How to Prevail in a Hot Seller's Market in Alexandria VA

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 0225085927

As a listing agent in certain price points and certain neighborhoods in Alexandria, VAI know that as soon as I put a new listing on the market, I need to be prepared for non stop phone calls, emails and texts. Buyers and their agents are sometimes frantic - and unrelenting - in their desire to see a property and possibly write an offer on it.  So, here are some tips for prevailing in a highly competitive real estate marketplace:

1.  This is the hottest tip of all:  BE PREPARED.  Your preapproval letter from your mortgage lender should be in hand, and your lender should have pre-processed your information as much as possible.  You cannot wait until you find "the house" before speaking with a loan officer.  If you have any hope of getting into a property in the next few months, you should have already spoken to a local lender - and if you have not, do it as soon as possible.  Oh, yeah, and we're kinda picky about our lenders online lender "prequal" letters will make the cut.

2.  UNDERSTAND THIS IS NOT ABOUT GETTING A BARGAIN.  This is actually about getting a house.  This is not the time to throw an offer out there and see what a great deal you can get - in multiple offer situations, unless the offers are all exactly the same, with no clear winner, you may very well not have a second chance.  No, sellers are not obligated to respond to you, much less counter your less than stellar offer.  If you are approved to $800,000 and cannot go a penny over, then you need to be looking at houses in a lower price range, because that $800,000 list price in many neighborhoods is going to be a much higher sales price when all is said and done.  

3.  KNOW WHICH CONTINGENCIES YOU ARE COMFORTABLE LIVING WITHOUT.  It is not at all unusual for serious buyers to waive all contingencies in their offers.  In some cases, asking for a home inspection or appraisal contingency is the kiss of death for any offer.  Now, I would never insist someone go contingency free unless they were completely comfortable with the idea, but buyers do need to understand you cannot always be risk adverse and prevail.  It may be you'll need to change your priorities and forego certain properties if you are unable or unwilling to waive some contingencies. 

4.  BE FLEXIBLE.  Sure, it's nice to have a seamless moving process when you leave one property and step effortlessly into another, but flexibility about settlement dates and occupancy can often be the key factor in ensuring yours is the prevailing offer.  No one wants to be inconvenienced, but in some cases, the seller is holding all the cards and they want to be the least inconvenienced.  I've had clients who put belongings in storage and lived 3 months in temporary housing with 3 kids and 3 pets.  It isn't pretty, but with the right attitude, you can make it happen.  

5.  TRUST YOUR AGENT.  Seriously, if you think you know more than your agent does, get a new agent. If you would prefer to take counsel from your used-to-be-a-real-estate-agent-15-years-ago-in another-state-relative or from the nice lady you work with who lives in the 'burbs miles from where you wish to live or from HGTV, I cannot predict a successful outcome for you in this market.  

Your agent knows (or should know - and if they don't, you need to rethink the relationship) exactly how to write a winning offer;  you need to put your faith in their advice if you  hope to prevail.

Trust me, we don't like pressuring people to bid higher (do the math - we're really not making big bank on a $25,000 or $50,000 price increase) or eliminate contingencies or put more money down. We're just advising you what you need to do to prevail in a highly competitive multiple offer situation. And if you don't trust that your agent's only motives are to serve your best interests, then, seriously, get a new agent. 

It is not unusual for a house to go on the market in some neighborhoods and some price points in Alexandria VA and have dozens upon dozens of showings the first day.  Receiving offers the same day on market is a regular occurrence, so if you target a desirable home, you need to move fast, take time off from work and take a look ASAP.  No, we don't have the luxury of waiting until the weekend to show it, you have to jump as soon as the house comes on the market.  I cannot count the number of out of town buyer clients I have had buy a house sight unseen because they did not have the luxury of actually seeing it before an offer was made.  Of course, with Skype and Facetime, it's not as if they have no idea what they are getting into, but still...yes, it can be that crazy. 

A fast moving market can be exhausting and frustrating for all concerned and despite your best efforts, you may not prevail, even if you follow all of the tips above.  However, I can pretty much guarantee if you don't follow this advice, your odds of buying that dream home go down substantially.  So, if you're ready to jump into Alexandria's busy real estate market, take a deep breath, get qualified, hire a capable agent who knows the ins and outs of the market and get out there.

After all, SOMEONE is going to win the house and it may as well be you! 

Comments (29)

Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

That is a great list Susan Haughton , so many buyers are not prepared when i see them at my new listings,they should all read this first

Mar 16, 2017 03:36 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Scott.  Getting them to become believers can be difficult.

Mar 16, 2017 05:30 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

sound posting....thank you

Mar 16, 2017 03:53 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Richie.

Mar 16, 2017 05:30 PM
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!  Buyers are still adjusting to this seller's market, and why lose out on house after house when you can get it right the first time.  Excellent advice for ALL buyers!

Mar 16, 2017 04:33 PM
Susan Haughton

Thank you!  It's a tough lesson to learn, but sometimes they have to lose a house or two to really get it. 

Mar 16, 2017 05:31 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Susan Haughton ,

So glad to see this well deserved post be featured! You nailed it exactly! Your advice to buyers is spot on!!

Mar 16, 2017 04:59 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Dorie!  

Mar 16, 2017 05:32 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Susan- very feature worthy post!  All buyers should read this because I'm sure there are many who aren't prepared and still think they're going to get a deal!!!

Mar 16, 2017 06:46 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Kathy.  I think many of them are very surprised by market conditions.

Mar 16, 2017 07:45 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Susan indeed all good advice, getting the property is the "great deal" vs. "missing out over and over" is not a great deal! Congratulations on the Gold Star:)Endre

Mar 16, 2017 07:32 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks!  Many buyers are a little surprised at market conditions and it can take a few losses before they finally get it.

Mar 16, 2017 07:47 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Susan,

Very good tips for our market too. Appraisal may be a must, unless you have cash. I recommend a home inspection, even for the seller, because it gives a baseline for future reference. If the water heater breaks 3 years after the sale, a home inspection will show, that it was in working condition then. Lowers possibilities of lawsuits.

Mar 16, 2017 07:35 PM
Susan Haughton

Not everyone is cut out for every aspect of our markets, and naturally won't be competitive on certain properties in certain neighborhoods.  They will just adjust and change their focus. 

Mar 17, 2017 05:08 AM
Lloyd Binen
Certified Realty Services - Saratoga, CA
Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411

I hope they listen to you, Susan. It's all true and it's great advice.  

Mar 16, 2017 08:22 PM
Susan Haughton

Lloyd Binen  Thanks for the comment!

Mar 17, 2017 05:06 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Susan

This is top notch advice for buyers, and their agents who might not be advising them appropriately in order to compete. Better to know the truth of the market than tiptoe around the issues and have buyers not know what they are dealing with. They might not want to do what's needed - that's a different issue - but mincing words about what the market is like will not help anyone who is trying to buy a home in many of our markets.


Mar 16, 2017 08:22 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Jeff Dowler , for the comment.  It can be hard to hear, but necessary. 

Mar 17, 2017 05:05 AM
Dan Tabit
Keller Williams Bellevue - Sammamish, WA

Great points, to which I'd add, be patient. It sometimes takes a couple offers or more to realize what it will really take to win.  

Mar 17, 2017 12:20 AM
Susan Haughton

Dan Tabit   Definitely great advice about being patient...losing a house or two can be a necessary wake up call.  And, naturally, even when you do all the right things, sometimes you lose out because other people have also done the right things.  Thanks for commenting!

Mar 17, 2017 05:04 AM
Anne Corbin

I was blessed to "win" my first two bidding wars by offering a few small perks. My last effort, though, I didn't win. The buyer had restrictions on her loan type and it made the offer harder to dress up. Your comments are great.

Mar 17, 2017 07:19 AM
Mary M. Kandell
Russell Real Estate Services - Sandusky, OH

Words of wisdom on so  many levels.  Thank you for the opportunity to reblog

Mar 17, 2017 08:19 AM
Susan Haughton

Thank you for the nice comment and for reblogging it. 

Mar 17, 2017 12:54 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Susan,  So glad to see this Featured.  I tell my buyer clients ... you won't win in this market if you are sitting on the bench.  You have got to play to win.  

Mar 17, 2017 11:39 AM
Susan Haughton

Kathleen Daniels I am so stealing that it!  Thanks for the comment. 

Mar 17, 2017 12:53 PM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Excellent feature worthy post! Congrats!!

I'm currently in the market for a home and it's so stressful. I haven't found "the one" yet, but I'm quite anxious as to how we are going to make it all happen when we do find it. Homes are selling far too fast! Now, I just hope mine sells fast when the time comes!

Mar 17, 2017 12:42 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks, Sharon Tara and best of luck in your home search.

When we bought our last house, there was already an offer on it within the first hour on market.  Since we had been searching for almost a year before we found the perfect place, we just HAD to have it!  I totally understand how you feel and know you will prevail when the time comes. 

Mar 17, 2017 12:53 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

A great game plan you have laid out here Susan, and that first rule is always important in any market, Be Prepared.



Mar 17, 2017 08:11 PM
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Your post is right on point we have to be prepared for whatever the market conditions are.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Mar 19, 2017 07:59 PM
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Congratulations on earning a feature for your post.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Mar 19, 2017 08:00 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Good Morning, Susan Haughton - This post is plastered with excellent pearls of wisdom! Congratulations on a very well-deserved feature!

Sometimes you have to shake your head and wonder, where are people getting their advice from or are they just not listening? Your blog post makes things very clear!

Have a wonderful day!!!

Mar 27, 2017 03:46 AM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Susan

Wonderful write my friend, VB almost missed this post, congrats on the feature from the AR Gods and your post has been featured to the group:


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Apr 05, 2017 09:25 PM
Susan Haughton

Thanks Robert Vegas Bob Swetz !  As always, I appreciate your support.

Apr 06, 2017 06:08 AM
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

These are great guidelines for buyers who think they can buy at bargain prices and slow-play the market.

Aug 03, 2017 02:23 PM