Good Deal or Not? Converted Row House Edition


These condos are located at 1350 Randolph Street, NW:

View Larger Map

The flier says:

“BRAND NEW – new boutique condo. 2 bed + 2 bath. Private porch. Architecturally stunning, blocks from Columbia Heights metro. Reclaimed wood floor. W & D, stainless steel appliances, Euro kitchen & Ann Sacks tiled bath. GARAGE PARKING AVAILABLE. Pets OK. PRICE LOWERED 30K!”

You can find more info and photos here.

Here’s a good example of a classic row house that was converted into three 2 bedroom condos. Firstly what do you think of the unit itself? Personally I think it looks pretty good. Unit #2 is going for $329,900. Does that sound reasonable for a 2 bed/2 bath in this location?

You can see Unit #1 here ($299,900) and Unit #3 here ($359,900).

40 Comment

  • It looks decent and I could afford it, but for me a place like this would make a great rental, not so much to own.

  • That’s a liberal use of the phrase “architecturally stunning.” And, of course, it’s a truism that any place is “blocks from Columbia Heights metro” — what really matters is how many blocks. Here, it appears the answer is “several.”

    It’s still high, I think, but not laughably so.

  • There should be laws against chopping up a house of that size into multiple units.

    • This is especially true of this typical Petworth rowhouse. It has been divided up into three two-bedroom units, but I can assure you that the original home did not have six bedrooms.

      And get a load of those kitchen cabinets! God forbid you have any pots and pans, they’re so shallow that you’re not going to fit much in them!

  • saf

    Blocks from Columbia Heights metro? Really? By googlemaps it is .5 miles to the Georgia Ave Metro, and .8 miles to the Columbia Heights Metro.

    Also, I hate what they did to the poor house – they took out his soul.

    And really, these houses aren’t big enough to cut up into condos.

  • Not a bad deal. What I found interesting: IF they sell all of these units for close to asking price it will be 1 million total. If you just had the original rowhouse renovated in the same fashion as this what would it be? 5 to 600,000 maybe?

    • I generally agree with the math here and think it explains why places like this get chopped up. My guess is the developer bought an old, run-down place for something in the high 300s or low 400s, put in about 150-175k to renovate, and breaks even if he sells each of these units at 200k. Everything else is profit, which could range up to 300k after taxes/agent fees at the list prices, whereas the whole home renovation would be a slightly lower reno bill but a much lower profit ceiling –I’m guessing this place would get 550k tops as single family home.

      But this place is probably only a good deal if you’re buying it for investment, and even then I’d guess you probably would have a hard time getting renters to cover the mortgage — just not a great space or a great location.

  • What a sin. Why was it necessary to chop this house up? This size doesn’t support it. Another single family home gone to hell.

  • I saw this house a while back. I hope this developer goes bankrupt, this is a disgusting level of greed. a row house in that location for a million? A-hole.

  • What were they thinking with the kitchen cabinets? Not only are the apparently quite shallow, but they are ridiculously high up.

    • Their location makes it look like they didn’t follow code. If that’s the case, they will have to be lowered before a sale is possible.

    • As someone who has renovated a kitchen before with IKEA cabinets I can tell you those are the most basic, cheapest cabinets you can buy there. The sink unit comes as a separate whole cabinet and you just push it up against the wall – it maybe costs $200 including the sink. This kitchen probably cost the developer about $500-700 for the cabinets and maybe $1500 for the appliances. That’s right, it’s a $2500 kitchen!! Consider that the average kitchen renovation probably costs $15,000 to $25,000 and they only invested $2500 plus the cost to install it (i.e., push the cabinet up against the wall and attach the pipes) I think it’s a horrible kitchen job.

      I also agree they are installed badly and not following IKEA’s own guidance that tells you standard cabinet heights.

      I really love IKEA cabinets, I just think this kitchen is all wrong! It’s not a place where you want to buy the cheapest thing off the shelf.

    • I redid my kitchen with Ikea cabinets (not those!) and I love them. They *can* be done nicely and work for those of us not made of money.

  • people on here complain about housing prices all the time. one of the ways to lower housing costs is to increase inventory and density. if cutting up row houses is one way to do that, i am not particularly opposed. is this seller trying to make a buck by making this transition? sure, does that make him a disgustingly greedy a-hole? (@me 1:39) I dont think it does. in some ways his actions provide a public good. denser, lower priced, starter housing without completely ripping out the existing stock? works for me.

    • I agree with you Anon @ 1:50. Keeping density up is a prime example of how to live more efficiently. In addition, public transportation can be much better with increased density.

      I have an old row house in Eastern Capitol Hill. Keep in mind, even though these houses were single family it was much more common in the past to rent out rooms and have make use of the extra space for more people. My house had two rental rooms and an extra wash room back in the 1940’s. Now days people seem to like our privacy, so splitting up a house into to units makes sense so that the space can be utilized for more density. I’m currently thinking about building an apartment in the basement. Although three units might be pushing it in one row house, but this one appears to be very long so it may work.

  • Although I think this places looks terrible and is too small for 2 bedrooms, the Petworth area (since it is closer to petworth metro than CH metro!) needs higher density to continue its growth. So we can either build more huge condo buildings (as in CH) or convert some rowhouses to condos.

  • I have to strongly warn again on buying condos in a converted house like this… Unless you’re best friends with the other units, (and even then) you will have issues… Mainly noise-related. There’s just no good way to make units like these private without gutting absolutely everything and putting concrete between floors.

    Besides the noise, you have to think about all the condo management and budgetary issues that you’ll have to establish since the units are brand-new. Disagreements between units on these items can be easy to escape in the anonymity of a large condo complex… but can truly ruin your life should you get into the wrong situation. Beware.

  • I agree with Saf (1:18) that the house lost its soul. I’m not against renovating homes, but removing all of its historically defining characteristics is a shame. But, that is my aesthetic taste!

  • The developer is only an a-hole if no one buys all three units. Otherwise, he’s just meeting a need that is different than your own.

    If you consider the number of people in this city that stay for only 2-3 years and aren’t senior executives, it’s not the worst purchase one could make. It beast the heck out of a condo complex with super high condo fees.

  • Yes this place is across the street from me. I had high hopes for it as the rental I have was chopped up and they did a great job with it, even added a master bath for all units on the rear.

    I could not belive it when I went in this unit it is horrible. some of the worst workmanship I have seen and materials are crap, everything came from ikea. It is basically a shell, the bedrooms are tiny, if you could get a double bed in them you are lucky, third floor has no rear entrance, I was very disapointed.

    On a good note the shared back yard was nicely landscaped.

  • Ragged Dog — I sold a 1BR condo in a 36-unit building in Mt. Pleasant for about the price they’re asking for one of these. The building had a gym, a patio on the side and is building a roofdeck — and my condo fee was lower than what this rowhome condo is charging its owners.

    This isn’t a particularly good deal under any terms. You can buy a whole house for about $70,000 more — which, at 5 percent interest, works out to about what the $300+ monthly condo fee here would cost you. Sure, it won’t be renovated the way this one is, but the way this one was renovated, that might be a good thing.

    • Sure but not everyone wants to live with 250 neighbors without any grass. As soon as all the units in this building are sold, there’s no reason why the owners can’t drop the condo fee to $0 until a maintenance need crops up. It looks to be priced for a landlord anyway.

  • I walked into my neighbors 1920’s row house on Sunday. She bought it for $300k+. Over the years the floors had been replaced by a mixture of cheap parquet, plywood and wood remnants. The walls had been covered in wood paneling, the bathroom tub had 20% of the tiles missing and covered with duct tape. The plaster will need to be totally redone if she doesn’t tear it out completely. The kitchen is a total loss and the electrical is probably unsafe due to deterioration of the fabric.

    Many of the “older residents” of this city just did not keep up with the maintenance and let the “historic features” go to ruin years ago. It’s not necessarily the developers fault. Most developers would be thrilled to have something to keep when they make the purchase.

    Most homeowners don’t have the cash, the patience or the experience to renovate these houses and someone desperately needs to renovate them so that everyone can have a safe, livable space. S/he probably won’t get the full $1M. But good for him/her for doing something that contributes to more affordable housing in the city.

  • I love the “you could buy a whole house for this” argument. It’s a painfully common comment on here. Ignoring these particular condos which don’t look all that well done, some people really don’t want to buy a whole house. They’d rather just buy a condo because there’s generally less upkeep, but they’re still able to get most of the benefits of home ownership.

    • Hilarious: “generally less upkeep”.

      There is zero difference between the upkeep of a chopped up row house and one that hasn’t been chopped up. Granted, this one has just been ‘redone’ (butchered), and some of the others you might purchase for the same price still need work, but you’re getting a heck of a lot more square footage in the others.

      Moreover, even though you get to average those costs over more “owners”, you also have to deal with trying to get three “owners” to agree on how to proceed with major expenses. An old house/structure like this is just a timebomb on things like maintenance, and is worse than a purpose-built condo (apartment building) precisely because there was no intention it would be used that way.

  • Really? Ann Sacks tiled that bath?

  • I looked as this building when I decided to buy. The units are nicely finished, but poorly laid out. The rooms could barely fit a full bed and the closet space was laughable.

    It reminded me of a house for ants.

  • Anonymous @ 1:50

    “public good. denser, lower priced, starter housing”

    Dense grossly over priced housing doesn’t seam like a public good to me. As for starter housing… at these prices you would be underwater for a long long time. If these units were going for $150K then it would be a another story. there are plenty of houses in Petworth, whole houses with rent-able basements for $300-$400K.

    • Because the property must be assessed prior to closing and most sales contracts have clause to get out if assessed price is lower than sales price, I find it unlikely that the mortgage will be underwater. Price will have to be dropped until it reaches assessed value. Even if values do keep dropping a little bit, a current buyer isn’t going to face the massive devaluation that buyers at the peak of the bubble faced. Also, assessments are much more highly regulated and strict then they were during the bubble.

  • Actually it was listed as a shell last year for 193k and these buyers offered more than asking, getting the deal for 240k. It was a bank foreclosure.

    • That makes considerably more sense – put in $100k in nice renovations and you have a nice SFR, nicely priced.

  • i don’t get the rowhouse “too small to be made into condos” remark. yes, in this neighborhood, people tend to live in big houses, but 925 sq ft is not a small condo for DC. that is a typical 1br+den in a new building downtown. most rowhouse chops are less square feet than that. now i would have no idea who in the world would buy the basement of a rowhouse in this location, but that’s a different story.

  • Has anyone visited the condos at 2719 13th Street NW (MLS#DC7261980 for $899,000)? That looks like a rowhouse conversion done right, at least judging by the pictures. We all know that looks can be deceiving but I’m hoping I’m wrong here.

  • And there is a Condo Fee of $255 per month… What a rip off!

  • How exactly do you expect the three condos in the building going to fund the reserves required by DC law for any less?

    • I think most new developments set aside some cash to start up the building reserves, enabling them to offer the units for sale with low condo fees (let’s face it, they will sell a lot faster this way). Most buildings with higher fees tend to be older buildings needed a lot of repairs, so it’s a little surprising to see fees this high on a brand-new renovation. Probably another sign that the developer is cheaping out (see my earlier comments on the awful kitchens!)

  • MK @7:11

    I don’t trust anyone who paints patterned brick.

Comments are closed.