Good Deal or Not? Under $250K For A Classic Rowhome Edition


This home is located at 428 Taylor Street, NW:

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The flier says:

“Lots of potential. One of the upstairs bedrooms has attached sitting room/den. Eat-in kitchen. Front porch. Two-car garage. Bank owned. NOT a short sale. Quick response. Preapproval by Wells Fargo a must. EMD must be held by Long & Foster. Toilets removed and radiators not attached. As is.”

More info but no photos found here.

Well, there is no debate about this home it is clearly going to need work. But at least the purchase price is not astronomical. How do you think it will cost to fix up a house of this size? This home is on the market for $240,000? If you factor in the work needed does this sound reasonable?

51 Comment

  • I dont know if its a deal in today market. but who woulda thunk back at the height of the bubble we would ever see something this cheap. how low will it go? kansas ave rowhome for 175,000?

  • I walked by there the other day and the porch is pretty scary. I probably wouldn’t be comfortable moving anything up and down those steps.

  • This is a $200,000 renovation. All told you’d be in for about $450,000. Probably a little high for the neighborhood but not outrageous, and you’d have a brand new custom home exactly to your liking. Not a raging deal or good for a flipper, but if you want a market-rate home that’s exactly to your liking, it works.

  • That is getting close to pretty cheap to me. That part of Taylor would put you close to the metro, busline and the weed spot. I can’t think of a more convenient location in Petworth. Seriously, if this house is livable (doubt it based on the porch), it may be worth looking into.

  • this is exactly what we need to finally turn the economy around – not government bailouts, but rather sanity returning to housing prices. lots of people are going to get hurt but the end result will be reasonable housing costs at sustainable price levels. and yeah i agree with davey, this is a nice way to get a fully customized house if you can figure out the financing.

  • I would offer $200, put in $150 and sell for $500. Make $150. Or live in a sweet, renovated row home.

    Good deal (if $40,000 cheaper.)

  • “This is a 200K renovation”… that’s a gut job price, and definitely a high-end since we haven’t even seen the inside. If it’s livable, this would be a great deal for a DIYer to restore. Yeah, the porch is scary, but the roof looks pretty good. Rebuilding the front porch is the least of your concerns in taking on an old house renovation. I did one of those in a single day with one helper on my Mt. Pleasant house years ago. Not a big deal.

    I see a good deal unless it’s not livable. Only problem is that block of Taylor, which as we’ve discussed here before is the site of much of the ongoing Petworth unpleasantness.

  • The fact that the toilets are out and the radiators are disconnected tells you all you need to know. I’d be shocked if you don’t need to replace all plumbing and electrical. So 200k isn’t for fancy high-end finishes, it’s just getting the house habitable. MAYBE you could do 150 if you didn’t put in central heat/ac.

  • … and by the way, the last time this house sold, in 2006 (which was already after the bubble was deflating) was for $385,000 according to DC’s home sales database.

    That is a pretty good indication that it’s in decent shape. I’ll bet anyone this is under contract in less than 2 weeks.

  • If i see a townhome in liveable condition for 150 grand in the near future. well. you can just call me Slumlord.

  • Rewiring and replumbing a 2-story, 3-bedroom townhouse is not really that big a deal. Even at the high end I bet you’re only talking 15-20 grand depending on how much wall damage you are willing to tolerate.

    The fact that the toilets are out and the radiators not attached is almost certainly because the person who got foreclosed upon removed them. It doesn’t mean much except that you need new toilets and maybe radiators. Vintage radiators are easily acquired at the Community Forklift for not too much money.

  • Jamie- not so. some asshat could have started a reno and gotten as far as wrecking it before deciding to forclose.

  • @Anon… good point. If they started a forced air heat conversion, that would suck. In “replumbing the whole house” I wasn’t including the radiator pipes in the “not that big a deal” category.

    I am going to try to see it today… curious.

  • what i want to know is why are the toliets missing? i feel like thats the not the first thing i think of doing when I am going to do a reno. was this retaliatory for getting foreclosed?

  • Not to nitpick at Jamie, but generally speaking the Petworth unpleasantness really starts about 1.5 blocks up from there, from 4th to Rock Creek Church w/ Marlboro inbetween.

    That said, the unpleasantness has been very quiet lately. Maybe its too cold.

  • I agree with Markus, it’s been really quiet around that block after the shooting a while ago.

  • Vonstallin

    I’m loving the front window Bars….
    It’s like having your own little piece of Prison life…
    But with conjugal visits ! 🙂

  • Once again I have to thank my lucky stars that I got my house, which was unrenovated but livable (toilet and radiators included!), for less than they’re asking for this place that clearly requires some immediate attention and money. If memory serves, in 2002 this place would probably not reach $200k. Then prices went sky high for a while, and though they’ve come down, they’re still not what they were in ’03 and before. Phew. Still, I think an owner-occupant with some skill and patience could make this a good deal. A flipper certainly could, but thankfully a lot of them are too busy licking their wounds now (flippers “stole” 3 houses from me and I hold a grudge).

  • “2002 this place would probably not reach $200k.”

    As I noted before it sold for 380K in 2006. Prices in Petworth definitely did not double in that time. I doubt it’s that bad, unless as someone suggested, a bad renovation was begun and not finished. I’d put even money on the foreclosee just taking everything (even stuff that was bolted down) out of spite.

  • I dont think its a good deal at all. Sounds like a lot of work and the comps for the renovated place on Rock Creek that PoP posted earlier indicate that after you finish renovating it, it would only be worth less than $400K.

    Since we dont know how much work it really needs, (no pics) lets assume its $100k. Would you go through the time and effort to do a $100K renovation to build $60K in equity?? Not in this market!!!

    What if the renovations cost $200K as some people are estimating? Then you are underwater. There are much better deals available today.

  • I know people are iffy about having a condo instead of a full rowhouse, but DAMN I’d rather have this place instead:

    Yeah, you don’t get to pick exactly what you want, but you could move in right away.

  • That’s a good point, Just J. Even if you could break even or come out a little ahead by fixing this place up, it doesn’t seem worth it when you could get a move-in ready place for $75-100k more.

  • “There are much better deals available today.”… where?

    So you think earning 60K in equity for 6 months or so of work isn’t a good deal?? Considering it only takes a 5% or 10% down to buy the place – 25K max – I’d say, earning 60,000 on a 25,000 dollar investment in a year or less is a pretty damn good return!!

    If you can make money on a flip AT ALL in this crappy market I’d say that’s a HELL of deal.

  • “That’s a good point, Just J. Even if you could break even or come out a little ahead by fixing this place up, it doesn’t seem worth it when you could get a move-in ready place for $75-100k more.”

    To each their own, but you get what you pay for. The renovation on the house that sold nearby (for $130K more, by the way, not 75K more) is obviously not very high end. No central A/C. Work was done in 2 months. How much could have been done? I bet they didn’t even rewire it.

    I would MUCH rather spend the same money, and/or as much of the work myself as I could, and end up with my dream home and high-quality work.

    Any so-called “renovated” house you buy for $380K is going to be exactly that. I can assure you the buyer of that house is not finished writing checks.

    Finally, unless you are looking to sell the house in a year, which would be stupid, this isn’t a question of “how will I make the most money in 365 days.” I would rather take a diamond in the rough and make it my own over a period of time then buy a crappy flip job which will fall apart.

  • What makes you think that this house (particularly in a year or two, or five) would max out at $400,000.

    I bought my place just off Rock Creek on Quincy (400 block) for just under $500k several months ago (and my offer was one of 7 in 3 days ranging from 495 to 520 … I just offered as-is.) A nicely renovated house (and done well, retaining the right features) within .5 miles of the metro will go for more than $500,000 in this area (when my financing almost didn’t go through, the agent re-listed at $540 and I trust would have gotten that.)

    A word of advice to those looking to sell. There are A LOT of really shitty houses on the market in Petworth. There are VERY FEW nicely renovated places (and again, nicely renovated does not mean tearing out your formal dining room in favor of an open floor plan and removing the original molding) — if you renovate right, there are plenty of buyers out there willing to pay for a nice rowhouse in this area (and pay well.) Renovating well doesn’t mean spending more money, but retaining the right things and putting the right things in. One wouldn’t think it would be THAT difficult, but having shopped for a place in this area for over a year, it apparently is.

  • re Nate at 1:30pm: What of us this Petworth “weed spot” you mention?

  • Ross:,1&status=1&min_price=450000&max_price=500000&num_beds=1&v=4&lat=38.9288347194

    Best deal in the city (I have a relative who lives in one of these).

    But I do agree with you, $500K for a house with atleast 3 bedrooms isnt going to put you in a lot of really nice neighborhoods. The best I think you are gonna get is Mich Park which is safer, but not more “established”

  • hmm, hard to really paying $200K for renovations – I mean of course you could spend way more than that, but what is your end goal? It’s a bad idea for your investment to renovate to the point your house is nicer than anything else in the neighborhood. You could spend $25-50K I think and have a totally livable house with a new roof, non-rotting porch, and a functional boiler for your radiators. You don’t have to have central air and a brand-new chef’s kitchen for a house to be livable, and you can make big bucks on your investment by just making a few key upgrades.

  • “It’s a bad idea for your investment to renovate to the point your house is nicer than anything else in the neighborhood”

    I think I disagree with that statement — again, I believe there is a decent demand (hipchic, maybe you can attest to this) in Petworth for nicely renovated housing (that means granite counters, central a/c, new windows, etc.) There is a lot on the market that centers around what you describe PetworthRes — houses that are ‘livable.’ But most people that are buying right now don’t want ‘livable.’ They want a nice house (of which there are few.) When the economy is down, in particular, people aren’t walking around with a lot of cash in their pockets, so the prospect of purchasing a house they need to put another $100K in to make ‘more than livable’ is not desirable.

  • Still not worth it to me. The economy isn’t fixed yet and jobless claims are going up. I still think people should wait. Home prices are coming down and this place exemplifies that. But we’re still not at a bottom.

  • Ross – I looked at probably over 30 houses for sale in Petworth when I bought my house. I’d say 28 of them were not livable. 28 of them were moldy estate sales with horrible cases of deferred neglect. The house I eventually bought stood out like a gem because it had refinished floors and a lot of its original details. It’s livable, in that it had a fresh paint job and functioning appliances and a new roof. If I put in an additional $30K to have a really nice kitchen and $15K more for central air and $10K for a bathroom renovation I seriously doubt I’d get my investment back.

    I think Petworth has a very strong market for houses in livable, not totally renovated, condition, and once you get into high-end renovations where you would need to sell for over $500K on your house to get your investment back, you’re getting into a price point where 9 of 10 people with that much money to spend would rather live in a more established neighborhood. I bought in Petworth because I could not afford a house in other neighborhoods. If I could have afforded a house in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, or close-in Capitol Hill, I would have bought there instead.

  • “Home prices are coming down and this place exemplifies that. But we’re still not at a bottom.”

    Well that makes me wonder how low do you guys think the housing prices in PW will go before we have hit a bottom? Is 150K for a livable house in Petworth in the foreseeable future?

  • PetworthRes, where can you get a nice renovated house in a better area for $500,000? (and no, girard is not a better area)

    “with that much money to spend would rather live in a more established neighborhood. “

  • with mortgages about to readjust and another wave of forclosures to deal with I predict another 15-20 percent decline in the coming year.

  • Just J, which house are you referring to? Certainly not the condos at 1126 Columbia I hope… those look like a really bad deal.

    But I agree that 1/2 million in Petworth doesn’t make sense unless you’re talking about a *really* nice place and close to the Metro.

  • OK, true, but if I could have afforded $500K I would have probably bought a swank 2BR condo in one of those neighborhoods. I found myself either not being able to afford a 2BR condo or only affording tiny cramped houses. At least in Petworth I could afford a nice sized place. I’m sure I’m not alone though in people who bought houses in the last 3 years that are not exactly renovated and yet still paid a lot. I just can’t see sinking another $50K into my house, yet get a little annoyed at the idea from so many posters that you’d need to sink $200k into a house to make it livable.

    So if you paid $415K for a house without central air needing kitchen and bathroom renovations, what would you do? So far I’m thinking I do nothing and try to live within my means and be content with staying put for another 5 years. BTW, my house seemed like a fantastic deal at the time, sigh. At that time, I had looked at shell after craphole after estate sale listed at $450K and up. So—to get back to the point of this post—this house is a fantastic deal! Sure, some people dont’ want a fixer upper, but priced right it is.

  • “seemed like a fantastic deal at the time”

    I can see whoever buys this house (or any house in DC) saying this in a year when prices have gone down another 10-15%

  • Jamie at 2:38: “Prices in Petworth definitely did not double in that time.”

    Well, anecdotally, at least some of them did. I got mine for $220k in early 2003. In 2006 comparables in surrounding blocks were going for around $400k, and some of the nicer ones in the 500s. Maybe mine was priced too low or others were priced too high, but I did see prices go up and up and my jaw dropped and dropped. Things still aren’t nearly as low as when I bought or just before, but I haven’t been following the trends lately….

  • At those who think we have farther to fall: I could be wrong, but the last time I looked at ARMs, they reset to the market rate (or as close as the increase cap allows). Aren’t rates at a historic low, thus making the massive increase in rates on expiring ARMs not as apocalyptic a problem as we once feared?

    Still, I imagine the “bottom” is a very neighborhood- and even house- specific issue.

  • K, I think the big issue is with borrowers who took out interest-only loans, and their loans resetting to where they have to start paying off the principal.

  • I think the main hope for people investing in Petworth is that with new amenities in the neighborhood arriving, people who wouldn’t have considered it in the past will want to live here in the future. So in the end, people should do well here, but in the long term.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that within 5 years I can sell my house for at least a little more than what I paid (too much) for it!!

  • It’s lovely. If only I had not been so impatient to buy as the market was on its way down…

    Someone who’s budgeting, say, $350 K for a house should walk through some of these places with their contractor and figure out costs for house plus renovations.

  • “Well that makes me wonder how low do you guys think the housing prices in PW will go before we have hit a bottom? Is 150K for a livable house in Petworth in the foreseeable future?”

    I can definitely see it. Real estate markets adjust over years and I don’t think we’ve quite seen the full brunt of what will happen. The question isn’t will values continue to go down, but by how much? There’s really no precedent to the rate of appreciation in real estate prices across the board that we saw during the bubble and there’s no precedent and nobody knows where prices will end up.

    People speaking of ‘property being a good investment because housing prices never go down’ during the buying spree that occurred in 2001 – 2005, but this logic is based on normal housing markets trends over time. Basically, housing prices don’t appreciate in value by 100%+ over a matter of a few short years in normal markets, established neighborhood or not. The assumption about housing being a safe investment is from the standpoint that assumes normal appreciation over a matter of years where people are buying within their means and as personal residences. Housing values appreciating because where massive flipping and speculation aren’t norms.

    A lot of people like to point to the fact that, historically, DC has been recession proof or that DC doesn’t follow national trends. In this case, DC followed the trend of all the worst major housing bubble markets with quick appreciation over several years. As such, if the bubble is bursting everywhere else where home values appreciated rapidly in a similar fashion, then why shouldn’t the depreciation here follow the trends in those places? Furthermore, if DC is immune to housing bubbles, why was there a housing bubble in 1989 that primarily affected condominiums where prices did drop and stayed flat for the better part of a decade? Basically, you could easily buy a 1 bedroom condo in Dupont during the late 90s for way less than $200K in a neighborhood close to a metro stop , having most of the ammenities that people claim make their neighborhood a desirable place to live, and was a pretty safe neighborhood back then.

    In addition, the longterm trends in DC are people moving out of the city and not vice versa. The trend of white middle class people moving back into cities is a new trend that coincides with the housing bubble. So, we could be seeing a major shift where several decades of white flight are being reversed that is permanent or this could be a short-term, temporary trend. Obviously there have been improvements in the city, but with the current recession I can see crime increasing, especially in transitional neighborhoods like Columbia Heights and Petworth as more people in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder in this city become hardest hit. Secondly, I can see budget shortfalls creating problems with city services returning to their pre-housing boom level of crappiness. Last but not least, most of the people moving into the city are either single, married without children, or married with children who are younger than school age. The public school system in this town is still a mess and I don’t see people wanting to stick around once they settle down and have children or their children become of schooling age unless they can afford to send their kids to a private school.

    Let’s face it, most people couldn’t afford the 25K+ to send their kids to Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Day School.

  • Nice to see: In the Saturday Wash Post real estate section, Petworth was specifically mentioned as a “lower-income” neighborhood, compared to Dupont Circle, but with a quarter of the property crime per capita, but the same amount of violent crime, unfortunately.

  • Thanks, Lisa, for mentioning what I also saw in this morning’s WaPo, where our beloved Petworth was referred to as a lower income neighborhood. Ha!! I bet that reporter hasn’t stepped foot in Petowrth and just ran that line, without his or her editor bothering to check out whether it’s true or not. Petworth was definitely dissed.

  • We looked at this house when it was on the market last winter (actually just a little more than a year ago today).

    At that time it was listed much higher (I want to say $325k). It was unclear from our quick tour whether it needed to be completely gutted, but it is not in good shape on the inside. The kitchen has some really sweet appliances that may be from 1940 or earlier. The “2 car garage” is a structure that appears to be on the verge of collapse. I agree with the posters who suggest that a minimum of 100k in renovation is required just to get this building liveable.

    We ended up with a beautiful, somewhat renovated house (i.e. original, but functioning bathroom and a new kitchen) a few blocks away for under 400k. Probably could have gotten it for less if we’ve waited a year, but we needed somewhere to live, and we’re happy to be here!

  • I paid $264 for my house right around the corner 5 years ago. I’d sure hate to be looking today, even in the current housing-crisis market. It was listed for $245 but I bid up. Three full baths, basement apartment…the house was totally outdated but very livable. I didn’t do any significant upgrades for at least two years after moving in.

    I thought it was top of the market at the time. kind of funny that this broken down sad house is now selling in that range.

  • I would jump at this house. This is a good stable area of the city. How much would a few toilets, heating, spit and polish cost for a great house like this? I think many people are expecting the over inflated prices to return to the District. I pray not, all I want is a decent place to call home for a reasonably fair price.

  • I think this might be a better deal even at $365k:

    Sure it’s not a beauty but it doesn’t look like it’s falling apart either….

  • We got a 2BR co-op (like a condo) in Fort Totten with new kitchen and den for $180K in 2006. It has depreciated but we had very little to do to it (polish floors, paint). 1 BR Units in our building are still selling around $110K. Shop around. If you want a nice place to live – you can do better. If you’re looking for a project or an investment, perhaps this is to your taste.

  • The question is people, can you qualify for financing to do the rehab? a friend of a friend claimed he had a great house he wanted to rehab in Alexandria but no bank would give him more than the price of the house. Where do you think you’re going to qualify for $350k for this house? That’s why the prices are low, because no one can get the loans.

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