In the District, Real Estate Story Is a Tale of Two Cities

Abundant listings in areas west of the Anacostia, including 16th Street Heights and Columbia Heights, above, drove prices down while values rose to the east.
Abundant listings in areas west of the Anacostia, including 16th Street Heights and Columbia Heights, above, drove prices down while values rose to the east. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)

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By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 26, 2007

The District's housing market last year looked very different on the two sides of the Anacostia River.

West of the river, sale prices were generally flat or up just a bit -- a pattern in keeping with an overall slowdown in housing sales and prices nationally.

East of the river, however, median prices continued to climb sharply, at a pace reminiscent of the superheated market throughout the region in the past five years or so, according to a Washington Post analysis of government records. Condominium sales were tallied separately. The median price is the point at which half the properties were more expensive and half were less.

Three Zip codes cover the entire area east of the river: 20019, in Northeast, where the median price rose 28 percent to $231,250; 20020, which includes historic Anacostia, where the median rose 35 percent to $269,114; and 20032, which includes Congress Heights, where the median rose 26 percent to $243,500.

Until 2006, these were the only Zip codes in the city where the median price was at $200,000 or below. Overall, the median price in the District last year rose 7 percent to $450,000.

Jackie Talpa, managing broker with Weichert Realtors' Cleveland Park office, blamed some of the slowdown on increased inventory created when panicky investors tried to sell. Speculators accounted for up to 25 percent of the market during the heady years of double-digit property appreciation, Talpa said.

"You had a lot of speculators in new communities and conversions," Talpa said. "They would flip them and make a lot of money. That ended abruptly at the end of '05."

Still, last year, prices for housing on Metro's Green Line, as well as some "older, established neighborhoods such as Tenley and Kalorama stayed the same," Talpa said. "The Convention Center area is still a good investment," she added.

On the other hand, "hotter neighborhoods -- U Street, 16th Street Heights, Scott Circle -- went down" because of an overabundance of listings.

Sale prices of condominiums declined in the District, with the median down 4 percent to $355,000. Regionwide, including the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, the median price for condos rose 1 percent to $285,299.

In areas with many new condo buildings under construction, developers have been cutting prices or throwing in freebies to stand out from the competition.

In suburban Maryland, price appreciation in Prince George's County blasted past the rest of the region last year. The median price of single-family houses and townhouses in Prince George's in 2006 was $339,900, up 18 percent from $287,500 in 2005.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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