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In the Future, You Will Build Your City


(Photo courtesy of Fundrise)


By Brandon Jenkins, Co-Founder, Fundrise

Take a moment to imagine yourself on the sidewalk. Picture the buildings surrounding you. Now, answer this: Who owns each building? Who profits from the places you go to?

The answer: not you, and probably not anyone you know.

In 2012, we were looking to purchase a worn-down building in an up-and-coming area of Washington, DC — H Street NE. We went out to raise money from investors across town and in New York, most of whom had never heard of and never been to the neighborhood. The investment funds and wealth advisors looked at us confused when we told them what we were doing.

Our friends and neighbors, on the other hand, thought it was amazing. They understood the opportunity and our vision, because it was their vision, too. The community, the customer and the local residents were excited about what we were doing, but the investors didn’t know what we were talking about.

At that time, only high net-worth, accredited investors were allowed to invest in these types of commercial real estate projects, while the other 97% of the population was excluded. As a citizen of Anytown, USA, it was easier to invest in a Japanese manufacturing company than to invest across the street.

So, we started Fundrise with a simple goal: give everyone the opportunity to invest in real estate.

This was before crowdfunding or the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act were on the table, and everyone we spoke to told us that our idea was impossible.

Well, they were wrong. It is possible.

After nearly a year of working with lawyers and the Securities and Exchange Commission, we got there. We raised $325,000 from 175 local residents who believed in their community and wanted to own part of a building in their neighborhood.

Then we did it again and raised $350,000 from 361 investors. Then again. The first time it took us three months to raise the money. Our most recent public offering, 1539 7th Street NW in Shaw, raised over $100,000 in two hours.

Now we’ve had nearly 1,000 investors invest over $10 million in 19 deals in cities like Austin, Indianapolis, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC and we have plans to make it to even more cities soon.

It’s caught on because it’s intuitive. It makes sense.

Imagine if you invested in your neighborhood. You could transform vacant buildings in your city. You could actually see your money at work and own something tangible. One of our $100 investors showed off the H Street property building to his mom and dad when they came to town. That’s powerful.

So, what would you build? A bookstore? New restaurants? More day care centers? Affordable housing? What would it be like to live in a city you built?

With Fundrise, everyone will be able to find out.


A look back at 2013 D.C. real estate

In this article, I’ll review some statistics for D.C. real estate for 2013, and will have something to say to both sellers and buyers in light of those statistics.

First, let’s consider the following graph of active listings vs. sold listings for the last 5 years:

active listings, gay news, real estate, Washington Blade

Average active vs. sold 

The monthly inventory of available homes (active listings) has been declining rather sharply over the last five years (from 3,161 in January 2009 to 1,060 in December 2013), while monthly sales have risen steadily over the same time period (from 273 to 675). Percentagewise, that’s about a 66 percent decline in active listings vs. almost a 250 percent increase in sales. The space between the two lines in the graph indicates the months of available housing. Each 500 homes indicates about a one-month supply of housing for purchase. When there is a six-month supply, we say the market is in equilibrium—neither a seller’s nor buyer’s market. The lower the supply of available homes, the more it becomes a seller’s market. As you can see from the right side of the graph, we barely have a one-month supply of available homes for new buyers, and this has been true all of 2013. So we can say that all of 2013 has been a seller’s market.

The good news for buyers is that we expect there to be a number of new condo projects coming on line on 2014, which will increase the available inventory of homes — as well as a number of foreclosure homes (which have been in limbo in D.C. for almost the last three years) later in the spring. (So potential sellers, you might want to beat the spring competition by listing now!)

Now let’s take a look at comparison just between 2013 and 2014 in the following table (below):

Looking back, the D.C. market was strong in every variable over 2012:

• Total number of homes sold was higher by 14.51 percent;

• Total dollar volume of homes sold was higher by 21.99 percent;

• Average sold price was 6.53 percent higher, at $588,330;

• Median price was higher by 10.23 percent

• Average days on the market decreased by -28.33 percent to 43 days;

• Ratio of sold price to original list price (OLP) was up 2.46 percent to 98.8 percent, which means that home sellers are getting very close to their asking price.

All of these are signs of a continuing seller’s market. But buyers, take heart. There will be more inventory in the spring because of the new condos and foreclosures. And if you go out looking now, you’ll have less competition from other buyers holding back and therefore more selection.

Happy Hunting!

2013 year end market statistics

2013 year end market statistics

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 at free monthly seminars for first-time homebuyers or monthly tours of open houses in a different neighborhood each week. Sign up at


Hot housing trends in D.C.

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Some residents are opting to ‘go micro’ while others are finding their money goes far enough to afford an extra bedroom in their condo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Spring is finally here but the biggest buzz isn’t about what’s outside but what’s going on inside. Real estate in the District is changing in a major way from size and design to renovations. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest trends a savvy buyer should know about when hunting for a new home in the District.

First, expansion has become a need than a want. Efficiencies were once the popular (and affordable) option when seeking out a new condo. However, more buyers are now springing for that two-bedroom unit. According to Valerie Blake of Prudential PenFed Realty, the market is more affordable than it’s been for a while. Residents are no longer forcing themselves to downsize and are choosing to spring for another bedroom. The extra space can be used for a guest room, office, nursery or combination of the three.

More space isn’t only desirable feature. Those looking for a new condo are no longer primarily interested in condo facilities such as how good the gym is or whether there’s a pool. Instead, Blake notices a trend of residents wanting their own private, larger outdoor space.

D.C. residents also seem to have had enough of picking up the hammer, those who work the local market say. Many buyers are now looking for completely finished properties that require no extra work.

Kevin McDuffie of Coldwell Banker in Dupont Circle says, “People just want to bring their clothes and toothbrush. They don’t want to do their own renovations. They want a finished product.”

Design is always evolving and kitchen design is no exception. Dark cabinets with light floors used to be the “in” trend. However, now the opposite is true. Dark floors with lighter cabinets is the new chic. Many new homes feature this modern design. In general, traditional looks are no longer being used and a sleeker, sophisticated feel is in demand.

A neighborhood that’s becoming a trend in its own right is the waterfront in Southwest. Chris Heller of Coldwell Banker says this spot is one of the best places to move these days. He says the River Park building (1301 Delaware Ave., S.W.) sat for years with empty townhouses and apartments. Now, many units are going under contract. Heller attributes the interest to the location.

“It feels like living in a suburb over here. There’s a new Safeway and restaurants. But the Metro is only two blocks away. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Bucking the trend of seeking more space are younger buyers, some of whom are seeking “micro units.” These units are even smaller than efficiencies. Many have been included in buildings on 14th Street and in the U Street corridor. Young professionals seek these micro units because they are easy to manage and clean. They are used solely for the purpose of sleeping. Nowadays, Heller says, entertaining isn’t done inside the home the way it used to in the past.

“People don’t hold dinner parties that often anymore if at all,” Heller says. “They entertain their guests in the city in restaurants and bars. There are so many places to go now that there’s isn’t a need for space to entertain anymore.”

These micro units are about 278 square feet and can run as low as $99,000.

Clean, modern and ready for move-in seems to be the consensus among those looking to purchase in the District. It’s something many of us can agree with — the less work the better.


Apartment updates


U Street Corridor


The Cardozo, a 28-unit condominium residential building, is planned for the corner of 11th and V streets. Units are planned to be small, ranging in size from 615-750 square feet. The six-story building will have underground garage parking.

JBG plans to build two buildings with five stories of residential units including ground floor retail and one level of underground parking. One building is planned to run from 8th to 9th Street and the other will be to the east.

Louis at 14th is planned for the west side of 14th street south of U Street. The nine-story building will house 267 units with 30,000 square feet of street level retail. Amenities include a movie theater, yoga room, rooftop pool and 24-hour concierge.


Logan Circle


Developer Brook Rose has proposed a rental complex on the 1400 block of Church Street. The building would include 29 micro-unit studios and six one-bedroom apartments for a total of 35 available units. Eight stories high, the complex would incorporate the existing row houses on the street.

The Fortis Companies plans to build a 33-unit apartment complex by converting the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Workers in Logan Circle. An additional two floors would be built for either condos or rentals. The units would range in size from 600-1,700 square feet.

Habte Sequar has built the Aston, a development consisting of 31 condominiums, 18 parking spaces and 3,000 in ground floor retail on 14th and R streets. This building is sold out.

The Irwin, a five-story residential building, has been planned for a vacant lot on 14th Street south of Rhode Island Avenue. Units are planned to be small ranging from 500-600 square feet. Condo amenities would include a large internal courtyard, fitness center, bicycle storage, 20 parking spaces and a common roof terrace.


14th Street Corridor


Douglas Development is building a seven-story residential building on the southeast corner of 14th and Florida Ave.; 30 units are planned for the building.

Community Three plans for a residential building with 18 condos with ground floor retail. The six-story building would have condos around 600-1,400 square feet including a penthouse on the top floor.

The Corcoran is a seven-story condo planned for a current Zipcar parking lot on 14th Street. The 40-unit condo building would include ground floor retail.

CAS Riegler has redeveloped the Lionel Train Store (1324 14th St., N.W.) into a five-unit condo building. Units are around 1,000 square feet. Pricing runs from $600,000-$850,000. The building is sold out.


‘H’ stands for ‘Hot’ on H Street

Atlas Theater, gay news, H Street, Washington Blade

The Atlas Theater (Photo public domain)

As the temperatures climb again, take a moment — and perhaps a streetcar, soon — to the nearby H Street corridor in Northeast Washington. Thanks to the continued promise of the new light-rail line connecting Union Station to Anacostia, many new dining and entertainment options are becoming available in this hot area. Entertainment, restaurants, and even an indoor bocce court now line this once less-glamorous street.

The most famous of places on H Street is perhaps the Atlas Theater. The Atlas Theater is home to the Joy of Motion Dance Studio and regular performances. Next door, The Rock & Roll Hotel is another recent spot for hot entertainment, housing a dance party every week, many popular DJs and a “drink to play, play to win” spelling bee.

Toki Underground is a new eatery that spices up the dining scene on H Street. D.C.’s first restaurant serving Taiwanese ramen, dumplings, and Asian-themed cocktails, Toki is a new hot spot for those looking for a unique dining experience. Be sure to try their pork cheek ramen with the homemade srirachi chili sauce.

For those seeking a more casual scene, enjoy H Street’s local Belgian-inspired restaurant and bar, Granville Moore. The lengthy beverage menu will have you coming back again and again to try the delicious cocktails. Make sure to try the mussels, which executive chef Teddy Folkman made to defeat Bobby Flay in an episode of “Throwdown.”

Vendetta, a bocce bar and tavern, offers its guests the chance to do the ultimate – throw balls and drink. Guests can even hold private parties where they serve more balls – meatballs.

If balls are your thing, also be sure to try the H St. Country Club, which offers a renowned menu with scrumptious Mexican food, as well as a large rooftop deck and the only miniature golf course in D.C. The weekend brunch also features bottomless mimosas, which no one should ever turn down.

Venturing a few blocks away from H Street is Union Market, featuring pop-up shops, restaurants and local produce. Many events are starting to encourage patrons, such as book signings, mixology seminars and gospel choir brunches. And don’t forget to check out Dock 5 for a potential event space. The 13,000-square-foot area can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

H Street is continuing to grow and will be bigger and better with the introduction of the D.C. streetcar. And just when can we expect to be joyriding on this streetcar?

Mayor Gray has promised it will be just a matter of months before the long-awaited line opens for business. Whether you use it to just get to work, or to enjoy a unique bar or restaurant experience, be sure to venture to H Street for great food and fun.

Phillip Ray is a Realtor with the Bediz Group (formerly Dwight and David Group) at Coldwell Banker Dupont. Reach him at 202-570-8822 or for advice on buying or selling in Dupont, H Street and beyond.


Spring market finally blooms

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With improving weather comes renewed hope for a busy real estate market. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Yes, it has been in hiding! We’ve been waiting for the 2014 spring market to emerge. It did not rush out of the gates in January as it did in 2013. In contrast, the 2014 market is slowing emerging from its cocoon with the “heat” still on in some price points and in certain neighborhoods.

If a well-maintained home in a popular neighborhood is priced appropriately, it will sell. The D.C. market is much more active than it is in the remainder of the metro area, but overall activity is down for a variety of reasons.

Federal workers and contractors are still unsure after the slicing and dicing of the federal budget and program cuts. Many new rental buildings are luring potential buyers to lease by offering “free month” packages and low initial rental rates. The pace of gentrification in the District is slowed only by the scarcity of properties to buy, renovate, and resell.

Even the changeable metro weather has played a part keeping us at home by the fire with Netflix. Yet, we’ve heard that other metro area markets are on a fast pace. Chicago, Boston and Atlanta are reporting that their markets have now caught fire.

Do not despair however, as there is promise of a strong spring market. The trees are starting to bud, daffodils are blooming and the tulips are emerging. It reminds me of my first D.C. spring arrival, having travelled from gray, cold Boston on an overnight train. I stepped out of Union Station and felt like Dorothy when she abruptly landed in Oz. It was alive with color, not black and white.

Blue skies, green grass, and tulips were everywhere and it had the magical feeling of Munchkin Land and the Yellow Brick Road. I felt certain the yellow brick road would lead me to a wonder-filled life in metropolitan Washington, D.C. and it did.

This is how I feel about spring and the 2014 real estate market. We have been drifting through the first quarter in shades of white, black and gray. The colors of spring are about to burst with refreshed life and all those in search of new beginnings will feel the need to find a new home.

Rates are not extremely low but they are not high either.  Federal employees will begin to feel more confident. Those who have delayed moving will feel that urge again. We just need the mental relief of a sunny sky and nature to run its course, kick starting a great real estate year.

Sue Goodhart is the top-producing agent at McEnearney Associates in Alexandria and is licensed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Reach her at 202-507-7800 or sue@


The homeowner’s guide to exercise

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Cleaning your house burns a surprising amount of calories. (Photo by iStock)

If you’re like many of us, you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape.  You threw away the bags of chips in the pantry, gave the rest of the Christmas cookies to the neighbor kids and vowed never again to walk down the ice cream aisle at Harris Teeter. You even brought the treadmill up from the basement so you could exercise while watching “Flowers in the Attic.”

Yes, your intentions were admirable (as were mine), but then that comfy sofa started calling your name, Jillian Michaels became even more annoying and you couldn’t resist ordering extra pizza and nachos for Sunday’s Super Bowl game.

To those of you who love working out at the gym, playing Ultimate Frisbee with your pals on a cold Saturday morning or jogging around the National Mall, I salute you. But if you’re like me, always the last person picked for a team from elementary through high school, the humiliation of public exercise and lack of sports ability still takes its toll many years later.

Most experts agree that you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat, so it’s hard enough for people on the chocolate chip pancake diet just to stay even, but we forget about the everyday things we do that can contribute to weight loss. Here’s what I suggest.

Get up in the morning. In the 10 minutes it takes to make your bed, you burn 27 calories.  Brush your teeth to burn 34 more and style your hair for 20 minutes to burn another 72.

Clean the house. Spend 20 minutes washing dishes – by hand, no cheating – to burn 63 calories, then get to the real work. Thirty minutes each of dusting, vacuuming, mopping floors, washing windows, doing the laundry and ironing will yield a 773-calorie deficit. But also consider the additional benefit – the 30 extra minutes spent running up and down the stairs doing all this for the 245-calorie burn.

Mind the kids. How much time do you spend carrying a baby on your hip? One hour equals 302 calories burned. An additional hour of playing with your child at the park consumes another 327.

Walk the dog. A 30-minute walk will help you and your dog burn 143 calories. Have more than one dog? Walk them individually.

Go to work. Driving for an hour consumes 172 calories, so some might say that commuting is actually good for you.

Decorate and renovate. My favorite home stager is in great shape and it’s no wonder, since 60 minutes spent rearranging the furniture will burn 540 calories. Take an hour to paint that spare bedroom, something that’s been on your To Do list for six months, and you’ll burn 409 calories. A 30-minute home repair garners 184 more.

Do weekend chores out of doors. There’s an outdoor chore for every type of weather. Take 30 minutes each for the following tasks and feel the burn: raking leaves (164), shoveling snow (245), mowing the lawn (178), tending the garden (222) and washing the car (184).

Have a party. Go grocery shopping for an hour for a 286-calorie burn (no nibbling along the way, please) then cook dinner for half an hour when you get home for another 108. When your friends arrive, play an hour of bridge to lose 130 calories, tickle the ivories during a 30-minute sing-along for 113 more and finish off the evening with an hour of dancing to your living room Wii console for 486.

Go to bed. Finally, sleep for seven hours and burn 530 calories.

Now, for those of you who have been waiting for me to mention it, sex does indeed enter into the picture; however, 10 minutes of foreplay only burns 20 calories and 20 minutes of, er, follow-up, surprisingly only burns 115, so when your best friend tells you he burned 1,000 calories having sex last Saturday night, be impressed. I know I am.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


Housing type vs. housing ownership

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Armed with a better understanding of the difference between housing type and housing ownership categories, you should have a clearer sense of how to focus your search for a new home.

With the variety of housing terms floating around, it’s often confusing to renters and buyers to say just what it is they are looking for. So here’s a guide to two categories that are often confused:

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Housing type refers to the architectural configuration of a desired home. In DC, the MLS service (MRIS) designates various housing types. Apartments (sometimes called flats) are typically living spaces all on one floor in multi-unit buildings.  Apartment buildings are categorized by the number of stories: garden buildings have from 1 –4 stories, mid-rise buildings have from 5 – 8 stories, and high-rise buildings have 9+ stories.

Attached housing types include rowhouses, townhouses, fourplexes, and duplexes (not an exhaustive list). Rowhouses are usually 2-story living spaces (may include a basement) that are connected with shared side walls. Townhouses are typically 3- or even 4-story living spaces that may include a basement rental apartment (in older townhouses) or a ground-floor garage and office (in newer townhouses), also attached in a row like rowhouses.  Fourplex and duplex houses typically only share one common side wall; in the case of fourplexes, there is also an upstairs/downstairs barrier between the units.

Detached houses share no common walls or floors/ceilings with other houses, and may even have additional buildings on the property—like an exterior garage or toolshed.

Ownership refers to the legal status of a house. Here the big divide is between rental housing and owned housing, whether the ownership is for the whole property (fee simple) or whether it is for partial ownership (co-operative or condominium). There is often confusion between the latter two, so here is a good way to distinguish them: In a housing co-operative (or co-op), you own a proportional share of the corporation that owns the building; in a condominium (condo), you actually own the real property constituting your house.

Now let’s combine housing type and housing ownership categories. It’s possible to rent any housing type. However, not all owned housing categories can be combined with all housing types.  For example, it’s only to purchase detached house or duplex on a fee simple basis. Any other type of multiple-unit housing requires a different form of ownership. Typically, smaller clusters of the same housing type (rowhouses, townhouses, fourplexes, duplexes, even detached houses in an enclosed community) use a condominium form of ownership, and  condominium ownership is also common for apartment buildings.

In contrast, typically only multi-unit apartment buildings use co-operative ownership. For example, many of the co-operatives in Washington are former rental apartment buildings, e.g. the buildings along Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park and Cleveland Park. In next month’s article, I’ll talk more about the differences between condominiums and co-operatives, and the relative advantages of each.

Meanwhile, armed with a better understanding of the difference between housing type and housing ownership categories, you should have a clearer sense of how to focus your search for a new home.

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


Mid-City in winter

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The big Mid-City winners in this category were zip code 20005 (Logan Circle) and 20004 (Penn Quarter). (Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The books are closed on January 2014 real estate stats and, in general, it was a better month for market activity than January 2013. So let’s take a look at the numbers:


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Mid-City statistics

First, comparing median sold prices, Mid-City properties saw growth in median sold prices for January 2014 over January 2013 — $576,101 over $511,841. These figures are higher for both Mid-City and D.C. overall in either year; additionally, Mid-City median sold prices have a greater increase year over year than D.C.—by 12.6 percent compared to 11.6 percent for D.C. The big Mid-City winners in this category were zip code 20005 (Logan Circle) and 20004 (Penn Quarter), with 63.3 percent and 53.9 percent increases respectively. However, because these two zip codes had so few solds in January (a total of eight), it might be more accurate to designate zip code 20010 (Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant) as the winner with 28 solds and a 35.3 percent increase. The big loser was zip code 20003 (Capitol Hill, Navy Yards) with a -2.8 percent decrease in median sold prices over January 2013.

For active listings, Mid-City had a greater percentage increase in the number of properties on the market—from 387 in January 2013 to 463 in January 2014—for an increase of 19.6 percent in available properties in comparison to only a 5.4 percent increase for DC overall. Again, the big Mid-City zip code winner was 20010 (Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant) with a 78.3 percent increase in active listings, while the big loser was again zip code 20003 (Capitol Hill, Navy Yards) with a decrease of -34.8 percent in the number of active listings.

Average days on the market is one indicator of the “speed of the market” and a general index of the seller’s market: the fewer the number of days on the market, the more the market is considered to be a seller’s market. Here, D.C. showed an -18.5 percent decrease in average days on the market, while Mid-City experienced a 35.3 percent increase. This means there were more properties on the market for a longer time in January 2014 over January 2013 in Mid-City, but fewer in D.C. overall. However, to put this all in perspective, there must be a six-month supply of homes on the market for it to be considered a “balanced” market between sellers and buyers. Dividing the average days on the market by 30 to obtain the number of months of supply of available homes, we can see that both D.C. overall and Mid-City have approximately a two-month supply of homes on the market—making it clear that we are still in a seller’s market.  (However, this figure is up from the fall season, when homes moved so quickly off the shelf that there was less than a one-month supply.)

Identifying winners and losers in this category depends on your point of view: if you are a seller, a lower number of days on the market is better because it means that there is less competition for your property; if you are a buyer, a greater number of days is better because it means you have more options from which to choose and sellers may be more willing to negotiate. So, for this category, winner/loser zip codes for sellers are 20002 (H Street, Atlas District, Trinidad) with a decrease of average days on the market of -66.1 percent over January 2013 and 20005 (Logan Circle) with an increase of average days on the market of 205.4 percent over January 2013. For buyers , the winner/loser zip codes are just the opposite: your buying options increased in zip code 20005, while they decreased in zip code 20002. Looks like the H Street district is heating up.

The final comparison is sold price/original list price. Here, what’s being compared is how big a percentage of the original list price sellers are getting. The higher the percentage, the more we are in a seller’s market. The D.C. market has been in the 90+ percentage range for the last five years—even through the modest real estate decline we experienced in the District. Bargains are few and far between in D.C., and this is something that newcomers trying to buy a home here frequently learn the hard way by losing a number of their first offers. In this category, there wasn’t much different between D.C. overall and Mid-City from January 2013 to January 2014: Both experienced a .7 percent increase in the ratio of sold price to original list price, with the Mid-City ratio of 98.5 percent being 1.4 percent higher than D.C.’s 97.1 percent. (This means that Mid-City homes sell for closer to asking price—surprise!) In this category, the big winners—at least from a seller’s perspective—were zip codes 20004 (Penn Quarter) and 20005 (Logan Circle), with 4.5 percent and 3.4 percent increases over January 2013. It’s worth pointing out that zip code 20005 had a sold price/original list price ratio of 101.3 percent. This means that Logan Circle properties are selling for more than their asking price—even in the dead of winter. How is that possible? It means that 20005 properties are receiving multiple contract offers.

And the big loser in this category?  Zip code 20007 (Georgetown/Burleith, Glover Park), with a -1.6 percent decrease in the sold price/list price ratio to 95.1 percent. However, at a median sold price of $885,674, that’s hardly “loser” status.

Happy Hunting!

Ted Smith is a licensed Realtor with Real Living | at Home specializing in Mid-City DC. Reach him at and follow him on, or @TedSmithSellsDC. You can also join him at free monthly seminars for first-time homebuyers or monthly tours of open houses in a different neighborhood each week. Sign up at


Loan commitment will help in competitive market

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In a market where desirable properties are getting multiple offers, having a full loan commitment is vital because it shows that your offer has rock solid financing.

Although many believe that spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, D.C. housing market professionals see it through the eyes of another animal: that ever-quick rabbit. The 2014 spring market will wait for no one and the rules of engagement have changed. So now is the time to arm yourself with real estate professionals and mortgage bankers who will help you formulate a strategy that’s sure to get your contract ratified.

With low inventory and the highest demand seen in years, it is more important than ever to get your file fully underwritten, not simply pre-approved before you put an offer on a property. What does “fully underwritten” exactly mean? How can you achieve that?  Ask your mortgage professional to not just take your application but also collect all of your income and asset data upfront. By doing so, they will be able to fully underwrite your borrowing credentials, and issue a “loan commitment,” instead of the more common “preapproval letter,” which says little to guarantee a borrower’s ability to be approved.

In a market where desirable properties are getting multiple offers, having a full loan commitment is vital because it shows that your offer has rock solid financing. When sellers review multiple offers, they will almost always accept the contract that looks most likely to close without issue. As a buyer with a “loan commitment” all you’re waiting for is the address, because the rest is already in the bag. With a loan commitment, you’ll be able to hop right into the front of the race and get your offer accepted, because sellers LOVE buyers who will get to closing quickly, just like a spring rabbit.

What exactly will you need to submit to be issued a “loan commitment?” The requirements will vary depending on the specifics of the loan you’re seeking. Ranging from conventional loans with sizeable down payments, to programs like D.C. Open Doors, which enables buyers to substantially reduce their down payment requirement, there are a host of options your mortgage banker can help you navigate. In general you’ll want to be prepared to submit two year’s worthy of tax returns and W2s, as well as two months of bank statements and your last two paystubs. It’s also a good practice to start to keep your statements and paystubs in a folder, so when you speak with a mortgage banker, most of what you’ll need is already on hand. It may seem like a lot of busy work, and you’ll feel like our friend the spring bunny, hopping around looking for forage, but these documents will have to be submitted eventually anyway, so it pays to have them ready to go.

Another worthwhile step is to pool any funds you intend to put toward a home into a single account, and minimize how much you transfer money within your accounts in the months leading up to your home purchase. The more you move your money, the more extensive your paperwork will be and the more difficult it will be to document it all.  Additionally, your mortgage banker will pull your credit and help you identify any issues that may be problematic. This gives you time to rectify small issues and assure you are able to secure the best terms possible once you have a ratified contact. So be like the wise owl, plan ahead and get your finances in order early.

In today’s market, buyers are jumping on scarce listings faster than a bunny leaps through a carrot field. The spring housing market is like a sprint fit for a rabbit. Having your mortgage professional run your income, credit and asset data by his/her underwriter will signify to the sellers you mean business and will race like the hare to win their home.  Having a mortgage professional who’s willing to take these simple steps for you, goes a long way to make sure your dream home becomes a reality.

Francki DiFrancesco is the top producer for Apex Home Loans. She has more than 17 years of experience in the mortgage industry and has originated more than $65 million in loans annually. Reach her at 240-268-3141 or


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