For $27,000, Kevin Schlosberg says he got a steal: a prime Georgetown location, manageable mortgage payments, enough room. It was all that he expected from a parking space for a compact car.
"If I could find another for sale, I would buy it, too. Georgetown just doesn't have enough parking," said Schlosberg, a District real estate agent who recently bought the 8 by 15 foot space in a divided three-car garage near 35th Street NW. He said he bought it to increase the value of a house he is renovating nearby that has no parking.
Schlosberg is one of many people who have bought parking spaces because of insufficient street parking in parts of Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom and Kalorama, as well as in nearby suburbs such as Chevy Chase and Rosslyn.
Most of the spaces sold are in condominiums. Separate or semidetached garages such as Schlosberg's are harder to find because of the high cost of subdividing lots into small spaces on an existing lot and because doing so sharply lowers property values. Many people buy spaces for themselves, but a substantial number purchase spots -- each with its own deed and tax number -- as investments.
The demand for private spaces has grown as the area's population increases and free parking becomes scarcer, boosting prices to levels that people pay for small houses in some other parts of the country.
"Street parking has become a real search for a lot of people and they have to park quite a distance from their apartments," said Frank Lovrien, a real estate broker for the Randall Hagner Co. in the District. Guy Ross, a spokesman for Dale Denton Real Estate in the District, said, "People don't like to park five or six blocks away from their homes. It's hard to lug groceries that far."
And some people are willing to pay high prices for convenience.
Nicholas Gill, associate broker at H.A. Gill & Son, a Northwest real estate firm, said parking spaces in Northwest typically sell for $20,000 or more. Spots in Georgetown's Washington Harbour Condominiums, for example, cost $35,000 each. Spaces near Dupont Circle average $15,000 to $19,000. Pat Walshe, a sales manager for Shannon & Luchs Realtors, said that a space in the Lauren Condominiums at 1301 20th St. NW recently sold for $22,000.
Walshe recently sold a two-bedroom Foggy Bottom condo with a separate parking space for $132,000. She estimated that the apartment alone would have been worth only $100,000 to $110,000. People also are buying spaces in Rosslyn for $9,000 or more, according to one real estate agent there.
By contrast, commercial parking lot operators charge between $100 and $150 a month for parking, depending upon location, and sometimes more, said Andrew Blair, development director for Colonial Parking.
In some other areas of the country, parking spaces sell for even more than they do here. In Boston's Beacon Hill section, a parking space that sold for $7,500 in 1979 recently was resold for $122,000, according to U.S. Real Estate Week, a trade newsletter. In New York, spaces are more reasonably priced, but still expensive. A space in Brooklyn's Park Slope section sold for $29,000 in 1985, but that space is expected to triple in value within five years. In Chicago, a spot in a condominium sold for $10,500 a year ago, but recently went for $12,500.
A mid-Manhattan parking space rents for an average of $300.
Jim Canfield, sales manager of Dale Denton's Georgetown office, said that he knows of one person who bought an efficiency condo for the parking space that came with it. "He rented the apartment to a Georgetown University medical student and used the parking space himself so he could walk to work," Canfield said.
Despite high prices, parking spaces sell quickly. "A space around here disappears as soon as it becomes available," said Alan Molleur, executive director of the Apolline Condominiums Unit Owners Association on New Hampshire Avenue near Dupont Circle. "We have a list of 25 to 30 people waiting for parking spaces. But we don't even get as far as using the list. As soon as someone finds out a space is for sale, they buy it," he said. The Apolline allows nonresidents to purchase spots.
Most spaces aren't advertised. Canfield said that most owners don't list with real estate agents either because spaces typically sell through word of mouth or from a bulletin board notice. But when owners do use real estate agents, the agents merely have to knock on a few doors in the neighborhood before "people start waving dollars in your face," Ross said. Many spaces sell in a matter of hours, he said.
The high demand for parking spaces also has made them the target of investors. "I bought a few," said one owner in Chevy Chase who asked that his named not be disclosed, "one for my actual use and two for investment purposes at the time. I didn't have money for a house, but I saw an opportunity to get similar gains for less money."
He estimated that his parking spaces have more than doubled in value since he bought them in 1983 for $2,000 apiece. "They're now going for at least $5,000 each," he said.
Moreover, "if I get the right amount of rent along with depreciation, I can make 10 to 20 percent on my investment each year in cash," the owner said. He said that he rents one of the spaces for $35 a month; the other two he and his wife use.
Schlosberg said that since he bought his parking space two months ago, he has received an offer to sell it for $35,000. Schlosberg rejected the offer.
The investment value also is a strong inducement for many people to buy rather than to rent, Colonial's Blair said. Besides, asked one parking-space owner, "what else allows you to depreciate a piece of concrete?"