Good Deal or Not? “Live your dreams” edition (reader request)

This home is located at 3914 New Hampshire Ave, NW:

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The flier says:

“Featured in Saturday’s WASH POST! Live your dreams in this stunning renovation of a classic row home! Fast, easy access to METRO only 2-blks away. PARKING! 4/3/1 incl. 1/1 in-law suite w/ front & year entrances! 2 outdoor decks, original wood flrs, FP Mantles & Banisters! SS & Granite KIT, Cathedral Ceilings in Mstr Suite & exposed brick throughout the home! Go with a winner!”

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

It’s interesting to contrast this one to the un-renovated one up the block that we looked at last week.

This 4 bed/3.5 bath is going for $550,000.

60 Comment

  • Looks like a nice house. Strikes against:

    1) carpet in the basement.
    2) what’s the point of a tiny yard too small to even sit on? (all the hassle of mowing and maintenance with none of the benefits).
    3) walking by the other night I could see a nearly 1″ gap beneath the front door letting the cold air in. easily fixable but indicates sloppiness.

    Probably worth the money though.

    • I also thought there was a gap under the front door but it is a black rubber sealer type of thing. The front entrance is pretty sealed, i checked it out during the open house this weekend.

    • What would you expect in the basement other than carpet? That seems to be how it is with most renovations… my understanding was that hardwood flooring isn’t worthwhile for basements because of issues with dampness, possible flooding, etc.

      Agreed on #2 and #3, though.

      • Ceramic tile is best for basements since they can be subjected to water/moisture.

        • Basements can also be extremely cold – making ceramic tile uncomfortable. Durable, all weather carpet (as used) is a perfectly viable option. Best practice for protecting basement floors from water damage is solving the larger problems (flooding, moisture, etc).

          • Generally you don’t actually find out about the larger problems until the basement is full of water. And then you throw the carpet out and fix the larger problem.

            I’ll never put carpet in a basement again.

          • Put rugs over the ceramic tile. They can be lifted up ans saved if water comes in.

    • Backyard appeals to dogowners. Having a fenced in backyard to let dog out to pee at night huge for dog-owners.

      • Good point; I hadn’t thought about that.

        Still, I’d prefer to have that same fenced-in space, but have it mulched and maybe with a few plants in it.

        My feeling is that _grass_ per se is a hassle to maintain, which I think is what Anonymous was getting at too (“all the hassle of mowing and maintenance with none of the benefits”).

  • The exposed brick looks great and the kitchen looks pretty nice, too. I’d be concerned about the size of the bedrooms (I haven’t been inside), since 4 bedrooms seems like a lot for a 1500 sq. ft. place. Overall, a relatively good deal, but judging from these GDoN posts, the real estate market is still way overpriced in much of the city.

    • I really don’t get this common refrain that “the real estate market is still way overpriced in much of the city.” The market is what the market is– it reflects the prices that people are willing to pay for particular houses in particular neighborhoods on partiular streets.

      Do you mean it’s too overpriced relative to income? Well, again, the prices also reflect what the market will bear in terms of the residents’ income. People rent or buy bigger or smaller places in a variety of locations in the DC Metro area based on what they can afford and how much they value certin amenities and locations. Whatever your living situation, you’ve probably done the same thing.

      Are you talking about a continuing real estate bubble? You may have a point (with which I don’t agree). But I think your conclusory statement falls well short of supporting it. And you can’t blame homeowners for selling their properties for as much as they can get– bubble or not.

      • I don’t blame homeowners or flippers for making whatever they can. But $550,000 at that location seems like a high price to me. If someone else wants to pay it, then great. The house looks nice and the buyer probably will be happy. But yes, I think there still is a bubble which has been exacerbated by the assumption that real estate will appreciate like it did during the run-up to 2008 – an assumption I think is flawed.

        • It would seem overpriced, because you’re not considering the location, one of the most important things in buying a valued property. Just for context, the same house in Georgetown would probably be worth 1.3 million dollars.

          • I agree that property would be much more expensive in Georgetown. but what does that have to do with the fact that $550,000 is overpriced for Petworth? Isn’t the point of moving into a transitional neighborhood to buy cheap and “get in on the ground floor?” $550,000 isn’t cheap.

          • I have to agree with both The Heights and Jack5.

          • If you are looking to “get in on the ground floor” in Petworth, well that ship has already sailed my friend. And $550k for a house that could easily be 50-100% more in other neighborhoods, is in this day and age, pretty cheap.

          • Anon – you don’t value real estate by what it would be worth elsewhere, but by what it’s worth where it is.

          • Exactly my point Heights. And this is priced well for the neighborhood if you look at the comps. If you think the point of buying in a transitional neighborhood is to get a place “cheap”, well, you are looking at it. $550k in this city, is cheap. And for a house like this in Petworth, is more than justified.

          • And the fact that $550,000 is “cheap” tells mme that the market, overall, is overpriced. I lived here before and during the bubble, so I’m familiar with how much DC costs. I don’t care what the comps are, $550,000 for a 1500 sq. ft. home (even if it appears to be a nice, but hardly spectacular renovation) is too much to pay in a neighborhood where things are always “going to get better.” Don’t get me wrong, I hope they do get better. But the neighborhood doesn’t yet have the amenities or safety to warrant the prices I’ve seen.

          • The Heights, you are making no sense.

          • Anon X -Thoughtful comment. My point is that in a neighborhood where most improvement is generally speculative and usually spoken of in the future tense, housing prices seem out of whack with current realities.

          • A.) See comments below on something being worth what someone is willing to pay.

            B.) It is difficult to find a 4 br/3.5 bath house in any part of DC for less than $500,000. So I’m not sure how you can base the claim that this single house is overpriced, since there’s plenty of market data to justify it, but very little to justify it being over priced.

          • Just because someone will pay a certain price for an object at one point in time doesn’t mean that that object is not overpriced relative to its long- term value. You mentioned stocks – the market goes through overbought and oversold swings constantly, so yes, a stock can be overpriced relative to its fundamentals. I believe that’s the case now with a lot (but certainly not all) of the real estate being sold in transitional neighborhoods in the city. We clearly are not going to convince the other, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

          • The only thing you can hope for with buying any investment is that it either tracks the index or beats it slightly.

            I think buying in Petworth, at a price that is comparable for similar products, will track with any index you derive from real estate values nationally or locally.

            There is no reason to think Petworth will underperform

            As for stocks, oversold/overbought is just a term someone applies to their opinion.

            Again, things are only worth what someone is willing to pay. The fact that what someone is willing to pay goes up and down, is extremely unpredictable. While the housing market is a lot less efficient than the stock market, its fair to assume that any analysis of the value that you can do, the seller and any other potential buyers can do as well. Therefore any true “good deals” either dont exist or get snapped up quickly and “bad deals” never sell or have their prices lowered to close to equilibrium (or what the comps would say it is worth). A well priced house will likely sell around the average number of days that previous houses have sold in.

            It is rare that a single property completely over or under performs the comps. In a changing market, there is consistent incremental change. In a boom/bust market, it moves more quickly. But booms and busts are extremely rare.

            Furthermore, even with the recent housing bust, there is no legitimate reason that I can think of that buying is a bad idea vs renting provided you have a long-term time horizon (over 5 years, 10 preferable) and keep a lid on the leverage (i.e. build in a cushion in case the market does take a dive).

            On the long-term, bonds, index mutual funds, and real estate are all going to consistently appreciate. If its down right now, just wait, it’ll come back… eventually.

        • Petworth is not a transitional neighborhood, at the height of the market houses like that sold for 700k… I agree the price is high when you compare it to much larger houses in the suburbs, but Petworth is valuable because there’s a metro stop nearby, there’s also growing retail, its on a major intersection that leads to MD and VA, and far enough form downtown to still be able to park on the street in front of your house. I think out of all of the places to live right now Petworth is the best because you can still keep your car and avoid ridiculous property taxes. I’d buy this spot if I was looking in a heartbeat because its valued reasonably. Since I can fix places up on my own though, I’d normally look for a foreclosure, but this place is not bad at all, in 2 years, when Georgia avenue gets populated with more stores, this property will increase in value by around $60k, its worth it.

          • I wasn’t comparing it to houses in the suburbs, but to each his own. We’ll have to agree to disagree about whether Petworth is “transitional” or not, but hopefully your optimism will be rewarded.

          • I don’t really understand what you mean when you say that Petworth is not a transistional neighborhood; to me it seems like a perfect example of a transistional neighborhood. Are you saying that you don’t expect Petworth to improve?

        • @The Heights – I agree, but the assumption goes beyond a run-up in real estate prices. The root cause of this bubble is the assumption that the DC Metro area’s economy is so unique that is not affected by the factors affecting other areas of the country. In other words, the government has no plans on cutting any of its jobs or dropping any of its big projects anytime soon. Housing stock will continue to become more valuable as people workers flock to the DC Metro area to work for the government, either directly or indirectly.

          This is a pretty dangerous assumption, but I can see why many people are willing to believe it.

          • Do you have any idea how much the government would have to cut in order to have a significant impact on the local economy?

            A lot.

            Since we have a few hundred years of no cuts on the scale necessary, I see no reason why its reasonable to assume that the federal government would take a 25% trim AND the stuff in DC would be hit hard.

            The government could be cut significantly and the stuff in DC wouldnt even blink. Further, DC based federal employment could take a nosedive, and the affect on the economy is largely unknown. What if they just do a big buyout to move a bunch of people into retirement, but dont rehire those positions? We have a ton of folks on a very generous pension that are still in the area.

            Allowing future cuts to government to dissuade you from buying in DC is focusing way too much on improbable large scale cuts. There are plenty of reasons to NOT buy real estate, but a huge cut in the federal government isnt one of them.

          • Yeah, but when President Perry takes office, they’ll cut three whole agencies! We just can’t remember what one of them is!

            On another note, I thought I read where the DC area expects to add a million people in the next 20 years because of people coming for guvment/contracting work.

      • @Fitness821– Strangely, though, The Heights and Jack5 seem to disagree.

    • The rooms are your standard size rooms where you have space for a queen bed, 2 night tables, a dresser and still some space around (for 2 of the bedrooms). The basement bedroom is relatively large. As most row homes there is 1 small bedroom that can be an office or nursery room.

    • tonyr

      1500 sq ft.? Doesn’t the ad say that it’s 2100+

  • Beautiful renovation job… I wonder how much a job like that would cost on my house…

    • agreed! this is the best renovation i’ve seen in a while. i appreciate the fact that the kitchen is still somewhat separate from the living area… i think it’s well worth the money. the unrenovated one is a perfect candidate for a restoration job, imo

  • Reasonably decent flip. A few oddities (the weird and large gap between the fridge and the unusable over the fridge cabinets and the cut out for the several inch wall by the front door) but I don’t think they did something that wouldn’t sell or was over done.

  • If I were in the market, I’d have made an offer already. This house has a lot going for it.

  • This house looks great! I love the kitchen, the deck is much nicer than you’ll find at other similarly priced rowhouses, and the overall finishes are nice. I think its priced to move, personally. You can walk to 11th Street and 14th Streets in Columbia Heights, and you are close to all the changes happening on GA Ave.

    I think this home should be on the list of anyone looking for a rowhome around the $500K mark.

  • This is a good deal. The basement layout is a bit strange for a tenant, and New Hampshire can be noisy, but those are minor gripes: this house should get some attractive offers.

  • Great deal. If this was being sold during the spring selling season it would get more than asking. My prediction is a quick sale despite it being the low selling season.

  • Aside from the open floor plan and relatively informal dining room, I think the house looks nice. I don’t much like the back yard because it is either paved or decked. What’s wrong with a little green space?

  • Agree that this is one of the better flips we’ve seen on here in awhile. I also think its a good deal and she move quickly, if not for over asking price.

  • Good deal and I bet it goes for asking for even a bit over. Its priced right for its proximity to metro, has parking, finished basement and a nice looking renovation. Other houses around parkview/south petworth but close to metro are all going for about the price and sold in under 4 weeks.

  • Give me this house right now! It’s really cute and the price is totally right for the size and location.

  • Anyone have a link for the Washington Post “feature” that the listing agent refers to? (“Featured in Saturday’s WASH POST!”) I don’t get the print version, and my online search wasn’t getting any hits.

    I’m also curious as to whether it was actually “featured” in the Post, or if it was more like “was the subject of a large ad.”

  • I haven’t seen the house in person but agree that it’s a good looking renovation. My only knock is that “in law suites” should have a refrigerator, cook top, and separate laundry in my book.

    Regarding the price, it is what it is … I know some folks think Petworth prices should be “more affordable” but that ship seems to have sailed. If real estate increases in value then why automatically assume that the value is unwarranted if the home is in a transitional neighborhood or one that is not uh, “fully gentrified?” Just a thought…

    • …why automatically assume that the value is unwarranted if the home is in a transitional neighborhood…

      It’s because the listed price is what buyers believe the property will be worth in a couple to a few years, not what it’s worth today. This speculative pricing is a major factor to the last housing bubble that only occurred a couple years ago.

      At least the vast majority of the 0% down mortgages are no more.

      • I think you fail to grasp what “worth” is. Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

        Stocks are also priced forward looking, does that mean they are “over priced?”

        If there are a bunch of comps that show people are willing to pay a certain price, then a price in line with the comps isnt “buyers believe it will be worth in the future” its a pretty reasonable approximation of the “worth”.

        Pontificating on the “next bubble” and talking about something being “over priced” might satisfy your ego – but its hard to actually say anything meaningful shooting from the hip. Predicting market movements, consistently accurately, is something people spend their whole lives doing and requires a lot of data and analysis.

        So far, you’ve presented your argument is “the federal government might be reduced a lot” and “I think thats overpriced”.


      • The credit bubble had an profound affect on housing; however, there is no credit bubble now. The reason why prices went up was because banks could lend more than they could afford to lose, and people could borrow more than they could afford to pay. It had nothing to do with the fundamentals of urban real estate.

        There’s a new paradigm: fuck the burbs. Investment in urban real estate is increasing country-wide, for cultural reasons — it’s part of a generational shift. This is what you need to know when considering whether urban real estate will appreciate or not.

  • I’m with The Heights and some other contributors are either real estate agents or burned homeowners. Perhaps both. Yes, they can price at what the market will bear, or any price for that matter. But I reserve the right to complain that the rent (or house price) is too damned high, and folks who’ve leveraged their salaries beyond what’s sensible will not convince me otherwise. So make your argument, but please save the attitude.

    Here’s your DC area house price graph:
    Note there are a record low number of transactions occurring right now.

    In a world where people are graduating school with a record amount of debt and we’re 9 days away from mandatory cuts to the Federal gov’t across the board, I’m extremely distrustful of anyone offering a “sure thing.”

    This house was bought for $250k before the renovation…I agree the place looks great, but has $300k of improvement gone into it? Do I want $300k in improvements to a house on NH? It is a pretty busy street…and this is going to be by far the nicest house around…

    • I can understand why some people are commenting with such conviction. If I just dropped 100k into a property in an, erm, transitional neighborhood and am just able to afford the mortgage on the balance, then I would be convincing myself that everything is going to be okay as well. I’d be posting things like “Just hang in there two years, you’ll be making bank!” because I’d be in the exact same situation.

      But it’s a dangerous game to play, especially if and when you need to get out from under the mortgage to pursue your life elsewhere. The big players in the real estate markets around here (owners of multiple properties, well before the boom) can afford to withstand a couple years of hardship because they’ve already made their money. A single income, single property owner cannot.

      A number of DC owners lost their shirts during the popping of the condo bubble in 2008/2009. Exclusive “luxury” condos were slashed 30%-50% in much better neighborhoods. Don’t think it couldn’t happen to townhomes as well.

      • You are so consistently full of shit about real estate.

        You’re talking a lot of generalizations, but you’re making no sense.

        Should people be paying more than comparable properties? Should they be taking on a 95% LTV? No.

        However, no matter where you buy, if you keep the leverage low and are paying about the same monthly as you were when you were renting, PLUS you plan on sticking around for 5-10 years, there’s nothing you can say that would convince me that buying a house is a bad idea. The lost income potential from investing the downpayment is a nonfactor, because there is the same downside risk there. People lose their shirts in the stock market. If you invest in indices, in 5-10 years, you could be down. At least this way, you have a house.

        Trying to time a market or splitting hairs between neighborhoods is foolish. The truth is no one knows for sure if the market is going to go up or down over 10 years or if petworth will outperform tenlytown.

        I happen to believe that its unlikely that housing will be down in 10 years relative to where we are now and I also believe that petworth and tenlytown will track very similarly in terms of % gain, with the advantage to petworth for the likelihood of more aggressive gain – but with all investments, more aggressive means more risk… but I think both the upside and downside is relatively little when compared with tenlytown.

  • Must say – very interesting discussion. Read all of the postings. I think when someone uses terms such as ‘overpriced’ or ‘transitional’ in regards to Petworth, there are definitely some sore spots…on both sides. My two cents – these were the same types of arguments that were happening a few years ago regarding Columbia Heights, which seems to have fared pretty well with regard to the ‘overpriced’ and ‘transitional’ descriptors. Only time will tell how Petworth will fare.

  • Now listed as pending after 6 days on the market.

  • Not overpriced! Petworth is a great neighborhood and lot soy development happening- more importantly the neighbors are very very nice.
    Homes on Taylor and Shepherd sold for 600K and brought life to these streets

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