Category Archives: Neighborhoods

Navy Yard and Nationals Ballpark, Boom to Bust to Boom Again?

Back in 2005 when it was announced that the new home of the Washington Nationals would be in Southwest, the area went crazy and because it was the height of the real estate boom, development of the area quickly ensued.   Then……..the market crashed and in April 2009, the Washington Post did a piece titled, “At Nationals Park, District of Dreams Hits a Slump.”  For anyone that had just purchased a home or land in this area, this was the last thing they wanted to read.  Here we are in January 2010, almost five years later, the Nationals still suck,  a 35 foot deep hole still sits there, the offices are still vacant and the only cool thing to develop around the stadium was the beer garden. 

For a while it seemed as if this area might be doomed, but an article posted in the Washington Business Journal today, “Navy Growth May Bring New Wave of Development,” may provide the jumpstart that many have been looking for.   According to the article the Navy has decided to expand its current foothold in Southeast by 700,000 square feet and hire an additional 1,100 workers by 2011 and as many as 2,400 by 2015. This could be a huge addition to the struggling waterfront areas.   

What is Currently Happening

On a recent drive past the Soutwest Waterfront it appeared as if a lot was going on.   The shady club known as H20 has officially gone out of business and Hogates is attempting to reclaim the space and revive the brand that so many once loved.   In addition the area directly around the Southwest Waterfront Metro seems to be moving along well.  Soon there should be new condos, apartments, office space, and much more.  Best of all it looks like they actually have tenants for most of these properties, unlike over by the ballpark.  

So it begs the question, what happens if the Navy moves forward with its ambitious expansion plan?   Hopefully a lot.  If this were to happen, given the proximity to the ballpark we could so a lot of the vacant retail, housing and office spaces fill up and fulfill the District of Dreams prophecy that once was.  Don’t get too excited because it doesn’t seem as if this plan has been fully approved, but if you currently own a home in the area I would feel a little sigh of relief.  For those looking to purchase a home in this area, continue to follow the progress that the Navy Yard is making.  It is never a good idea to purchase a property with the assumption that you can make a quick return on investment, look what happenend back in 2006.  But move into this area today, let five or so years go by and you could potentially reap the reward of your patience especially if this expansion plot becomes a reality and the Nationals actually win some games!   Overall I do believe this area will provide a good opportunity for investors, especially with the low prices that currently exist and the equally low interest rates.  The only question is how long until the dream becomes a reality.

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What is the Deal With 14th St?!?!

*This post refers to the section of 14th Street between U and R. 

What is the deal with 14th Streeet? This is a great little neighborhood, but in terms of investment potential I would look elsewhere, at least for now.  It definitely has opportunity to flourish but right now its a gamble.  Do you bet half a million on red or black?

Two years ago this area seemed like it was destined for greatness but after the latest news I am not so convinced, at least from an investors standpoint.   We recently learned via a post on 14thandYou, that Go Mama Go is Go Mama Going out of business sometime in the next couple of months.   This is devastating for this area.  What is so troublesome about this closing is that its not the first.  If you remember, over a year ago the boutique clothing store at the corner of S and 14th closed, Garden District abandoned their older much better looking diggs for a fenced in auto lot, the ghetto clothing store between T and U closed, the seafood restaurant on the same block closed, Whitman Walker abandoned their hq for a cheaper location and now this.   This biggest concern with this is that it provides another opportunity for another vacant property to clutter the street leaving the opportunity open for yet another bar to come in or not.   In a couple of years this section could really just be bars and furniture stores or a vacant paradise, not a really appealing site for somebody looking to throw down $500,000 or more, at least in my opinion. 

This area has definitely  hit a wall and its seems to be void of creative opportunity, perhaps this is due to the stinginess of the ANC or citizens that live in this area or its lack of appeal due to the more appealing surrounding area.  Perhaps this area will eventually be sandwiched by the other developing areas, but looking at the situation realistically, pockets like this exist all over the city and have existed for many years.  Will the section of 14th between U and R share that same fate?   I don’t know, but in terms of real estate value I think this area has seen a large hit.  Maybe its due largely to the economy, but I think the 14th street facade may have played a role as well.   Over 2 years ago a 2 bedroom / 2.5 bathroom condo went for over $520,000 VIEW LISTING DETAIL HERE and a few others went for an even higher price tag.  Just recently on 12/28/2009 that same size condo went for only $412,000 VIEW LISTING DETAIL HERE.   To make matters worse, a two-story home just a few doors down is currently listed at $719,000 VIEW LISTING DETAIL HERE and even that price-tag is a little too high, which is why it has been on the market for so long (a few months back it was listed “for sale by owner” for only $650,000).

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SW DC: Land of the COOP

Have you ever toured properties in SW DC and noticed that most of the high-rise properties or low-rise communities have COOP fees?  If you haven’t then I am about to teach you something, and if you have noticed continue reading anyway.  

What is the difference between a COOP and Condo?

In a cooperative the building containing the residential units or apartments are owned by a ‘cooperative housing corporation.’ In a condominium owns an individual apartment in fee simple. In addition, the buyer owns an undivided interest in the common elements such as the exterior walls, roof, pool and other recreational areas.  

Regardless of whether you are looking to buy a COOP or Condo they both have monthly fees that are assessed to the individual owners.  These fees cover a range of items from cutting the grass to maintaining the building and much more.  It varies per building but this information is usually available via the listing document.  If none of this makes sense and you have more questions please feel free to ask them in the comments section. 

Why are COOPs all over the place in SW?

To be perfectly honest I don’t know, and I haven’t found an agent that can give me a straight answer on this.  What I do know is that COOP was a form of ownership that existed before Condo associations so you see a lot of them in the northeast US, especially in NYC.   I am not sure why the bulk of DC COOPs happen to be in SW.  Perhaps it is because to a large extent, most of the high rises that are close to the water date back to the 70’s and before. 

When looking at a COOP property in SW I noticed that the fees were high.

This is very true.  I have shown properties with COOP fees as high as $1100 and I am sure higher ones exist.  Don’t be scared though.  This fee usually includes a lot.  Because of the way COOP buildings are setup, the building is charged one giant tax bill.  The COOP board then splits this tax bill between the units, usually by figuring a cost per square foot.   Not only do the COOP’s usually factor taxes into the fees but they may also factor utilities.  In some cases the fee might also be high because of the age of the building and the lack of an adequate reserve fund for repairs.   These are all things you should review with your real estate agent before making a purchase.  Any unanswered questions can usually be found in the buildings COOP or Condo documents which the selling agent must release to you.  If they won’t release the documents until you have a signed contract, you then have three business days (for previously occupied property) to review the documents and cancel the contract.  For new construction you have seven business days.

Long Story Short

There are tons of COOP buildings in SW and other parts of DC.  Don’t be alarmed when you see such a high fee, just ask, “what am I getting.”

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Understanding the Different Hoods: Why Its So Important

When looking to buy in DC I think the most important thing you need to understand is the breakdown of  neighborhoods.  DC, though it is rather small in comparison to places like New York City, can be broken down into MANY different neighborhoods.  Some are based on culture, some are based on wealth and others based on just wanting to go out and get drunk (ADMO, jk).   I started to do some research so that I could list all of the different hoods and came across a posting from the Washington City Paper.   Not only did it list all of the neighborhoods, but it grouped several neighborhoods together and gave the groupings ridiculous….but true titles.  If you actually click the hyperlink I posted and then click the categories on the left side of the page it will actually give you an accurate description and rating of the different hoods.  Anyway here it is:

1. C-SPANistan
Capitol Hill, Lincoln Park, Stanton Park, Rosedale
2. Land of the Loft
Logan Circle, Shaw, Mount Vernon Square, Penn Quarter / Chinatown 
3. Banana Republic Republic
Georgetown (yes that deserves a line of its own or so it thinks)
4. Carryouter Banks
Anacostia, Fairlawn, Barry Farm, Buena Vista
5. Sacramento
Brookland, University Heights
6. Laptopia
DuPont Circle, Kalorama, West End, Foggy Bottom
7. Connecticut, DC
Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Forest Hills, North Cleveland Park
8. Notyetworth
Petworth, Brightwood Park, Manor Park, Crestwood
9. Hubcapitol Hill
Edgewood, Langdon, Ivy City, Trinidad, Kingman Park, Brentwood Village
10. Liquorridor
Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Pleasant Plains
11. Episcopalia
Burleith, Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, McLean Gardens
12. Upper Caucasia
Chevy Chase, Hawthorne, Barnaby Woods, Pinehurst Circle
13. Subarubia
Tenlytown, Friendship Heights, American University Park
14. Mild, Mild West
Palisades, Spring Valley, Wesley Heights, Senate Heights, Foxhall, Foxhall Village
15. The Dissed-Trict
Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, Bellevue, Shipley Terrace
16. Affordia
Deanwood, Burrville, Lincoln Heights
17. Turrets Syndrome
Bloomingdale, LeDroit Park, Eckington, Park View
18. Granolan Heights
Takoma, Shepherd Park, Colonial Village, Lamond-Riggs
19. HUDson Valley
Marshall Heights, Benning Heights, Capitol View
20. The Bungalowlands
Riggs Park, Michigan Park, Woodridge, Fort Lincoln, Gateway
21. Lawn and Order
Randle Highlands, Twining, Penn Branch, Fort Dupont Park, Fairfax Village, Garfield Heights, Hillcrest
22. Nats Flats
Southwest, Navy Yard, Buzzard Point
23. Drive-Over Country
Mayfair Parkside, Eastland Gardens, River Terrace, Greenway

PHEEEWWW thats a lot!!!!!   This is certainly an overwhelming list but its a fairly accurate breakdown of the city.  So how do you decide on a place to live after seeing a list this intense? 

Well its pretty simple.  Though there are a ton of neighborhoods.  They are small enough that you could visit several in a day and get a good flavor for what they have to offer.   I think the challenge then becomes matching your personality to the neighborhood.  The LAST thing you want to do is buy a property JUST BECAUSE of its investment potential. There are places all over this city that have investment potential written all over them.  There are neighborhoods and then just individual homes that need work.  But if your not happy with the neighborhood how can you expect to remain sane?  Sure you can buy in a certain part of town because of the promise of a high return on investment, but will you truly be happy living there while waiting for that return?  Or worse yet, what if that market never recovers?  You will be stuck with a property in a part of town that you don’t like and then you might even have a tough time trying to resell it. BIG MISTAKE. 

Think about what you really enjoy and what you really hate (pros and cons list).  Think about the conveniences you have now, and the conveniences you want in the future and then start to explore these neighborhoods.  Obviously the best way to understand is having lived in one of them, but realistically are you going to live in each one of the above hoods before making a decision?!?!?! NO.   So short of that I would recommend hanging out in different restaurants and shops.  Also speak to the people who work in these places and don’t just speak to one person.  Speak to four or five.  Another good option is exploring neighborhood blogs.  These are popping up ALL over the place.   Just go to Google and type in “DC Neighborhood Blogs.”  I would list some off but I want to save that for a future post.   My only pointer with blogs is be careful what you believe, not everything is true.  I think the best test of a blogs reliability is how many comments you see in response to the postings.

In conclusion DC is a big little city and has a lot to offer.  As a home buyer you need to find your perfect fit in the city.   It’s not enough to just say, “I want to move to DC.”  You need to know where you want to move in DC otherwise you will be sorry.  The only other advice I have is be careful when working with real estate agents.  They often find a part of the city that they LOVE and they try to push it on your.  Maybe they live there or maybe its just in their comfort zone, but bottom line is you need to figure out what is most comfortable for you.

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