Good Deal or Not? “Updates are where they count” edition

by Prince Of Petworth July 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm 73 Comments

This home is located at 4503 Illinois Ave, NW:

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The flier says:

“Awesome row house in the heart of Petworth. This beautiful home is in great condition and it includes 3 bed room, 1 full bath, car port. rec room in finished Basement. Over 120K in updates done to the home in the last 10 yrs. Updates are where they count plumbing and electrical systems updated. Close to metro, shopping centers and restaurants.”

You can find more info here and photos here.

$300,000 sound right for this 3 bed/1 bath?

  • DJ

    “Close to metro”

    Oh yeah, which station would that be?

    • anon

      It is a 15 minute walk to petworth metro station. That is close enough to me. It is also a short bus ride to the red line.

      • caballero

        It probably 12 minutes to the metro.

  • 14th St. Heights

    Ugly, but functional. Great starter home for all ya’ll who say you can’t afford to live in the district. This is the kind of place I bought and would be looking to buy if I didn’t already have one. You don’t have to do all your upgrades at once. A coupla coats of interesting paint, some cool IKEA rugs would do a lot! Great area also.

    • dt

      It’s not even that ugly. It’s got the original walls with gorgeous hardwood trim, hardwood floors, fireplace, etc etc. Do some pretty minor cosmetic changes (ditch the drop ceiling, maybe put up some molding and picture rail) and the house would look great!

      That yard is clearly geared towards ease of maintenance, no grass to mow or mosquito breeding grounds – probably good for a first time homebuyer. If you find you have lots of free time left over on your weekends, you can easily plant a garden. Tons of space, the original cast iron radiators, and in good enough shape not to be investor-bait. This looks like a *great* deal. If I hadn’t just bought a similar kind of house last year in Trinidad, I’d snap this one up!

  • Anonymous

    That screened-in structure is definitely one of the odder things I’ve seen in a real estate ad. And what is that ceiling in the living room? Nevertheless, as 14th Street said it might have potential. It’s pretty unusal to find a 3-bedroom house anywhere in DC (hell, even the suburbs) for $300k.

    • Zeeb

      At what point does DC become the suburbs? Clarendon is a lot more urban than this part of Petworth. While Grant Circle is beautiful, it feels like you’re in a MD burb — and this place is even farther north. Just sayin’ I’m not sure how “DC” this part of “DC” really is.

      • JRL

        It’s in DC as in, located within the District of Columbia. Not sure what’s hard to understand about that.

      • Anon

        It doesnt matter to people… remember, anything in MD/VA = bad and anything in DC = urban/hip/edgy.

      • Anonymous

        This part of Petworth is a hell of a lot better then Clarendon, too. Clarendon was a field when this neighborhood was built. It was never meant to be “Urban”.

      • Anony

        Just because the buildings are taller doesn’t make it a more urban environment.

        • Anonymous

          what does then?

          • Neighbor

            To me, it’s about walkability. For living your life, not just commuting. And in DC, I would add front porch culture. Because walking around and talking to your neighbors is how you engage in an urban community. Clarendon has many modern conveniences, but everyone I know that lives in that area drives a ton for shopping and recreation, so you lose the urban community vibe.

          • Anon

            You’ve got to be kidding me… Petworth is more walkable than Clarendon? You are dreaming. The epidemic of self deluded new homeowners is amazing.

          • Rosie

            Having more than one demographic of people… in Petworth you will see more than just rich white young people. In Clarendon…. not happening. For some of us diversity is important, and to me that is what differentiates DC (or Petworth specifically in this case) from Clarendon. I’ve lived in both places so this opinion is from personal experience.

          • Anonymous

            So a neighborhood that’s mostly african american can’t be urban? or just not neighborhoods that are mostly white?

      • Rosie

        I moved from Clarendon to DC to live in an urban environment. There is NO WAY Clarendon is more urban. Walk a few blocks north, you are surrounded by rich frat boys fresh out of college… Walk a few blocks south, same exact environment. In Petworth (or all of DC for that matter) you walk a few blocks in any direction and you are in a whole different neighborhood with different demographics. It’s called diversity and that is what Clarendon is missing.

        • Anonymous

          there is a reason that the word Urban is different from the word Diverse, or Walkable, or even Desirable. they all mean different things.

          just because you don’t like a certain segment of the population has nothing to do with it.

          • anon

            How is Clarendon not walkable? I agree its cookie cutter architecutre is ugly (esp compared to historic DC rowhomes), but it is walkable, dense, transit friednly, and filled with restaurants/bars/shoping. More so than Petworth. Just cause whitie lives there is no reason to hate…

  • mca

    It’s worth the $300K and not a cent more. Totally agree with 14th St Heights. You can live in the place w/o any problems and you work slowly to fix the features you want fixed. I did the same w/ my home, and have 1 room left to go!

    That basement looks like my old one, including the bar.

  • joker

    120K in upgrades, you think they could have gotten rid of the 80’s style drop ceiling commercial tile in the living room.

  • Kyle W

    Buy this and your mortgage=1700 a month with PMI. Easily do-able. We bought something very similar.


    First:Few things I would just rip out. That dumb porch thing in the back, hideous. I would tear that out first thing.

    Second: Not quite close enough to Metro to say close to metro. Still over a mile. Also, close to shopping centers? I would fire my realtor if she said dumb things like that.

    I hope it goes for 300, because that means we got a great deal on our house nearby, but I put it more like 270.

    • 14th St. Heights

      The NH bus line is a block away and goes to Petworth Metro station. Georgia Ave. buses are three blocks away, and they run frequently. Or you be lazy like I am and (gasp!) drive to the metro.

    • BF

      Its actually only 0.7 miles – don’t know where you got the “over a mile.”

      • Kyle W

        Woops. Maps.Google.com bad habits. Put in my home address on accident. We are in fact 1.1 miles. Carry on with the discussion :)

    • Matt N.

      To be sure, the walking distance to Metro from that block is just under 3/4 of a mile. It’s a quick and easy walk in good weather.

    • Anonymous

      $250 in my book. Reno’d home in this hood are going for $230-250 per square foot. You could get the same exact home in Bloomingdate in the $210,000 range.

      • Developer

        “You could get the same exact home in Bloomingdale for $210,000”

        Sorry pal, you couldn’t even do that in Bloomingdale 10 years ago. I’ve been watching this market for years.

        Of course you could be typing this from your DeLorean……

        • Anonymous

          actually you could 10 years ago. i’m 100% certain of that.

          • Developer

            Hate to challenge you on that, but please bring up some comps. in 2001/2002 there were already bidding wars on houses in Bloomingdale (houses which started in the mid-200’s). These same unfinished houses are now in bidding wars which start at $350-400K.

      • CA

        What? Where?

      • Something like this in Bloomingdale would be bumping up on $400k, easy. I bought a 3 bedroom/1 bath fixer upper south of Bloomingdale, in the much-less-desirable-to-many Truxton Circle neighborhood almost 2 years ago for $295k and it was a steal. I’m with MCA and 14th St. and others who view this Petworth place as a great starter home value.

        • anon

          MoneyPitDC: Seems like you overpaid. 400K for a house like this in bloomingdale?

          • Anonymous

            Yep. At least 400k.

          • Anon

            You can use this as a frame of reference for what $300k gets you in Bloomingdale these days:


            The second one is currently standing gutted, completely back to the brick on all sides (no floors) and isnt even in Bloomingdale (its in eckington, technically).

            So, yeah, 300k doesnt get you much in that hood these days.

          • k

            And the first will have to be gutted and undergo mold treatments.

          • Developer

            anon – You neither know the market nor it’s trajectory. Please do your homework before you make comments on the neighborhood.

    • anon

      it is .60 mile from Metro. Is that really far from metro for people? really?

      • Anonymous

        for going to work, no. to walk after a formal event, late in the night, or grocery shopping, a bit.

      • Anon

        If it is in peoples’ own hood, its a quick walk. If its in someone else’s hood, than its WAYYYY TOOO FAR!!!!

        • Neighbor

          I have found this to be so true when talking to people.

        • Anonymous

          hahaha. yup.

    • nathaniel

      while the screened thing in the back is ugly, after getting bit up this summer in my back yard by mosquitos, I could almost go for one of them.

  • MJ

    For $300K? Take it, and not too much of a walk to the metro. But it looks like it will definitely require a lot of TLC.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if the realtor meant $12k in upgrades. Seriously- where did they spend $120k in the last 10 years? This house hasn’t been updated since the 1970’s.

    • Developer

      I agree – if these people spent $120K the entire time they lived here (from mortgage payments, to taxes, to upgrades – that would sound more realistic.

  • Lei

    The weird drop ceilings are a bit of a concern. I would be worried about what is above them that might have to be redone. However, if you got it for a decent price you could work with it and you could certainly live with the ceilings like that.

    • 14th St. Heights

      I have all kinds of weird shit in my house, but will deal with it when I have the money and time. At least the kitchen works, the ac works (mostly), the bathroom works, and I have a porch and a garden.

      • Lei

        Yeah, we don’t have much weird stuff but definitely stuff that needs to be done. We do the same work on it a bit as we have the money and time. We have a backyard project that has been going on for a very looong time now but we just do a little bit at a time when we have saved enough cash to pay for each project.

    • Adrian

      Wrong, the weird drop ceilings are great. The whole point of them is easy access which is definitely what you want during a home inspection. That way you can see what is going on up there. Assuming there are no signs of structural damage, it won’t cost much to put up dry wall ceilings once you’ve figured out what kind of lighting you’d prefer to install.

      Also, someone criticized the screened in porch… dumb. I guarantee that porch will get tons of use. I agree it’s not the best looking thing I’ve seen, but a bug-free hangout spot for summer nights is awesome.

      Though the house has been listed off and on for over 9 months, I believe it will sell this time around.

  • Anon

    Should could go for a bit less, but not much… If its livable as-is, a young couple could easily buy it and do the work themselves over the course of the next 5 years or so.

    The livable and comfortably priced house is getting more rare in DC. Usually they’re priced low and are shit holes or are priced high and are already redone.

  • Kev29

    Does the porntastic poster in one of the bedrooms convey?

  • BF

    Good deal. Its totally livable, and a complete reno could be done for about 100k, making it a 400k investment in a neighborhood where renovated row houses are going for 450 – 550k. Ideally, the buyer could hold off on moving in until the renovations are complete, but its doable while being lived in – just a PIA.

    I happen to be friendly with the owner – he seems like a great guy and is meticulous. So one thing is for sure – the house, although dated, is very very clean.

  • Veronika

    curious to see what it looked like BEFORE 120K in improvements… i shudder to think.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe the $120k in improvements included the sportscar on the back parking pad.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see a true fixer-upper! It’s hard to find a house in DC that could use some work but doesn’t need to be gutted.

  • Anon2

    Love the bar/rumpus room in the basement. And the screen room in the back yard could easily be a chicken coop.

    I think what turns me off most is the front yard. What’s up with the gravel and random lighting?

  • Developer

    Good deal – needs a lot of work, but has off street parking and LOTS of potential. I would check it out.

  • crin

    It would show alot better if it were empty. The drop ceiling probably hides the $120,000 of electrical and plumbing “improvements” they’ve made in the last 10 years. And really, $12,000 a year is closer to maintenance than “improvements.”

  • MichelleRD

    Dropped ceiling. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a house.

    • Developer

      Yep – it was in the last house we bought – they dropped the ceiling about 3 feet!!

      You have to remember though…these houses were practically GIVEN away in the 70’s and 80’s

  • Anonymous

    This is near one of the nicest blocks of Illinois between the Grant and Sherman circles. The place looks well kept and solid, the owner’s taste is just a little unusual.

  • e-beth

    Funny to see that so many people hate the screened in porch. I would actually love to have a screened in porch like that myself so that I can be semi-outdoors during mosquito season.
    All in all I think it is a decent deal. It is move-in ready and can be fixed up over time to make it into something really nice.

  • Anonymous

    IMHO this house is a very good deal.

    Drop ceiling is worrisome as it can hide significant damage, but take a flash light and look in before submitting an offer.

    I do see some non-systems upgrades like floors.

    Agree tear out the shed and make a nice patio.

    And of course get a home inspection, and be sure to ask him to look at it closely. As others have said before home inspectors aren’t the greatest but they don’t want to miss something really egregious lest they get into a lawsuit.

    Lose shed, remove drop ceiling, get a stainless steal oven, drywall the basement and this is a NICE house.

    Best of luck to the owner, too expensive to flip.

  • caballero

    Good deal.

  • H Street Landlord

    Seems like a great deal. Put 20% down, get two roommates and then live rent-free.

    Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes for 10% over asking.

    Having new electrical and plumbing helps a ton.

    • Tres

      Yes. That and invest the savings into upgrades. After the first year, do the kitchen. After the second, bathrooms. And so on and so forth…

      In 5 years, you’d have a nice home with maybe $200k in equity. Refi and you have a down payment for house #2.

      • Developer

        Tres – you and I should go into business together! ;)

        • Tres

          Great minds, huh? I’ve got about 3 years before I can buy again unless I come up with some bright ideas. If you’re active now, I’m really jealous. How awesome is it to profit off the reemergence of Dream City?

          I think all the low hanging fruit — homes like this — will have disappeared in 10 – 15 years. There will never be another DC ravaged by riots, crack, and years of neglect giving uninitiated folks an chance to break in to DC real estate. I’m just trying to get my second stab in before all but the most well capitalized are priced out.

  • Dizzy Comet

    That’s a dropped ceiling. If I had to guess, I’d say there were some plumbing issues in the bathroom above and moisture leaked through to the living room. I had the same ceiling in my house when I bought, and have seen other older non-reno homes with owners who chose a similar route. The dropped ceilings are pretty cheap, compared to approx $30 a sheet to have drywall hung, taped, sanded, and primed. Or more, given how much of a hassle ceilings are.

    Anywho, if I was interested in the house, I’d get on a step stool or chair and lift up one of those panels to see what the ceiling was hiding.

  • Anonymous

    Dropped ceilings were also a way to sane on heat. Smaller area to heat/cool/

  • anon

    Drop ceilings are also a modern application akin to tin ceilings — used to cover up something which would otherwise need to be replaced (ie crumbling or stained plaster). I love old tin ceilings, but you have to be careful of what lies beneath. Putting up new drywall isn’t that big a deal, and it’ll provide a worthy incentive to lose that chandelier too.

  • BF

    I spoke to the owner this morning. Not sure why, but this house is off the market!


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