GDoN “Better than a condo!” edition

This house is located at 1208 Shepherd Street, Northwest. The listing says:

“Beautiful Rehab, Walking distance to 2 metro stations(petworth and Columbia Heights), this is the place to live. Close to shopping, restaurants and metro on a quiet block, will not last, Better than a condo! Seller is willing to build another bedroom in basement, for inlaw-suite or 4th bedroom.”

You can see more photos here.

This 3 bed/3.5 bath is going for $664,500.

50 Comment

  • This house has been on the market forever in an otherwise red-hot area. The price isn’t unreasonable; I’m really curious as to why it hasn’t sold.

    • A friend of mine was under contract for this house. The seller was not able to provide clear title so settlement was delayed. Eventually they got tired of waiting for the issues to be resolved. It seems like a great little house though. Hopefully it finds a good owner once the title issues are cleared up. But needless to say, the buyer should have a good title company.

      • innnnteresting. was also wondering what the deal was with this place- it’s been on and off the market for over a year…

  • This house has been on and off the market a couple times and recently under contract. I wonder what happened or what the inspections are finding?

  • HOLY CRAP, the flipper (?) bought this for 140k in September 2014 (according to Redfin)!!!!!! 140k!! Sooo that was an amazing deal. Now? I don’t know because if they really got this house for 140k it must have been falling over. That makes me weary of the reno quality. That said for the size and location it seems like a pretty good deal.

    • Even crazier, the Redfin notes stated that they didn’t replace the HVAC or water heater during the renovation. Holy cow that’s a red flag.

      • What are you seeing on Redfin that says that? Also I don’t know why that would be a red flag, maybe they were relatively new before the renovation.

        • It’s under the comments for “previous listings for this address.” It’s a red flag to me because I have a real hard time believing a house that previously sold for $140K contained a HVAC system that didn’t need upgrading.

          • Agreed. A house for $140k in that area must have been pretty run down and badly in need of some TLC. I find it hard to believe that the HVAC and water heater were new or sufficiently well maintained such that they didn’t need replacing. When I was looking at developer flips, I’d note down the model numbers of the equipment and look them up later. It always amazed me how many renovated condos had 10-15+ year old equipment that had just been cleaned up to look new.

          • Wow! Good idea to save time waiting on disclosures.

    • The flipper’s purchase price of $140k is misleading. From the sound of it, the prior seller was about to go into foreclosure and the flipper got a deal and was planning to pay off the liens against the property before selling it. Not sure what happened, but issues weren’t resolved as of a few months ago. In this crazy DC market, it is probably a good idea to check out the public title records in addition to permits and whatnot before making an offer on a flipped property. DC has an online database for title info.

      • Yup, the title is probably a mess. And if there’s no approval of the work from the city, it’s probably impossible to get financing. This most likely requires an all-cash buyer (ha!).

  • This was the first house my partner and I looked at when house-hunting earlier this year. The workmanship on the flip seemed sloppy though. After seeing some other properties, it was even more noticeable that they cut a lot of corners. I remember the downstairs ceiling being very low too. It also didn’t get much light inside. It was located on a nice block though, and definitely an area we were interested in living in. It’s been on and off the market since at least May of this year.

    • On and off the market seems to indicate that the deal fell apart during the inspection. I’m wondering if that is the case, and if so what they found?

  • Seller is willing to build another bedroom in the basement? What a weird thing to say in the listing.

  • HaileUnlikely

    According to online permit records, they applied for most if not all of the appropriate permits, but the only inspection that they had done was electrical rough-in, and they failed that, which means that they should not have closed up the walls before having that re-done and passing it. And online records indicate no other inspections done (never passed electrical, no mechanical inspection, no plumbing and gas inspection). Red flags abound.
    (Apologies if this ends up posted twice, just tried to post and it didn’t work)

  • Setting aside the discussion of whether this house is well-done for a moment…does the author of this ad believe I live in a condo AND can afford a $700K house? Yes, a single family home would be “better than a condo”…it would also be many times more expensive…

    • I’ve seen many condos priced the same or more than this house. I think $700 for a house in general is a better deal than $700k for a 2-3 bed condo.

    • The target would seem to be a couple both with decent incomes looking to upgrade from a condo to a house for the kids. The average person living in their starter condo probably not, but maybe with minimal debt, good return from the sale of the condo, etc it could work.

    • binpetworth

      Sadly, there have been “condos” (houses split into multiple units and with HOA fees) on this same block that have sold for more than the list price of this house in the past year. So the listing agent isn’t too far off, though I agree it’s crazy anyone would pay that for a condo/half a residence.

      • Yeah, no joke. I mean, I really like not having to cut my grass and shovel my snow, but I’m doing that for a whole lot less than $700K. According to some reference points, I apparently could kind of afford this (it’s close to the recommended amounts for home costs/income), but I just don’t see how unless I’d ALSO like to never pay off my student loans or retire…or go on vacation or go out to eat or buy a bottle of booze once in a while or eat healthy food…
        Call me Scrooge McDuck, the fact that this is actually in the ballpark of something I could afford on paper squigs me out.

        • HaileUnlikely


        • Paying off student loans and retiring are probably overrated anyway.

          • Paying off student loans is definitely overrated (my dad just does NOT understand why I didn’t pay off my loans in under 5 years “like he did,” without consideration that the cost of college (state school) literally DOUBLED in the 6 years I spent getting the same degrees he has, and the minimum wage was FAR less than what he made in the 60’s, inflation adjusted (yo, econ degree, I can do inflation adjustments!)), but retiring is DEFINITELY not overrated. I do my best to “live well” while I’m young-ish, but, man, I can’t wait until I don’t have a job. That attitude informs my retirement saving decisions…I want to call it quits at 60 and go EXPLORE…without coming back to 254 emails…

        • The way mortgage amounts are approved is insane. When I was looking, I was approved for a mortgage with payments of up to 40% gross of my monthly income. So more like 55-60% of my net monthly income. This is just the mortgage (PITI) amount but not utilities, maintenance, etc. And then of course there’s all the other costs I have in my daily life, like eating….I’m sure I could “afford” a $700k (barring down-payment) but there’s no way I want to at my current income.

          • Oh, I know. If you’ve seen me post in other threads, I actually own multiple properties. I’m actually qualified to own/pay the mortgages all of them on just my income from my “day job,” and that’s just *insane* to me. They all add up to about 28% of my gross from my day job (PITI), but if I was paying those all myself, I’d be a broke mofo. Granted, renting out property comes with other expenses (taxes, licensing, repairs, and others), so I do think that about 20-25% (PITI) works if you own only your own home, but the “guidelines” of 30-40% of GROSS income for home costs is just crazy.
            I unfortunately, know too many people who think that what the bank will approve them for is what they can afford. I’ve had some “friend breakups” over me sitting someone down and showing them what owning their “dream home” will *actually* cost. I’m apparently a bad friend but wonderful accountant…

        • Who is buying a home this size alone with no intention of getting roommates to offset the costs?

          • Lots of people. Some people like space. For a dining room, a guest room, and an office.
            It always bugs me when people ask me why I don’t get a roommate. Why? Because I don’t want a roommate!

          • Agreed. I have about 10 friends that have rowhomes and live alone. I have 3 bedrooms and love living alone as well as having the extra space to use for whatever.

          • justinbc

            Roommates are terrible. Unless you’re married to them. Then they’re tolerable.

          • I’m a “space-lite” person (I don’t want to pay to cool and heat a bunch of rooms I never use, and I certainly don’t want to clean them!), so this was maybe not the best house for me to comment on. If I ever bought a SFH, I’d buy something much smaller. There are many in the Ft. Totten area that are right up my alley (and much more within my price range!) and, if I get to that point, that’s probably where I’ll end up looking. Right now, I’ve found a nice building with generally friendly neighbors that is well managed. I could use a couple more closets, but other than that I’m fairly happy at the moment, despite occasional annoyances (whatever my neighbors run multiple times a day (blender? drill? no clue, really) is really, really annoying…but, it’s only a total of, like, 5 minutes, at rational hours, and they’re otherwise nice people).
            Just the whole “condo alternative” thing rubs me really, really wrong. Like, I don’t really have a choice unless I want to gut renovate something that is basically falling down…

      • I’m one. I’d rather pay it for for a condo that was in good shape, that I wasn’t going to have to spend a lot of money on fixing things some flipper developer screwed up. Much better investment, in my opinion.
        Also, a safer choice in many DC neighborhoods. I don’t want to buy a house and then complain like others on here that my packages get stolen (of course they will get stolen if left on your porch), or that my bikes get stolen from my back yard (ditto).
        I currently live in a condo and don’t have to worry about those things. And I don’t have to spend my money, and my weekends, working on my my house. And I have as much sq. ft. as many of these houses, more than many.

        • Agreed. There is such a strange incongruity on this blog between the constant posts on the quality of life crime we put up with in the District and the belief that families are supposed to live in a house. We may never feel secure on the streets, but at least in a doorman building you get packages and don’t need a security door.

          • Yeah, and packages are the least of it. I don’t worry that someone is going to kick my door in or break through a window and assault me.
            I don’t think I could live in a little row house in DC without spending massive amounts of money (into the many thousands) for real security stuff (like seriously thick doors and frames, serious locks, and unbreakable glass) to secure my doors and windows from intrusion.
            This isn’t a comment on the current crime wave, or on DC. It is just that I have always lived in big cities, and shit happens if there is not really tight security. And by that I mean stuff that makes it really difficult to break in, not just added stuff like cameras, lights, and alarms.
            Also, I’m used to living in multifamily buildings with serious entry door security, even if without doormen (I never could afford staffed buildings in NYC). And I used to put gates on my fire escape windows, when I had them.
            So the idea of living in houses with fairly flimsy doors and windows that are accessible to the ground is not something I think I would feel safe with, probably anywhere, city, suburban or rural. (Though I did grow up in such houses, in cities, such crimes were more rare in those cities then, and the houses usually had a lot of people in them, which deters break-ins). Living alone, I want real security.
            And, as I’m only going to get older, I like the idea of continuing to live on one level. And to not have to worry when I travel.

          • SouthwestDC

            I feel the same way, but my house came with bars on everything and a security system, like many in DC. You don’t necessarily have to spend money on that stuff.

          • travel is such a big concern for me. After living most of my life in apartment buildings, I don’t think I could ever buy a row house and feel comfortable leaving the country for a week. Also, why would you choose to have ground floor windows/doors if you can afford a nice unit in an apartment building? Apartment dwellers understand that these are the worst/cheapest units, yet many DC residents seem to prefer the bottom two levels of a row house condo conversion over an apartment building. It totally baffles me–after a decade in the District I still don’t think I can get the NYC out of my blood.

          • True – you only need it if you want to dispense with the bars. But I’m not sure that’s enough. People one here have been talking about security doors being pried open easily with crowbars. Are they talking about the iron security gates one puts outside the door? If so, that’s scary, to me.

        • justinbc

          You do realize that you can still spend money fixing up a condo right? That’s not something exclusive to SFHs…

          • SouthwestDC

            I’ve lived in my rowhouse 5 years and haven’t spent a dime on maintenance or improvements. Just depends on the condition it’s in. And while I do have to sweep up leaves and shovel snow it’s worth having a yard for the vegetable garden!

          • 5 years without improvements in a rowhouse is 5 years of depreciation. Everything needs to be replaced eventuality. In a building you should be paying maintenance to plan for future building wide replacement costs. Long term this will all even out.

          • Yes, but it is generally cosmetic on the inside. You don’t HAVE to take care of the stuff that naturally deteriorates over time – the roof, exterior walls, etc, or do yard work.

            Unless you are in a small self-magaged building, as I have been in the past. But at least the cost of the repairs and upgrades was shared by all in the building. Inside? All I did was pay for a fresh coat of paint the week I closed on it. And a few minor, cheap interior storage upgrades over the years, and some light fixtures. When I sold it over eight years later, it still looked great. I did put a lot of work into getting bids and hiring contractors to work on the exterior and common areas though as a board member, so those areas looked much better when I sold.

          • This is true, but so long as the association is well managed (and you DEFINITELY need to do a lot of due diligence before you buy and get at least somewhat involved afterwards to make sure), the costs are lower (more people paying for the roof, masonry, etc.) and interior fixes and improvements are generally pretty cheap. I’m doing quite a bit of work on this place (more than cosmetic), and I think my total bill will end up somewhere around $6000…that’s for multiple new appliances (including one wholly new install that was extensive enough to require Board approval) and a lot of “spiffing up” (re-did all the closets, new fixtures in kitchen & bath, paint, etc.). Once these are done, I expect to spend no more than a few hundred dollars a year in minor fixes and putting some money away for when the appliances reach the end of their natural life.

          • And, yes, I recognize that I’m “putting money in the communal pot” for those fixes to the building over time. However, that’s just over $500/year right now (reserves contribution x my ownership). If you own a SFH with a roof that would cost $10K to replace (aren’t you cute…it will probably be more than that), and that roof would last 20 years, you’d have to save that much just for the roof each year. Add in masonry, electrical, plumbing, etc., etc., etc… Not to mention, every 10 years, we have a professional come in and tell us how much it will cost to replace our common elements and how long we have before they need replacing…

      • Im aslo puzzled when people say that about condo conversions. Some of them are bigger than the original foot print of the home. So how is that half of a house? Thats like saying oh you’re buying a portion of a floor in a condo building.

  • Interesting about the title issues. We’ve been wondering why this house doesn’t sell as we would like some new neighbors. Before being flipped it was rented for several years by some nice college students. At least from the exterior it was in good condition pre-flip. I don’t know what the pre-flipped inside was like.

  • No parking or backyard. Parking is not a huge issue for now, but within the next 5 years I bet parking starts to get real tight in this area. The backyard thing kind of sucks. A lot of people move up here because they want a little outdoor space and many Petworth houses have big lots.

  • I’m late to the party here, but what a bizarre and fascinating history. The title docs tell quite a story. This is probably tragic for someone so I won’t list the names, but it’s interesting/instructive as it relates to mortgage lending and the crisis and I’m curious what real estate professionals/lawyers thinking might be going on. Info here is just from the OTR website. I don’t know enough about the industry to interpret all of it but basically the following happening:
    A couple inherited the house in 1994, possibly inheriting some debts with it or possibly borrowing against the equity to pay others who would have had a share.
    From about 1994-2004 they appear to have paid of some loans but borrowed more, in the end racking up some pretty substantial debt.
    Foreclosure proceedings were initiated by SunTrust in 2009. Unclear if there are other banks owed money or if they have consolidated.
    Around the time of the foreclosure the couple transfers the property to be only in the wife’s name. A water lien for almost 1000$ is filed. Then they transfer it to something called “Mauricio Trust 2” in 2014. Maybe a flipper?
    Mauricio trust 2 borrows a bunch more money, apparently at no interest, from individual lenders. Maybe all of this has to do with selling the house or unwinding the loans?
    Nationwide files a LIS PENDENS against the previous owners listing the house in April of this year. The amount they say they are owed is the same as the amount borrowed way back in 2006. There appear to have been DC Court proceedings in the last few weeks, which mentioned the possibility of a short sale.

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