In case you missed them, two recent stores in The Washington Post take a closer look at the local real estate market.
In yesterday’s paper, Lori Aratani writes that Mount Vernon Triangle, the Northwest Washington neighborhood flanked by the Convention Center and Chinatown, is teeming with new high-rises. Aratani writes:
“For a long time, this was a forgotten part of D.C.,” said Guy T. Steuart III, senior vice president of Steuart Investment, whose family once ran a Ford dealership on New York Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets and owns several parcels in the neighborhood.
But today, the triangle bounded by New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey avenues is experiencing a renaissance. Crime is down. Asphalt and parking lots are giving way to high-rises. Even the name of the neighborhood blog — The Triangle: Not Just Parking Lots Anymore — gives a hat tip to the neighborhood’s transition.
Nine new high-rises — apartments, condominiums and office buildings — have gone up since 2005, and at least a dozen more projects are under construction or in the pipeline.
Columnist Barry Ritholtz offers a less rosy view of the real estate market in his Sunday column. He writes that as many as 10 million bank-owned, distressed, short-sales and delinquent homes lurk in the shadows. They’re not on the market yet, but could eventually reverse the burgeoning spring-time optimism we’re seeing now. Ritholtz continues:
That’s not all. There’s also a huge overhang of underwater homeowners — whose houses are worth as much as 25 percent less than what is owed. The owners don’t qualify for a mortgage modification. They may be delinquent but aren’t in default.
Two-thirds of all U.S. houses have mortgages. Of those, an estimated 21 to 29 percent of the mortgages are underwater, or up to 16 million houses. When prices finally do rise, we can expect many of these no-longer-underwater owners to put their houses up for sale. If only one in three do, that is another 5 million homes in inventory.
While the influx of homes on the market — and the number of new high-rise apartment and condo buildings popping up in the District — may be favorable for potential buyers, Ritholtz points out another set of roadblocks for homeownership: ponying up a downpayment and securing a mortgage.
“The simple truth,” he writes, is that “house prices are down 35 percent from their peaks and mortgage rates are at record lows, but for those lacking the down payment and/or ability to access mortgage credit, houses are only theoretically affordable — but not for them.”
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