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Ask Eli: Real Estate Customs and Contracts Vary Significantly by Market

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Is it normal for sellers to leave appliances behind for the next owner?

Answer: A friend of mine is moving in Southern California and mentioned having to move his refrigerator to the new house, which I found odd, but apparently, it’s common in California and other parts of the country. My theory is that one day somebody decided to take their coveted refrigerator with them and it created a chain reaction of everybody having to take their appliances with them after that!

Over the years, I’ve picked up on customs and contract terms that differ significantly here from other markets. I thought I’d come up with a list of standard customs and contract terms in Northern Virginia that often come as a surprise to buyers and homeowners who have transacted in other markets.

I’d love to hear from readers in the comments about other local practices that surprised you if you were used to real estate customs and contracts in another market.

  • Appliances Convey: All of the appliances, including washer/dryer, have conveyed (transferred to the next owner) in every transaction I’ve been part of. Buyers and sellers have to agree during negotiations what appliances and other items do or do not convey.
  • No Individual Attorneys: It’s rare for an attorney outside of the Title Company to be involved in a transaction. The same Title Company almost always works on behalf of both parties (without bias).
  • (Lack of) Seller Disclosures: Virginia is one of the few “Buyer Beware” (Caveat Emptor) states in the country; which essentially means that sellers in Virginia do not have to disclose any property defects, but they can’t hide them or lie about them either. For homes built before 1978, there’s a one-page lead disclosure form for a seller to note if they’re aware of the existence of lead paint on the property. Most states, including D.C. and MD, have lengthy seller-disclosure forms.
  • Dual Agency Allowed, Not Common: Dual Agency, as defined in Virginia, is when one agent represents the buyer and seller on the same transaction. While allowed, if both parties sign-off, it is pretty uncommon.
  • No Response/Counter Deadline: The contract does not require either party to respond to an offer or counter within a certain period of time unless one party writes in their own deadline.
  • Earnest Money Deposits/Escrows: It is customary for the deposit (EMD/Escrow) buyers make to secure the contract to be due within 3-5 days of ratification (terms accepted by both parties) and the deposit is usually 1-5% of the purchase price.
  • Days: Contractual obligations are usually measured in days from ratification. A “day” in Northern Virginia contracts is any calendar day, no skipping weekends or holidays, and ends at 9 p.m.

What’s the takeaway here? Even if you have real estate experience in other markets or past experience in our local market, it’s always good to refresh yourself on local customs and contracts.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local real estate, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. #10C Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 390-9460.

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