Reader Nominated Horse’s Ass Award – Two from the 1300 block of Irving St, NW


A reader writes:

“I walk past 1325 Irving Street NW every morning on my way to the metro and it always makes me so sad to see its shuttered and shattered windows. It has been this way for a year or so, I believe. I wondered if any of your readers know what’s going on with the property?”

Another reader digs around and finds:

“The house is owned by several family members, maybe also some kind of church or organization as well; that seem to be having conflicts over what to do with it.

Meanwhile – more galling – the house opposite – 1334 is STILL vacant!”

28 Comment

  • Don’t worry, even if it was up for sale on the regular market the price would be too ridiculous at this point for any of us to afford…

    A reno on that house would probably need at least $300k anyway on top of the mortgage. If you bought the shell for $550k, that’s an $850k mortgage, leaving you only about $80k or less of equity in the house once you’re done building.

    • Ugh, if someone had a budget of $900k and wants to make a house their own then it’s not too expensive at all. Furthermore, a developer would LOVE to get their hands on this. Also, how can you say it needs $300k worth of work with only seeing one photo?

      • I’ve done a renovation on a house that size. $300k accounts for plumbing, electrical, structural, flooring appliances, HVAC, drywall, paint, roofing, brick pointing, permits, inspections, insurance, closing costs, incidentals and labor for a house that is about 3,000 sf in size. If you spend any less you’re a hardware supplier. I gave the cost of the shell as 550k just as an example. Because of the location, the sales price might even be higher than that.

        Only a developer splitting the place into condos would be able to make a respectable profit off of buying that house, and someone (as an individual buyer – not a developer) with a million dollars to spend if they have half a brain would simply buy a house that’s already done.

        • Any developer would obviously convert it into condos considering they’re splitting even the tinest rowhouses into condos these days.

        • I’d imagine that someone out there with a million to spend would love to have the opportunity to create a completely custom home, so I’m not sure how you could say that anyone with half a brain would just buy a finished product. Especially given that so many renovations these days seem half-assed.

          • Who would spend over a million once you factor in mortgage and construction cost to live in CH? I like CH has much as the next person but this house ONLY makes sense if you can get at least four condos. I would think most buyers in 1mil-1.3 mil range are looking in other neighborhoods.

          • brookland_rez

            I agree. Seeing how half assed some of these flipped houses are, as a homeowner I would love the opportunity to customize my renovation to my liking, and make sure things get done right.

        • “and someone (as an individual buyer – not a developer) with a million dollars to spend if they have half a brain would simply buy a house that’s already done.”

          Are you kidding? Why pay $1 million for someone else’s (often crappy) choices when you can design rooms, fixtures, etc. to your own specifications?
          That said, I have to believe that on that block, if the place were for sale a developer would have purchased it already. Even if it was purchased for $700k and split into 2 units, there’s money to be made there.

      • You need to come in with $700K or more in cash to buy this place, because of developers. The fire was last May, and the roof was breached, all the windows smashed, so almost a year of rain etc. pouring in. The place was neglected long before that – a sort of flop house – so it will be a gut job.

        The house across the street – 1334 – is an absolute, inexcusable travesty. Renovated by the city, then left vacant for 4 years in one of the most expensive and desirable housing markets in the city. I’ve emailed and talked to everybody in the city, including Brianna Nadeau when she was campaigning.

  • There was a fire in this place a while ago – that’s why it initially was vacant. Not sure why it still is, though.
    There’s no way that shell is going for just $550,000. Also, any half-decent renovation will yield a rowhouse valued far in excess of $930,000.

    • Houses above $930k in that area don’t move fast… Most of them are turned into lower cost, but still high-priced condos… I do agree with you though, $550k was a throwaway estimate for the shell. If I had a million dollars to spend, having done a project like this already, I’d rather invest heavily in a non-shell property further north of there for less yielding more equity.

      • It’s undoubtedly true that houses at $1 million and up move slower in Columbia Heights. That said, I just sold a 2 level condo a few doors from there with multiple offers (and not 3-4), all but one with escalation clauses, for well over list, in six days. I couldn’t believe the demand.

    • Yup. 1311 Irving sold for almost 1.2 million. You could pay 800K for the shell and still make money on this.

  • Long-vacant properties are subject to punitive increases in property tax rates, intended to discourage leaving properties vacant and neglected:

    • In theory, yes. There’s been quite a bit of discussion on PoPville about how this is not always the reality.

  • I’m confused. Isn’t the 1300 block of Columbia Rd. public housing?

    • It’s a typo – supposed to be the 1300 block of Irving.

    • Are those developments in fact public housing? They’re not listed on DCHA’s website.

      • No – Columbia Heights Village is below market income-restricted housing, but it’s not run by the city.

        • I didn’t know that. Who runs it?

          • CHV is privately owner with some kind of long term arrangement for assisted/supported/voucher housing. I have heard that arrangement is nearing the end of term, and about a year ago there were surveyors surveying the whole place. I asked them what was up, and they couldn’t tell me anything, except – “whenever we’re hired to survey, something is in the works.”

            I’d love to find out as I’m thinking of installing solar panels, but a high-rise – which would be the logical use of such a property – would kill my sun and make that a waste.

          • CHV’s LIHTC affordability expires on 1/1/2017, but it looks like they also have a HUD section 8 contract that doesn’t expire until 12/31/2022. It’s all listed in the DC Preservation Catalog.

  • I know someone that used to live here (before the fire). I have no idea how much damage was sustained, but this was already divided into at least two units, maybe three. I think the renos included HVAC, recessed lighting type stuff, etc., so I’m guessing the house had already been gutted and everything redone at some point, probably in the last 15 years. I’m sure fixing things would still be expensive but maybe not as much as a straight gut reno from the get go.

    • p.s. quick search reveals this was two, 4-bedroom condos, so they were probably separately owned … that might have something to do with the mess of getting it fixed.

  • It is one thing for an individual to buy a house and gut reno it – it is quite another to buy a house that had a fire (which can damage major joists), and with a roof and windows open to the elements for a year (which will also create a lot of damage.) The work required for that is beyond a gut renovation. It can be done (and will be, eventually), but it is more work than your average individual rehabber wants to take on, as it take a lot of time. People do it all the time, though – shells in Harlem, for instance, have sold for quite a lot of money for quite some time, and been turned into lovely places to live.

    I think the appeal of doing something like this really from scratch isn’t just getting the design you want (and I get that desire, as I hate all the flips I see here), but the opportunity to also change basic house elements – like thinking about digging to provide geothermal heating and cooling, and working to build and insulate to create a passive house, which would cut energy costs to next to nothing for the future of the house, and to do other green things using green materials, to have a house that both uses less energy and emits way less toxic fumes from the building materials used. And, while I like old building trim and all, it seems as if this was mostly if not all gone from prior renovations, and now certainly all gone from the fire and gutting the fire necessitates, so it would seem to be a great blank canvas for some cutting edge modern design. Now all of that would be a fun (and complex) project.

    I don’t understand why if it was two condos that the condo association didn’t have a good insurance policy that would have allowed for the reconstruction needed on the building, and the owners’ separate insurance policies to cover the things like cupboards and other elements internal to the condos. It seems to me that there must have been either a lack of adequate association insurance for rebuilding, or a problem with the insurance company – otherwise this should have been in rebuilding stage by now, even if the individual’s own insurance policies were lacking – if you got the building fixed, but couldn’t afford to fix your unit internally because you foolishly didn’t have insurance, there would be people who would be willing to buy. If the owners had mortgages, at least the building insurance policy would have been required by the mortgage banks (and perhaps individual condo owners’ insurance, I don’t know – though a smart building association always requires it of all owners, whether or not there are mortgages on units).

    Perhaps that’s the delay. If there were mortgages, I can’t imagine they are still being paid, so perhaps the places are in foreclosure, and possibly by two different banks. They’d have to foreclose and have a joint sale to sell both units to one party to rehab.

  • This is complicated … googling the address shows that a foreclosure auction was scheduled for one of the units to take place on May 29 of last year, and the fire happened on May 28, 2014.

    • I live in the neighborhood. 1325 Irving St NW tenants were evicted sometime in early 2014. They kept coming back and going inside the row house and destroy it. Then, as it was stated here, on May 28 2014 two of them came through the alley (btw Irving and Kenyon), and set the house on fire. Since then it has been abandoned. This has lead to groups of young people to go through the back and inside. Some of them have been walking on the roofs of adjacent houses.

      While it is a fact that renovations would be expensive, it is also noticeable that a few renovations (1339, 1341) were done and sold as condos with high prices.

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