Good Deal or Not? “sun-filled French doors” edition

This home is located at 924 W St, NW:

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The flier says:

“Top to bottom “over the top” reno. High quality materials and master finish work throughout. Semi detached TH, 2BR, 2.5 Lux BA high end SS and granite KI, separate dining area w/ sun-filled French doors that open onto a southern exposed and gated flagstone terrace. HWS, Full W/ D, Exp Brick, skylights and new windows.”

You can find more info here and a virtual tour here.

I enjoy checking out these mini homes. What do you think of the reno? This 2 bed/2.5 is going for $564,000. Sound right?

56 Comment

  • Good renovation but house looks tiny. Sounds overpriced.

  • Over $600 a sq/foot? Surely you jest.

  • Good deal if you just use Duffy’s as your living space

  • Looks like a great place for someone single or a couple just starting out. 892 sq ft does look and sound small but the finishes do look pretty nice.
    I wish I was in the market!
    Good Deal!

  • Seems high. But as the owner of my own “itty bitty” I hope they get a good price. And the reno really does look nice. (Looks like an interesting building next door, too.)

  • A question for the POP readership. I’m 27, make $62K a year, and single-ish (not planning on having a dual income in the home-buying sense soon). If tiny houses like this are going for $500K, how do people get into the real estate market? Even houses in less trendy neighborhoods, say Ft. Totten area, are in the $250-$300K range. If you don’t have equity built up from a previous home, how can you buy in this market? Is the answer simply that you can’t?

    • Save, Save, Save… took us a few years before we could jump in again.

    • House? No. Condo? Yes!

    • It is tough, but you buy a $200-300 K fixer in an emerging neighborhood. Either do a 203K FHA or do the work yourself. Get a roomate to help offset a $1200-1800 mortgage.

      • I did a 203k to bring my property up to code and updated (nothing fancy, just new plumbing/wiring/things I couldn’t do (or bribe friends to do) myself). It isn’t the easiest of options but worked for me. Just be prepared to make the renovation (or any renovations, but 203ks come with an additional layer of hassle) your full-time job for a year or so.

    • do you know how much you can afford? start there, then look for places in that price range.

      and remember, there are always deals to be found if you are flexible.

    • There is a lot to be said for renting.

    • My journey into the real estate market (at 26) included:

      – having a dual income (still modest – my boyfriend and I broke into the $100K+ combined income bracket only recently),
      – saving and more saving,
      – a 30 year fixed FHA loan with a great interest rate,
      – completely readjusting our expectations of what we could actually get at our budget,
      – recognizing that we were going to be doing most of the work ourselves, and
      – getting incredibly lucky – a bank-owned house for $230K on the Columbia Heights/Parkview line.

      I know that some of our single friends have also been overwhelmed and frustrated, but they’ve kept at it – one single friend just recently went under contract. Her house will need work, and she’s looking at a room mate, but she’s incredibly happy with her decision. Unfortunately for her, her search did take about a year and a half to two years longer than ours.

    • Unfortunately, I’d say that you can’t. I’m not willing to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood so I’m pretty sure I won’t own in DC or at least not until I marry a corporate litigation lawyer. There are TONS of perks to renting, though.

      • I’m a corporate litigation lawyer and I still can’t afford a decently sized, non-condo home in a non-crime-ridden neighborhood. I’m really starting to think that you need dual corporate litigation lawyer income to afford a home. Best of luck!

      • I don’t agree.

        With a good sized deposit anything is possible. That is the key. Remember, everything is negotiable in a house sale.

        • and how, dear frankie james, does one get $150k saved in this town when you’re already paying $1500-2000/mo in rent? eat ramen, sew your own clothes, and take your empty bottles up to nyc for the deposits?

          • You act like you have to pay $1500-2000 in rent. you are likely choosing to have your own apartment in a desirable area if you are paying that much. maybe you don’t want to live in a group house, a more marginal neighborhood, an english basement, etc. But don’t act like you couldn’t make some sacrifices and not pay close to 2 grand a month on rent.

          • Seriously. I lived in Northern Virginia and paid $650/month (as recently as early this year) in order to save for my downpayment. I wasn’t particularly fond of my 1.5-hour commute, or that my social life had to be put on the backburner for five years, but you can save up $100k fairly quickly if you’re patient and willing to make some sacrifices. I have no sympathy for someone who wants to live in the heart of the city and complains that they can’t save money.

    • it is simple. you have 3 options.
      you buy in a neighborhood that is sketchy. or in the burbs.
      or you buy a condo.

      • I don’t follow the ‘burbs logic. I find it much cheaper to live in the city. if you live in the suburbs you need a car which costs hundreds of dollars a month in payments, insurance, and gas. if you work in dc (which I do) then it’s money for metro and/or parking on top of that. plus, then you have to live in the suburbs.

      • oversimplifying it. There are not just sketchy and non sketchy areas. There are obviously ones in between. For instance, the area around H St. I would say that this is not sketchy when compared to many other neighborhoods that have had less development in the city, but this neighborhood could be considered sketchy when compared to many other neighborhoods in the city. H St isn´t the only example, there are tons of others like this and IMO they are the more desirable places to live. It is people who act like if they can´t afford to buy in Dupont then they are basically going to live in a war zone that piss me off.

    • Buy a 2 bedroom condo, old construction, if you can do so in a neighborhood you desire. Think H Street or Petworth — closer to downtown if you can swing it, like the eastern edge of Shaw. That should keep you for maybe 5 years, or until the second kid if you reproduce.

      Like the person above mentions, get a roommate. That will bring you $10k/year for 5 years. Match that with your own savings, and you’ll easily have something resembling $100k in 5 years. As a couple, buy a house with the $100k (+ partner contribution) and keep the condo as a rental. Remember that every time you sell a property, you lose 6%ish, so it makes sense to let the investment property compound as long as possible before selling. As retirees, it’d bring in around $2k/month or $24k/year (in today’s dollars), which will pay for many vacations.

      Or maybe just look for a house around Trinidad. In 5 years, that neighborhood will be fucking pompous in a good way. Lots of bars as to visit in your single years.

      • Great overall post full of solid ideas. Especially the getting roommate(s) to assist with the mortgage.

    • When I was 27, I moved here making about $60k/year. I rented for 5 years with roommates, saved money up. By the time I bought in 2009, I was making about $80k/year.

      When the real estate market downturned, I was able to snag a foreclosure on the cheap, with little competition. Sure my house needed a little work, but I got it for $239k, when the market value was really close to $400k if totally fixed up. I had a great realtor who really knew how to navigate the foreclosure market. I was at the top of my budget, and had little money to renovate. I got a 0% interest credit and paid for the essential renovations with that, and lived very frugally to pay it off before the interest free period expired.

      Now, it’s been two years, I’ve done all the major work, spent $45k on all the renovations, paid everything off, and my house is worth about $400k. Buying a home here on a modest salary is extemely difficult, you have to be willing to sacrifice if you really want it. That’s my experience, anyways. Good luck.

      Also, don’t be afraid of the more developing neighborhoods. Deals can be had in Trinidad, Brookland, Petworth, Brightwood, Ft. Totten. I’ve seen rowhouses in Trinidad sell for under $200k. Get something like that, renovate as you go. The neighborhood is not that bad, it will be a good return of the investment in the long run.

    • The answer is probably “you can’t.” And I’m a little unsure why it is confusing that one cannot make a high-six figure purchase at 26. I mean, what other high-six figure purchases do you think that you should be able to make? The subtext of your question is that buying property is something that all Americans of your perceived class “should” do. But the new reality is that not everyone, not even the college-educated, are going to be able to afford to buy a house ever, and certainly not in the urban core of major cities (which, arguably, W & 10th st is becoming.) So just rent, move to Cleveland, buy a studio condo, or get a big downpayment from your parents.

      • Wow, that’s a lot of reading between the lines. My question laid out a simple request for advice on how to do something. It didn’t say that I deserve to be able to do it (in fact, I even specifically contemplated that I might not). It didn’t say that my parents are wealthy (they’re not). Hell, it didn’t even say I’m American (and for that matter, just to rub your preconceived notions in your face, I should tell you that I wasn’t even born in this country).

        It did imply that I believe myself to be a rational consumer living in a country that provides large financial incentives for homeownership. It did imply that I am interested accessing these incentives.

        Hold the hate for something that’s actually deserving of hate, eh?

        • Based on the ‘eh?’ at the end of your last sentence, I’d have to guess you are Canadian-born…?
          Okay, sorry. Just kidding, won’t stereotype.

          Good luck, by the way (and I echo the other commenters who recommend a regimine of extensive savings).

        • You can do it man… don’t listen to the downers like M.

          The only thing you need is a big deposit and good credit. The bigger the deposit, the higher the credit, the easier it will be for you.

          Work on those two things, looks for deals, and you will find something.

          I do agree about doing the work yourself. That will save you thousands that will end up in your building.

        • It did imply that I believe myself to be a rational consumer living in a country that provides large financial incentives for homeownership.

          Where you ACTUALLY live is in a country full of irrational consumers, about 25% of which are CURRENTLY under water on their home loans nationwide. (Some states as high as 50%!) Not to mention the numbers that have already been foreclosed on. My hate is reserved mainly for the financial industry, but home buyers also need to take some responsibility too. Really do your research — home ownership is not the American dream. (And by “American” I mean “anyone who lives here.”)

          • lay off the quaaludes man.

          • I don’t disagree with you that homeownership is not the American Dream. It’s a proxy for improving your economic situation, which has, through much of the last century of American history, had a lot to do with an appreciation in home prices. Call me overly conscious of my perceived class (again), but I do aspire to increase my personal wealth. It’s far from my only aspiration, but it’s certainly on the list.

            And now I’ll take the liberty of reading between your lines: asking for advice on a neighborhood blog on how to enter an expensive real estate market is equivalent to buying more house than I can afford, thus winding up underwater on a mortgage. You’re going to vehemently deny that’s what you meant, but all I mean to say is slow your roll. I’m not asking someone to point me to the nearest high risk, exotic mortgage products. I’m asking for neighbors to provide me with their own insight on first-time homeownership. That’s not so terrible, is it?

  • The house is nice – but I would have rather put the kitchen in the back so as not to cut up the living and dinning rooms – it would have allowed maximum use of the space because at 837 sq ft – does a 1.5BR 2.5BA home really need a formal dinning room?
    And really does a 1.5BR home need 2.5BA? I would rather have two normal size bedrooms and not have a true master suite.
    That is my $0.02

  • I can’t believe some of you are mentioning FHA. You do realize there’s like an extra $1,000 of mortgage insurance you have to pay every month with that?

    • Where did you get that number? We have an FHA loan with a $420K+ note and our mortgage insurance is well under $200/month. This is pretty much what you would pay for PMI on a “regular” loan. If you don’t have a 20%ish down payment it’s a cost you will have to bear no matter what. Now, with FHA there are some fairly tricky rules about when PMI expires (and even IF it expires in some cases), but it’s not an outrageous monthly add on just because it’s attached to an FHA loan.

      • FHA is .55% of the outstanding principle a year until you get down under a 80% LTV ratio. You also have to pay, I believe its now 2%, in closing costs in upfront PMI.

        Its all tax deductible (for at least 2011 and 2012), but it definitely adds significantly to the cost of buying a house – and could easily make it not a good deal to buy and instead stay renting.

        When you add PMI, hazard insurance, property taxes, and a bit for maintenance every month- you realize how so many places in this city are over priced based on what you can get for them on the rental market.

      • A lot of mortgage brokers are getting into 10% down + points loans that will get you out of PMI entirely. Less than two years after you buy, you’ve already paid off the points in savings. Definitely worth asking about.

      • Mine would have been around $1000/month for a $750k house with 20% down. Luckily I was able to qualify for an ARM.

    • Not true.

      We put down only 3% and our PMI is only $181 per month.


      • How much was your loan, $500?

        • Mine is a little lower than that (we pay $150) and we have a $375,000 loan).

          Also, and this is going to be totally judgmental, but should FHA loans really be for $750k house? I totally support the government being involved in homeownership programs, but for lower-income buyers, not someone who wants a $750k house but can only put down 3.5%. Why were you even looking at FHA if you had 20% down?

          • My wifeand I didn’t have any outstanding debts (because, you know, we were trying to save for a house) so we didn’t have any credit.

  • I used an FHA to get my condo two years ago (in a similar position to the OP) and my mortgage insurance is only about $100 a month. Sure, it’s annoying but once I pay off the 20% to reach an avg down payment, I don’t have to deal with it anymore. Saving 20% for the purchase price of a home is just not as feasible as it used to be.

  • I remember being distressed when I was in my mid-20’s. My youger cousin had just become the proud owner of a 1-bedroom condo in the Virginia suburbs, and I started asking myself why I was still throwing away money on rent when I had a higher income than she did.

    The suburban condo lifestyle did not appeal to me at all, so I started looking at neighborhoods in DC where I could get a house for under $350k. It was pretty grim. I rented in the least crime-ridden of those neighborhoods to see if it was worth buying there, and the answer was a definitive NO. I admire those that are willing to tough it out over the decade or so while their neighborhood gets better… but most of us single women aren’t willing to live in a place where we’re always on edge.

    During this time I met someone, and a year into our relationship we decided we’d probably want to buy a place in a few years. We moved far out into the suburbs to save money on rent, and spent the next few years aggressively following the housing market in DC. When we found a good deal, we had the knowledge and finances to pounce on it before other offers came in. It took a couple tries, but we finally scored a beautiful house in a great neighborhood. We did not have to settle for a place that needed work or wasn’t in an area we wanted to live in. Much better than living alone in a rundown condo in the suburbs.

    I guess my point is, don’t get distressed and be patient. You might not become a homeowner in your 20’s, but few people here do.

  • Buy a place where you can have roommates in a “marginal” neighborhood (many mentioned above) that promises development and expect it to take 10 years. I bought a 3 bedroom condo at 14th & Columbia in 1987 – on a waiter/bartender (good bartender) income for $57,000. Lived with 1-2 roomates. Sold in 2005 for $405,000.00 – which let me buy a house – though still with roomates – just higher paying ones – and I don’t actually have to work at a “real job” at all now.

  • Clearly no one here is worried about all the attendant baggage of “gentrification.”

  • @DCster

    Just because OP typed “eh?” doesn’t mean OP is Canadian. Lots of folks who live along the Canadian border say that, too. I grew up in Fargo (maybe a hunnert miles from Canada), and we say that a lot. Eh?

    • whatever. you’re a canadian.
      in the same way every latino in new jersey is a porta-rican and every white gentrifier in dc is from i-wa.

      roll with it mounty.

  • I live in a “mini-home” nearby. I didn’t purchase for the size certainly. But, the space is adequate for one or two people, if you are not a packrat (and actually, I am quite a packrat and still make it work). I’ve actually come to love living in a smaller space. But, the area is super convenient. You can’t beat having Metro a couple of blocks away. Restaurants, night spots, CVS, etc. are all a couple of blocks away on U Street. I bought for the convenience the neighborhood offers. It’s very easy to live without a car.
    I actually like this area of U Street because it isn’t as “lively” as the 14th St-side, and I don’t have to struggle as badly for parking, but there are a lot of development projects in store in this area that’ll make U Street even hotter. I’ve always found the area to be pretty safe. I have no complaints, really. It’s surprisingly quiet…at least for now.
    It’s a nice, quality renovation–I know from whence it came. For once, I felt the term “condo alternative” was appropriately applied. I toured it–once you are inside, it really doesn’t feel that small, and the layout really works. There’s a ton of natural light in the house, which normally would be an issue. Plus, the patio is great for entertaining. I need to get my own mini-home renovated!

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