Good Deal or Not? “FINISHED ATTIC AND BASEMENT” edition

This home is located at 3615 Warder St, NW:

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The flier says:


You can find more info here and photos here.

Does $549,000 sound reasonable for this 5 bed/3.5 bath house?

56 Comment

  • It looks like a fabulous deal, why is it so cheap? Bad block?

    • I’m wondering the same thing. Much better deal than anything I’ve seen posted lately…

    • +1 The only obvious negative I can see is lack of parking, and it’s probably not easy to come by on the street in that area.

    • No, not bad block. Toured the house when first opened. First floor floor plan just felt awkward. Hard to figure out what to do with the space in the back. That third level is pretty interesting. What you don’t see are is the extremely narrow set of stairs (original tot he house, I think) to get up there plus the low ceiling. I bumped my head several times. There is no way I would leave my kid go up there to play. Authentic it may be but what to do with all that space otherewise. It jsut seemed like your run of the mill flip. No back yard/deck which I find unappealing. Also don’t care for those floors. Better than bamboo but not digging the color.

  • Not a bad block, but east of Georgia Avenue, which probably affects price.

  • I’d like to know more about that specific area, because if it were in my part of Petworth, it would probably go for $600.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      It’s across the street from the Park/Rec Center

      • Yeah, I know where it is located, but I don’t have a sense of the vibe there. I don’t make it there often, much less on foot. Things are looking up on that part of Georgia Ave., but I don’t know Warder Street that well.

        • We live right down the road and it’s a nice place to call home and yes there is tons of parking all the time. 9 out of 10 days I park right in front of my house.

          Maybe the price is so low because there really is nothing over the top in this house except space and what looks like lots of generic Home Depot items.

          As for that attic, can’t wait to do mine like that. I live just few blocks down on Warder and yes that stair case is original to the house.

  • I love it and thought it was a great deal until I saw how quick the renovation was. Sold mid July and then re-listed in October. That sounds like it was done very shoddily and I would be terrified that in one year things would be falling apart.

    • Or it means that it is a great deal because it was renovated by a professional company that worked all day every day instead of some inexperienced joe schmoe who worked on evenings, did shoddy work and took a year to do it.

  • How long will it take for somebody to object that it is in neither CH nor Petworth?

  • Friends of mine line near there and I bought on the 4900 block of 7th. It’s not bad, but Petworth can be very block to block.

    There is a police station VERY close to the area

  • Is it kind of scary east of Georgia?

    • It’s not any scarier than any where else in DC. People get beat down in Adams Morgan every weekend…

      Petworth is a little raw to be sure, but it’s not horrible. Having said that, I wouldn’t walk around with gold chains hanging around my neck.

      • No offense, but gold chains are so Jersey Shore and you shouldn’t be wearing them anyway.

      • No offense Cliff, but you can hardly be serious when you say “it’s not any scarier that anywhere else in DC.” Meaning you feel no less secure than say when in the Palisades, Georgetown, or really anywhere else in Ward 3. Have you seen a DC crime map? FWIW, I live in Ward 5.

    • I don’t think that distinction applies any longer. For years, 16th St. was the (imaginary) dividing line between scary and non-scary Washington. Now, I don’t know where such a line would be drawn….it depends on how far north or south you are. In my part of Petworth, I would say North Capitol is the east-west dividing line, but not out of safety concerns, but because of transportation, restaurants, etc. I don’t think there is a solid line to be drawn anywhere in the city any longer… is very, very local.

    • I live east of Georgia Ave and I love it. I’ve been in Petworth for a year now and I think it’s a great place to live. I actually feel safer here than in Columbia Heights, but I think that’s a natural feeling when you get used to a place, you tend to feel more comfortable there than in other places.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        I also live east of Georgia Ave and all who’ve met me know I’m not particularly tough. Having said that, I’m very fast. Just kidding. Seriously, as someone mentioned yesterday, many neighborhoods including Petworth, Park View and Columbia Heights (among others) have different feels/realities that change block to block.

        It is not fair to label whole swaths anymore, it simply doesn’t reflect reality these days.

        • I walked past you on Kansas Ave. recently. Yeah, you were walking FAST. You did say hello (Petworth style!), but you didn’t slow down.

  • There just wasn’t enough original detail/character left in the house to really get me interested. The living room/dining room/kitchen area just seemed liked one giant box without any definition. I’m not saying it wasn’t done well, just saying that it lacked historical interest.
    I don’t know enough about comps in the area to judge whether this is a good deal or not.

  • I used to live at Warder and Quebec, and the neighborhood is fine. Aside from the games going on at the rec center, it’s pretty quiet, and it’s really close to the metro. Not a bad deal.

  • That house could use some staging. Because the pictures give it a weird vibe as far as placement of furniture, scale, etc.

  • It’s a really nice area, very convenient but with some youth crime. Not nearly as bad as the 600 & 700 blks of Rock Creek Church Rd and Quincy.

    Haven’t seen the inside but Warder is a busy street and the rec center / field can get loud and has bright lights at night. Also house has zero backyard or private outdoor space.

  • If the flippers continue in their careers, I think they should always use the shark as calling card. Hmmm. On second thought, the metaphorical implications lead to several unflattering interpretations.

    I’m not sure why this house is priced low, but I will mention that a house closer to me (not in Petworth) just closed for price I thought was pretty low. Of course, it flew off the market in 4 days, indicating a preference for a quick sale over financial considerations. Still, makes me wonder what’s going on…

  • I’ve been waiting for some info on this house.
    I have to say I, like a previous poster, am a bit underwhelmed by the photos. I was expecting more. But maybe it shows better in person.
    I live a block away and have been in the area for about 6 years. Up until about 3 or 4 years ago the Park View Rec Center was really problemmatic, particularly during the summer. But MPD started stationing a police car there in the afterschool/evening hours and things really turned around. There is even a cop that walks (yes, walks) a beat around the area during the summer.
    It seems as if the GA/Petworth metro is the next development hub. Lots of projects in the works. I would think this to be a good investment, but again, the pictures don’t make it appear particularly impressive.

  • When we moved into Park View a couple of years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Having recently lived in gentrifying Brooklyn, I was expecting some hostility in the ‘oh-know-here-come-the-white-people’ vein. Couldn’t have been further from what we actually experienced. People are very friendly here and crime seems to be lower than other areas nearby. The rec center can get a bit boisterous during the summer, and I’m not sure that I would want to live immediately across the street from it, but only because I like my peace and quiet, not out of fear or safety concerns.

    • I love living across from the rec center…not as noisy as you might think. Very friendly part of Park View.

  • I’ve lived in Park View for several years now and can definitely say its a great neighborhood. I think the buyer of this house will have to judge it on its own merits, since I’m not aware of any major problems with the location.

    As for being across from the Rec Center, that has its own pros and cons, similar to living across from a school. Some people love it, some don’t. That a question you’d need to ask yourself.

  • It seems the same developer is doing “stunning renovations” all around this area. I’ve been looking up around here for some time and that bastard keeps scooping me with a cash deal. I do share others’ concerns about the quality though. For example, am I wrong or are there at least three different wood flooring types? And the kitchen cabinets clash with the wood flooring and with the center island…it’s like the developer had some materials in storage and used what he had on hand, leaving a kind of patchwork quality to the job.

    As for the location, is this not the same street I read about in this very blog that saw a drive by shooting punctuated by a shot individual in a car trying to peel off around a corner and crashing? I seem to remember reading here about an eye witnesses account and the chilling feeling he had wondering if the guy who did the shooting saw him witness it…perhaps I’m mixing my stories, but playing outside around here would be more dangerous than bumping your head on the low attic ceiling.

    Finally, this property, as well as another I’ve noticed ( suggests to me a deep contradiction. A large house like this calls for a family, but you can’t send your kids to public school in these areas, so you’d have to send them to private school. But if you can afford that, you wouldn’t live in these neighborhoods in the first place…I don’t see that contradiction being solved until public schools get sorted out in the district…

    • No no no. Wealthy people absolutely DO move into “less nice” neighborhoods — in order to afford private school for their kids. $20k a year PER KID is no joke.

      Most wealthy folks have gotten that way by being shrewder than the average person. Investing in an up and coming neighborhood is a smart move. Think about it. Georgetown is already developed to the nines. Homes there are only going to appreciate with the rate of inflation (no real gain), except as the local population increases. Columbia Heights is undergoing pseudo Dupont-ification now. Where would you invest $750k today, thinking down the road to retirement?

      • Your mentality is still in 2003-5. $20K is about 7-8 months of mortgage payments. You’re right that it’s no joke to pay $20k a year for school on a $150K income–about what you’d need to afford this house, short of a major down payment.

        CH is not soon-to-be Dupont or Logan or even U St, or heck, even Bloomingdale. The real estate game in DC will substantially slow in coming years and so with it, the gentrification. I don’t think any substantial appreciation will occur in the next 5 years. At ten years of $20,0000 tuition payments, assuming $100k in appreciation, you’ve still lost $100K. I think a buy here is a bet that the trolley on Georgia will really increase the appeal of the ‘hood. Possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

        • Interesting perspective on Bloomingdale vs. Columbia Heights. Well, I think it remains to be seen. My feeling is that Col Heights in 10 years will house the same demographic that Dupont had by about 3 – 5 years ago. The population in DC is increasing, and that’s what will drive gentrification.

          I agree that 5 years of flat market is probable nationally, but locally we’ve already seen gains. If you bought a $750k rowhouse in 2009, you’ve seen an increase in equity. Even if inflation were the only driver of appreciation, each early year would see on average, a roughly $20k increase in home value. That’s before we talk about compounded tax-free gains in the long term, or the fact that regardless of what Col Heights will become, we know it will have outsized gains relative to other more developed parts of the city.

          • I think this year’s gains (~4%) may be that blip that was largely driven by the homebuyer’s credit and pent-up demand from wanna-be-homeowners who could finally afford houses this year (another expensive market, San Fran, was also up). If interest rates increase, I don’t see where the market support will come from to drive up prices. Perhaps, as you suggest, DC is different and the Federal Government really amps up the spending again. Maybe, but I just got a pay freeze courtesy of Uncle Sam.

          • The pay freeze will surely have an effect, but that’s in effect for what, 2 years? Market support will come from the large number of immigrants to DC. There’s a large, nationwide cultural shift that’s happening; urban settlement is accelerating everywhere. That’s the big trend everyone should be paying the most attention to when thinking long term.

            Rates will rise, but I don’t think that affects afford-ability. If rates drive home prices down in 5 years, then the amount of monthly interest you’ll pay will increase commensurately. It’s a bit of a wash.

            The real risk is in not buying soon enough. Life is short. We know we’re hovering around the bottom of the market. If you were to wait to buy in 5 years, the PoP posts could be about $500k homes in Trinidad.

            All these new market entrants who bought this year in Col Heights aren’t going to sell in 5 years just because you want to buy there. The flood of $8000 credit buying means that those neighborhoods are locked up until those people can afford to sell — or choose to sell at a what conventional wisdom says is a nice profit. That decreases supply in Col Heights, and therefore prices. Guess where people end up buying once they’ve missed the boat? Cheaper neighborhoods.

    • I think a lot of higher-priced homes in Petworth/Parkview and similar neighborhoods are sold to 2-income couples either before they have kids or before they reach age 5, or who aren’t planning to have kids at all. There’s enough of such buyers to account for the # of houses that sell in the 400-500’s.

      But I think you’re right that you don’t really save enough on mortgage payments vs buying in Cleveland Park / Chevy Chase to afford private school.

  • I see lots of negatives. I tend to think most people would rather have a back yard than a side yard. The kitchen is basic flip; short upper cabinets. Basement ceiling height based on the door appears low. Rec center is loud during the summer. Warder street is a relatively busy street. Unattractive block. The red hardwood floors clash with the honey-brown cabinets. The yellow exterior paint is too loud. I think they’ll be lucky to get 500K.

  • +1 on the underwhelming renovation, although I do think that a little staging could make it look a lot more like a place you’d want to live.

    This house is not quite as large as the 5 bedroom listing would have you think – it’s 3 real bedrooms, the upstairs room and a finished basement. Both the attic and the basement could be a rec room, office space, or den (and double as a guest bedroom) – while many apartment dwellers (myself included) might scoff at having so much space, a family with two kids and a parent who works from home would probably welcome the breathing room.

    If my (nearby) block in Park View is any evidence, the people who move to this neighborhood are younger families who like the District; they’ve probably lived here for a few years at least and don’t want to move to the suburbs, just because they also want kids. The schools might not be the best in the city or the country, but the wealth of options of charter schools, and the fact that the city has been on a course of steady improvement over the last decade means that many parents are willing to give it a shot, especially since their children won’t be in school for another 3-5 years. As the wealth of higher-density development in this city (and others) has demonstrated, there are a lot of people who are interested in moving to and staying in the city – a house like this is a great place to move when they need more space but want to stay convenient to transit and within walking or biking distance to services and social activities.

    And yes, we had a shooting in Park View (the one mentioned was in 2008, although I’m sure there has been some violent crime since then). Like many others, I would not consider this block particularly dangerous, though.

  • Where would I put $750k today? Well, first of all, let’s remember that at least 80% of that 750k is borrowed, which means I’m paying 4-5% interest on $600k ($24k-30k per year), and probably 2% or so of 750k ($15k a year) in maintenance. As far as my retirement is concerned (I’m 35), I think I’d rather buy $150k of Amazon, Telefonica, Nucor, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Ford before paying $40k a a year in interest and maintenance on what I view as a serious risk in DC real estate. I do believe in the return to urbanization we’re experiencing in this country, but I must say the recent mayoral election leaves me very hesitant to declare as “inevitable” the future progress of this town. I think many, myself included, remain on an optimistic undercurrent encouraged by the Obama election and great progress that I have seen in my 3 years in DC under the Fenty administration. I view the Barry years as a quaint and comical past…but there’s part of me wondering if it really takes much to start sliding back that way…and what of my $750k house then?

    • Don’t forget the write off of 28% or 33% of that $24-$30k per year!

    • 15K a year in maintenance? Did you use your 750K to buy part of a shanty town?

      Also, you realize that the 30-40K a year is now an investment, right? You are no longer funding someone else’s investment, but building equity in your own house.

  • The exterior is super cute, but the interior is a cheap-looking, soulless renovation.

  • @ Monster Cow: sorry if my maintenance estimate is high, but I think with property taxes and various upkeep (roof, broken this or that, repairing sidewalk) that 2% a year is not entirely unreasonable.

    I will agree with you that maintenance would qualify as equity-enhancing investment in the house, but must beg to differ with you that the interest is an investment. Your interest payment is actually a return on someone else’s investment–the mortgage they loaned you! Only that portion of your mortgage payment going toward principle (which is tiny, especially at the beginning of a mortgage) could rightly be called “investment.”

    • Jon,

      Great points, but the percentages are better than ‘tiny’ for building equity.

      I just ran the numbers on a standard amortization calculator. If you borrowed 650K at 4.75%, the first year you would pay approx 30K in interest and 10K in principal. Basically a 75/25 split. Subsequent years being better and better towards building the equity in the house.

      For me, I would still prefer the 10K ‘investment’ over the year than seeing my entire rent check float away to someone else. Plus, when you add the tax breaks towards the interest, the numbers get a little bit better for the home owner.

      Happy New Year!

    • Here’s the thing that may change your mind: most homes around here can be mortgaged for close to the price of what they’d rent for. So you can either invest your money in your own home or someone else’s.

      Buy a $550k home with 10% down today, your housing expense after deductions is probably 30k/year. If it goes up in value 3% over the first year, you’ve made about $18k in equity. If your down payment was %100k, that means you’ve grown $18k on an investment of $130k — about +13%. Sweet! It gets better — that 13% isn’t taxed.

  • I paid about $550K for a flipped house in 2005. Let’s just say because of the shoddy work, the maintenence costs have been very substancial. 2% is a conservative number. Let’s just say I’ve been forking over at least two times that to replace what was just done a few years before but didn’t last because of cheap materials and improper installation. I could have bought a “fixer upper” for probably about $350 or $400K. I think it would have been a better deal. I just don’t think that any of these flipped properties are worth it…

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