Dear PoPville – Did We Get a Good Deal?

“Dear PoPville,

After a two year saga that included five failed contracts, my fiance and I just managed to buy this house. It was a double short sale (the owner had two mortgages, both of which had to take a loss), with four tenants, and is in good group-house condition. We think we got a good deal, but what about the commentariat?”

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This 5 bed/3.5 bath, located at 3163 18th St, NW in Mt. Pleasant, was bought for $720,000. You can see photos here.

First let me say congrats on your perseverance! Given the location and even if it needs $100k in reno I still think it’s a good deal because of the location and size. Houses that size in Mt. Pleasant regularly go for over $1 million.

What do you guys think?

99 Comment

  • Why do you care what strangers think? Odd.

    • That’s a silly question, Stink. They’re looking for market info to better guage the value of their investment. Commentator opinions on PoP offer a quick, easy way to gain some data.

      If you’re just trolling . . . . well, this about the lamest topic you could troll.

      • +1, Nick

      • No, I agree with Stinky. It seems odd that the OP is asking this question now. They’ve had 5 years to get feedback and market information. They’ve signed the paperwork and only now decide ask if it’s money well spent? Why would stick with a 2-short sale deal for that long if you thought it wasn’t a good deal?

        FWIW,I think it looks nice and in good condition. The price seems right for that neighborhood. Enjoy living there.

        • My guess: they think they got a good deal and they want to hear people talk about it. It’s probably their #1 topic of conversation, and their friends and family are likely sick of hearing about it, so they are fulfilling their need to obsess over it further by opening it up to PoP.

          It seems like an okay deal, but 720K seems like a lot if it needs substantial renovations. Not saying it isn’t worth it, but I wouldn’t be ecstatic to pay $3/4 million and have to do substantial renovations.

          • I just saw the listing. It’s 3,600 square feet. Seems like a good deal, especially if you can somehow split some of that out as a rental. Congrats.

            From the pictures, it looks like it could use some work. Our house is 1200 square feet and we can barely keep up with it. I can’t imagine managing a renovation 3x that size…

          • SF, you’re basically right. But PoPers love to obsess about other people’s motivations and choices, so I thought I would add more fuel for the communal fire.

        • I bought my house 3 years ago and I still crave market info to help me judge how I did. These folks went through two short sales so they got much less market info relative to the value of the house than the purchaser of a home that was listed and sold in the typical fashion (i.e., with a listing, a broker, an open house, etc.) They have a legit thirst for info.

      • Why is it that every time someone asks a question like this, someone responds with “Why are you asking?” Isn’t this one of the purposes of this blog? If questions like this bother you, then why read them? And, why on Earth would you waste your time posting an inane statement like, “Why do you care what strangers think?”

        • Yes.

          This blog very frequently consists of people writing in with questions. 90% of them could be answered by Google or talking to friends, or don’t need to be answered at all, but it seems a lot of people like to read/participate in the feedback. If you don’t like this style of blog, I am not sure why you’re reading it?

      • And data before purchaing is great. But now? If we all say “bad deal” what happens then? The house goes back on the market?

        It’s like buying a car, then going on the internet a few days later to research prices and ask people what price they paid.

        The deal is over. It doesn’t matter what we think – I hope you have the best of times in your house – but that is really up to you at this point.

    • this is the oldest PoP troll message in the book. get a life.

    • I’m with you stinkypesto, it is odd to ask strangers on a blog whether what is likely the biggest investment you’ve ever made was a good deal – and to ask it two years after the fact.
      If they wanted to know whether it was a worthwhile investment, the time to ask was during the two years they were trying to buy it. What is gained by asking the question now?
      I’m not denying their right to ask the question, just baffled at why they are asking it now and unable to see what they are going to get out of the answers.

  • You are what the community needs. Just dont skimp on contractors by hiring unlicensed hacks or illegal aliens to do the reno.

  • Yeah you got a good deal! WOW. With 4 tenants are you even paying anything out of pocket?

    • We are paying out of pocket because we are moving into the house and all the tenants are moving out.

  • Well then it is a done deal and only the future Real Estate market will tell if you did get a good deal.

  • This sounds like thinly-disguised bragging to me. Really, now, after two years, you want to know if it’s a deal?

    Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I’m increasingly viewing $700k+ houses in a neighborhood where 1) you can’t count on sending your kid(s) to the in-boundary schools and 2) everyone else is trying to get their kid(s) into the same nearby charter schools as a not-so-great deal. If I’m spending over $700k–especially for a fixer–I’m going west of the park. Sorry. And those deals do exist over there.

    • You’re over estimating the number of people who care about public schools. In other words, there are plenty of people who don’t have or want kids or have kids and the cash to pay for private. Enjoy the ‘burbs.

      • Aw, did I just make you feel bad about your own decision? Sorry about that.

        And, the OP asked for feedback. I gave it: I think it’s a poor deal. And most people who get married DO have kids. Most people DO send their kids to public schools. Most people with the cash for private aren’t picking Mt. Pleasant; I like that neighborhood but I can’t see it attracting the kind of people who are going to send their kid(s) to Sidwell or Georgetown Day.

        • Aw, no you didn’t. But you clearly feel unhappy about yours.

          It doesn’t matter what “most” people are doing. It only matters what the market can bare. Clearly, Mt. P, regardless of the school situation, is a desireable neighborhood for people who can handle a $700,000+ mortgage.

          • Um, “what most people are doing” is (in a crude sense) the definition of the market, so I’d say it definitely does matter. Conversely, the actions of one buyer is not at all necessarily indicative of what the market is doing.

            So I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with your conclusion, but it sounds like you’ve got your logic all bungled up.

          • We sent out kids to Bancroft and loved it. They had some fabulous teachers there, some of whom we still are in contact with.

    • mtpgal

      Just curious, have you looked at the schools Mt. P feeds into? You might be interested to know that this part feeds into Deal Middle and Wilson High, i.e., the schools Chevy Chase, DC kids are going to.

      • Deal and Wilson have such large catchment areas because the kids in Chevy Chase, DC are going to Sidwell Friends, Gonzaga, Visitation, Maret, etc…

        • No, it’s because there was a lawsuit in the 70s (?) about diversifying the schools, so they moved the boundary for Deal and Wilson to 16th St.

  • It’s really impossible to answer this question without a sense of the scope of renovations. The house might need $20k for minor touchups, or it might need $250k for a total gut. Care to provide more details?

  • Oh, man. You guys got taken.

  • Congrats! I used to live in the green house right next door! Not sure if it is still a group house. It is a great block, I think you will enjoy living there. Sounds like the price was just about right for the size and neighborhood. I also used to live in a huge 5,000 SF group house on Park Rd btwn 16th and Mt Pleasant that sold for 700 something a couple years ago.

  • Hey–I live on that block! 😀

    I’d say it seems like a pretty good deal–there are houses in the immediate area that have gone for $900k+ recently, so this is downright reasonable for Mount Pleasant.

  • Josh,

    I bought nearly the exact same house about two months ago in Bloomingdale. In fact, when I saw the photo of your place, I thought I was looking at my street and my neighbor’s house. My place, which looks just like yours on the outside, is 5 bedroom and 5 baths, was completely gutted and given an open and modern interior, which I like but some will say the original layout like yours is worth more. My place has (snug) parking for two cars in the back and no grass because of it. My place has a deck and balcony in the back. I’m not sure what the situation is for you with parking. I paid $770.

    Various factors to think about in no particular order: my place needs zero work; homes in Bdale don’t go for as much; modernized (although not necessarily given a modern style) your place would most likely be worth more than mine cause it’s Mt. P; the prices of homes in Bdale will likely rise as the gentrification that’s already taking place increases; Mt. P can be closer to a metro, depending on where you are.

    My only concern about Mt. P is that it seems a bit stagnant to me in comparison to the changes taking place around U Street/Shaw/GA Ave/North Cap. Although I’m going to get flamed for his observation, I think Mt P and CH may remain a Latino/immigrant enclave long after U St/Shaw/Bdale have gentrified into something resembling Dupont. That doesn’t mean your home price will go down, particularly since Mt P is so close to Dupont, but rather that I think mine will go up.

    Like most people I know, myself included, I don’t think you got the deal of the century, but I do think you paid a reasonable (and perhaps a good) price and that you’re going to be very happy with this investment, particularly if you live in it for 5 years or longer.

    Hope this helps!

    • Prince Of Petworth

      “I think Mt P and CH may remain a Latino/immigrant enclave long after U St/Shaw/Bdale have gentrified into something resembling Dupont.”

      Very helpful, looking forward to hearing more brilliant insights from you…

    • “Although I’m going to get flamed for his observation” The fact that you are aware that you are a racist prick makes it even worst.

      • I knew that comment was going to get me flamed.

        I didn’t say that I think it’s good that areas will have fewer immigrants or Latinos. I’m simply stating an observation.

        I also think H Street is going to become less African-American and much of NW already has become so. Does that make me a racist?

        Good god!

        • No, its the thinly veiled enthusiasm that you have for such displacement that makes you a racist.

        • I didn’t think what you said was racist until I reread it and picked up the observation about the neighborhood remaining “stagnant.” You then go on to predict that the “non-stagnant” neighborhoods will become something resembling DuPont – i.e., overwhelmingly White. One might interpret that series of commentd as an implication that remaining a Latino/immigrant – i.e., non-White, enclave is a bad thing. Or one might see it as just a detached observation.

          • I do think that “non-stagnant” neighborhoods will become something like Dupont, and that’s no new observation. I, however, never said that I think Dupont-esque neighborhoods should be the goal or that I moved to Bdale cause I want it to be like Dupont someday.

            I stand by my orginal post and reject motivations ascribed to me that are not mine. J’accuse…!

        • I understood and agree with you. Truth hurts.

          Captcha = H8ED. Karma?

    • exactly why some of us prefer living in mt pleasant over dupont in the first place.

      why oh why must i continute breaking my rule of not reading these awful comments? it ALWAYS puts me in a bad mood. goodbye comments, for at least another week or two.

    • It seems to me that there is only but so much room for gentrification in Bloomingdale. There aren’t a lot of retail or commercial spaces available to be developed or redeveloped. Sure you’ll have a couple of coffee shops, restaurants/bars; and there is a yoga studio. But I don’t see the prospect of much future development, at least of a scale that would attract large numbers of gentrifiers. Sure, people may come to Bloomingdale to get a huge house at a good price relative to other parts of the city. But no one’s going to be moving there for the entertainment options.

      • I think people are snapping up places because some think they’re still relatively undervalued and undiscovered, and it’s a 5-10 minute walk to U Street (yep, I do it every day) among other reasons. It also has room for growth on North Cap and McMillan Reservoir in addition to RI. That said, noone moves to Bloomingdale thinking they’re only going to exist in Bloomingdale. Also, not everyone wants to live literally next door to the bars and restaurants. See all the complaining about AM or having a bar beside you on 14th street.

        • I’ve always thought of Bloomingdale as Mt P Part Two. Both I’d describe as “car owner neighborhoods with nice housing stock”. No metro, decent walk to get to hotspots (unless you almost live in Le Droit), but you do get cute houses which draw people in.

          There’s no way B’dale turns into anything resembling Dupont in my mind. I could see a strip somewhat like Mt Pleasant Street sprouting up on Florida. I wager N Cap’s development in the next 10 years is going to happen not alongside B’dale so much, but rather mostly towards it’s south-eastern tip, as your drop south into Truxton. (Of course, I’ve got a touch of bias here.)

          • People always talk about Mt. P not being Metro accessible. I lived near 19th and Kenyon for years, and it was a 12-minute walk to CH. Plus, the 42 comes every 2-3 minutes in the mornings and evenings and basically runs all night long. I remember ( stumbling out of the 9:30 Club (the old one)years ago and thinking I would get a cab because it was 2 a.m. I look up, and there is the 42 ready to take me home.

            Then you have the H-buses that will haul you up the hill to Cleveland park. Public transit has never been a problem there.

          • Also, I’d like to point out that a ton of the area in the north of B’dale is pretty darned close to Shaw.

            I think the b’dale/mt p comparison is pretty apt, except I think Mt P wins on proximity to the activity center of DC but Bloomingdale wins on proximity to highways, out of town transport, and employment centers. So the location might be a wash or slightly favoring B’dale. I never appreciated the convenience of b’dale till I started living here.

    • I know what house you bought – your house was the 4th priciest since April in B’dale, with at least 2 of others being houses significantly bigger than yours. I do appreciate your willingness to spend an absurd amount of money in my neighborhood, as it helps me in the future.

      I think you should check your tone though, since the original poster bought a house that was basically at the bottom end of the range in his neighborhood and you set a recent record with the purchase of your home.

      Your commentary on the racial make up of neighborhoods makes your perspective even more suspect.

      • There’s always the last hopeful fool who buys a house after the majority of appreciation has already occurred in what was once a stabby neighborhood. Not speaking to this situation specifically, but I would say one has to factor in the income distribution in DC before crossing your fingers and hoping the gentrification fairy will leave you a tidy sum of equity in 5 years. The majority of couples here can afford a $200k home, so prices will tend to rise quickly above $200k in a neighborhood once it becomes “discovered”; however, the majority of couples cannot afford a $800k home, so price appreciation slows as it passes that level.

        Buy Trinidad.

  • No central AC, the interior needs significant updating (peeling plaster, radiators, dated kitchen, etc). Is there a parking space?

    I would say it’s a fair price for a home of this size in this condition with a short sale. Did you get a good deal? As somebody else says, that will depend on how much renovation this place requires. I’m guessing it’s an okay deal, but really who knows. The DC housing market is super hot right now, but I’m afraid a double dip is coming. Another economic downturn could gut the value of homes in this price range. Time will tell.

  • Did it come with the crepe-paper streamers on the stair rail?

  • Welcome to the neighborhood! I live across the street (red house). Sorry to see all the snarky comments. From what I’ve seen being sold on our street, seems like you guys got a pretty good deal.

  • Well, after wasting 2 years of your life assuming a moderate annual combined income by DC standards of $150k in order to afford this house. Your time spent plus renovations would dictate that you paid well over $1M.

    I feel for you but looks like your looking for a pat on the back for this post so good work buddy

  • andy

    Just around the corner is a similar place that sold for $925,000.

    The house at 1800 Lamont is nicer, but by buying at $200,000 less, you absolutely could spend liberally on the interior and recoup your investment.

    While on the subject – is there some kind of design service for such a scenario? I.e., if someone bought under-market and wanted to upgrade, design some changes that are guaranteed to cause a value upgrade?

    Sounds worth it for this situation . . . spend $5,000 to get the moneymaking design, spend $25,000 on upgrades while living in the basement, come out $100,000 ahead in six months with a house that doesn’t make you think of the former tenants at all.

    • This house is likely going to need more that $25K in upgrades. Renovating the kitchen alone could blow that budget. If bathrooms are included, and repairing plasterwork, radiators, central AC, floors, electric, plumbing, floors, etc are involved, you’re easily looking at $100K. I hope the buyers have significant cash reserves, because doing this piecemeal would be a huge headache.

      • andy

        what about getting a loan? is it worthwhile or even possible?

        • Not a home equity loan. They’re all dried up. We tried recently, and only wanted about $8k. We were told they’re not doing home equity loans right now because of the housing/economic situation.

          • I recently got a home equity loan. I also had equity in my house which allowed me to get the loan.

      • andy

        plus – who can spec out those kinds of prices for you? that’d be a good service. your home inspector wouldn’t do that for your future upgrades, would he/she?

        • Also, the house is clearly liveable as is. You don’t have to do all the work early and at once. Unless you can afford to.

  • I lived i in that house back in 2004. awesome buy for only $700K. interesting note: I sublet the room from the guy that created all the telephone box sculptures.

  • No comment on the house, but I enjoyed the hilarious “staging” of the master bedroom.

  • You paid retail for the house. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some people just get lucky and buy at 50% of market value. A flipper would have gotten this house for $450,000. You did ok but don’t quite your day job and try to be a flipper.

    • Yes, I know it’s quit, not quite.

      Stupid iphone auto-correct. Apple you are killing me.

    • There is no way in hell a flipper would have gotten this house for $450K. Give me a break. 100K less? Maybe. But not 450.

      • If you can only make $100,000 off a flip, then it is not worth doing these days. I mean you might have to pay more in bribes to the city just to get the “required” permits.

        So yes, 50% of market value is correct for a flip. You just have to have cash in hand and be on the look out for home owners that are going to loose their house either to the bank or to the District (tax sale).

        But back to the point I was making, it was an ok deal for retail. Next time low ball them but come with cash in hand for the ultimate deal. No cash, then you have to pay retail.

    • You are completely wrong. No one was getting the house for $450k.

      This idea that there is this whole other set of people who are buying houses for well under what everyone else is, clearly havent spent a lot of time looking at home price sales information.

      • And that is why flipping should be left to professionals and people with cash in hand. Also it should not have taken 2 years. Cash in hand means low price and close in less than 30 days.

        Bad economy = lots of money to be made for those with cash in hand.

        • So what you’re saying is that if an experienced flipper had come with $450K, cash in hand, the TWO banks that had to approve the short sale would have agreed, right away, to take $270,000 less than the $720K the house sold for?

          Okey-dokey. Can I have some of whatever you’re smoking?

          • Yes. Flippers tend to be able to relieve banks and distressed home owners from any liens or liabilities. In return, banks (or actually agents for the banks) usually sell the house to cash buyers for substantially less money than a traditional buyer.

            Let’s take the case of a house that is financed by a certain mortgage company we will call JPC (fictional mortgage company). JPC has a history of buying other company’s mortgages. The house in question is about to go to short sale. JPC does not want to risk the possibility that another buyer (who is getting their mortgage through a lender that JPC buys from) might end up with a JPC mortgage as well. JPC wants to unload the property and any problems associated with the property. So if a cash buyer comes along, JPC will sell the property at a substantial loss to a cash buyer so that they never have to deal with that property again.

            This house, however, probably would never have gotten that far. It needs no repairs other than A/C. So there is no money to be made.

            The big problem for the buyers is that they will have a harder time to find a buyer when they sell it. Houses over $700,000 will not be able to be financed through government backed loans after September. Try to get a jumbo loan in this economy.

            I wish these people the best. But next time low-ball the offer or wait until the bank takes it back and then buy it from the bank for much less.

      • +1. Flippers do not buy houses in this condition; they buy shitholes that can be bought cheaply and renovate the whole house. This house does not need $100k in reno, it needs central air conditioning and cosmetic repairs. Poor staging does not equal poor condition.

  • Nice house, hope there aren’t too many surprises in the renovations

  • I live in the neighborhood. Paid quite a bit more for a fully renovated place. Looking at the prices of recently renovated places makes me think you got a fine deal. With $150k in upgrades, you will still be below the market.

    For example, that place on Lamont mentioned above actually listed for $875k and sold for $925. That’s with no parking!

    I think it’s true that B’Dale prices will rise faster and higher than MtP (I looked both places). It’s just a hotter area right now with more room for people to renovate/flip.

    I actually like the more “stagnant” nature of the neighborhood. It seems that most of my neighbors have lived in the area for a long time and intend to stay there. Thus, we have a much better relationship than when I lived in more transient/flipped parts of the city. Of course, the trade off is less profit over the short (and maybe long) term and less restaurants/bars/etc. But I think quality of life makes up for it for me. Just depends on what is more important to you.

    • My neighbors have lived in the LeDroit Park/Bdale area for generations, and they are thrilled that they have new restaurants to go to, homes being fixed up, less crime and their home values are rising. They keep telling me they think the quality of life in Bdale is getting better. They also tell me horror stories about the neighborhood from the pre-gentrifying days.

  • Yeah, you paid retail.

    Anyone who has experience doing short sales would have gotten it for ~75-100K less.

    Small lot, no off street parking, no central a/c (which in a house that size is gonna run you $25-30K min).

    But, it looks like a house with solid bones and in a nice neighborhood. Enjoy it, but don’t be disillusioned into thinking you got a a great deal, because you didn’t.

  • looks like a nice house and I admire the perseverance.
    Haters will hate…

    BTW, this is the type of post I expect from a “neighborhood blog” like this. If I wanted serious news, I’d go to different sites. Love the anonymous posting function PoP! Never take that feature away…if so, this place would be a ghost town (Just got The Specials in my head).

  • Back to the subject…That MP house is going to need well above $100G’s to renovate, more like close to 3ooG if not more. Its a huge house, and you never know what lurks behind the walls, electrical/plumbing issues. I bought a house in CH being close to 4500sq ft (includes finished basement) and know the issues that can come up, along with maintainence. Good luck with that.

    Secondly, Shaw/Bloomingdale turning into Dupont.HAH! Not going to happen, ever.

  • I know one of the renters and was recently in the house. No parking, no central AC. But, the kitchen does not have to be renovated, it is relatively new. The bathrooms need some help. I think you got a pretty good deal, though I’d definitely check the electric, just because in DC you really should! The tile in the foyer is original, beautiful!

  • Anybody else think the upcoming mortgage caps are going to hurt the market for $500K+ homes in DC?

  • You got a good deal. I have friends in the next block from you and around the corner. There are some things that you can’t put a price on and wonderful neighbors in a great neighborhood (wait until the Halloween block party) is one of them. You can get to anyplace in 15 minutes by car or bus and the zoo and Rock Creek Park are in your backyard. Enjoy your house. You’ll love it there.

  • man our house got profiled on PoP and we didn’t like the attention it brought to the property . . . at all. not sure why you would post a photo of your house and draw attention to your cash flow. seriously.

  • This thread is so ridiculous! Clearly the OP thought they got a pretty good deal and wanted some pats on the back for it. I guess this one went in a slightly different direction…

    My thoughts are that it’s a very good deal for Mt. Pleasant. You can’t even find a 2 br with half the space for under 500K. And there’s a surprising amount of places to frequent in the neighborhood, plus super close to both CH and Adams Morgan. The 42 is great too. I don’t live in Mt Pleasant but I’d definitely move there if I had the opportunity.

  • Have purposefully not read any comments yet – must say to the OP: OH MY GOD YOU ARE BRAVE!!!!! (About exposing yourself to the chatteratti, not for buying that house).

  • I bet the OP did his research and concluded it was a good deal or he wouldn’t have bought the house (and has enjoyed/learned from the ensuing convo, as have I). A good deal is rare in life and when I find one, I guard it like a state secret.  

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