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New PoP Feature: What’s a Fair Price for this Rental?

by Prince Of Petworth November 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm 53 Comments

Ed. Note: I’ve been getting a few inquiries like this so I thought it would be fun to start it as a regular feature. If you’re looking to rent a place out and are curious what is a realistic price send an email with ‘what’s a fair price’ in the title to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com. We can also do this for people selling their homes if interested.

“Dear PoP,

Similar to your recent post on suggested rent for an apartment in Bloomingdale, I was wondering if you could ask a question regarding a unit that I am renovating to be available in a few months.

The apartment for rent will be a newly-renovated English basement at 16th and Swann Streets in Dupont area. It will be about 700 sq. ft with its own separate entrance through a garden area in back. The apartment will be well-lit with overhead lighting and natural light through a back glass door and two front windows. The kitchen will have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The floor will be acid-stained concrete and there will be one wall with painted white brick. There will be a split-duct wall-mounted AC and baseboard heating. The apartment will have its own COO and will have separate utilities. I will allow pets.

I would appreciate any recommendations as to the appropriate rental price.”

I’m thinking in the $1300 – 1500 range? I was off last time so I’m curious to see what folks think for this one.

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  • A

    That sounds about right to me; you could probably go toward the higher end of that range.

  • A

    Wait, is that picture above of the house this apt is in? Because if so it doesn’t look like there’s a front entrance or much light from those windows.

    • Andy(2)

      The listing says the enterance is through the back garden.

      • A

        I saw that, but I think those things will still detract from the apartment, not to mention prevent it from getting a CoO.

  • Anonymous

    $1500 if they are paying their own utilities sounds fine. I have a similar sized apt in Adams Morgan and get $1600/mnth with utilities included.

  • pagodat

    “Front entrance” might mean the foyer has separately locked doors going to the different units, I guess? I was wondering the same.

  • My Reply

    I think 1300-1400 sounds like market value. From the description it seems like it will be about as nice as a basement apt gets. No side windows is a strike against it.

    I like this idea for a post, but interior pictures should be mandatory.

    • Homeowner

      Thanks, sorry, still under construction, so no photos yet.

  • Anonymous

    I think you could definitely do $1500 or maybe higher (up to $1700-1800). You can always try out at a higher price and then bring it down if don’t have any good takers.

  • Homeowner


    That is my place. There are two smaller front windows that you can not see because the bushes need to be cut. There is a back entrance that will be glass and gets a good amount of light. thanks

    • 3rdStreetDesign

      If there is no front entrance what is your second means of egress? Two means of egress are required for a C of O and the front windows are way to small to qualify. If your GC is telling you you can get a C of O make sure he’s contractually obligated or consult an architect.

      • 1st St

        I was just wondering about a 2nd egress myself. This is one of the largest hurdels many english basement rentals must jump to getting a CofO. I have a buddy who just finnished carving out window wells on each window of a 2br basement just large enough for his tenants to climb through in case of fire.

        You don’t want a future tenant to get sign a lease and have a dissagreement six months down the road and hold a lack of CofO against you. Have one of those front window’s dug out to allow an egress. It will allow extra light as an added bonus.

        I would think $1650 is a fair price.

        • 3rdStreetDesign

          It will be a hard time getting historic approval for a front window dig out this close to the sidewalk in Dupont.
          I say find a friendly renter (I mean roommate, of course).

          • Homeowner

            Yes, front window digout is not going to happen in Dupont these days. But see my comment below re: IFC Code requirements.

    • Gina

      Hi there — I would love to get in touch with you to talk about this apartment is possible. I’m sure you have a lot of crazies saying that, but I’m not a spammer I promise! http://www.linkedin.com/pub/gina-tomaselli/8/153/556. My move in date is very flexible as I am currently on a month to month situation. I love Swann street (oh and I’m not concerned about not having a front entrance). It’s harder to find a 1-bedroom english basement in dupont with a responsible landlord than one might think!

  • JayCee

    Having recently apartment-hunted in the area, I think that you can reasonably ask for $1500-1600, but it would be nice to see some interior shots.

  • suz

    Love the idea to make this a regular feature!

    • Anonymous

      I dissent, sort of. While I have a curiosity about this sort of thing and think that the feedback will be interesting as far as blog-reading goes, I think that landlords looking to rent out places are much better served to look at what the actual market price is in their area, not what commenters think is a “fair” price. It’s so nebulous, and let’s be honest, what a landlord is looking for isn’t a “fair” price: it’s the highest price they can get and still have a solid, reliable, non-destructive tenant. It only takes one person to set your market price, at least on the theory that all real estate is unique.

  • Native American JD

    $1300-It’s a hike from either Metro. No parking.

    But if it’s available come May 1, I’m interested.

    • Elmer Fudd Gantry

      It’s 3 blocks to U street Metro. That’s a hike?

    • Landlord

      Hmmm I’m no genius, but you sound like a nightmare tenant waiting to happen!

  • Anonymous

    $1500 MINIMUM for that area. I would list it at $1650 and see the response you get. If the interior is as nice as you describe, you should have a problem getting $1650-$1750 for that location.

    I have 4 rental properties in the city; two are english basements. One is a few blocks from this house and I get $1750.

    • T

      I agree. I paid $1500 for a similar apartment on 14th and Corcoran, that wasn’t nearly as nice as what you’re describing. And that was in 2007. I would say $1650 min.

  • Homeowner

    Also meant to add to the post that I learned that another homeowner nearby rents out a studio English Basement, smaller in size to my 1 BR and not recently renovated, for around $1350 (including utilities). I have no idea, though, if that is consistent with the general market. Thanks

  • LCM

    I saw a much smaller and less updated basement apartment near 13th and U for 1500… you could probably ask for more than that.

  • julia.m

    Well market price is probably closer to $1700-1900 (especially if the bedroom is separate and/or there is a washer/dryer/dishwasher). What I would consider a “fair” price, market conditions in dupont notwithstanding, is probably closer to $1500-1600. I think you could get 1650 easily.

    • Homeowner

      Thanks, it will be a 1 BR/1 BA (separate bedroom) and have its own Washer/Dryer.

  • alissa

    I think you can definitely get over $1500. A similar non-English basement apartment in that area will go for $1850 and up, so I would think you could get $1600 or $1650 for it once it’s renovated easily.

  • You can easily get $1700 for a recently renovated, well-lit 1 bedroom in this neighborhood. I’ve known professionally managed 450-550 sq foot studios in this area to go for around $1400 (including utilities).

    That being said, if you price it in the $1200-$1400 range you may end up with a longer term tenant who appreciates the bargain they’re getting (careful screening is key here). I’m personally paying $1200 (not incl. utilities) for a unit in this area that’s almost identical to your description and consider myself very lucky.

    It really is an owner’s rental market right now, so you have a lot of flexibility on what you can charge. I’ve read several articles recently (WaPo, UrbanTurf, etc) that mention how tight the DC rental market has become. I think it’s a combination of factors–a down economy hurting new development (although that’s changing), a weaker housing market with more people electing to rent, and (again, debatable) the influx of new congressional staff. No matter what you end up charging, I’d be prepared for high turn-out at your open house.

    Good luck renting your unit, it sounds terrific!

  • gabs

    fantastic location! I absolutely love swan street, seriously a best kept secret. The yellow trees this past month were brilliant! and always a good spot to find parking, too bad i don’t love it enough to spend that much of my paycheck on it!

  • Anonymous

    I have a friend on that block who pays 1800 for a basement, but she has a parking spot and central ac. I think you could get 1600

  • ess

    yeah, you could get way over $1500 for it. You may want to consider pricing it at $1600 for a 2-year and a bit higher for a 1-year lease, to cushion yourself during the turnover time between tenants.

    Or you could wait until August and lease it to me for $1200. That would actually be my preference!

  • SG

    Honestly, you could get $1650. I know people don’t want to believe it, but you can. This is one of the nicest areas of the city and really NOT far from metro or public transit. Most people who lived there could probably walk or bike to work downtown.

  • SG

    Actually, the more I think about it, more than $1650.

  • Rob

    If the renovation is as nice as the given description and the unit receives decent light don’t put it on the market for less than $1700. Sounds like a great, large unit in a striking house and the location is the hottest in DC. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get $1800 plus.

  • Rock

    Not having a front entrance is a huge strike against it. By the sound and look of it, the tenant would have to enter the apartment by going around back to the alley? even though it’s a nice area, that pretty much eliminates renting to a single woman. And especially without parking, it’s a tough sell.

    • A

      Or even any woman (if safety is really an issue, which I’m not convinced it would be). Sometimes we do go places without our boyfriends/husbands ;)

  • eric

    I’d be more ambitious and go for $2000+. I just rented out my 500 sq foot place in a high-rise (non-basement) for $1800. Had 25 emails from my craigslist post within one day, and it rented the next day once i got the check

    • Tres

      I’m certain sure someone would pay $1800. The question is what the owner’s pain threshold is. It’ll take them more time to find someone at $1800+. They could put it on at $1500 and have a signed lease in day or two. But there’s really no reason to subsidize someone else’s lifestyle.

      It looks like there’s currently a professionally listed somewhat comparable 1 bedroom on Swann for $1600 (similar but lacks finer finishes). Let’s say that the granite and other sexy touches add $100. In addition, you might go a bit over a professional management company’s price, because they tend to price slightly below market value. Maybe $1750? Sounds fair to me for the location, and strikes a balance between rent achieved vs. time to a signed lease.

  • A

    There’s a 4th floor apt nearby for $1600- http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/apa/2082734910.html

    I’d think the difference between 4th floor & basement should be $200 at least. But then there are also basements listed for $1600 so it’s hard to tell. Lots of variation in the market.

  • french streeter

    Homeowner – presumably you’ve seen all of the questions about the second means of egress, but remain silent.

    I’ll agree with those who say that with a front entrance, what you describe would easily rent for $1800, but with a back entrance that must be accessed through the alley, you will probably need to lower the price to around $1500-$1600.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. I’m guessing Homeowner will not actually have a CoO given the lack of second egress. No front entrance will make a lot of folks concerned.

      • Homeowner

        Actually, what is required by the Code is that there be a method of egress from the bedroom. A front method of egress is required in many basements where the bedroom is located in the front of the house. It all gets very tricky and can depend upon several other factors, but I am actually going to great expense to be compliant.

        • Anonymous

          Not sure who informed you of this, but it is incorrect. Most english basement apartments have the bedroom in back. There is required to be a separate egress to protect the occupant. If a fire is blocking the one exit, there needs to be a second way out. DCRA regulations are pretty strict. You should probably get this cleared up if you actually intend on having a CoO. BTW– you can avoid having a CoO by just having a “roommate” as suggested above. But you will be very hard pressed to get a CoO for a separate legal unit without a separate egress.

          • Homeowner

            I had initially thought the same thing (as many others have), but Section 1018.2 of the International Fire Code, which DC follows, permits only one exit in buildings of Group R-3 occupancy (such as a family-residence).

    • Anonymous

      All of the bad information on CoO of english basements actually makes my above ground condo much more economically viable. It costs money to live inside of the District in a preferable location. Please get some facts straight

  • MK

    For those of you who are landlords, how extensive is your background check on new tenants and who do you use to do this sort of thing?

    • 1st St

      I’ve had tenants provide thier own recent credit check (which they can get for free on line) and provide me with names/contact info for current employers and thier past landloard.

      In my current situation my tennant recently discharged from the military and so does not have a recent rental history. They ofered to pay their last month’s rent up front in lue of this recomendation.

  • Saxony

    1300 is way low. I get that for my 500 sq foot basement in the unit block of NYAve

  • Petworthian

    A friend of mine has furnished her one and two bedroom apartments and is getting MUCH higher monthly rent for her units from short term renters – government workers in DC from the field, foreign students & grad students at Johns Hopkins JFK School. The downside is you might end up hunting for new tenants after 6 months, but sometimes they recommend a fellow student who is looking for housing.
    This is an awesome location, when I lived near here I walked to Dupont Metro and downtown to 18th and K every day. Swann St. is beautiful. Also the S2 runs right by here.

  • Petworthian

    Have to agree it’s not a great idea for a feature because people are going to try and argue one way or the other depending on whether they rent or own. Also you pollute Google, when the owners finally put it on the market, they might be shooting for more than what the commenters on this blog think is fair, and shoot themselves in the foot.

  • ab

    You should price it at whatever covers your costs and what you feel comfortable with as a gain. Market price is way overrated and not a true indicator of the worth of the property. It is causing rental hikes in the area, when you can get the same thing anywhere else(not in dc) for half the price. It is hard for young professionals to afford a nice safe apt now because landlords want to squeeze as much as they can out of tenants. We are left paying ridiculously high rent for unrenovated ghetto apts because that is the ‘market price’ for DC.

    I know it’s a con to living in DC,(which I love living in so I put up with it, thereby perpetuating the cycle); but how about instead of having ‘market price’ dictate these rents, you use it as a vague guideline, and actually price it at what your finances, the actual worth of the property, and conscience see fit.

  • Gina

    Dearest Homeowner,
    16th and Swann and pet-friendly. Could this be the refuge that I — tenant extraordinaire, with fabulous credit and great references — and my very lazy, old, and 100% housebroken lab-mix have been searching for? A quiet well-lit basement unit with a great, responsive landlord?
    I’d love to learn more! gina.tomaselli@gmail.com


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