realtor clients at closing

Written by Kyra Newman

Getting shot down three times in a row in trying to buy a house could have stopped some people in their tracks.

Not Paul Schellhammer and Liz Farber, who used those experiences as learning moments during a frenetic time for homebuyers. Continuing to work with Realtor Mark Cipolletti and lean into his advice, they refined each new offer to come up with the right bid in hopes of finally resonating with a seller.

Their wait and insights paid off – to the tune of spending $100,000 under budget – when their offer on a fourth house was accepted in fall 2022.

“Mark understood what our points of emphasis were and knew what had been happening during bid processes at a tough time for buyers. We’d say, ‘Let’s do this.’ And he’d say, ‘maybe you want to think about something else’ and point out the options,” Paul said. Those included offering more earnest money, determining how much to bid over asking price (without going crazy – or broke) or negotiating a longer rent-back period with a seller who wasn’t anxious to get out the door.

Paul and Liz had reached out to Mark, who previously had helped Liz sell her West End home, just as the pandemic sellers’ market was ramping up. Looking for their first house together, the couple wanted to enjoy the benefits of city living, such as easily taking their long-legged rescue dog on walks and having great restaurants, coffee houses and other amenities within blocks. 

“Mark possesses such a great study of the market, and he’ll give you his honest thoughts."

They targeted several neighborhoods where Mark could start looking. Knowing those locations would likely land them in an older home, the two added their preference for a previously rehabilitated home, but light renovations weren’t off the table.

Their initial offers came on two houses in the Museum District and one in Forest Hill. They could have turned any of those houses into a home.

Church Hill row house Richmond Virginia

Then, Mark took them to tour a two-story classic townhome in Church Hill. A red door with gleaming glass panels invited them into the olive house.

“When this house came up, it just clicked. It was the right size for us and the right area. We just loved it,” said Paul, a Navy veteran and longtime private contractor who works one day a week from home. “We immediately worked with Mark to put in the right offer.”

Built in 1910, the house – totaling just over 1,500 square feet – had been fully refurbished, featuring new appliances and a well-appointed kitchen with fresh cabinets for a couple who enjoy cooking. The bedrooms and bathrooms are generously sized for a home built in that generation. There’s space where Liz could work for her job with a higher education savings organization. And one last big perk? No grass to mow, since a generous deck anchors the backyard which is just big enough for the dog to stretch her legs.

Making it their own required fast action, and “Mark’s experience in the last few years of dealing with this market was great,” Paul said. “Mark possesses such a great study of the market, and he’ll give you his honest thoughts. If he has other ideas, he’ll shape those in a way that helps you understand why those are better options. We really leveraged his experience to make the right bid.”

And they got the house.

The couple closed in late November and moved in just before Christmas, opting to unpack the holiday decorations first and simply enjoy the season in their new home. They finished unpacking as the calendar turned to January. 

And they’ve been exploring the nooks and crannies of their Church Hill community. Some of Richmond’s acclaimed go-to eateries are within walking distance, including Sub Rosa Bakery, Grisette and The Roosevelt. They also discovered a new favorite coffee, the in-house-roasted Church Hill blend from Riverbend Roastery.

“I don’t think we could be any happier,” Paul said. “This house and location are definitely what we wanted.”


Start your home search off on the right foot by contacting Mark today.