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Be in the know about Barracks Row

Barracks Row, real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

As one of D.C.’s oldest and most charming areas, Barracks Row has become an increasingly popular spot for new restaurants and boutiques to set up shop. (Photo by Peter Fitzgerald)


“Barracks Row,” “8th Street,” “That Place Where All The Marines Hang Out” — call it whatever you want, just don’t call it boring. Barracks Row, named after the beautiful Marine Barracks that sits on the street among restaurants and shops, is the oldest commercial district in the city. However, it’s only been a couple years now that this area has been considered a “hot spot” for restaurants and local businesses within the city.

Many people that have ventured over to Barracks Row have come for one of Ted’s Bulletin’s famous pop-tarts and stayed for the adult milkshakes. This dangerously delicious combination, along with a classic American menu, won over so many loyal customers that a new location just recently opened up on the 14th Street corridor. Due to its popularity among Capitol Hill dwellers and non-Hill residents alike, you’re almost always guaranteed a bit of a wait for a table. So if you aren’t keen on waiting, Barracks Row offers lots of other dining options and all within a couple blocks.

If you’re feeling lucky, you can walk across the street to Barrack’s Row’s popular Belgian restaurant, Belga Cafe. It’s about as popular as Ted’s Bulletin, but Belga will take reservations, which is highly recommended. With almost a dozen different kinds of waffles, it’s a consistent crowd pleaser that will make you wish someone had told you sooner that stuffing a waffle with crabmeat is actually quite amazing (as is ordering “A Bucket of Bacon”).

But if you’re wanting to try out one of the newer spots on 8th Street, Roses Luxury should absolutely top that list. It’s a restaurant unlike any in the area, with a focus on simple food done to perfection, impeccable service and a romantic ambiance perfect for a date night. But as the snow melts and the coats come off, you might want to enjoy the weather a bit as you dine. And there’s no better place to do this than Pacifico Cantina. Head on up to the rooftop and share a bucket of Coronas as you enjoy the weather, or you can order one of their amazing fish tacos paired with a perfect margarita. Just don’t forget to check out the amazing interior of the bottom floor as you walk out — it definitely deserves a look.

And for those that need to satisfy their sweet tooth, look no further than The Sweet Lobby. As the winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, this boutique sweets shop not only has mind-blowing cupcakes, but they also have macaroons and Madeleines that are absolutely something to write home about.

And for those that would rather cook their five-star meal themselves, there is Hill’s Kitchen. It’s quite unassuming on the outside, but on the inside it’s a dream world for any chef of any level. You name the cooking tool, and they have it – and probably in every color. This boutique even has cookie cutters in the shape of every state (read: easy gift ideas). And for those who are dying to learn the proper way to brûlée some crème, Hill’s Kitchen provides all sorts of cooking classes. And while you’re in the learning mood, you might as well head down the street to DCanter, the area’s new, very chic, wine boutique. It has a great assortment of wines and beers, but also offers classes on clever topics varying from ‘The Grape American Road Trip’ to ‘The Dark Side of Beer’. There are also weekend tastings for those who are looking to switch things up this Saturday.

But with all this bacon and booze consumption, it’s probably a good idea to hit the gym. Look no further than Biker Barre, a boutique fitness studio specializing in spin and barre. This studio has a loyal clientele from all over the DMV that prefers to sweat to a fun beat. Whether you’re sprinting on a bike or “pulsing and tucking” at the barre, Biker Barre will leave you exhausted and sore, but proud you survived it. And if you happen to make it to one of the weekend classes, your hard work is often rewarded with a mimosa before you leave.

But we can’t talk about Barracks Row without mentioning the actual Marine Barracks. Aside from being a beautiful building swarming with handsome marines, it’s also the setting for the Marine Barracks Parade each summer. Every Friday from May to August, The Evening Parade is held at 8:45 p.m. and features a beautiful concert put on by the United States Marine Band. Ticket reservations can be made online, and done so quickly, as it’s a popular event that should not be missed.

As one of D.C.’s oldest and most charming areas, Barracks Row has become an increasingly popular spot for new restaurants and boutiques to set up shop. And as the spring approaches and temperatures start to rise, why not take the opportunity to go check them out (and maybe a few Marines while you’re at it).

Alison McCubbin is a sales associate with the Bediz Group, LLC at Coldwell Banker Dupont. Reach her at 202-642-9445 or


Be sure to read your condo documents

documents, gay news, Washington Blade

In the D.C. metropolitan area, when you’re under contract to purchase a residence governed by a homeowners’ or condominium association, the seller of the property must give you a set of documents known as a Resale Package or, in the case of new construction, a Public Offering Statement (POS).

It’s Friday at 6 p.m. and your workweek has finally come to an end. Thirty minutes spent with your favorite news anchor while going nowhere on a treadmill, a quick shower, a shave and spritz of cologne and a change of clothes later, you’re ready to meet your friends for dinner and drinks when, on your way out, you spy the envelope that has been slipped under your door.

“Hmmm,” you think aloud, “should I open it? After all, who shoves a note under the door anymore? Was it there when I came in? Did someone get my mail by mistake and is kindly returning it? Could it be a note from that cute guy down the hall?”

As your curiosity gets the best of you, you pick up the envelope, tear it open, unfold the letter inside and there it is.

“Dear Unit Owner,” the note reads, “It has come to our attention that you are in direct violation of Paragraph 10, Part D, Section 2, subsection (f) of the condominium association rules and regulations. Accordingly, you must cease and desist within the next 30 days or a fine will be forthcoming.

“Failure to adhere to this notice or to pay said fine may result in something terribly embarrassing or financially debilitating happening to you, including but not limited to ejecting you from your residence with the help of my Uncle Guido and his steroid-laden associates. Have a nice day.

Sincerely, Your Condominium Board President.”

“*$%*&! (translation: I don’t care about) your stinkin’ rules,” you shout at the door. “You’re not the boss of me!”

Oh yeah? When was the last time you read your condominium documents?

In the D.C. metropolitan area, when you’re under contract to purchase a residence governed by a homeowners’ or condominium association, the seller of the property must give you a set of documents known as a Resale Package or, in the case of new construction, a Public Offering Statement (POS). You then have a limited amount of time to review the contents of the package and opt out of the contract if you discover something you find problematic.

The following documents will normally be included.

The resale certificate serves as a cover sheet or summary of information, most notably, the monthly fees, delinquencies among the ownership, a description of any litigation the association is facing and a list of board officers.

The financial statement includes the previous and current year’s budgets, anticipated capital expenses or special assessments and the amount of reserve funds available for the future, as well as any other documents attesting to the financial stability of the association.

The insurance certificate provides the name of the master insurance carrier, the amount of insurance for the building and grounds and general information about the policy that will be needed by your lender. Don’t confuse this with your requirement to obtain homeowner’s insurance on your property and its contents.

The articles of incorporation show how an association is structured and when it was recorded in the appropriate courthouse. These articles are usually prepared by a law firm when a housing complex is conceived and form the basis for the association as a legal entity.

The by-laws are procedures to be followed in governing the association, such as how elections are held, the duties of each board officer and the formation of committees to handle the association’s business. There may be amendments added over the years, so read them all the way to the end.

Finally, the rules and regulations are of prime importance as they will tell you what you can and can’t do on the premises without incurring a penalty of some sort.

So if you want to know that you can keep three dogs and two cats, remove that wall between the kitchen and the dining room, grill steaks on the Juliette balcony, rent your place out as a short-term hotel suite and dance the flamenco on your hardwood floors at midnight while playing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” at an ear-splitting decibel, consult your association’s rule book before Uncle Guido’s cohorts show up at your front door.

Valerie M. Blake is with Keller Williams Realty; each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or


Top tips for moving

moving, gay news, Washington Blade

Moving can be stressful, but with good planning and the support of a skilled and professional moving team, you can easily make sure your move is a smooth, stress-free experience.


Moving is consistently identified as one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, but moving into your new home should be a wonderful and exciting experience. With careful planning and professional help, the task can be much less daunting and you can spend less time stressing and more time enjoying your new home.

Plan your move carefully and well ahead of time. Depending on the amount of items you need to move, you may require weeks or months to plan. Call a reputable moving company as soon as you decide that you are moving and ask for a consultation.

Pack your least essential items first and the most essential items last. Fill a box with moving day essentials like paper plates, medicine, paper towels, toiletries, all documents related to settlement and closing of homes, checkbooks and a list that includes your movers’ contact information, in case of emergency.

Draw up a floor plan for where items will all go in the new home, so that the movers know exactly where all the furniture should be placed. This will save you time and money, and help you to avoid injury or item damage, when the heavy-lifters are gone! Also, label all your boxes so your movers know where to unload your personal items.

Call your moving company in advance to find out their protocol for inclement weather conditions. If you see that the local weather forecast is calling for severe weather, call your moving company to inquire about the possibility of rescheduling your move. If weather conditions are poor, but still feasible to move in, be sure to remove any snow, ice or debris from your driveway and loading area in advance of the movers’ arrival.

If you are in an area where there is no proper driveway for moving trucks, make sure you have reserved the appropriate “No Parking” signs. To secure the signs, you must call your local police precinct — by calling them on a non-emergency line — at least 72 hours in advance of move day.

If you are moving into or out of a condominium or apartment building with elevator access, you may need to reserve use of the elevator for a block of time on moving day. Typically, buildings have a 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot and 1-5 p.m. slot open, for such uses. Check with your condominium or apartment building to see if there are any blackout days where moves are not allowed.

Disconnect electronics at least three hours prior to moving day. Take pictures so you will remember where the wires are when you move into your new place.

Unplug, defrost and dry out your refrigerators and freezers at least 24 hours before the move day. Additionally, avoid packing liquids if the temperature outside is freezing or below; liquids can expand, explode and ruin other items you’ve packed.

Dispose of or donate unnecessary items before you move, so that you will not have to pay to have items that you will not need, boxed or brought to your new home.

Moving can be stressful, but with good planning and the support of a skilled and professional moving team, you can easily make sure your move is a smooth, stress-free experience.

Jonathan M. Neal is president and CEO of Metropolitan Moving and Storage, Inc., headquartered in Rockville, Md.



If you’ve got the money …

child, money, gay news, Washington Blade, mortgage

If you’ve tried to get a mortgage loan recently you have already found that Money’s Too Tight to Mention.

Remember how easy it was to get a mortgage back in 2004?  All you had to do was call your loan officer and say Gimme Some Money.

Back then, banks had Money to Burn and as fast as you could say, “Ka Ching,” you could get Money for Nothing – an interest-only, No Money Down loan – based on a signature and a smile.  You could almost instantly become a Big Spender with the bank’s Easy Money and own the home of your dreams.

As appreciation continued to soar by double digits each year, a homeowner could become a Rich Girl or King of the Road.  An investor could very quickly adopt the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous by buying up blighted properties and gleefully planning new Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), knowing that with each new deal, The Money Will Roll Right In.

As some lenders continued to tell their clients Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You), owning a home began to be considered Money in the Bank instead of an investment in your future.  Many people thought of their growing equity as How to Be a Millionaire or at least, how to live like one.

Home equity loans became Pennies from Heaven and people could Take the Money and Run without worrying about the consequences.  After all, When Money Grows on Trees there would be more where that came from next year, right?


James Brown once told us that Money Won’t Change You but, as Cyndi Lauper can attest, Money Changes Everything and soon people were racking up Bills, Bills, Bills and discovering that Mo Money, Mo Problems.

Homeowners who had recently declared, “We’re in the Money” began asking, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

When the Money’s Gone and you don’t have Three Coins in the Fountain to rub together, there is no such thing as a Bank Holiday. The days of Free Money were over and lending institutions were reaching out to consumers, instructing them to put Cash on the Barrel Head or risk foreclosure.

Some people decided to Sell Out early as requests for short sales grew faster than the ability of the banks to keep up with the demand. Other people endured pre-foreclosure calls and letters from banks and creditors declaring Bitch Betta Have My Money. Still others decided Cash, Money, Cars, Clothes were no longer as important in their lives and filed for bankruptcy. We all learned that there is no Money Back Guarantee in life and were reminded that Money Is the Root of All Evil.

Fast-forward 10 years to 2014 and these days It’s All About the Benjamins. If you’ve tried to get a mortgage loan recently you have already found that Money’s Too Tight to Mention. Many of the low down payment loans have disappeared and there are limited choices for those of us who aren’t Billion Dollar Babies.

Still, I see the pendulum swinging back in the other direction just a bit. While some of my clients are using Daddy’s Money for a down payment and cash buyers are declaring to the banks, “I Don’t Want Your Money,” some lenders are beginning to whisper, “I Will Buy You a New Life.” D.C. has some great new loan programs for mid-level earners, 80-10-10 piggy-back loans are alive and well again and even 80-15-5 products are available from some institutions.

The spring real estate market is rapidly approaching so, For the Love of Money, if you are a first-time buyer or are ready to buy again after a short sale or foreclosure, check with your local lender. You could be Dancin’ on a Dime in the Million Dollar Disco sooner than you think.

And, of course, it beats giving your Money, Marbles & Chalk to the Taxman.

Valerie M. Blake is with Keller Williams Capital Properties. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


Thinking about remodeling a newly purchased home?

remodeling, gay news, Washington Blade

Involving home experts early in your home purchase process can add up to peace of mind, significant cost savings and most importantly, happy homeowners, for many years to come.

Despite the Washington, D.C. area’s extended snowy winter bringing a chilling effect to the start of the residential housing market, experts are reporting that pent up demand is expected to lead to increased competition for those seeking to make a home purchase in the coming months.

According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, the change in seasons and a boost in inventory will help change the current sales trend even with rates on the rise.

When area homebuyers are faced with limited inventory and competitive bid situations, they may not always be able to purchase a home that perfectly fits their needs. Many often consider buying with significant home renovations in mind.

However, buyers interested in remodeling a newly purchased home may not realize that they should consider getting a “pre-purchase” consultation typically offered at no cost by some area remodelers. This type of consultation, typically conducted before an offer is made or following a home inspection, can save you thousands of dollars in unknown problems and also arm you with important negotiation information.

At BOWA for example, our design experts review complex home inspection reports and help translate complex information to inform homeowners if the home is structurally and mechanically sound. Our team also regularly meets homebuyers at the property to evaluate whether a renovation or addition can:

• Fit within the guidelines of regulatory restrictions, property line restrictions or covenants, which may ultimately affect your decision;

• Accomplish your goals for the property;

• Be achieved given structural limitations;

• Address water issues or hazardous materials, such as lead and asbestos;

• Be constructed within your budget goals.

Having a home expert review a property in advance of purchase can help identify overlooked potential and challenges, while also allaying concerns. To the average house hunter, certain problems may seem insurmountable, but may actually be fixable.

In Potomac, for example, we evaluated a home with four inches of standing water in the basement. After identifying the source, we were able to arm the client with the information they needed to purchase the house at a discount knowing that this issue could be resolved easily during the renovation they already had planned.

Our design experts also offer creative solutions for addressing needs within the existing footprint of the home, such as whether you need an addition for an extra bedroom or an office or just need to reorganize and make better use of the existing space.

Not able to do all of your dream renovations at once? BOWA also helps clients create master plans with phases that coordinate together. For example, a client may do a kitchen renovation this year, while planning an outdoor renovation with gas grill for next year. Knowing this in advance, we can run the outdoor gas line during the kitchen project, and avoid disturbing the inside of the home the following year. A solid master plan also helps to ensure that a current project will not impede a future project.

In the end, involving home experts early in your home purchase process can add up to peace of mind, significant cost savings and most importantly, happy homeowners, for many years to come.

Josh Baker is the founder and co-chair of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction company specializing in luxury renovations, remodels and additions in the greater Washington, D.C. area. BOWA has more than 25 years of experience and has been honored with 170 local and national awards. For more information, visit or call 703-734-9050.


The risks of ‘whisper listings’

listing, gay news, Washington Blade, whisper campaign

It’s hard to see how a seller benefits by so-called ‘whisper listings.’

You may have seen a sign in front of a home that says “Coming Soon,” or you may have heard the terms “pocket” or “whisper” listings. Well, those are not the same things, but they all represent areas of possible concern when it comes to doing the right thing for a seller.

Let’s start with some basics.

First, we firmly believe that a seller will get the most for their property in the shortest amount of time when it is exposed to the broadest possible market. And doesn’t that make sense?  After all, you never know where that buyer is coming from. No real estate company and no real estate agent have all the buyers, so why hide a listing?

Second, a property gets the most traffic and the most exposure in the first few weeks of that broad exposure to the market. We know that to be the case in good markets and bad, and everything in between. So “testing” or teasing the market in a limited way may not be the best idea.

Third, a home shows best when it is fully ready for the market, when all improvements or repairs have been made.  You don’t see a new car showroom with a model on the sales floor that needs a paint job.

Fourth — and this is the most important one — the seller of any home should give their informed consent to have their home marketed prematurely or to a limited audience.

So, with all that being said, and with inventory being tight in so many parts of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, we see a fair number of homes with a “Coming Soon” sign in the yard. There can be some very legitimate reasons for that – a home may be a couple of weeks away from being ready to go on the market and the seller wants to be sure that buyers looking in their area are aware that they will have another option in the near future, and they don’t want to run the risk they’ll lose that buyer to a home already on the market.

But remember that the people who are aware of that sign may be limited to the people who drive by. One of them may approach the seller to see the house before it’s fully ready to be shown — or even make an offer so they get the jump on other buyers. On the surface, that may seem like a good thing: the seller gets interest and maybe even an offer before the house is fully exposed to the market, and are spared the hassle of having to make the beds every day. But that seller doesn’t know what they’re missing; they don’t know how many potential buyers there are who might have been interested in their home if they had known it was on the market.

But sometimes that “coming soon” sign is up so that the listing agent increases their chances of selling the house themselves. And that’s even more true of a “pocket” or whisper” listing — when the agent only tells a handful of people that a house is available. And who is best served by that? It’s hard to see how a seller benefits, and lots of would-be purchasers are deprived of the chance to buy.

The point is simply this: a seller should know the pluses and minuses of marketing their home to a limited audience, and it should be their decision whether to cut off part of the pool of potential purchasers.

David Howell is executive vice president and chief information officer at McEnearney Associates.


The listing you can’t find

listing, gay news, Washington Blade

With so many opportunities to capitalize on smart Washington real estate investments this spring, place your trust in firms that want to expose you to the market.

Lately, some brokerage firms in Washington have been boasting to sellers about how they are holding “private exclusive” and “private placement” listings. These are listings where the seller signs an agreement and elects not to go into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for exposure to the broader market. Sometimes, these agreements actually give the broker the exclusive right to bring a buyer – stopping other brokers from participating.

The proponents of “private” listings tell you the seller that they are doing you a favor, assuring your privacy, making sure only the most qualified buyers can get into your home. Restricting access to a property does not often do the seller a favor – it is a benefit to the broker who may get both sides of the commission by making sure nobody else has access. Marketing “private” listings under the guise of “exclusivity” often excludes potential buyers who might otherwise be interested in your home. The laws of supply and demand dictate that if you reduce the demand by making sure only a few people know about a listing, while you still have the exact same supply, you get less money.

Don’t get me wrong — there are certainly situations that warrant keeping a property out of the MLS. A seller who isn’t ready to move until she finds a new house might want to stay out of the computer so as not to run up days on market. A seller whose property is in particularly poor condition or with an unusual living situation may not want the exposure. By and large, though, more exposure gets you more money. The best way to sell a property in Washington is to price it correctly, present it attractively and make sure that EVERYBODY SEES IT. Multiple offers can cause an escalation in the sales price and even if not, can garner better terms for the seller.

That said, if you’ve signed a listing agreement that allows for MLS entry but you’re still preparing the property for market, there is nothing wrong with letting your agent make other agents in multiple firms aware of the upcoming listing — and even allow them to show it to motivated buyers who have a little imagination. I’ve sold many listings pre-market by creating hype — the buyers are afraid they will have to compete and so they will pay top dollar for a property they have fallen in love with. It is up to the seller to decide whether to go with the bird in hand or to see what’s in the bush. Sometimes taking a big profit pre-market makes sense; there’s nothing like a sure thing.

Don’t let an agent or broker tell you that he or his firm is the only one with a buyer for your property. It’s OK to sell pre-market, but make sure your agent is working the larger brokerage community for you if you do so. Trying to keep things “in-house” is a service to the broker, not to the seller, and it can hurt the seller’s bottom line. With so many opportunities to capitalize on smart Washington real estate investments this spring, place your trust in firms that want to expose you to the market.

Sammy Dweck with Evers & Co. Real Estate, Inc. is a licensed real estate agent specializing in townhouse, condo and co-op sales in the D.C. metro area. Reach him at or 202-716-0400.


Condos vs. coops — what’s the difference?

condo, coop, gay news, Washington Blade, real estate.

On left, 1000 New Jersey Capitol Hill Towers coop. On right, 1025 1st Street SE Velocity condo.

In last month’s column, I discussed the difference between housing type (e.g. apartment, rowhouse, detached house, etc.) and housing ownership (e.g., condominium, cooperative, fee simple, rental). I noted that people often confuse the different sets of terms (e.g. apartment and condo). This month, I want to discuss the difference between condominiums and cooperatives, because buyers are often reluctant to look at coops—and they shouldn’t be.

Although these two terms are types of housing ownership that could apply to several housing types, they usually are applied to ownership of an apartment in a multi-unit building, whether low-, mid- or high-rise. In Washington, many cooperatives were formed when units in rental apartment buildings became available for purchase in the 1960s and 1970s (a process called conversion). For example, many of the multi-unit buildings along Connecticut Avenue in Northwest are cooperatives. Some of them are condominiums, with a few rental buildings remaining.

So what’s the difference between cooperatives and condominiums? Here are several important differences:

Coops have members; condos have owners. Coop members own a share of the coop corporation analogous to the size of their unit, but they don’t own the inside of their units, which condo owners do.

Because of this difference in ownership, coops frequently have more rules to follow than condos.  For example, there is usually a set number of years that you can rent out your coop before being required to sell it—if, in fact, the coop rules allow you to rent it at all.

Coops typically have a lower list price than comparable condos.

Coop purchases typically include a meeting with the coop board of directors in order to be approved.

Coops typically have higher monthly fees than condos, but these fees often include all utilities and property taxes, and may include monthly payment on an underlying mortgage (see below).

When there is an unexpected expense for a building (like HVAC systems that quit prematurely), coop boards will typically take out an additional underlying mortgage and assign monthly payments to coop members based on their share in the cooperative. In the same situation, condo boards will typically impose a special assessment on homeowners, which may be paid in one lump sum or as partial payments on a monthly basis.

Now let’s see how these differences show up when comparing two similar properties:


Unit #624 at Capitol Hill Towers in Navy Yards neighborhood is a 1-bedroom, 1-bath coop with parking that sold for $325,000 last month after being on the market for 15 days. The unit has 741 square feet. The monthly coop fee for this unit is $1,118 monthly, which includes $664 for an underlying mortgage payment, $224 for building management and maintenance fees, property taxes, water for the unit, and $230 for buildup of the coop reserves. Because the total amount of the underlying mortgage for this unit is $122,852, it was only necessary for the buyer to finance $216,148 when they bought the coop—the remaining $122,852 debt for the underlying mortgage passed over to the buyer from the seller at settlement.

Unit #1104 at the Velocity Condo in Navy Yards is a 1-bedroom, 1-bath condo unit with parking that recently sold (in January 2014) for $439,000 after being on the market for 34 days. The unit has 821 square feet. The monthly condo fee for this unit is $390, which pays for building management fees, including reserves buildup, and maintenance.

Here you can see the significant differences: the coop had a much lower purchase price for approximately the same square footage, but has a much higher monthly fee because of the underlying mortgage. And here’s the lesson for new homebuyers: if you can afford the monthly fee with your cash flow, you will often get more for your money with a coop, once all the other cost factors have been balanced out. But don’t be immediately be put off the fee — you’ll usually end up paying the included expenses one way or another whether you buy a coop or a condo.

Happy Hunting!

Ted Smith is a licensed Realtor with Real Living | at Home specializing in mid-city D.C.  Reach him at and follow him on ,  or @TedSmithSellsDC. You can also join him on monthly tours of mid-city neighborhood Open Houses, as well as monthly seminars geared toward first-time home buyers. Sign up at


Where D.C. rents are headed

In 2013, rents rose in the most expensive U.S. cities (San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles), including Washington, D.C., but they did not rise as much in D.C. as elsewhere. Two years ago at this time, the vacancy rates here were so low that it was hard to imagine the balance of supply and demand getting level. But over the last year, a number of new Class A (luxury) apartment projects has filled the market with new units and that number is expected to increase for at least the next three years. In 2009, the number of new apartment units in the pipeline stood at 16,606; by the third quarter of 2013, there were 36,098 new units and counting.

More rental housing choices drives down rental prices, and that’s what the rental market figures show comparing 2013 to the preceding year 2012:

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(Data from RealEstate Business Intelligence)

In 2013, the number of days that the average two-bedroom was on the market before renting stood at 42.44, 1.10 percent higher than 2012 (1.56 percent higher if we compare just 4Q2013 to 4Q2012). The longer a property is on the market, the more the market pressure pushes the perceived value down. We start to see this phenomenon at work in 4Q 2013, where the average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment was $2552.85 — the lowest it’s been in the last two years.

Further, notice that the rental volume is only .97 percent higher for 2013, suggesting a slowing down in the rental market. More apartment choices in the market should only increase this slowdown of the rental pace and a softening of rental prices.

That’s good news for renters. In January, Urban Turf, the real estate web site and blog, published an article about what $2,800 (approximately) will rent you in D.C. For $2,900, you could rent a two-bedroom rowhouse on a charming alley on Capitol Hill; for $2,695, a spacious three-bedroom townhome in the H Street corridor; for $2,895, an elegant two-bedroom coop in Kalorama. Those could all be good options for a couple, a small family or a group home for singles.

The spring market will also bring more choices as properties begin to turn at the end of their leases. So between that and the constant influx of newly constructed apartments, it’s a great time to rent if you still aren’t ready to buy. More about this comparison in my next column.

Happy Hunting!

Ted Smith is a licensed Realtor with Real Living | at Home specializing in mid-city D.C. Follow him @TedSmithSellsDC, TedSmithSellsDC.comFacebook, or Youtube. You can also join him at free monthly seminars for first-time homebuyers or monthly tours of open houses in a different neighborhood each month. Sign up at


Sellers must detach, update when prepping for market

real estate, seller, gay news, Washington Blade

In preparing a property for market, there is an inherent conflict between the emotions of the seller and what must be done to appeal to buyers.

The saying goes “all things old are new again.” June Cleaver’s kitchen is once again au courant, if you can get away with calling it “mid-century modern.” But until such a revival, old styles are just, well, old.

The inventory in downtown D.C. has been decidedly tight, but price and presentation are still paramount when listing a property. Just beyond the Beltway in tony Potomac, inventory is more abundant. I am currently preparing a property for market in Normandie Farm Estates, a well-manicured enclave of about 30 houses convenient to Potomac Village that was built around 1989. At the time the subdivision was constructed, brass faucets and light fixtures were all the rage. Today, they strike modern buyers as stale.

In preparing a property for market, there is an inherent conflict between the emotions of the seller and what must be done to appeal to buyers. I always explain to my sellers that this place that hosts all of their memories and worldly possessions is no longer their home — it is now a product. Selling a home is like dating — first impressions count and so you put forth your representative — the very best version of you. Still, even for sellers who understand this intellectually, the feelings that come with separation from their long-time homes can cloud their visions for what impression needs to be made with a buyer.

In preparing to compete with 16 houses in the immediate price range my sellers will be in, I brought in an expert interior designer who recommended several cosmetic updates to their home. The home has a terrific floor plan and has been lovingly maintained by its owners, who raised four children in this house. In an era when many people feel more comfortable raising children in town than they did in previous years, a six-bedroom house in Potomac still has a substantial appeal. Many parents consider Potomac’s school system to be world class and you simply cannot get that much space or land closer in to Chevy Chase for the same price. Potomac Village has seen some shops come and go lately (RIP Chicken Out) but parking is still a contact sport in the town center. Custom homes are still being built on large lots off of River Road, meaning the houses going to market have to compete not only with each other but also with the wildest dreams of the modern buyer and the floor plans their architects have prepared.

Even after having completed a stunning kitchen renovation a few years back, my sellers are faced with the challenge of putting away family photographs, repainting the kids’ rooms to abrogate them of their beautiful and dynamic personalities, and neuter some period details to tide the new owners over before they undertake a more substantial renovation. It is an emotional hurdle that real estate agents have a hard time navigating with their sellers, but an imperative one for a successful sale.

Buyers need to envision themselves in your home. If there is too much of you in it, they’ll focus on your past rather than their future. My wise sellers understand that to sell for top dollar in 2014, they have to move upholstered sofas the kids grew up on into storage and bring in the type of staging furniture and art that will dazzle the discerning buyer with dozens of options at his disposal.

These updates are an investment but they have a wild rate of return at the closing table. Creating a success story for a sale is both an art and a science. Smart sellers take the reality they live in and adapt to it, instead of expecting the market to adapt to their reality.

Sammy Dweck with Evers & Co. Real Estate, Inc. is a licensed real estate agent specializing in residential re-sales in the D.C. metro area. He was the Evers & Co. Agent of the Month in April 2014. Reach him at or 202-716-0400.