Good Deal or Not? Reader Request Affordable Edition


This condo is located at 5200 North Capitol Street, NW:

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The flier says:


You can find more info and photos here.

A reader who lives in this building sent in the above condo after we had a discussion on the small loft for sale in Mt. P above Tonic. This 2 bed/1 bath is going for $149,500. Sound reasonable?

61 Comment

  • I think that is a great price!

  • I live over that way and have always wondered about that building. Looks nice.

  • Great starter if that neighborhood works for you, but don’t expect much appreciation in value even if you put some money into it. Also, rule #1 for happy living: never live in a co-op building except in NYC or other places where they’re common.

  • Agree w/ Anon @ 1:21 on the area. Also, co-op fee is effectively 75% of the mortgage. Just something to think about. Still might be a good deal for someone, but there’s a reason co-ops cost less.

  • Is “art decco” different from “art deco”? Because this sure as hell isn’t the latter.

  • The coop fee includes property taxes, though, so that’s why they seem higher than some condos.

  • Yes, flee coops in DC, where tenant / owner laws somehow make them a nightmare. A buddy of mine is being sued for his role in a coop a decade ago, just crazy, and a lawyers wet dream.

  • PoP, let’s have more of these affordable editions !

    It makes for more practical useful reading.

  • Keep in mind that you probably will not be able to rent out this property if you ever decide not to live in it. Co-ops usually have strict rules on renting.

  • Fort Totten area has few amenities. The big plus is it is on the Red & Green / Yellow line. 7 – Eleven is opening at the Metro station on the retail level of the Fort Totten Station building. (That all but guarantees a nice ‘neighborhoody’ coffee shop / deli will not open up at that location) On the run, 7 – Eleven, KFC, Chinese take out is essentially all that is available on the South Dakota Ave side of Fort Totten Metro Station. That area could accommodate development on 1/3 the scale of Columbia Heights. Two restaurants, coffee shop, I am dreaming big maybe a Harris Teeter if you build it they will come!!! I am way off subject the Co-op is not bad.

  • Is it possible / safe to walk from there to the Ft Totten metro?

  • Agreed, Anon @ 141. Hey PoP? If it’s not too much trouble would you mind doing a few more sub 200k GDoN posts for the rest of us out there?

  • $550 coop fee is equivalent to what would be 100,000 mortgage payment. (So the total cost of this condo is about 250,000) At 250K, you can buy a house in that area.

    And as far as coops go, you really have to look at each one and review how they are handling their internal business, what sort of issues they are dealing with, what sort of expenses are coming up or they’re putting off, etc. It may be worth it, but only if you are willing to review everything and do all your research. Buying a house is much simpler, and at this price point, probably a better financial decision as well.

  • I think this stigma against coops in DC is largely unfounded. I sent this suggestion in to PoP. I’ve lived in this coop for over 3 years now and it is hardly a nightmare. Day to day, it’s the same as a condo, except it has the benefit of being actually affordable. If you’re looking to buy a condo and flip it in 18 months, then maybe a co-op is not for you. But if you actually intend to live where you buy for a little while, a co-op isn’t a bad way to go. Yes the financing is a little different, and you want to make sure your coop is in good financial health before buying into it (this one is), but I think the stigma is an outdated remnant of the housing upheaval in the 70s.

  • i live sort of near this place. it is very easy/safe to get to metro from this joint. 5 min. walk, through a community garden (a.k.a. gallatin st – which is not a street, but federal parkland between fort totten dr. and 1st pl)

    anon at 1:56 is right. there are few amenities. as in none. and i don’t think this area can accommodate any development except for maybe on the north side of Riggs Road, but I don’t see where. There are no vacant areas that aren’t federal land or cemetaries or both. This is exactly what i like about it, but others might not.

    For a young single person looking for a starter joint, this isn’t the one i’d pick, but I could see how it could be attractive for an older person or couple.

  • @L yes, it is both possible and safe to walk to Fort Totten metro from this Condo. I would guess it would take someone about 10 minutes. There is a really nice path that goes from Gallatin St. straight to the Metro.

  • Comparing a coop fee to a mortgage payment is misleading. The coop fee includes property taxes, maintenance, gas, electric, trash collection, snow removal, etc…

    If you bought a 250k house, you’d be paying almost $200 a month in property taxes. Plus your gas, electric, trash and sewer bills, maintenance of the grounds, etc… that a condo or coop fee might include.

    Add up your condo fee, utilities and property tax, and then you’ll be comparing apples to apples.

  • Did I miss it, but does this establishment have a name?

  • two and a half blocks to the southwest, between New Hampshire and 1st St. NE, is a glut of Section 8 housing, although a small fraction of it is being converted into condos. Between that and the monster co-op fee, caveat emptor.

  • The real benefit of a coop is that you get to have a say at who moves into your building. Opening your finances to a coop board is not for the ego sensitive types.

  • I live in a coop and I can tell you that the hate on coops is so overblown. Do coops appreciate less than condos? No not really. You will probably pay less for a coop than a similar condo, and you will probably sell for less when you are ready to move on but the appreciation rate is about the same. Is that a bad thing? I guess it depends on how you look at it. Some people want more appreciation; some people want more house for their money.

    Every coop is different but generally they have stricter rules on renting than condos (mine does). Does that mean I can’t rent my unit? No, actually I can. Does that mean we have more control over slumlords that are willing to put any tenant they can in the unit right next to you? Yes it does. Does that mean it is easier to get rid of bad renters? Yes it does.

    There are many pluses and minuses to owning a coop vs. a condo. The biggest downside (and what ultimately leads to coops being worth less than comparable condos) is that people don’t understand them and therefore avoid them. The smaller pool of buyers to choose from leads to the lower price (supply& demand).

    The reality is that after you move into the place, you can’t really tell the difference between a coop and a condo.

  • re: development/amenities Oh, I forgot. There ARE plans in the works for both the north and south sides of the Riggs/South Dakota intersection in wards 4 and 5, respectively. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on either of them going anywhere for awhile. Maybe in 5 years.

  • I lived in a co-op in AM for 9 years. My fee was super low, ($400ish), and included taxes and all my utilities except phone/cable/internet service. You can write off your property tax share of your income tax every year, unlike condo fees.

    Co-ops are all about understanding what you are buying, and knowing the fiscal status of the co-op before you move in. Some have not been properly run, have insufficient funds, poorly managed boards, etc. But a good co-op is ten-fold better than the best condo, IMHO.

    BTW, Anon @1:21, per capita, co-ops are as common in DC as in NYC. The average DC resident is just not as familiar with the idea, because DC has a higher population of non-native residents, who come from places where co-ops never existed. Until I was considering buying one, I certainly didn’t understand exactly what they were–we didn’t have those things down South. Once I figured it out, and had help from a great realtor who knew how to read the relevant documents regarding the financial health (the debt, reserves, etc.), I realized what a great opportunity it was.

  • Id rather have the shoe box on mtp street than live in this place on an 8 lane arterial with virtually nothing in walking distance.

  • you do not want to be walking near ft. totten after the sun goes down. people are constantly mugged on that trail.

  • On co-op fees: Usually when purchasing a co-op, the underlying mortgage (from which a good portion of the co-op fee is derived) is deducted from the purchase price, not added. Hence, when buying a co-op for 150k that has an underlying mortgage of 50k on it, the buyer will have to obtain financing (loan and down payment) only for 100k, and the co-op fee will continue to service the underlying mortgage debt (and property tax), plus whatever else it covers, like utilities, maintenance, insurance, etc…

    That said, I don’t think this is a good deal, evidenced by the fact that it’s been on the market for well over a year. The building is old, bland, essentially a crappy apartment in a part of town with nothing around it, save for the metro pretty close by. Drop another 20-30k at least before it’s a good deal, but I wouldn’t consider sinking my money into this building a wise choice a pretty much any price.

  • I forgot to mention one major benefit of coops these days.

    My coop looks over they type of financing you take out when you buy your unit. It was a major hassle for me when I bought my unit in 2005 because they forced me to put down 5% (when everyone was doing 100% financing). At the time I was pissed because I thought it was unnecessary (and later I found out it was not enforceable because of the way the bylaws were written) but now I am so glad they were doing it. In the four year I have been living there we have had ZERO foreclosures amongst our 102 units and none of those crazy loans. How many condo associations can say the same?

  • @anon 2:33… actually metro (3 lines) is within walking distance which means that virtually everything (that is metro accessible) is within walking distance. You just don’t bring it home with you… Like I said before, it’s totally not for everyone and the reasons why i like this area are probably the reasons why some would hate it.

    North Capital is a busy street, no doubt about that. I don’t live on it (nor would I want to – i have a dog who sometimes gets loose, wouldn’t like to chance his fate *anywhere* by living a busy street) so I couldn’t speak to that. Oh, and it’s 6 lanes ;P

  • The location isn’t my cup of tea, but didn’t the District just recently change the way they handled Coop sales? I think that they were not subject to transfer taxes, etc., and now they are (or will be shortly). If so, buying a coop has now gotten a little more expensive, so I would factor that into comps (though, for this one, the transfer tax and recordation tax would add up to only about $3500). The main reason the Coop fee is so large, I imagine, is that it includes the underrlying land mortgage; its not taxes, electricty, etc., etc. If this was a condo, taxes would only be about $60-70/month, and electricty also low ($40?) (water would be included in a condo fee, but is negligible). Figure a “normal” condo fee (although there is no such thing) at $200-250 for this place, and thats $300-360 total, making that mortgage $180-240 of the fee.

    As to the place itself, there is a lack of photos, but that bathroom seems kind of dirty to me (they might need to recaulk the tiles), and the kitchen is lame for allegedly new appliances.

  • @anon 2:38 re: “constant muggings” really? because i’ve been walking it every day for almost 2 years and have never experienced that. also i get the crime reports and muggings there are rare. i think there have been maybe 2 in 2 years?

    Can’t say that for the other side of Ft Totten metro, though. I’ve heard some less good things about the walk over to South Dakota avenue due to lots of vacant buildings (which they want to replace with that development i mentioned before…). So maybe that’s what you were talking about.

  • seems like a decent deal, but yeah that fee seems high. the walk should be fine to the metro
    being that close to red/ is stellar. but you’ll have to metro or drive to anything else.
    for now. wasnt there supposed to be something going on in the old tiger mart spot? s’been a while since i’ve been past there…

  • Aonn @ 2:53pm–FAIL. You didn’t even put the price. LAME FAIL. Plus, no one cares. We only care to comment upon what PoP posts.

  • @Sean – Yes there is eventually going to be development in the old Tiger Mart spot, but the economy seems to have put that on indefinite hold. The development at Fort Totten metro is definitely still moving forward. There have been several community meetings on that – still I wouldn’t expect any development to be completed in the next year or two.

  • @Anon 2:16, it’s called The Norfolk. There’s no nameplate on the building, though.

    Re: metro access, it’s about a 7 to 10 minute walk, depending on your pace. There’s also a bus from the Ft. Totten metro that drops you off right in front of the building if you don’t want to walk after dark.

    @WDC, you’re right that the building is a later era (1941) art-deco-inspired building rather than a true 1920s art deco building. But some of the details on the building, like the dooway lintels, are clearly of that style.

    Thanks JustJ and Jim for addressing the co-op issue very well. In the things that matter, this is a good coop, with good reserves and good owner occupancy. You can rent your unit in this building, but it does require board approval.

    @Anon 2:33, I don’t know what you are talking about 8 lanes. North Capitol in this location is 4 lanes plus a northbound left turn lane. The side streets are nice shaded one-way streets with plenty of parking.

    And about the fee, U @ 2:44 is wrong. It includes the blanket mortgage, AND taxes, gas, electricity, sewer, trash removal, building and grounds maintenance & snow removal. The only thing you pay (aside from your mortgage) is telephone/internet. Remember that with a condo you’d be paying property taxes on top of the condo fee. Here it’s all included.

  • “Hello, Frank? Yeah, I was going to buy your condo in Columbia Heights but then I found out that you were a huge douche.”

  • Aonn @ 2:53pm – no anon, at 499 that is not a good deal

  • @dcpublius, show me a house you can get for 250K over there. Houses in Manor park that are in good shape average 350-400.

  • No, my point is that with a condo, you’d normally be paying $300-360 as condo fee plus all those extras (electricity and taxes are really the only extras; building, grounds maintenance, snow removal, trash (to the extent you aren’t using the trash service that you get by paying property taxes) are all included in condo fees). So the underlying mortgage here is what makes the difference b/n comparable condo fees and this coop fee. AND, you don’t get to deduct anything “extra” by having a coop as compared to a condo (other than interest on the underlying mortgage which is non-existent in a condo).

    SO, if you are doing a straight cost to cost comparison b/n a coop and a condo building, everything else being equal, the coop should be cheaper by about the cost of financing what you are paying on the underlying mortgage (which, as we all know, is baked into the coop fee, so you’d have to do some estimation like I was in my prior post and above). Here, if you figure the underlying mortgage is adding $180-240 to the monthly cost of the Coop fee, then this place should, everything else being equal, cost about $30k or so less than the hypothetical eactly-the-same condo on a pure cost to cost comparison.

  • the totten

    “But I wouldn’t hold my breath on either of them going anywhere for awhile. Maybe in 5 years”

    Seriously 5 years??? Ugghhh

  • PoP – Pardon me for not knowing posting etiquette. It was a semi-serious request. I am not the owner or agent for the property . 499k struck me as a particularly good deal for the location since it includes 2 parking spaces. I was actually trying to get quick feedback as the to the price. I know it would be an ordeal to purchase property in a short sale – wanted to know if it is worth exploring further.

    “U” = loser

  • While the price is alright, there is nothing worthwhile anywhere near that location. I pass right by that building twice a day, five days a week.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @anon 3:45 if you’re ever interested in a specific property email me directly at princeofpetworth (at) gmail (dot) com

  • @ U, your thought process is correct but you are missing the heating costs (most coops I have seen have a central system) which usually aren’t in a condo fee. This is a rather large expense I would guess between ($100 – $50 a month) which means the underlying mortgage is pretty small if it exists at all.

  • ($100 and $150)

  • @ Just J, maybe in some places, but my condo building includes heat in the condo fee (its also a central system). But I guess maybe some don’t, and/or you could have an individual unit heating system (and a/c system for that matter) and that would be included in (most likely) your electric bill (which would make your electric bill more than $40/month). But my thinking was based on heat & a/c being central and included in the condo fee–which I think is about right if you’re looking at similarly aged buildings as this one.

  • hcfoo22-

    Here’s one across the park, equal distance from the metro for not much more than 250:

  • I just want to agree with some of the other commenters on two things:

    1)The mortgage is great but the condo fee is kind of insane, and

    2)I would really like to see more posts like this, in the

  • Ugh, HTML ate my post.

    Anyway, I was just saying that any property going for more than 300K is practically “house porn” for me and a lot of middle-income buyers, or at least not very attainable. Any posts in this range would be greatly appreciated, especially for a series that claims to be about getting a “good deal” on real estate in a very expensive city.

  • hcfoo22 and others, depending on what you consider Manor Park, there’s several of the old Wardman homes available these days between Georgia and 3rd St. NW (west to east), and Underwood and Rittenhouse (north to south) for less than $300K, many down in the sub-$250K range. See for example:

    I have one of these houses (wardman style I mean) and love it. Its not near Totten but many are in Manor Park area (again depending on your definition of it). The big drawback of living in this area is few amenities like bars, stores, eateries, etc. But crime is pretty low (no killing in 5 years, woo hoo (knock on wood)) and folks are nice. With a car your 10 minutes from whatever. Note I know one house is on the auction block these days next to 7th and Sheridan.

    There, I promoted my neighborhood.

  • @ Reader, that house in Brookland is a good find! And related to that, a few people on a thread a couple of days ago mentioned this area as somewhere where a move-in ready house is affordable on less than 100k income, so I think dcpublis is correct that you can find a house around here for about what this unit costs factoring in the fees.

  • Although, a $250k house would be more expensive to own because of maintenance costs, so the coop isn’t necessarily a bad deal.

  • re: Pennywise — that neighborhood is super cute and nice. I just went through there last weekend, had never been in there before and it’s great! one of those hidden gems, fer reals. Not to mention really close to the Takoma aquatic center. i love that place.

    Also — doesn’t look like the walk to Takoma Metro would be that far from the Tuckerman place. Gmaps says 16 min walk. and it’s a nice walk through a residential area.

    Great tip!

  • Yeah L, I fondly remember the days of apartment living, and maintenance guys who’d come and fix all the stoopid stuff I did. Now, rain takes on a whole new meaning, relating to how recently I cleared my backyard drain of leaves. But then again, I now bleed my radiators, which is way fun, as is learning about 1920’s electrical wiring (its sparkly).

  • totten, the walk to Metro is not bad at all. The real deal up there is the 79 express bus down Georgia, which usually gets me to work in 30 mins max. Of course, a trip down Georgia can be depressing, especially twice a day. I have to steel myself for that.

  • Penny I actually live in manor park as well for about a year now. (4th and peabody). Love the neighborhood. And I know that prices are dropping but everything I looked at for less than 350 had glaring issues.

  • This seems a more participative and constructive post than some of the more dreamy good deal or not ones.

    We can have both, but let’s have more of these affordable editions we can better relate to.

  • While that particular unit is not photographed well and seems unremarkable, the building has great bones and several units are quite nice. It wouldn’t take much to make that unit nice. Throw in an ikea kitchen, paint the walls and you’re in business.

    Our place (I’m the wife of the original poster) is over 1000 square feet with hardwood floors and a really nice layout – 2 bedrooms, den, dining nook. Granted, it’s a 3rd floor walk-up. It’s not for everyone. But the walls are thick. The neighbors are quiet. The trees are tall.

    When we bought in 2006 there was nothing remotely affordable anywhere. Our place may not have appreciated much but it also didn’t depreciate. The next leap to a house seems like a big one. If you want a livable place without a jumbo mortgage, this is a good option.

  • Pennywise

    trip down Georgia can be depressing??!?!?

  • hcfoo22: yes, I cannot deliver pristine housing for under $300K, I admit. At some point there is a tradeoff, and for that price in DC you can either plan on doing some home improvement work yourself, living in a war zone (and doing home improvement), or living in a shoebox in a place like CH or Petworth. I specifically wanted a fixer upper so as to absorb some of my energies, and I admit my house was one of the filthiest and nastiest in the city when I got it.

    Anon 11:12, yes, it is for me. The daily baby mama dramas, near fights and killings, ignorance and racism, boy-men with their asses hanging out their pants, boy-men pushing old ladies out of the way to take seats, men lined up outside liquor stores before opening, and block after block of shuttered storefronts and abandoned buildings. It gets to me, I admit.

  • L-

    Thanks. It’s close to where we bought, and I have to say that it’s the most peaceful neighborhood I’ve lived in in DC.

    There aren’t a lot of amenities in the neighborhood, like people have mentioned, but it’s still very close to everything, both by car and metro.

  • As I’ve mentioned, I live down the road from this place in one of the streets perpendicular to N. Cap and I love the neighborhood. I’m not holding my breath for the Riggs Road development to begin, but when it’s eventually completed it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.

    In the meantime, the proximity to downtown (and out of town) is perfect for me.

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