Monday, November 8, 2010

What $350K Gets You in DC

I'm starting a new regular post on the blog, because I love real estate so much. In the first real estate comp, I take a look at what you can get for $350K in DC's current rental market:

1 br 1 ba top floor condo in Dupont Circle (1904 R St NW #6)


This 573 sq foot condo isn't huge, but the location is key. You're only 1 block from the restaurants, bars and shopping of Connecticut Ave, 2 blocks from the Dupont Safeway, and less than a 10 minute walk to the Dupont North metro entrance and several bus lines. It's a penthouse unit, and because it's a back unit it's likely quieter than others in the building. The building also has central A/C, which is shockingly not that prevalent in DC condos--and a huge boon in the hot, humid DC summers. There are also some interesting architectural features to this unit...see built in bookcases, below



However, there are some negatives to consider. At this price point in this neighborhood, you're not getting parking--and street parking here can be difficult. The Redfin/MLS listing doesn't mention an elevator...which means you're carrying all your furniture up to the top floor when you move into the building. And, this unit doesn't have it's own W/D...you'll be sharing laundry facilities located in the basement of the building. The kitchen also has an odd, cramped layout...there's a bar next to the bedroom, adjacent to the kitchen...an attempt to add more counter space, surely.

DC Racontuer Conclusion: This would be a great buy for someone who is single, or has a million books. The neighborhood is an especially safe one, so that could potentially be a positive for a woman living alone. But, if you're someone who really loves cooking, this kitchen won't enthuse you. And for me personally, no W/D in the unit would be a deal-breaker...it makes the unit feel more like an apartment than a home.

If you're someone who would prefer a house to a condo, then you might like this next listing.....

2 br 1 ba attached row house with potential in Truxton Circle (1404 3rd St NW)


1404 3rd St is a much larger piece of real estate, clocking in at 1,236 sq feet.

This Victorian is described as a "fixer-upper" needing "some updating." The kitchen appliances are older and aren't stainless steel, and the bathroom could use some cosmetic updates as well....but all fairly easy updates and mostly cosmetic concerns that could be fixed by a younger buyer (or couple) over the period of a few years.



However, location may be a concern for some buyers. It's a little far to walk to the Mt. Vernon or Shaw-Howard metro stations, especially in the evenings, and the proximity to the rougher N. Capitol Street (2 blocks) may make some uncomfortable.

DC Raconteur verdict: This house would be an excellent choice for a young couple buying their first home, as long as they don't mind a little "sweat equity" and a neighborhood that could take as much as a decade to develop.

If you'd prefer a more centrally located property, there are still many affordable offerings in Columbia Heights that are both closer to the metro and to the convenience of the DCUSA shopping center (Target, Best Buy, etc).

2 br 1 ba basement condo in Columbia Heights (1458 Fairmont St NW #1)


Typically, basement condo units are a deal-breaker for me. But, the basement unit in this end-row house offers a lot of light and a large floor plan (1,008 sq ft). It has both front and back entrances, making it feel more like a home than an apartment. It also has a few "higher-end" offerings like a gas range in the kitchen and an in-unit W/D.


However, the kitchen appliances aren't updated, and instead of re-doing the counter top it looks like the developer decided to tile it over...not the most aesthetic choice:


This unit is a good choice for someone who wants the convenience to shopping and public transport offered by the Dupont condo, but with a nicer kitchen layout and without the need to share laundry facilities with your building-mates. However, basement units can vary greatly in the amount of noise that comes from the street and from the upstairs neighbors. I'd screen this unit cautiously before falling for it's bells and whistles.

Finally...if you're someone who drives frequently...or someone who wants a "fixer-upper" you can put your personal twist on, the above properties won't necessarily be your cup of tea. Perhaps you'd prefer something in Petworth, where homes tend to be larger but remain affordable (mostly because of their age).

4 br 2 br row house with yard and off-street parking in Petworth (764 Newton Pl NW)



This is definitely the most house for your buck. At 1,360 sq feet, this home has a basement that can be converted into a rental/in-law suite, a backyard, a second-level deck, and space for offstreet parking in the rear. It's also one of DC's desirable 3-level row homes.

However, I'd only recommend this home for someone who is a professional contractor or EXTREMELY motivated. The bathrooms need to be totally redone (see the vision of Pepto Pink, below) and pretty much all the flooring in the house needs to be ripped up.





Also, I'd remind folks not familiar with Petworth that there are safety concerns with this neighborhood. Most Petworth residents are families who have lived there for quite a long time and who would make wonderful neighbors. But it should be noted that there is still active gang and crew activity in Petworth...including a rash of shootings this past summer. While most of this violence can be classified as crew on crew, it can be very unsettling for those who live nearby.

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