Is "Affordable Housing" a Washington, DC Oxymoron?
In most parts of the country, $700,000 buys a fantastic house in a perfect location - it's big, with pillars holding up the wide front veranda, state-of-the-art kitchen and baths, and it sits on a lot that is big enough for a swimming pool and a pony.
But in Washington's three most popular zip codes, $700,000 might buy you a really nice 2-bedroom condo.
If you are looking for a detached home in Upper Northwest DC's most popular zip codes (20008,20015 and 20015) there isn't much for sale - only 44 homes at the moment. And only three are priced at under $1 million. The home on the right is for sale at $925,000. It's a new listing, and I predict it will be under contract very soon after the first open house this weekend, probably at over the asking price.
In most cases, finding a home in DC is all about compromise. And if the numbers in neighbohoods like Chevy Chase or Cleveland Park don't work for you, here are some possibilities to consider:
Location: there are other neighborhoods where you buying power goes much further. While inventory is tight everywhere, here are some suggestions for branching out:
- Along the 16th Street corridor, you can often find great values there.
- In Northeast Washington, over near Catholic University, Brookland has some wonderful values and a Metro stop.
- If you venture a bit norht into Montgomery County, Bethesda and Chevy Chase prices are similar to those in DC, but if you head est into Silver Spring, there are some very attractive neighborhoods off of Colesville Road. The house on the left is currently listed for $649,999.
Type of Home: depending on your space requirements, there are some attractive condo alternatives, especially if you are willing to expand your search geographically. The same is true if you are willing to include row houses, which open up the possibility of Capitol Hill.
Property Condition: buying a fixer upper in DC can be a little scary. Our housing stock is old - some of it dating back to the 1800's. But if a house is just cluttered or ugly or smells a little funky, you might be able to work with it. You'll want to be very careful about having the home inspected and getting estimates on the work to be done. Most of these places hold interesting secrets when it comes to old termite damage, Edison era wiring or old galvanized pipes that are about to handle their last flush. And until recently, the requirement for building permits was largely ignored.
Wish List: you have to take a hard look at your wish list. Do you absolutely need a brand new kitchen? And what about that extra bedroom - would a den or extra space on a lower level work? Every thing you must have limits your choices.
Price: Of course, if you can figure out a way to up your budget without doing anything scary, that goes a long way to expand your choices.
Usually, there is a little bit of give in each of these areas, and usually I can find my clients homes that, while they might not look like the original vision they shared with me, wind up exceeding expectations.
As one of my own buyers put it, "All you have to do is forget about all of your criteria, and then you can get a great place!"
Well, maybe not all of your criteria.
If you are looking for a home in Washington, DC, please contact me before you make any important real estate decisions. Call me at 202-549-5167 or email me at email@example.com.