Washington, DC

House flipping: the act of buying and renovating a residential property with the intent to sell immediately when finished. Easiest when done at the height of a real estate market … but more interesting to watch when there are a hundred moving parts and you’re in an untested neighborhood. Enter David Garber, DC neighborhood blogger and real estate entrepreneur. His mission: bring back DC’s neighborhoods, one rotting house at a time.

Part 1: the Before
Flip’t is to typical house flipping what Chop’t is to the everyday house salad: fresher, greener, and more appealing. Our first subject property is on U Street SE in Historic Anacostia. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths. At the foot of the 11th Street Bridges, a 10 minute walk to Metro, half block from future streetcar, views of the Capitol Dome, and steps from the fast-changing main drags and hip-hopping galleries of MLK Avenue and Good Hope Road.

Flip't 1
clockwise from left: the front porch (actually on the side) is looking pretty sad; the tools of the trade; David Garber, house flipper

It’s been exactly five months since I exchanged my first sales contract with the seller of the U Street House. I’ve been eying this particular property since I first moved to the neighborhood in 2007 because it looks so terrible from the outside but is in an amazing location considering everything that’s coming to MLK Ave. From the outside it looks like an old cinder block: two-toned patchy stucco, no windows or doors, and a half-done addition on the back that someone slapped up thinking they’d make a quick buck. There are houses like this all over PoPville: exposed plywood, poor decision-making, vinyl blahness – like nobody loved them enough to really give them a chance at a better second life.

Flip't 2
from left: how it looks from MLK – notice the addition; from across the street

But it’s November now – just about the time when I thought I’d be finishing construction, and this long process of price negotiations, third-party inspections, and estimates from a handful of contractors is finally over. This troubled little cinder block is finally mine for the marking, and I’m finally going to give it the love, attention, and heaps of money it deserves. And then I’m going to put it on the market. You’d think it was a rescued animal, but I’m just really into forlorn real estate.

Flip't 3
from bottom left: upstairs, looking through three bedrooms and two bathrooms; downstairs, the view towards the kitchen; looking down at the living room from the stairs

As you can see, a lot of the framing is already up. Three years ago another house flipper / contractor tried his hand at redoing this house but went about it in all the wrong ways: didn’t get the approval of the Historic Preservation Review Board, no permits, totally sloppy detailing. I made sure that everything was in order and legal before I bought this place so I wouldn’t be hit with expensive approval and permitting surprises during the 2-3 month period that I hope it takes to get this house looking amazing.

The U Street SE House is going to get the works: all new windows and doors, new trim, new stucco exterior, a restored porch, and a snazzy interior. Sure there’s added pressure when there’s an audience – but I can’t wait to hear your suggestions and comments – and might even do some polling to help pick certain details.

Jai ho! Let’s get this thing started.

[Note: if you are interested in purchasing this house before all the design decisions are made – or have a property you need renovated or flipped – email David at [email protected]]

photos by Jacki Waring and David Garber

Comments (78)

  1. Does PoP receive any financial compensation for posting items such as this? Or the good deals or not? That should be disclosed if it is the case.

  2. Wow. wow. wow. This guy is shamelessly bragging about flipping houses in low income neighborhoods? Makes me so angry I can barely type.

  3. what part of that makes you angry? I see nothing wrong with what he is doing.

  4. Prince Of Petworth

    I do not receive any financial compensation for any of my posts. Of course I would disclose if I did.

  5. It’s wrong to gentrify neighborhoods. It’s one thing to flip houses or invest in places already done or almost done, but to go into a working class or poor neighborhood with the intent to change it into a place the current residents could not afford is, for lack of a better term, evil.

  6. So he should leave the dilapidated house as is? What would you like him to do? At what price do you think is fair to the current residents?

  7. let me get out my teeny tiny violin to play a sad sone for voiceofreason

  8. VOR: How do you decide between VOR and DCDirewolf?

    Aren’t you a gentrifier? A labor lawyer who lives in Columbia Heights? Perhaps you should be living in Fairfax?

  9. Yes, voiceofreason, it’s much better to let a vacant, abandoned, neglected old house just sit around, slowly deteriorating, until it’s torched by an arsonist or falls apart on its own. Or maybe you’d prefer it to be bought and razed by a developer in favor of building a generic, modern residential or commercial structure?

    If a legitimate company, following all the rules and obtaining all the proper permits wants to take a project like this on, a crummy house nobody in the neighborhood has done anything about, why on earth wouldn’t you encourage them?

    All you do is complain about every post, why even bother? If this house were being demolished, you’d complain. If it lingers as-is you’d be unhappy. If it was turned into a coffee shop you’d be unhappy. Anything less than “the owner is going to give it away for free to hippie squatters” and you’ll complain.

  10. I think you’re making a lot of assumptions about the “intent” here. You don’t know what the final design plans are. I’m not seeing any marble floors.

    It was previously vacant and boarded up, which makes it at minimum an eye-sore, and potentially a danger to neighborhood kids. Chill out.

  11. Anon at 11:19 am, I don’t understand your post. No, I’m not a labor lawyer who lives in CH.

  12. VOR, if everyone subscribed to your logic the District would have 350,000 residents and 14th St NW, GA Ave NW, U St NW, H St NE, and Penn Ave SE would still be well-charred ghost towns. What’s wrong with your brain, man? This guy is taking an abandoned property and making it livable again. And I’d wager the ultimate selling price will be affordable to middle-class buyers, given the location.

  13. Why do people hate house flippers so much? It was a mess of a house, it’s not like someone is getting displaced and having a family heirloom stolen from them or anything?

    People who take a risk and fix up run down houses in poor neighborhoods are heroes to me. How else are these houses going to be made livable? Should they just be left as rotten, burnt out shells out of pride?

    I hope the guy does make a profit! He deserves it!

    PS – to VoR. These evil “gentrifiers” are providing your latino laborer friends (who you are always so worried about) with a shitload of work, like it or not. I don’t think they’d be too happy that you claim to be on their side, while at the same time you think that the work they do is wrong. That’s WAY messed up, dude.

  14. Voice of Reason, you tend to turn these sorts of harmless blog postings into debates on gentrification and I can’t really understand why. Just let it be, man. Lighten up. Let’s talk about house renovation and neighborhoods. You really bring me down.

    And if things like house renovations in poor neighborhoods and sex shops on U Street really offend you this much, you ought to strongly consider moving out of DC and leaving it to the impoverished, per your bankrupt, bizarre political philosophy.

  15. “with the intent to change it into a place the current residents could not afford”

    This post doesn’t show any intent other than that to make a make a profit from renovating a run down house.

    It certainly does state that the “flipper” is acting out some grand conspiracy theory to rid the city of poor people. The fact that the poor residents in the area would be unable to buy the house is just a side effect.

  16. Guys -VOR of reason is just tryign to turn this otherwise inocuos post into some race related, getrifying hatin’, hair raisin’ gotta read it post – don’t fall into the trap. Why does every freakin’ post turn into this?

  17. He-Man, I’m sorry I bring you down, that’s not my intent, but I disagree that these are “harmless blog postings”. The stuff that goes on in this city has an impact on lots of people.

    Barbapappa, I don’t claim to be on anyone’s “side”.

  18. damn spellcheck or lack there of innocuous is what I meant

  19. VOR – Rather than criticize your post I will just ask you to describe in detail exactly what you think should be done with this property. It was empty (doesn’t look like it had any “current residents” to me) and run down when the owner bought it – no windows, no doors, unliveable.
    What should he (or anyone else who bought it) do with it?

  20. Why does every freakin’ post turn into this?

    Wait, wait, maybe VOR is PoP! Site traffic is UP! :)

  21. Instead of spending public money on private, upscale, businesses, it should be spent on renovating these houses, and providing them at very low rent levels, with rent control, to current residents in the neighborhood, house by house. Let this “flipper” get paid by the city to renovate the house for someone in the hood, not for a relatively high income speculator to buy up and rent out and let it get run down again, or for a gentrifier to buy up and start pushing up property taxes.

  22. VOR, I’d really encourage you to get to know David Garber a bit before you go and fly off the handle about the fact that he’s singlehandedly “gentrifying” a neighborhood. That guy cares about Anacostia a great deal, loves the people that lives there, and is one of the staunchest advocates for making it a better place to live for all the folks that are already there. And from what you hear from most Anacostia residents, they want places to eat, stores that sell more than liquor, and decent grocery stores just as much as any other neighborhood in the city (note, all things that result in property values potentially going up.) A lot of Anacostia residents (and the rest of Wards 7 and 8) lament the fact that all of those things go elsewhere in the city while they are forgotten within sight of the Capitol dome.

    What would a better option here be? Here’s a guy who wants to see dilapidated properties barely fit for habitation see a better life as a renewed piece of property that someone will care about for a long time. Which is the essence of sustainability, really. He’s giving a bit of dignity back to a place that had more than enough once upon a time, with beautiful buildings and people that cared about them. Should Anacostia and other neighborhoods east of the river just stay as they are today? No changes, no development, nothing new — just the forgotten places “over there.” Paint a better picture or alternative for us if you can. (This is one house, by the way — he’s not buying up city blocks and turning them into condos.)

    Before you fling angry comments about someone you don’t know in a neighborhood you likely don’t know much about in a blog thread, seriously, email David and chat with him for 10 minutes on the phone and get a little idea of what he’s about and find out how much he cares about his neighborhood over there.

  23. And in this way, the government will come to own all real property. And all will be equal. Although some will be more equal than others.

    Good story. Kinda derivative though. C+ if you’re a high school student. D in college.

  24. Steve, fair enough on the intentions of the flipper, and fair enough that I don’t know him at all. But I’m way too angry to talk to him, I’d say all kinds of things that I’d regret.

  25. Anon at 11:38, this isn’t an academic exercise. Real people are impacted here. In very significant ways.

  26. I think they should put in more liquor stores over there to make sure things stay affordable too. Don’t want any amenities to make it more attractive. If there’s talk of another sit down restaurant, they should definitely make sure that they send any entrepreneurial restauranteurs over to Logan Circle instead. Don’t want rents going up or anything otherwise changing. Keep Anacostia the same! (And by same, we don’t mean as it was in the 40’s or 50’s when it was a decently prosperous blue-collar middle class neighborhood, we mean “same” as it is right now after years of neglect and disinvestment.)

    Now that my sincerity has been expressed, I think I’ll resort to some sarcasm. Thanks for indulging.

  27. As usual, VoR is looking to pick a fight. Nothing to see here, move along. Good luck with the flip!

  28. Anything is better than Decay…. good for him.
    I mean jezz you can bring catle to water, but you can’t make them drink.

  29. PoP – I know you try to make discourse relatively open here, but it’s time to ban VOR’s IP. It’s not that I find him outrageous, it’s that I find him predictable and boring. He’s just a distraction, and we can’t move on and talk about anything else. I’d like to know what type of doors and windows David Garber is going to seek out (original details? energy efficient? exciting!), but instead we have to rehash the same argument about gentrification.

    Don’t get me wrong, gentrification is a big issue, and an important one, but can’t we just talk about the house on this post? No, no we cannot, because VOR pops off with the same lame ass comments, and gets everyone else to trot out the same lame ass retorts. It’s tired, and uninteresting.

  30. Flipping used to have a pretty bad reputation in the ’90’s – I’m guessing shows on HGTV & Bravo have made it more acceptable. Flipped houses were generally thought to be poorly and cheaply renovated for a fast buck – “polished turd$” if you will. Maybe people are doing it better these days?

  31. @VoR, you need to reread this statement of yours: Steve, fair enough on the intentions of the flipper, and fair enough that I don’t know him at all. But I’m way too angry to talk to him, I’d say all kinds of things that I’d regret.

    So, you’re basically willing to admit that even though you know pretty much nothing about the people involved or the situation, you’re angry anyway? Wow. That is really something special. I don’t know David personally, but his (spotless, totally above reproach) reputation precedes him – if you’d ever manage to pull your head from your posterior you might have read a thing or two about him.

    Shame on you for jumping to conclusions. When you’re done throwing up in the bathroom over posts on a blog (still, for me, one of the most memorable examples of your hysterical rantings and assertions since you started commenting here), you need to do some research and you probably owe Mr. Garber an apology.

  32. I don’t owe anyone an apology.

  33. Voiceofreason is just angry and frustrated because he was never able to open that artisanal chocolates shop on 11th Street in Columbia Heights he’s always dreamed about. As a result, he opposes every new retail development on 11th Street, and elsewhere. He’s oblivious to the utter hypocrisy of his own actions, buying a house in CH, and trying to open a high-end chocolate shop. Also, his backstory, and the name he posts under seems to change periodically. I think he’s a troll, plain and simple. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the more inflammatory “anonymous” posts here, and in other forums, aren’t really authored by voiceofreason.

  34. Anon at 11:51 am. No one who responds to my comments has a gun to their head making them do so. Blaming me for people’s reactions is giving me wayyyy too much credit. That said, if POP wants to ban me, so be it.

  35. I generally don’t like house flippers because, at least as I’ve been paying attention this past decade, the work is usually shoddy and its just someone looking to make a quick buck. This doesn’t look to be the case here, and this looks like a good project. I think the better PR move would be to call it something other than “Flip’t”; its too loaded of a word and obviously instantly sets people off.

    Also, while I don’t instantly recoil at the thought of gentrification, I don’t think this project is really the frontrunner here. As the person point out, this area is getting a street car and there have already been a number of changes in the immediate vicinity that would make it more desirable / interesting for new residents. I think this is a case of “don’t kill the messenger”.

  36. If PoP won’t ban him, can’t we all just make a pact to ignore him? He’s like a 3 year old that pulls his sister’s hair to get attention. The minute the parents quit responding, he moves onto something else (and hopefully some other blog). His self-righteousness only works because we argue with him.

    If a troll comments on a blog and no one responds, does it make a sound?

  37. Anon at 11:51: Amen. I copy and paste to underscore what a fantastic, most basic point you make. Let’s hear about the house, as was intended by the pretty awesome feature.

    I’d like to know what type of doors and windows David Garber is going to seek out (original details? energy efficient? exciting!), but instead we have to rehash the same argument about gentrification.

  38. Neat – I like the new feature! Though I’m afraid it might be a little slow for today’s short attention spans.

    Flipping an old house is infinitely preferably to building a new one with new materials. I hope David is able to retain a good amount of the original structure, and minimize what gets tossed in a landfill. I’ll also be interested to see what kind of low-cost, high-impact climate-friendly features are incorporated. Paint that roof white, my friend!

    (Nichole, so very well said. Thanks.)

  39. VoR- is there anything in DC that you are not horribly CONCERNED about? Last night it was the Gay-oriented theme night at Wonderland. And dont say that wasn’t you!

    I am curious about the flipper though- I thought flipping had a bad connotation back in the day because flippers would renovate houses on the cheap in order to turn a quick buck. This “flipper” comes across as a person who really wants to rehabilitate the house and put some money into making it look great- should he really be called a “flipper” under the old definition?

  40. I’d be very interested to see how you deal with that stucco. Are you going to strip it off and replace it with something or just maintain it with a new paint job or whatever?

  41. I wonder what VoR would have to say about David Garber and his intent to transform this broken-down, nuisance-property house, if it were right beside his? I’m sure that VoR would be happy as a clam that a shitty house in his hood was being fixed up.

    If not, VoR must loathe his neighbors who have moved into his hood, with their evil attempts to fix up former crack houses, reduce crime, and give the neighborhood some long overdue TLC. Hell, if that’s the case, then he really must hate himself too!!! Bingo!

    Kudos to you, David Garber! Don’t let some hypocritical jackass try to make you feel ashamed of what you are doing. It’s nice to see that people are still willing to put forth the hard work that it takes to make something beautiful out of nothing.

    I am happy to send any house hunters your way.

  42. The problem with a lot of these old houses in lower-property value neighborhoods is that the cost of fixing them can actually exceed their market value. Presumably that house needs all-new plumbing and electric. On a decent-sized rowhouse, that alone could cost $80,000. It’s unclear the square footage of that house, but even the most basic quality renovation to make it habitable could easily cost $200,000. Add that to whatever the house was purchased for (which I’m assuming was very little) and the carrying and transaction costs, it’s just hard to make any money at all on a project like that. Point being, if he can do a high-quality project at a low enough price to turn a small profit and someone gets a nice place to live at an affordable price, that’s fantastic! but it’s very, very difficult to do — which is why you see so many of these sad, ignored houses around town.

  43. I’m not opposed to fixing up houses. I’m opposed to houses being fixed up in an attempt to transform neighborhoods into places the current residents can no longer afford. But if name calling makes you feel better Barbapapa, carry on with it.

  44. +1 on Steve Davis’ 11:34 am comment

  45. Troll food, get your troll food.. Oh found some… It’s all about race! That’s gotta be it, if David was black nobody would care and would congratulate him on improving his neighborhood.

  46. Voiceofreason gets angry pretty often, and in the past has threatened violence and lawsuits against someone on the COlumbia Heights news Forum. Later, he amended his post to remove the threat. Occasionally, he claims people are threatening him, and in turn threatens to go to the police or to sue them. He said he was a lawyer, and now professes not to be. In the past he has claimed to have lived in Adams-Morgan before moving to Columbia Heights, and has also said he lived in Richmond before moving there (in old Elwood Thompson discussions). Once, he said a few things that betrayed a basic lack of knowledge about DC geography and history, which got me thinking he was just a troll. He hates wine bars, yet previously has expressed delight at the news about Room 11, and indicated he’d ask them if they’d be interested in selling his chocolates alongside their wine offerings. And no, I don’t have links to anything, just going by memory here.

    In other words, he or she or they are completely full of baloney, making stuff up, just trying to cause mayhem and flame wars. I also vote for blocking any IP addresses associated with VOR, DCDW, etc. Not a legitimate resident or poster. Probably lives in the suburbs.

  47. I would love, love, LOVE to hear about what kind of windows he chooses. I like the way the ones in our current house look but they are horribly inefficient. I can feel the cold air leaking off of them.

    Also, since our place obviously needs a new roof, I’d like to hear what he does with that.

    Aaand, since our kitchen is ugly as sin, I’d appreciate seeing a more pleasant food prep space. Make sure the cabinets will fit plates. Attach the formica. The little things.

  48. IMO this is a poor decision on a location for a flip. There are several nice houses in this area that are just sitting on the market. Thre are even more on the market that need just a little attention $20Kish to be really nice. Best of luck, prove me wrong.

  49. I’d really be interested in hearing how this guy manages to make a profit in times like these. I think it’d also be interesting to hear about some specific trouble shooting issues he manages to overcome during the process – really get into the details of certain specific instances.

    He mentioned the issues with getting third party inspection, the time and hassle that included. Or maybe dealing with tricky floor planes, things like that. I think it would be a neat addition to this new segment to talk about how he overcame some of these obstacles.

    Very interesting feature. And I love the picture quality. Keep it up!

  50. where does one start with house flipping, money wise? is it all loans for the most part (300K to cover a 230K house and 70k in renovations? and excuse my ignorance if those numbers seem ridiculous, im just throwing something out) or do flippers usually pay for the house and renovations straight out of pocket for the best profit? you always hear that you have to have money to make money, so im really wondering if thats true in most of these cases.

  51. I think the word we’re looking for instead of flipping is RENOVATION.

  52. PoP — is there a way to limit certain commenters to one comment (and send any response to the forum, for instance?) when someone like VOR or Neener chimes in, they take over the debate and I tune out — which is too bad b/c I would like to hear other people’s opinions.

  53. I’m Pro-gentrification, depending on what you mean by gentrification. Definitely Pro-fixing up houses and selling them for a profit. The problem with rent control is that you get dilapidated housing that landlords don’t ever maintain. You just get crappier and crappier tenants until the property literally is condemned. Probably the last few renters you have are drug dealers, people cramming 3 families into a house or college students trying to get the cheapest rent possible. The house falls apart, it hurts the neighborhood by lowering the property values of the rest of the neighborhood and encourages illegal activity which also hurts the rest of the neighborhood. Renovations and flipping does the opposite. It encourages someone to take a chance on a neighborhood, which encourages businesses to take a chance on a neighborhood, which encourages people to take care of their communities. It’s not academic. Look at U St today vs. 20 years ago. Adam’s Morgan hasn’t made a ton of progress, but that’s because of the type of business that they attracted. My 80 year old retired DCPS school teacher neighbor certainly isn’t complaining about gentrification. She’s happy the drug dealers are out.

    Creating neighborhood ghettos does nothing for the people living in them. No one says, ‘boy I wish I could live in the ghetto now that I have money’. Instead of building projects and creating have/have nots, the city could be subsidizing the rent of the working poor and houses should rent/sell at the market rate. So the important question is who gets the subsidies? Are you entitled to a subsidy if you decide to move to a town and you’re already too poor to afford it? DC/VA would be busing people to the city line and dropping them off with bus fare to city hall. Do you deserve a subsidy because you graduated from a DCPS (you definitely deserve a medal)? Good luck with that. Do you deserve a subsidy because your parents live here? I’m not sure that just having grown up here entitles you to live in your neighborhood. I can’t afford to live in my parents neighborhood and I couldn’t afford to live in the neighborhood I grew up in (U ST/Adam’s Morgan). There are tons of cities and towns in America where you can get by on a 2 income service job. DC just isn’t one of them. There already are ridiculous tenant rights laws here that keep people in their homes once they’ve established themselves.

    Now talk to me about the disparity in low income school funding based on property tax, and you have yourself a friend in a populist argument.

  54. So since this has turned into a discussion of the evils/benefits of flipping I’d like to get a sense about what people find so horrible about it (aside from any gentrification-related concerns). The truth is there is a market for flipped houses. In fact, we were part of that market. We purchased a house from a well-known “flipper” company (the one that the City Paper profiled a few months back). Now, does it retain all of the original details that it likely had when it was built 80+ years ago? Hell no. And according to comments from our neighbors whatever original “character” it had was long gone or in need or serious repair. The folks who worked on our house did a decent job or leaving what they could (the original floors minus some severely water damaged sections), and tearing out probably most everything else since it had been abandoned for at least 2 years. From what we can tell no walls were removed or erected aside from whatever was left from a pre-existing addition out back. Yes, the kitchen screams Ikea and the bathrooms are “HD specials”, but if they had tried to find replacements to restore that oh-so-important “character” and re-expose hardwoods under layers of paint the cost would have ended up way out of our range. We got a house way bigger than we thought we could get for the price, it has no structural issues, and we look at it like the blank slate that it is. Yet it seems that this offends the delicate aesthetic sensibilities of many people for whatever reason I can’t understand. The new drywall and ceilings and stove and bathroom cabinets don’t make it a home. The paint and hard work and furnishings we fill it up with do.

  55. Chris-

    You don’t necc need money to flip. You do need credit and a loan. Cash money is ideal. A cookie cutter flip would be to purchase the worst house in a mid-range neighborhood, spend 1-2 months renovating it then sell it FAST.

    So for Example Petworth- you buy a foreclosure in need of repair for 200Kish. You spend 50K to renovate and you sell it for 300K 2 months later. Now you have $50K to put into your next flip.

  56. But of course the problem with that scenario is you’d be hard-pressed to find a house for 200k that needs just 50k worth of work. I think that’s what most people don’t quite understand — just how expensive renovating is, even if you do a very moderate, non-high end job. In fact it’s replacing the major systems and any structural work that takes up most of the cost. The finishes as a relative cost aren’t that high, whether you’re talking about marble bathrooms or 29 cent vinyl.

    I agree that this could be a really interesting story to follow. But I wonder how transparent the gentleman can be regarding costs, problems, etc, since he is after all running a business.

    I think it would also be great if he did this as its own blog rather than as an occasional submission to pop.

  57. Christopher: The cash to flip houses comes from the same place a down payment comes from. You borrow the heck out of your family and friends and (if you’re lucky) banks. You get enough money together to cover the transaction costs of the purchase (it’s a % of the selling price, you try to do a $0 money down loan with a high interest rate, but you still have to pay the fees and taxes), the repairs you need (you estimate the renovation costs, mostly material) and the number of months of mortgage that you think you need to renovate and sell the house (3-6 months maybe?). For a $600k house, it’s probably closer to $100k cash to do the project, assuming you want to sell it for $700-750k and make a profit which is worth 6 months of your time. If you want to make less, or the neighborhood won’t support a house that appreciates that much, you have to take less or spend less.

    Then you do the majority of the work yourself, you pray to god that you don’t get an inspector on his bad day or forget a permit, and then you hope you can find a seller. It’s an extremely risky proposition because most of these guys can’t afford the mortgages on the places they are renovating for more than a few months(burn rate on cash), so one slip up and the money runs out and you lose EVERYTHING. Try getting more money after you’ve lost someone’s money the first time.

    If the city was serious about cutting down on the crap renovations, they would hire better inspectors. But flipping houses is also a solid middle class small business if you’re decently handy. The city has started ratcheting up the pressure on these guys though as there are new “Renovation” work licenses required this year.

  58. Ragged Dog, I like your bit about not being entitled to live in the neighborhood I grew up in, or where my parents currently live. Lord knows I couldn’t afford either. I’m going to stick that one in my bandolier for future rhetorical gun battles.

  59. Bloodhound-

    50K-75K is a very reasonable amount for a flip no mattter what the condition. It’s like Anon said @ 1:11 you don’t restore the house when flipping, you just fix all the problems and make it presentable.

    This summer I purchased a house for 160K that needed a lot of work. It wasn’t a forclosure, but it might as well have been. the sellers gave me 5K , Obama gave me 8K and I put in 30K.

    I have no intention of selling the house now, but I feel that I could sell it right now for about 250K and make about 30K profit. That is in 4 months time.

  60. I hate the flippers who come in, do a quick and dirty renovation, make a ton of money, leave problems for later owners to find.

    I love investors who do a good job on a house and sell it to people who want to live in a neighborhood but aren’t equipped to do the renovations themselves.

    I very strongly believe that DG is the latter type, and say GO! GO!

  61. I am a bit ambivalent about flippers. If they are professional do their due diligence, submit all the right permits, build well, build appropriately, etc. I don’t have a problem. But this last real estate bubble has brought in a lot of people who were looking to make a quick and easy buck calling themselves flippers and become mini Donal Trumps in the real estate market. Those are the ones I have a problem with.

    Case in point, 2 houses within eyesight of my front door. Both were bought by “flippers.” One had grandiose plans for a 2 unit condo building from a formerly single family house. They added on a huge addition to the back and dug out the basement. Their plans were so grandiose and took so long they defaulted. It stayed empty for months before it was sold on the auction block. While the workmanship wasn’t shoddy as far as I could tell, some of the decisions they made about materials and layout screwed that place.

    The second case was one where they just didn’t know what the f*** they were doing. Hired 2 groups of fly-by night contractors and all they did was gut the place, put in a new fence and paint the front. Well gutting was great but when it went into foreclosure there was a very, very limited pool of buyers because of condition (flippers and people with lots of cash who didn’t need to live in it). It was finally bought by one of those people that buys property and rents it out. She had to put a ton of work to just make it livable and now it is a rental.

    One neighbor bought his house from a flipper and was lucky his house didn’t burn down while another house in good shape was bought by a flipper who I think only did something to the basement. Someone bought it from them and promptly ripped all that work out (and then had to put it on the market at the beginning of this year – and I think it never sold).

  62. Who are the people that voiceofreason is fighting for? The ones that want to live next to abandoned, dilapidated shells of houses (and whatever activity takes place in them)?

    I’m pretty sure that taking a run-down old house and renovating it is an unequivocally good thing for the neighborhood. Apparently voiceofreason thinks that because people are working class, they all need to be scattered throughout a wasteland of run-down old buildings?

    If no one could move into this house, then they would be bidding up the prices on the other houses on the market. In the short term, having a larger available housing stock will actually decrease housing price pressure.

    In the long term, if lots of people renovate houses, the neighborhood as a whole will have higher quality (and more valuable) housing stock. The concentration of desirable properties will bring in more residents who will then attract business and amenities. Then once the amenities are in the neighborhood, people would want to live there who wouldn’t want to live there originally, so prices will go up.

    Gentrification is really not a complicated process. People who own property in neighborhoods that become more desirable benefit doubly in the form of housing equity and increased amenities. People who rent can enjoy the new amenities but may see their rents go up in accordance to whatever rent control laws may or may not exist.

    Financially, property owners win, non-property owners lose (just like most of the rest of the our economy). With respect to quality of life, all (remaining) residents benefit from the new choices of amenities and other desirable qualities that the neighborhood enjoys.

    “Instead of spending public money on private, upscale, businesses, it should be spent on renovating these houses, and providing them at very low rent levels, with rent control, to current residents in the neighborhood, house by house

    The only way to guarantee one’s residence in a particular area indefinitely is to buy property. While our social support system in this country, many people are guaranteed some form of housing, but no one is guaranteed housing within the most desirable, amenity-rich neighborhoods.

    I’m liberal and I think it is essential for government to step into markets when they fail (such as health care or monopolies). I don’t really see what would entitle residents of any particular zip code to have the government come in, renovate all their houses, and let them move back into them at a subsidy. Should the government come in and open up entertainment options, shopping, and restaurants in these neighborhoods and subsidize them as well?

    P.S. I also think this series’ name should be related to “renovation” not “flipping” which has a negative connotation (for example, see the post above mine)

  63. David, I’m really glad to see you doing this feature. There was a lot of interest generated from the Mark & Charles renovation posts and the details on those were very limited. I would bet that there are plenty of readers who will benefit from your sharing about the process of doing a significant renovation.

    I’d hate to see this feature get turned into another endless gentrification discussion. FWIW, this is someone who is incredibly committed to the neighborhood and to the integrity of the house.

  64. “Should the government come in and open up entertainment options, shopping, and restaurants in these neighborhoods and subsidize them as well?”

    Well, that’s what is happening now instead of housing, see, e.g. DCUSA, grocery stores, etc.

  65. What do you think of the rest?

  66. I never agree with VoR. But that last point is pretty solid.

  67. Marcus Aurelius

    “I love investors who do a good job on a house and sell it to people who want to live in a neighborhood but aren’t equipped to do the renovations themselves.”
    Dude, there is a name for these kind of investors – they’re called “flippers.” If you buy a home with the intention of renovating it and selling it to someone else, congratulations, you are a flipper. Maybe you are a good flipper (quality job with good materials) or a bad flipper (crap job with bad materials), but at the end of the day you are still a flipper. There is nothing at all wrong per se with being a flipper. People are ascribing way too much significance to the term.

  68. Last I checked we still live in a free country. If you can pay the price for the house decide to improve it and resell it so be it as long as you don’t break any laws.

    I would never resent anyone of any race or economic class from moving into my neighborhood. No one race or economic class owns any area of a city or a neighborhood, they are in constant flux and change.

  69. I’d hardly call DC’s subsidies for the DCUSA parking garage the same thing as the government directly building shopping centers and opening retail stores (not wine bars of course!). It’s not even close to what VOR is getting at here.

    In the case of this house, what VOR would like is not even on the table. The gov’t is not going to purchase this house, and with huge budget deficits now, they’re even less likely to be restoring old houses for some public/charitable use. The choice here is a stark one: (A)the house sits vacant and dilapidated until it falls down, or (B) it is purchased by a private individual or company at market rate, and renovated. Period. Which would he prefer, A or B?

  70. I’ve been to a party at this house and have met the guy…he is doing this the right way. Unlike most developers, he is part of the community. Residents in the neighborhood know him, like him, and stopped by the party. He is not just rennovating this house to make a profit, he’s trying to improve the community for the benefit of everyone. Call it what you want, call him what you want…I think he’s doing a very good thing.

  71. I agree, Pastor Joe. David is a plus for this community, not a minus.

    Sadly, people like VoR would rather keep people down and see them remain low-income and rely on government hand outs than to encourge people to be self-sufficient and motivated to have a better quality of life. This is the only way he can bring himself up and feel relevent.

    Back in my day, working hard to save money and buy a home was something to be proud, not ashamed, of.

  72. We need to c our way out of a and b thinking. That’s what is bringing the whole ship down.

  73. Barbapapa, I DO NOT want to keep people down or see anyone remain low-income and reliant on hand outs. That’s ridiculous. I’m arguing for the EXACT OPPOSITE!

  74. DCDirewolf: I think it’s pretty awesome that your job at the labor union allows to you refresh PoP all day and make 35 completely irrelevant comments to a post about a house renovation.

  75. For what it’s worth, I’ve been down to the DCRA (headed there again tomorrow) to get permits pulled. They have a special line for homeowners (skip you ahead of the contractors) and they even have a dedicated homeowner consultant to get you going and help you along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I still spent the ENTIRE day going around the merry-go-round of approvals, but that’s life in a big city. I left with my permits, so that’s a good day. DC does a very good job at the permit office…don’t get me started with the historic district commission though.

    Step one to doing a major house renovation is deciding what you want to do and getting a contractor to come out and give you an astronomical price for what you want to do. Then you go and estimate the material cost..by making measurements and actually finding out what stuff costs. Then you need to go to DCRA with a drawing of what you want to do and have them tell you all the things you did wrong. Then you go back with the corrections and you hopefully get your permit and get started. Typically a contractor will charge you 50-75% of the material cost + additional labor as their ‘fee’. That covers the 25-ish% they have to pay in overhead (taxes, accountants, sales people). Sometimes you find out that a contractor was screwing you, sometimes you get done digging a hole in your backyard and it would have been worth the cost.

  76. Yeah, I guess I’m mixed on the flipper issue.

    Like most people, I’m against those blood suckers who come into the neighborhood thinking they’re going to make a quick profit by doing a shitty job with some paint and cheap carpet.

    Better is when they do a decent job like here.

    But probably Worse than the worse “Flipper” is a SLUM LANDLORD! These bastards come in and offen buy cheap flipped houses, and rent them out to poor souls that pay relatively high rent as they watch the place fall back into disrepair.

    Often these Slum Landlords are ignorant fools who watch those paid programing – “get rich quick” TV shows on channel 20 at 3 am. They think they’ll get rich off the rent of the poor and any repairs lower their profit, so…. guess what – no repairs!

    These crapheads are the people to look out for!

    If a flipper is going to sell the place to someone who wants to live in it – great, but forget these bloodsucking “invester” landlords!


    At the end of the day people such as David who are residents, neighbors, supporters and advocates for our community are the ones putting their butts on the line and their money where their mouth is. Anyone who has anything negative to say about David or who make this quite frankly ridiculous assumptions about someone they know nothing about is ignorant – especailly if they don’t live here and aren’t aware first hand of all the benefits and challenges of living in River East (what some of us call Wards 7 and 8).

    We need more people like David Garber in our community and I am happy to say that there is this really great movement among Ward 8 and Ward 8 residents NEW and OLD to improve our community, one house, one block, one street and one neighborhood at a time.

    One thing about living in Ward 8/River East you learn quick. There are a lot of naysayers – both from within and outside of the area who would much rather discourage someone from doing sometihng positive rather than just doing some research or making recommendations so that it can work.

    In terms of Voice of Reason – everyone is entitled to their opinion but I can tell by your rather narrow minded comments that it’s clear YOU DON’T LIVE HERE!!! Until you do stop pointing fingers, making accusations and generally making an ass our of yourself. If you had even the slightest clue what you were talking about in relation to Ward 8 and David you would know that David is beyond reproach, his heart is in the right place and he is a WONDERFUL person who has earned the appreciation and respect of his neighbors – both new and live long.

    Lastly, by a landslide most Ward 8 (and I am sure Ward 7) residents NEW and OLD want to see theiri communities improve. They want to see a removal of the blighted, vacant buildings that have been allowed to spread throughout their community because for far too long “east of the river” was marginalizedand overlooked for economic development. We want options for services and retail within our own community so we don’t have to keep goign outside of our community to spend our money – which we do spend.

    So if “gentrification” means that Ward 8 can have more than one sit down restaurant (which we just got last year), a new library (which just opened last month), a grocery store (which just opened 18 months ago) and boarded up and vacant houses being renovated into quality (and affordable) housing options then please sign us up!!!!

    Yours Truly,

    The Advoc8te
    Proud Ward 8 Resident

  78. Please pardon my typos. When I get passionate I type super fast. lol.

    P.S. DAVID YOU ROCK!!! KEEP UP THE EXCELLENT WORK!!! Both as a friend, fellow blogger, Ward 8 resident and community advocate you are the best! I am so proud to have met you and I know everyone in our community feels the same way.

    If it wasn’t for David starting the blog And Now, Anacostia a lot of folks (myself included) wouldn’t have known what a great place Ward 8 is to to live. I am very happy I stumbled across David’s blog – it was a factor in my decision to buy a home in Congress Heights and was the inspiration for all of us River East bloggers starting blogs and getting the word out about our communities that for too long have been underserved, overlooked and misunderstood.

    Kudos David and I look forward to seeing the progress on your “Flip’t” – I know how hard you have been working on this and I know its going to turn out great!

    -The Advoc8te


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