Sign of the Times | After Gwyn Garrett's husband passed away last year, the retired schoolteacher was left with a 3,100-square-foot house in western Henrico County's Fox Hall that she didn't need. Garrett wanted a lifestyle change. She found a second-floor Monument Avenue condo within walking distance of First Baptist and her sister and nieces. "I put the house on the market right at the end of February 2010," she explains. "I've had people come and look, and nothing. In the meantime I purchased the condo. I own this house with no mortgage."
The condo was $375,000. She sought $475,000 for her Fox Hall house. Assessments dropped. One day she found a letter on her door.
Telecom professional David Reed, with his wife and two young children, was renting in Wellesley, having moved from a condo in D.C.'s Georgetown. The family had rented out the condo due to the difficulty of making a sale. The Wellesley house that the Reeds were renting, however, was getting sold. Simultaneously, Reed learned a short sale was occurring in their Georgetown building, meaning that any sale of their condo would be further devalued.
"We asked our tenant if she'd [like] to keep leasing, and she said sure," Reed says. Scouting Fox Hall in search of new digs in Richmond, the Reeds found Garrett's house and asked if she'd be willing to rent it to them.
Garrett had contracted with Melissa Savenko to sell her home, but the Realtor understood her client's plight.
The Reeds are now renting Garrett's place at $2,500 per month for 18 months, by which time, they all hope, the market will have altered. "Who knows?" says Garrett. "For right now, this is the way it works for me."
Priced to Move | John Simmons , a South Hill, Va., native who describes himself as "a country boy," moved to the Richmond region in 1971. By 2002, he'd chosen to build an 1,800-square-foot, all-brick, three-bedroom rancher on an acre in Varina, near the Charles City County line. He was the subcontractor for the home, which also has a two-car garage. He got assistance to frame it and used his background in electrical work to wire it.
In 2008, with his kids grown, Simmons chose to downsize. Water and sewer lines were going in around him, precursors of development. "I like my space," he says. "Not interested in getting hemmed in." He put his house on the market that April.
Spring turned to winter, and then, after another year passed, it was clear that the market had stalled. Following a Realtor's advice, Simmons started dropping the price from the home's assessed value of $279,000, eventually reaching $239,000.
"Nothing happened. I didn't get a contract. Nothing."
Deciding to switch Realtors, Simmons met Danita Jackson, who counseled him to either wait it out and sell the house for what he thought it was worth or try to move it.
Simmons ended up dropping his asking price to $204,000. That move, coupled with the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, brought interest, and at press time, he had received two offers. "I've got an inspection coming up," he says. "Providing they don't go too far into left field, I can't see anything that needs to be done."
In search of wide-open spaces, Simmons will likely move to King William County.
Home Again | "I just decided to build a new house in the same neighborhood," David Hajek says. He likes Manakin-Sabot but wanted a bigger home facing the water. "In the process of that, we said, ‘OK, we'll put the old house on the market.' "
That was the fall of 2007.
The house actually sold this past summer. Except that it didn't. "We got all the way to closing, and on the day of closing, the buyer sent a letter and said they weren't going to close, due to a technicality in the agreement."
The three-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot house was brand-new when Hajek bought it in 2005. "It's a planned development. An association takes care of the grass and other maintenance for a low fee."
Hajek and Realtor Mary K. McDonald conducted open houses, distributed brochures and made a CD-ROM promoting the home's features. At the same time, new construction in nearby Centerville attracted buyers.
Hajek learned that if he'd been somewhat less aggressive on the price earlier, it might've sold. "But, like anybody, I was hoping to maximize my value," he says.
He started in the mid-$400s and ended up in the mid- to high-$300s when the home sold this spring. "I realized that was the reality in the market," says Hajek, adding that it sold for more than it would've in the failed 2009 sale.