% they have and continue to do so.  

Let me put that into perspective for you in a way that drives my point home:  

Scenario 1: 

Imagine seeing a few photos of someone on a dating app and wanting to meet them after reading their bio. You are thrilled at what you see and read. You are so excited when you talk on the phone with them for a few minutes. So excited that you propose to them and ask them to meet you at the court house later that day to get married. You also give them around  $50,000 up front to just sign the documents to make it legally binding and tied together for the unforeseeable future. You also don’t sign a prenuptial agreement and they have access to all finances you worked so hard for years to save. When you leave the courthouse, in a legal binding agreement, you discover they are nothing what they told you. In fact, they just copied and pasted the bio from another profile they saw. Their photos had been photoshopped so much you didn’t even recognize them...

A Win/Win is the best in Real Estate and in Life

two hands shaking for a business contract

One of the main questions I get asked when meeting with a new client is, “How are you going to negotiate the best deal for me?” I always respond with the same answer, “I know I will negotiate the best possible deal for you. I will get your home sold as quickly as possible and for the most amount of money. That being said, I am also fair and logical in business, so when a situation might come up, I will treat the other side with respect and understanding. That way emotions do not get in the way and we can all come to an agreement that we can agree on. I always want everyone to walk away happy after the closing. I believe when we can accomplish a WIN/WIN for everyone, it is just a better way.”

I will go on to say that this does not make me a weaker agent, it is what makes me the best agent. I will not allow my ego to get in the way of selling your house. I have to show dominance sometimes when negotiating, but I will always do it with calmness and assertiveness, never maliciousness or emotion. I am hired to do a job for my clients, they are allowed to have emotions, I am not, when handling their largest assets. This is an invaluable skill I mastered over the years.

I have structured my business negations around the principle of a Win/Win for everyone involved. This does not mean that I ever leave any money on the table for my clients. It just means I dig a little deeper. I take the time and make sure I ask the questions necessary so I can understand what is important to both sides. Then I put the puzzle together and start writing and negotiating and winning the offers and get us to the closing table.

If you have ever met me, I don’t lose, ever in negotiations. However, I have never made anyone FEEL like they lost either....

A Shifting Real Estate Market

The Real Estate Market is Shifting-What Does that Mean? Interest Rates?? Saturation of the Market?? Assumable Loans??

We are experiencing a shift in our market and it’s happening quickly. Are you ready? I am because I am prepared and I am preparing my clients with facts, experience and a deeper understanding than most licensed agents.

Change is hard for anyone in any circumstance. Real Estate markets are no different and when they shift, everyone wants that crystal ball to predict the future. There is no crystal ball and we aren’t really able to know for certain what the future brings. That being said, I am confident in my advice because I study, analyze and educate. I do not listen to the puff stories on the news being broadcasted to cause uncertainty and panic (that was going to be me if I stayed on my riginal career choice!!) If you have questions about what the market is doing, always call the professional, me!! It is my job to help you, let me do it.

Interest rates are about 3.5-5.5% higher than a year ago. That means my buyers are losing about $125,000 in buying power than they would have this time last year. I have clients that I have been working with for over 3 years and one just went from a $550,000 price point to a $425,000. Another example, a home has an assumable VA mortgage with an interest rate of 2.3%, at $350,000= $1,346 VS today's VA rate= $1,905.

Assumable loans?? What is that?! Don’t ask me, I am not 100% sure but it sounds good right? I am only kidding! Always ask me and I will educate you on the pros and cons....

My process for helping Military move into the 757

Our Military is what makes Hampton Roads such a unique place to live and a very specialized market with more Military Active Duty and Veterans sales than anywhere else (I need to fact check that but I am pretty positive it is a true statement.) 
sailor hugging a woman
We are surrounded by our Military Bases and Military families constantly moving in and out of the area. This creates a healthy real estate market but also a lot of families and Service members moving into an area they have never been to before. It can be nerve wracking and scary not knowing anything about your new city.
That is where I step in!! If you didn’t know, I moved here almost 9 years ago from AZ and sold real estate out there, after graduating from Arizona State University, for about 4 years. I NEVER DID ONE VA LOAN in Arizona. Now, about 50% of my business is Active Duty or Veterans Military. I think a huge benefit I have for my clients is moving to Virginia Beach, with young children, not knowing anyone and having no clue what a Harris Teeter was, let alone why the hell Princess Anne Rd started in Norfolk and curved all the way to the Pungo area in Virginia Beach. Where is the grid system and road infrastructure?? I figured it out though, slowly but surely and pride myself in helping my clients do the same.

I always ask my relocating clients a ton of questions to get to know who they are and what their best life looks like living in Hampton Roads. I found there were a few common denominators in every client's answers.
Two people holding moving boxes...

Affordable Spring Curb Appeal Ideas

I really try my hardest not to be judgmental on my first impression with people I meet for the first time. So I try even harder not to judge homes from my first impression when pulling into the driveway, maybe if the exterior isn’t taken care of, the owner put all the care into the interior!!?? That being said, I am an incredible judge of character and know, no matter how hard I want to believe, the house is going to be way worse on the inside if the outside looks like
it was neglected. I promise, I tried to be open minded but have always been disappointed and my internal judgement always wins.
I literally am pulling into at least 20 strangers driveways a week, usually more. I always have an appointment and not creeping, so now, you don’t be judging me! I will share a couple, very simple, almost free in expense, tips on how to get your house ready for judgmental strangers, like myself.
1.Get the spider webs and pollen off the front porch/entry way!!!!
spider webs on fence post
Take your hose, turn it on and spray off the entry way and walk way. It will cost you almost nothing and take about 5 minutes, at most. The impact is a game changer to someone walking up to your home who has horrible Spring allergies and hates bugs. It also looks like you care about the people who don’t have a garage door opener and can pull into safety from the outside world. I have a pressure washer you are welcome to borrow if you need it. Just don’t let me walk into a spider web while entering your home.
2. Take care of your mailbox and put the address numbers clear to see...
mailbox with numbers 12402...

Open house food... I don't think so.

We all know the scene in the movies... The Realtor taking fresh baked chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and wearing a cute little apron and a big satisfactory smile on her face. You can almost imagine the sweet smell 3 chocolate chip cookies on black background and taste of cold milk touching your lips. Hollywood has made this seem like the norm. Guess what? Movies are fake, I live in Hampton Roads and live a real life. In my LONG experience holding open houses, potential clients don’t want your food, especially the past 2 years with COVID. I have spent so much money and time, in my early real estate days creating the ‘Hollywood’ movie scene. I wanted everything to be perfect, the smell of the food, the perfect flowers and no one cared, ever. I only ended up gaining weight eating all the cookies while cleaning up.

I have found people feel really weird taking food from strangers, especially the ones actually interested in the property. That is how I could tell a ‘Nosy Neighbor’ or ‘Looking Lucy’ or ‘Sunday Driver Sam’ from the serious buyer. The serious buyer doesn’t want to feel like they have less power over negotiations because they accepted my baked goods and are now indebted to me. No problem, I have a better solution.

No one has an issue with winning prizes and taking useful products for them to use daily so I always will have my #iSell757 water bottles, hats, toys for the box of I Sell 757 merchandise kids and gift cards to be raffled off at the end of the open house ready for anyone and everyone. Attendance is never required to...

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