Good Deal or Not? “Natural, unpainted wood and nice sized rooms” edition

This home is located at 523 Shepherd St, NW:

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The flier says:

“Sold ” as is” only. Natural, unpainted wood and nice sized rooms. Has had some updates. Big yard w/ garage. Had been a rec room in basmt with full bath.”

You can find more info here and photos here.

We looked at this house back in Jan ’09 when it was on the market for $329,900. Well it’s just been put on the market again for $228,500. While it likely needs some work I haven’t seen a whole row house for this price in quite a while. Do you think the $100k price drop will make this one move?

30 Comment

  • either there is something very wrong with this house not shown in the pictures, or this is a huge bargain even when it closes for more than what’s listed.

  • Looked at this place yesterday – curious what others think of the ‘hood? Most of the street seemed quiet and ok but there were a lot of loiterers drinking and making a racket near the corner store. How is the rest of north petworth?

    House itself has potential but will need a TON of work and be completely gutted. A lot of the original woodwork would be salvageable if it weren’t chewed up by rodents leaving large holes near the molding – hate when historic homes are left to decay like this! Could at least keep pocket doors though which were in decent shape. Whole back side of house is sinking pretty badly which is not easy to repair without tearing the whole back off and starting over (this was beyond the sinking that is typical of spleeping porches/extensions – the problem starts in back third of the main house). Roof has been leaking resulting in mold. Bad smell of animal waste and/or mold when entering house and in parts of basement but perhaps this cold be eliminated if gutted. Will also need new electrical and HVAC systems.

    If it went for asking price it would be a good deal for someone willing to invest money into a full rennovation but mostly likely will go higher as these foreclosures are priced to solicit many offers.

    • Making a racket?

    • This is not in North Petworth, this is in the very Southern part of Petworth. It is the 2nd or 3rd street in the Southern part.

      I live one block away from this house. The corner store is harmless. I’ve actually never seen people outside of it, but I don’t generally walk by it at night, only on morning walks. I haven’t seen the inside, but can only imagine it is worth it. The neighborhood is fantastic! I prefer my block over Sherman, but don’t we all prefer our own blocks. This is not a sketchy area at all.

  • Sounds from previous poster that this is a $150K – $200K job.

  • I have not been in it, but it’s two blocks from us; a slightly sketchier block, but oh-so-convenient to my peeps at Bless 7-to-9.

    I think the “gut the entire house” person is being a little extreme, but this is what I’m talking about when people suggest these houses should be $450k<$500k.

    I would imagine a new boiler (heat) could be had quite reasonably. Not sure why all the electrical has to be replaced? Is it a fusebox or does it have breaker service yet?

    These houses have great wood and great plaster & lath walls, which can be repaired unless there's major water damage.

    Gutting the basement, pulling off the back extension and building a new one, even adding an AC duct path (and new electrical if really needed) can be done for under $100k if you are sensible.

    The large yard and garage make it considerably more desirable than a lot of other stock on the market for quite a bit more.

    If I were buying right now, I'd be all over this. Even if you put $150k in, you're still way ahead of two nearby (Illinois) GDoNs. I'm sure the negative curb appeal (smell, etc.) will mean only a flipper will touch it – look to see the sinking porch covered in vinyl siding, as is.

    • Trust me – this is a gut job. I’ve seen it. Looks to be in good shape from the front facade but a whole different story when you get inside. Major structural problems and nothing but some of the upper floor woodwork could be saved. Old style fuse box and no duct work for HVAC. Not sure how they’re claiming 4 bedrooms – it’s really 2 and a half (half could be an office but too small for a bed). If basement was dug out could add another bedroom down there but ceiling height is too low at present (between 6 – 6.5 feet).

      large yard is a redeeming factor but don’t think this place is investment potential over short term. If you’re willing to make it your home over the long term and put your sweat, time and money into it in the end it might be a good deal despite all the work needed.

    • HELP NEEDED?!?! I saw the house yesterday and am interested in buying in Petworth. I’m not a huge fan of the house because of the low basement but I think the house has a lot of potential. Given this will be my first home, I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts on:
      1. Is 100k reasonable for renovating this house?
      2. Does anyone else on Shepherd have a similar issue with their basement (6ft)? Is there a way to add height to your basement without killing yourself financiall?
      3 For an individual (non-investor) looking to buy in lower Petworth, is the 350k range a safer bet? My understanding is that investors go for homes in the 100-200k range, while individuals looking to purchase homes should look in the 300-400k range.

      Any help or guidance would be appreciated….Some of the postings about 523 Shepherd has scared me so now I’m not sure if I should make an offer…..

  • It would be a mistake for anyone who thinks only of this as a good deal.
    It’ll take money and commitment and will take years to renovate and more years to increase in value to break even/make a profit. So, you really should be interested in the neighborhood and making a home there.
    This is not flip potential.

  • Guess I made an assumption that the source of the loitering was the corner store – they were across the street from the house near the corner of 5th drinking tall boys, yelling and harassing pedestrians that went by. Maybe it was just bad timing and this is abnormal but didn’t give the street a very good feel.

  • Almost sounds like some interested buyers are trying to discourage competition on this one…

  • We looked at this house last year and were going to make a bid on it (we were looking for a gut job) but it was a short sale and there were 6 other offers already out on the place and had been for 3 months or so without a response from the bank, so we decided not to bother. I guess it foreclosed instead.

  • Fully renovated rowhouses in this area sell for $500-550K (IF they are done well…there are many done badly that won’t get near this price). So assuming this house could be bought for $300K as it will probably get bid up, it should still be a good deal.

    Regarding sketchiness most of the area is very quiet and safe…I live 2 blocks away and crime is rare. It varies some from block to block so talk to some of the neighbors or check the crime stats online

  • I can tell you that this will sell for between 225-245 cash to an investor who will rehab it with in 2-4 months for $125-$150K. 95% Guarantee:)

  • You are not allowed to say anything belittling about Petworth. Every other area of the city has its drawbacks, but don’t you dare mention the loiterers, crime, or uncomfortablness of Petworth.

    • 🙂

      I think there are other ‘protected’ neighbourhoods on this blog. Besides, it’s a real estate blog full of homeowners, so a little defensiveness can be expected.

      On the other hand, crime and quality of life incidents are featured somewhat prominently, to its credit.

      What is lacking, in my opinion, is some perspective.
      It’s DC- lots of crime, loitering, and uncomfortableness (depending on the person), so maybe a relative crime index to compare neighborhoods.

      I find the crimereports to be OK, but requires lots of filtering out (depending on the crime and time frame you care about).

      I think there are people on this board who are on MPD list servs and follow crime like hawks, but that seems like it will be just something to make you too scared to go outside (as you live your life with crime coloured glasses on). Personally, I grew up in a lousy neighbourhood– once featured in a movie for a crackhouse seven, even- so my perspective is skewed.

      Perhaps a useful way to talk about crime between neighbourhoods is to look at the national risk rates posted on the Post’s real estate section and make relative comparisons between areas.

      Here’s Petworth’s neighbourhood profile,%20DC-neighborhood-details.html

      “Talk amongst yourselves”, As Linda Richman from SNL says…

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Actually negative things are said about Petworth all the time. Look, I understand you’re very sensitive about bloomingdale. Obviously Ed has it right, people are always defensive about where they live. Some folks are defensive about Petworth and some are defensive about Bloomingdale.

      • Not very sensitive about any particular place, PoP.

        Just was trying to counterbalance what I thought was bias in that particular place on a posting or two.(I apologize to any residents there, if you thought I had a ‘thing’ against any place. I’d have said similar stuff if I saw people glossing over real issues in so-so areas elsewhere, esp. if they are ‘painting over’ problems. “River East” is one example.

        I’m not against marketing altogether, though- if it helps people get over irrational fears of areas. I just like to see a balanced discussion- call me crazy.

        Actually enjoy the blog- I live in Columbia Heights at the moment- my gf got wind of you being at the Red Derby the other night and says I should have recognized you .

        • Prince Of Petworth

          Sorry ed, I wasn’t talking about your comment, but the anonymous one above you. I was agreeing with your post.

  • Ed, that risk assessment is out of whack – according to it you have the same risk in Chevy Chase as in Anacostia…

    but 3.5 times that risk in b’dale, 2.75 times the risk in Eckington (as if there’s that much difference, if anything its the other way around)

    • Risk for which crime?

      Anyways, I wonder how finely-grained the input data is, geographically.

      Well, the murder rate goes up from Chevy Chase to Anacostia, anyways…I’m guessing that is an accurate comparison.

    • Oh, I took a quick look at what you were referrign to

      the “total risk” at the bottom.

      Interesting comparison: Eckington and Anacostia

      Robbery, Assault, and Vehicle theft are all higher in Eckington, but …Murder is way higher in Anacostia.

      My quick take on those numbers is that I imagine that there is more money to be taken and nicer cars to steal in Eckington….?

      I’d take that over murder any day! 😉

      But seriously, these ARE very rough numbers- starting poitnts really. I’ll leave anything beyond that for the criminologists- my PhD is in something else!

      • p.s. Please forgive my grammar.

        “nicer cars to be stolen” would have been more appropriate…

      • My point was the total risk at the bottom – but actually my big beef was when I saw anacostia and chevy chase having very near #s in total risk… now I’m not trying to disparage any neighborhood here, but I’ve grown up in the area and I’m pretty sure that this is far from accurate.

  • Crime stats for 1000 feet from this address for the past year:

    524 Shepherd St NW, 18 violent crimes and 59 property crimes
    1700 R St NW (Dupont Circle), 38 violent crimes and 184 property crimes
    1800 Columbia Rd NW (Adams Morgan) 58 violent crimes and 240 property crimes
    1300 Harvard St NW (Columbia Heights) 65 violent crimes and 172 property crimes

    Conclusion: compare a property with where you live now or other neighborhoods you would feel comfortable living in…I did this when I moved to Petworth from Adams Morgan and have been safe and happy here.

  • Above stats from

  • Agree that this is absolutely not north Petworth. Not even close.

    I live 2 blocks away on Shepherd and I really like the immediate area. The Bless 7-9 market is run by (and frequented by) some really friendly people. There are some Central American guys who often hang out in front, they appear to rent the space above the market and I imagine they hang out outside because it’s a pretty small looking rental to house so many people.

  • I’ve lived within sight of this house and the corner store for six years now and I can say that the block is SO much better than it was even a couple of years ago, but not out of the sketchy woods yet. There used to be a very healthy drug trade going on mostly from a couple of houses on that very block and one around the corner on 5th. The commerce has slowed down and now happens intermittently in the alley adjacent to the store. There are sometimes dudes hanging around loitering with purpose it seems, but they’re not as regular a crowd as they used to be and the store itself has been improved in the last three years. As for violent crime, the 400 block of Shepherd (one block from the house above) has been treated to the all night floodlights several times in the last year but from my vantage point on Shepherd Street, it’s the 500 block that most often sees the flashing lights of emergency vehicles–police cars, fire trucks and ambulance. I don’t know what it is about that block but there’s quite a bit of drama and it’s never quieted down even though the rest of the area has. I assume almost all the violent crime in the statistics listed above happened between people who knew each other, but I expect that will change as I see so many newer residents walking nonchalantly with music or phone to their ears, not paying attention to their surroundings.

    All that to say I agree with whomever said this is not a house to be flipped. It’s for someone willing to stay and do the work and wait for value to go up. With all that’s coming to Georgia Ave., I do believe it will go up.

  • Correction: I live nearby on 5th Street, not Shepherd.

  • I live on the next block. Shepherd street is much better than it was, and there are some nice people on the block, people calling out “Hi Grandma” and “Hi Darling” in return. But there’s also a group of guys who loiter a lot near 5th and Shepherd and who are always talking to people stopping in cars – a lot of cars. Then there was a several month period where the guys disappeared and I saw cops stopping the cars. The guys are back, but I haven’t seen the trail of cars that I did before. It’s enough to make me uncomfortable, but I haven’t seen anything I can define as wrong. All in all, however, I walk on that street all the time, and never get harassed by anyone. It’s a sketchy block, but the immediate blocks all around it are very nice blocks on which I feel very safe, the houses and yards are well kept, and the neighbors very friendly – and as one neighbor who lives on Shepherd said, this block will change too.

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