Waiting Has Its Limits for Condo Owner

Diane Kohn decided to keep her Capitol Hill condo after failing to attract a buyer. She is now renovating it instead.
Diane Kohn decided to keep her Capitol Hill condo after failing to attract a buyer. She is now renovating it instead. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

By Tomoeh Murakami Tse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 30, 2006

Diane Kohn decided to call it quits after nearly four months.

No more open houses. No more worrying about keeping her place spotless all the time. She had had enough. Her Capitol Hill condominium would remain unsold, and she would not get her dream move-up house on the other side of the Hill.

"I had just set a deadline with how long I was willing to live with my house on the market," said Kohn, 45, an anticorruption adviser for the State Department. "That was just about as much patience as I had."

Several months ago, Kohn was in a race to sell her two-bedroom, two-bath condo in a three-story building on Eighth Street NE near Maryland Avenue. She had put down a deposit on a red, $475,000 rowhouse. It was roomy and had a garden that her dog, Molly, would enjoy.

But Kohn needed to sell her condo first, and she had 30 days to do it. Otherwise, she risked losing the house, as her agreement with the seller stipulated.

On a snowy day in early February, a time of increasing buyer hesitation, slowing sales and a ballooning number of homes for sale, Kohn's condo hit the market, with a $414,900 price tag.

Kohn's real estate agents held a series of open houses, which seemed to draw as many curious neighbors as potential buyers. Without so much as a nibble, Kohn's 30 days were up. Luckily, the seller of the red rowhouse had no other bids and agreed to extend the agreement with Kohn until the end of March.

But the spring real estate season did not help Kohn. April rolled around, and by then, the seller of the rowhouse was unwilling to extend the contract. Anyone could snatch up the place now.

Kohn eventually got one offer on her condo, but she thought it was too low to seriously consider. "Given that I'm selling in order to raise [money] for a down payment for a house, it would have made no sense to accept that!" Kohn wrote in an e-mail at the time.

She dropped her asking price to $409,000. Still nothing. In mid-May, someone else agreed to buy the red rowhouse Kohn had hoped would be hers. At the end of the month, Kohn pulled her condo off the market. No sale, no dream move-up home.

Kohn felt a little disappointed, but she had no regrets. After all, she did not have to sell. She could afford to wait for an offer she could live with.

And besides, she likes her condo. If spring was for home selling, summer was for home remodeling. She shifted gears and renovated, making her space the way she wanted it. Out came the bedroom carpets. In their place: hardwood floors.

"They look fantastic and I think the rooms look bigger," Kohn said.

Gone are the kitchen appliances that were installed when the building was converted in the 1990s. Kohn bought shiny stainless equipment, including an ultra-quiet dishwasher. Then she painted the walls -- beige, blue and yellow.

"I think my bank account will need to take a breather before I have kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities replaced," she said. "That might be a project for next spring. Molly continues to run up our three flights of steps, which is pretty amazing considering she will turn 16 next month. I guess she doesn't really miss the fact that we don't have a yard."

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