A personal connection makes the difference for military homebuyers

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Real Estate,Dean Bartoli Smith

A personal connection between buyers and sellers sometimes can make the difference in negotiating a contract, even topping price considerations, as it did with a military family moving to Northern Virginia

Tiffany Bryson needed to move her family from Washington state in June because her husband, David, had been assigned to the Pentagon. He was serving as an operations officer on a ship in the Arabian Sea at the time, so she was house hunting on her own.

They wanted to be in Fairfax Station, where they had lived before, so starting in April, Bryson began searching online and found a five-bedroom home she liked.

"I couldn't call him on the ship," she said. "I had to text him and send an email, and he would answer when he had time. He told me, 'I think you need to go out there and look at it,' " she said.

She left her five children with friends in Washington state and got on a plane, meeting her agent at the house on a Wednesday.

"We went through the home and she contacted David on the ship," said Realtor Robyn Burdett of Re/Max Allegiance in Fairfax. "He was able to use a phone, and they talked about each room and she sent him several photos from her iPhone of things he was concerned about."

The home had been on the market for 21 days. One offer had fallen through, and no other offers were on the table at the time. Burdett said she knew there was interest from several buyers, however, and sure enough, Wednesday night two new offers appeared.

"I was very nervous that we would not get it. There were no offers on the house when I looked at it," Bryson said. "I had already fallen in love with the house and knew David would, too."

The home was listed for $739,000, and the Brysons' original plan was to make a low-ball offer and ask the seller to pay closing costs.

"By the time we sat down to talk with David on a conference call, I learned that the listing agent was presenting that evening at 7 p.m., so we had to decide what to do," Burdett said. "We decided to take the idea of a low-price offer off the table."

They went with the listing price and asked for closing costs. But Burdette had an additional idea.

"I had Tiffany write up a personal letter to the sellers telling her story; that she used to live in the area, that her husband had been deployed, their move back with David coming home and what that was going to mean to her family," Burdette said.

They dropped off the offer and letter at the seller's home, and Burdett introduced Bryson to the sellers. Both families have twins and knew a lot of the same people.

"When I got the call later that evening," Burdett said, "the listing agent told me that the sellers wanted Tiffany to have the home!"

The sellers countered with no closing costs to the full-price offer. The Brysons also agreed to give the sellers up to a two-month rent-back that Burdett believes also made a huge difference in getting the deal to go forward. A rent-back is when the house is sold but the owners continue to live there, paying rent to the buyers until they are able to settle into a new home.

"We were not the highest offer, but still won the home," Burdett said. "Buying and selling is an emotional decision, and having that connection between the parties makes for a great transaction."

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