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New Guest Series – Flip’t DC: Introducing the U Street SE House (By David Garber)

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

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