Finding the right house in D.C. may require trying another neighborhood

July 24, 2013

(Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)
Home buyers may want to consider less popular neighborhoods like the Southwest Waterfront to find their ideal home in D.C.

Morris, a D.C. real estate agent and investor, offers advice on how buyers can find a home in their price range in the city. 

My clients had their hearts set on buying a renovated three-bedroom house with parking in the $600,000 to $700,000 price range.

Which sounds reasonable, except that they wanted to buy on Capitol Hill, which has been at the epicenter of the insane D.C. real estate market.

For several months, we saw as many homes as we could and wrote contracts on a number of them. But like the experience of many would-be home buyers in the District, my clients were repeatedly outbid. Finally, I broached the subject of exploring other neighborhoods. This time, they were receptive.

Takoma was probably the last place my clients thought they would buy a home. In fact, they had never even heard of it. But once they walked into the first and only home I showed them in the neighborhood, it was clear that this was the house. The almost 100-year-old, beautifully renovated arts and craft home had every feature on their wish list. We wrote their offer with no competing contracts to worry about, and it was accepted.

Many people planning to purchase a home in D.C. start out similarly focused on a few popular neighborhoods. And like my clients, they find themselves either priced out of these areas or not willing to pay top dollar for a tiny or otherwise less than ideal property. So what do you do when you love Capitol Hill, but not its prices?

Here is a list of popular neighborhoods (on the left) and their less expensive alternatives (on the right). You may be surprised by what you can buy within your budget.

Capitol Hill/Petworth in Northwest

Capitol Hill is the place to live if you’ve moved to D.C. to work in politics or even if you haven’t. Picture block after block of narrow row houses in a variety of colors stacked like sardines standing on their tails, which sounds odd, but the overall effect is charming.

Walking is the preferred mode of transportation there with restaurants, Metro and your choice of parks in close proximity. The only thing you’ll have to compromise on is space, as the homes tend to be small and have limited parking. Prices for single-family houses range from $600,000 to $2 million. Condos cost from $250,000 to $1 million.

Petworth is a vibrant neighborhood in the middle stages of its transformation. Spacious row houses are abundant and there are numerous properties 70 years old and over that have been renovated.

New restaurants, coffee shops and bars have opened, with more to come, and there is a Metro stop on the southern edge of the neighborhood. For many, Petworth has long been an affordable option to Columbia Heights or Adams Morgan. I would argue that it still is, but prices are not what they used to be. Prices range from $350,000 to $650,000 for single-family houses. Condos sell for $125,000 to $450,000.

Chevy Chase/Takoma in Northwest

Chevy Chase is known for its tree-lined streets and suburban feel. But this is no cookie cutter neighborhood.

Lovely single-family homes are abundant in a harmonious mix of styles that range from colonials to bungalows, and from ramblers to Tudors. There is a small commercial area on Connecticut Avenue with a few restaurants and shops, and a larger retail presence on Wisconsin Avenue, which has a Metro stop. There is also a smattering of condo buildings on several major thoroughfares. Prices for single-family houses range from $800,000 to more than $2 million. Condos are $200,000  to $1.8 million.

Takoma is located in the northeastern-most section of Brightwood. It is a lovely, eclectic neighborhood with a carefully cultivated small town vibe.

There are lots of bungalows, Victorians and Cape Cod-style houses there, and a few condos within a block or two of the Metro. The quaint downtown is picturesque, with its weekly farmer’s market, mom and pop restaurants and interesting shopping venues. House prices range from $300,000 to $700,000. Condos are $250,000 to $400,000.

Dupont Circle in Northwest/Southwest Waterfront

Dupont Circle is one of very few areas in Northwest where you can get a sandwich at 4 a.m. (Kramer’s Books). But seriously, if you like the hustle and bustle of living in an urban environment and having that “city” vibe all the time, this is the place for you.

The neighborhood is known for its day and night life. There are many restaurants and bars, art galleries, shops, embassies, office buildings and a Metro stop. The residential real estate consists mostly of condos and rental apartments; townhomes sell in the 7 figures. Condos range from $275,000 to more than $2 million.

The Southwest Waterfront is truly a hidden gem and is experiencing a sort of renaissance. As its name suggests, it is located on the water and is within blocks of National Stadium, the National Mall and Arena Stage.

It has two Metro stations, restaurants and shopping. This is one of the most amenity-rich neighborhoods in D.C. that is not on many people’s radar. Co-ops and condos dominate the market, and prices are still very affordable. Condos sell for between $125,000 and $500,000. Co-ops cost $125,000 to $300,000.

Here are several other neighborhoods, at a variety of price points, that should be on your list:

• Hillcrest: Detached homes in Southeast, $175,000 to $550,000.

• Riggs Park: Semi attached homes in Northeast, $250,000 to $450,000.

• Woodridge: Detached homes in Northeast, $300,000 to $600,000.

• Brookland: Variety of home styles in Northeast, $250,000 to $750,000.

You may ultimately decide that a small house or condo in your ideal neighborhood is the way to go. Or, you may realize that having a larger home with a yard and parking is more important to you. Either way, you do have options that should be explored.

Djana Morris is a real estate agent with Long & Foster and a real estate investor. You can contact Djana through her Web site: www.WhereToLiveInDC.com.

 RELATED: A peek at some of Washington’s distinguished homes

 

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