Good Deal or Not? “tremendous light” edition

This home is located at 403 12th St, SE:

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The flier says:

“Classic Federal Style Row House with brand new kitchen and HVAC, new tankless HWH, updated bathroom, ample storage, brick and hardwood flooring, wood-burning fireplace, exposed brick walls, and tremendous light. Coveted Historic Capitol Hill location just steps to metro, Eastern Market, Harris Teeter, Frager’s, Barracks Row, and all the Hill has to offer.”

You can find more info here and photos here.

This 2 bed/1 bath is going for $550,000. Sound realistic?

53 Comment

  • It looks like this is one of the Federal row-houses that haven’t been renovated to “square-out” the back of the house, which is why the kitchen and the second bedroom is crushingly narrow. We’ve got the same house, only the little “notch” in the back was eliminated in the 90s at some point, which means the floorplan is the full 14′ wide.

    Makes a huge difference. If they get $550k I’ll be surprised. Obviously, happy too.

  • Knowing the area and other similar houses, I won’t be surprised if it sells for that, even though it shouldn’t. The majority of the interior charm that would typically raise the prices has been lost through renovation. Once that is lost you look to the amenities. In this case, the recently renovated kitchen should be worth about 5%-10% of the value of the home. In this case, that is not a $25K-$50K kitchen. Everything from the kitchens to the bathrooms are just picked up from Home Depot. It’s sad, when you get to the $500K+ range, you should really expect better original character or better finishes.

    In this case, the only thing the house really has going for it is the overdone amount of exposed brick.

    • I’ve seen a lot of properties on the Hill, and you simply can’t get character in the $500’s. Especially not this close to Eastern Market. For a lot of the original details to be intact you need to be willing to shell out at least $700k.

      • This is sad but very true.

      • Have you seen a 900 sq ft Federal anywhere on the Hill that had “original details” and sold for $700k? I’d be shocked.

        • Now that you mention it I can’t think of any 900 square foot (or so) Federals that stil had those details. Usually it was the Victorians that had all the wonderful features like the original hardwood floors, fireplaces, pocket doors, etc.

          The couple dozen I remember that were similar in size and style were newly rennovated and in the $700-850 range, with the exception of one that was $679.

        • the price seems high based on the 2br/1ba and sqft. I haven’t even opened the linked pics, and it seems on the high side.

  • One photo is captioned “Dining Area”. Two others are captioned “Dining Room”.

    Let’s be clear: it’s an area, and that area is about five feet away from the couch that is just barely fitting into the living room.

    Seems claustrophobic. Somebody will freak over the exposed brick and pay close to this, but it won’t be me.

  • I bet it will go for about this amount. The location is great, and although some people think the renovations are boring and home depot-esque, I think it looks pretty nice. And as others have noted, people looking for more character and/or more space need to be in a higher price bracket. This is not overpriced for where it is. D.C. is just really expensive.

  • This is a great value in a great location. It will sell, and sell quick.

  • I mean this sincerely, not snarkily…I often see comments here about finishes looking like they came straight from Home Depot, in the negative sense. I’m wondering where you go to buy your home finishes if they don’t come from HD or Lowe’s or the like. What is a homebuyer looking for and why is the big box hardware store merchandise such a bad thing to have in a property?

    • this is a luxury market and people want things that are of higher quality.

      • Right, but EVERYONE can’t live in luxury. Even in DC. There are plenty of people in the $350-450k housing price range that need decent and affordable, perhaps with some luxurious extras here and there as they can.

        So where does one purchase these things of higher quality?

        • what specifically?

          • Not specific, general, like all the general HD hate.

          • i take it the hate stems from plumbing fixtures and lighting fixtures.
            even stores like restoration hardware have far better selections.

            locally there are specialty shops that cater to better quality items.

            real estate is a gigantic purchase, but developers cut corners by putting in 60 dollar toilets and 15 dollar faucets. it’s kind of lame for home much a house costs.

            when i did my place, i used a lot of different stores, restoration hardware, maurice electric and online at places like faucetsdirect. the stuff i bought from ikea and home depot havent really held up and i wish i just spent more money straight up.

        • One of the issues here is that Home Depot or Lowesesque is taken to mean cheap, when that isn’t the case. Here is my rundown of what you see in this kitchen that could be accomplished elsewhere for a similar cost to buying everything from Home Depot. The difference is that you need to shop around and spend additional time.

          Tile and stone should come from a shop that sells, surprise surprise, tile and stone. You can get better quality stone and hand made or odd shaped tile of much better quality for the same price or less than you would pay in HD. “The Tile Shop” is one place that is a great starting point. You can also get great deals from places like Ann Sacks (even though they are in a fancy Georgetown M St. store, they’re owned by Kohler).

          Cabinets can be ordered as semi custom cabinets from retailers online for the same price as HD cabinets. What arrives are of better quality, use better hardware, and have a lower tolerance for mistakes. Typically, the finishes are actually more durable on these cabinets.

          Molding is typically heavier and more intricate/interesting profiles in older homes. This includes door and window casings, baseboards, and crown molding. Using the stock profiles in HD doesn’t offer many options unless you layer multiple pieces, which most won’t do. You can order everything you need from mills around the country and it will be shipped to your door, all for roughly the same price as HD including shipping. Places like Mad River Woodworks have a great selection.

          The biggest thing, and I’m sure the thing most people will disagree with, if your house’s kitchen was recently renovated and you are asking $500K+ IMHO the appliances should be consumer commercial, like Thermadore, Viking, Sub Zero, etc. There is no getting that for cheaper, or even close to the same cost as HD ranges and refrigerators, but this is just one of those things where, if you’re asking for top dollar, spending $3,000 more on an appliance shouldn’t matter that much to you. The higher end appliances are price fixed, so there isn’t much shopping around on those.

          For contractors that are either flipping or doing renovations for homeowners that don’t know better, Home Depot and Lowes are easy. They have everything under one roof, so they don’t need to spend time shopping around. And the quality is OK, for the price.

          I know that less sells for more, and that is just the market. But it’s too bad that the market has dictated that sort of an acceptance of lower quality finishes for top dollar asking price. As a buyer, I’d rather they leave the appliances out of the kitchen and just offer the $$ they would have spent in a cash refund to the purchaser. The purchaser could then determine how they want to finish the house.

          That’s my 2 cents 🙂 Also not meant to be snarky at all.

          • To be fair, you kind some good tile at HD/Lowes. I was doing a project that I wanted something specific and the only place i could find it in the near term and for a decent price was at HD. The quality of the tile was good and it was the exact same thing online for $3/sq ft more plus shipping and a multi-day wait. It took me a long time to decide on this, but once I made my decision, I didnt want to have to wait up to 14 days. Local tile places didnt have it.

            Also, I find that a lot of the local places for stone and tile are aimed at either suburban trendy designs or contractors, or both. HD and Lowes offers the ability to mix and match, get some stuff there and dress it up with a few things you find somewhere else.

          • I agree with most of what you said, but with one big exception. I don’t consider $550 k for a house in this location to be anything near “top dollar.”

          • 500K in that location is a starter home, add any of the touches you just mentioned and you’ve reached 650K+.

        • The internet. No seriously. We got an unbelievably chic chandelier from an amazon storefront that was twice the price of something at Home Depot but about 1000 times better built and unique.

          Or Georgetown or Alexandria or Rockville specialty home stores. They are not cheap, but they offer stuff that will never be mistaken for the crap they have at Home Depot.

          • Thanks to you and to Alex. Very helpful and insightful.

          • SF, regarding your Amazon purchase, how did you know what the quality was going to be from a photo? I’m not being a wise ass. I’m being sincere. I’m renovating my house and will soon be buying finishes . . . fixtures of all sorts . . . lighting, plumbing, etc. But unless I’m familiar with a brand, I’m reluctant to make a purchase sight unseen/untouched. Do you stick to brands your’re familiar with?

        • I agree with you. You can do fine at the box stores for some basics (toss in Ikea on that front) , and get a more personalized looks by focusing on specific details. You have a lot of options at the box stores, but the generic look gets “Home Depot” job. By that I usually mean the

          I’ve gone both routes (Kraftmaid at Lowes and custom cabinets from a specialized outfit) and each had tradeoffs — There are great online and specialized resources for lighting, tile, hardware, counters that give a distinctive design look even with pretty basic major components.

          anon2:46 summed it up very nicely — it’s the cookie cutter builder grade stuff that gets dinged, more than the provenance.

      • By “this” I presume you mean the PoP forum. You certainly don’t mean that DC writ large is a luxury market. Next you’ll be calling it a fashion center.

        I think part of the problem is that the great majority of commenters don’t have the first idea of what it really costs to renovate a property. People pay attention to the superficial – what kind of appliances are there, what kind of light fixtures, where did the tiles come from. The most important part of the renovation is what you don’t see – the stuff under the floors and behind the walls. Having a Viking stove is worthless if you don’t have enough gas coming to your house to use more than one burner at a time.

        • I could not agree with you more. Sure, my condo had a lot of “cookie cutter” “Home Depot” finishes, but it was pulling off the breaker box and seeing a top-of-the-line wiring job, asking about plumbing updates, and banging around in the basement that sold me. So what if I have Frigidaire appliances (they look nice, work well, and can always be replaced for increased resale value) when I have a great basic structure that I don’t have to worry about breaking? Sorry, but I’d trade a fancy fridge for a fantastic electrical job any day.

          Oh, and specialty store shoppers need to shop around. My developer’s chin hit the floor when I told him how little I paid for the EXACT SAME washer and dryer that he installed in my unit…at Lowe’s. He bought from a distributor and paid about 50% more.

    • Many of the commenters here like to be snarky about the finishes of others’ homes because, while they do not own homes, they dream of buying one, renovating it (while preserving all of the original details, that may not even still exist), finding unique antiques and somehow altering them to be kitchen sideboards or bathroom vanities. Couches would be custom made and cabinets would be made of reclaimed, old world, wood. They imagine sifting through tiles at Community Forklift and somehow finding 100 tiles that exactly match the half tile wall they have and going to Brass Knob (RIP) and finding 15 doors of exactly the right dimensions and stripping the paint off and staining the wood and putting period hardware on it.

      When they see a house that doesnt adequately fit their expectations, for a house that they havent actually tried to do, they start throwing around things like “home depot/lowes flip”.

      For the people who actually are actively remodeling their houses, we just chuckle, because we know that most of the places in town have the exact same brands and options at Home Depot/Lowes, but they have them cheaper. The fantasy of painstaking restoration is nearly impossible, unless you want to leave doors off their hinges for weeks, or not have a bathroom that is functional until you locate every last perfect piece and then retrofit everything to make them fit.

      Most of the time, what people really dont like is the absolutely cheapest, builder-grade, option from Home Depot/Lowes… of course those are the same low-budget options every place else has too.

      The vast majority of home depot/lowes hate comes from folks who either dont own a home, live in a house that could be criticized as an HD/L flip, or are currently fantasizing that the dated house they live in will one day be renovated into this grand example.

      So, in short, go to Home Depot to get things you need. Look everywhere for unique finishes, but if you like something at HD, buy it – its probably just fine.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response. It was all starting to make me feel bad about our developer flipped modest-price rowhouse. Greatest stuff? No. Crappy trailer finishes? Not that either. Just the average “let’s get some things in here that make a house.” We plan to do some upgrades, but also don’t want to over-improve. And don’t have oodles of cash to go “high end.

        • Here’s the thing. If yuo dont like the stuff in your house, its better to get builder grade than get expensive sstuff priced into the cost of the house, that you dotn like.

          You should figure anything you dont like is replaceable and didnt increase your cost when you bought it that much.

          Take your time and replace things when you see things you like. Just dont be surprised that buyers dont share your niche taste (if it ends up being niche) because they’re expecting the generic, trendy finishes, in a turn-key purchase.

        • Also, I will say, the lighting at HD and Lowes is pretty lacking.

          There are a lot of electric supply places, dominion and Annapolis, as well as others, in the area. They have vast catalogs that you can look at and order things from. Usually these prices are no more than HD/Lowes.

          New lighting fixtures and new paint colors can transform a room/house.

      • I spread a small amount of Home Depot hate above, but I absolutely agree with you on all points. As a homeowner, I loathe the finishing touches and accents that scream “Home Depot”, but I am in that hellhole once a week.

      • You are right on your points. My wife and I are doing the overkill renovation that you mentioned, and I had to laugh with what you said about leaving doors off of their hinges for long periods and search for matching doors. This is so true!

        I looked for 5 doors that matched the identical profiles of our house’s original doors…for 4 years! I finally got lucky and found then at the Brass Knob. I’m so sad that place is gone. I got the doors, stripped them, applied the old hardware, and they look good, but it sure wasn’t quick and it sure wasn’t easy.

        To do a renovation where you use all of those reclaimed items, you have to have all of the patience in the world and live in the middle of mess for a lot of the time.

        If you walk around our home, I’m sure you’ll see many things from Lowes and HD, but most of what you don’t see (framing lumber, plumbing supplies, screws, nails, etc) are all from Home Depot or Lowes.

        • I’m in the middle of it too – I’ve found a lot more at Lowes and HD than I expected!

          The door thing is a real pain in the ass.

          where did all of BK’s doors go?

          • I think 2nd Chance Inc up in B’More got a lot of them. We actually bought a salvaged front door from them about 3 days before they announced they would be closing, and their shop was PACKED with doors at that point. We got a huge discount from them, just because, and didn’t know why. When we heard we realized that we got their markdown price just a few days early.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them ended up down in Richmond salvage shops too. Basically, anything that was nicer wood or a large and thick exterior door would have moved pretty easily. I’m also willing to bet that most of their tubs ended up at 2nd Chance too.

          • Community Forklift also has a big door stock (or had – we found some specific six panel doors there about a year and a half ago).

            Although, as much as I love Community Forklift, Second Chance is amazing! Four warehouses – FOUR!

          • Hi everybody! Ruthie here – I work at Community Forklift. Ron at the Brass Knob Back Door warehouse did sell off a lot of his stuff at deep discounts, but the bulk of what was left has come to us. He’s always been very supportive of our mission, and was kind enough to turn to us when he realized he’d have to shut down.

            I think we’ve gotten something like 15 or 20 truckloads of stuff from the Brass Knob Back Door Warehouse in the last few months (In fact, our door department is now so packed that we’re doing a 50% off sale through June 30th, so most interior vintage panel doors are $7.50 to $17.50 each right now). But we haven’t just gotten the doors – he’s also given us mantelpieces, window sashes, hardware, etc.

            Also – just gotta share the good news that Ron is not leaving the area! Although the rent for the Brass Knob got too expensive, I understand that he’s narrowing his focus and is going to continue to deal in cast iron and radiators. He’s found a cheaper building about 5 minutes away from Community Forklift, and I can already see vast quantities of radiators accumulating in the courtyard when I drive by. He’s a wealth of knowledge, so I’m glad that he is sticking around.

            Cait B, I can’t blame you for loving Second Chance! Although Community Forklift is the biggest reuse warehouse in the DC area, we would LOVE to have multiple buildings like they do! I have heard that the city of Baltimore actually leases their space to them for something like a $1 a year. If this is true, I am SO jealous! 🙂

            If we didn’t have to pay rent, we’d have hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that we could dedicate to starting our own deconstruction division (that is how Second Chance is able to fill up their warehouses – instead of hiring a bulldozer, a property owner can hire their deconstruction team to take apart the building and preserve all the good stuff). However, I doubt that anyone is going to ever give us a warehouse, considering how much more expensive land is here. Sigh…a girl can dream…

      • Anonymous 2;46, Marcus Aurelius: thanks for the two most intelligent and realistic responses to this thread.

    • saf

      Much of it is low-quality, mass-produced, won’t last long stuff.

      Where would you go otherwise? Well, in my kitchen, the cabinets come from a cabinet company, a good one, which one depends on what you want. I wanted a solid wood box, not pressboard.

      The counters came from a stone place.

      The floors are cork, ordered from the manufacturer and installed by my contractor. The sink came from Atlantic Plumbing.

      Or the bathroom – the tiles came from a tile warehouse, the sink and toilet from Atlantic, the medicine chest from Union Hardware…

      Why not go for quality?

      • This makes sense when you are upgrading your own living space, but why go for costly items that cater to a specific taste when you’re trying to sell a place?

  • I don’t think the renovations/finishes look boring. It’s just a small place. But it is a CH rowhouse – what are you expecting?

    Seems to have more light than a lot of the rowhouses my husband and I have been looking at.

    • Right, but the light comes at the expense of floor space, right? Historically these little townhouses had a sort of L-shaped rear half: if you were to look down on the house from the top, it doesn’t look like a shoebox. It looks like a rectangle with a ‘bite’ taking out about a quarter of it. These places are pretty claustrophobic–I know because I used to live in one. Cooking in the kitchen is a bit like cooking on a submarine.

      I’m guessing they’ll get $500k

  • This reminds me of a Baltimore row house. It’s cute, but not too exciting/unique, which is probably a good thing because it attracts more potential buyers.

  • Will get asking price +… but say, is that a wood fired pizza oven in the back corner of the kitchen (holding a wine rack)? If so it’s worth $600k for the money you’ll save over the note chasing overpriced pizza in this town.

    • Ha! I live around the corner from the overpriced and extremely overrated 7th Hill myself. 🙂 That said, you don’t really need a brick oven to make great pizza.

  • have to disagree with you on 7th Hill. I’ll concede that point on Matchbox and We the Pizza.

  • Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t already sold. Great location, nice looking brick floors, some actual closet space, A/C, updates…. I’ve been looking at lots of bland renovs in Petworth, so I’m not sure what you guys are talking about – this one’s not the least bit boring.

    Also, based on the above, it seems that this house’s proximity to pizza is impressive.

  • I agree with most points made. Given the location and what recent sales have looked like in the area.. I have been tracking, I’d say it’s fair and could go for slightly over sales price… the fact that it’s still on the market makes that unlikely. With interest rates as low as they are, I wonder where those Cap Hill buyers are… maybe so much is being built near the waterfront that this area isn’t as prominent as it now was. Dear Mr. Old Town… you advice and tips have been awesome!

  • I live 2 blocks away and the answer is NO.

    My house is roughly the same size (2 BR 1.5 BA) on the corner with a nice yard, a rather nice size backyard, a basement, and it looks A LOT wider and I don’t think I could sell my for $R550,000. AND my house isn’t right across the street from Capitol Hill Cluster school (I have a small park across the street).

    • Oh and did I mention that the school is also a voting location. Voting day there is a PAIN for people there. Also, the CVS on the corner of 12th and Penn just down the block can be challenging.

  • I’ve been in this house and it’s been carefully restored and has a nice new kitchen with quality materials. To me it has quite a bit of character – brick floors, exposed brick walls, a kitchen fireplace, and stained glass windows. It is also nicely landscaped in the front and back.

    Given prices for homes in Capitol Hill, this seems to be priced righ.

    – if that sells for over $500, which it won’t, anything is possible in Northeast!

    I think the price point for this house is fair compared with the one I referenced.

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