Parking Reservations

For Barbara Worth, two years of free parking at a nearby garage was what she needed to seal the purchase of a condominium in Logan Circle.
For Barbara Worth, two years of free parking at a nearby garage was what she needed to seal the purchase of a condominium in Logan Circle. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 17, 2007

As far as parking spaces go, there wasn't anything special about it. It was off an alley, behind a condominium building, and cost $57 a month to maintain. But on Dec. 29, the spot near Dupont Circle sold for $45,000.

At Brown Street and Meridian Place in upper Northwest Washington, a garage space at a Victorian house sold for $45,000 in January. At the Lofts at Brightwood on Georgia Avenue NW, a garage spot will add $35,000 to the price of your condo.

Washingtonians may have become more conservative about how much they will spend on their homes. But when it comes to parking spaces, many will pay tens of thousands of dollars to avoid circling around for 30 minutes every night in search of a spot.

It's no wonder. The Washington area is one of the most expensive places in the country to park, up there with Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. The monthly median rate for an unreserved commercial garage space in the District is $230, according to the Boston-based real estate research firm Colliers International. A reserved space can run as high as $360 a month.

But in this unpredictable real estate market, can you always expect your parking space to make your home, particularly your condo, more appealing?

One of real estate's unwritten rules is this: If you can buy a parking space with your home, do it, even if you don't own a car. A parking space, real estate agents say, will increase the resale value of your property, especially in the District and the densely populated parts of the suburbs.

"Even if you don't need it, you can rent it out. I think parking is a premium," said Phyllis Papkin, an agent with Re/Max Allegiance in Fairfax County.

That conventional wisdom, however, does not always hold true. All real estate is local, maybe more so when you're talking about parking spaces. A spot in densely populated Dupont Circle could cost you more than one in less dense Southwest Washington.

Typically, spaces in indoor parking garages cost more than outdoor spaces. Full-size spaces cost more then compact car spaces. And spaces closer to an entrance cost more than those farther away. "All parking spaces are not created equal," said Rod Howard, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Dupont Circle.

When Amy Mack, 32, a television documentary filmmaker, bought a one-bedroom unit in the Park Place Condos in Southwest Washington two years ago, she heeded her agent's advice and spent an extra $30,000 for an indoor parking space. The space bumped up the price to $323,000.

Now that she has moved to San Francisco, she would like to get rid of her D.C. property. More than one person has expressed interest in the condo. But to her surprise, no one wants both the unit and the parking space.

"That's why I bought it. So I'm really disappointed," she said.

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