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GDoN “impeccable original architectural detailing” edition

by Prince Of Petworth March 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm 48 Comments

644 Independence Avenue Southeast

This house is located at 644 Independence Avenue, Southeast. The listing says:

“Just steps to Eastern Market – Gracious 1880 4BD 2BA townhouse w/impeccable orig arch detailing. Tall ceilings. 3 fireplaces. Fenced landscaped rear patio. Finished basement w/family rm, guest bd & ba. Stunning renovated kitchen w/gas fireplace. Abundant storage built ins. Off site garages for 1 or 2 cars sold separately. Located on F St Terr behind 638 G SE. No open houses. Offers due COB 4/3.”


You can see more photos here.

This 4 bed/2 bath is going for $1,275,000.

  • Great house, great location, great yard, this will sell easily.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a beautiful house but it’s kinda crazy that $1.3 doesn’t even get you a main floor half-bath.

  • Anon

    1. This home is beautiful
    2. Honest question for people who live in a house like this: How did you afford it? I am a single person making six figures (albeit with student loans), and I can’t imagine how I will ever have the money to buy something like this. I own a modest condo in DC now, as does my partner (two separate properties), but even if we sold both of those, the profits wouldn’t come close to the 255k down payment (as of now). Factoring in future kids… oy vey.

    • Hi me

      Hahaha. I am/was in your position, making what I thought was good money but getting annihilated in the DC housing market, and coming to the realization that I would probably not ever be able to afford places like this, especially with kids.

      Based on anecdotal evidence, the people who buy these places have trust funds/wealthy parents. Sometimes you’ll find high-powered lawyers or government contractors in these places, but it really is more often than not the former.

      And lord, let’s leave aside highly desired Capitol Hill. It’s bloody hard to buy a decent home anywhere in the District that’s not way far from a metro (negating the obvious benefit to living in DC) or downright dangerous.

      • Accountering

        Meh – this is totally do-able, you and your partner make 250k or so, you buy a starter home and sell when you have 350k in equity (pay the mortgage and see a bit of appreciation) and you could be there in like 12 years)

    • CoHi

      ^ This. I too own a condo and I cannot fathom ever having the money to “trade up” like this, although I think it involves both selling your other place(s) and saving up for the remainder of the down payment, or buying in a cheaper neighborhood.

    • anonymous

      You buy low, in a cheaper neighborhood- that’s how. I look at some of these homes- and I agree beautiful- but then I look at my home- and I a thankful that I bought when/where I did it at half of what this home costs.

      • Colhi

        +1 I bought in Columbia Heights almost 15 years ago when many people wouldn’t want to live there. Look around at other neighborhoods in DC. Do work on a house that may need it. Many of us bought in neighborhoods that had no restaurants, no cool name recognition and for 2 years where no cabs wanted to drive. That’s how I was able to buy a house without having rich parents.

        • HaileUnlikely

          This is definitely one way to do it. Unfortunately this is not in the cards (in DC anyway) for somebody who was in high school 15 years ago when you bought your house.

          • Anon Spock

            Brightwood, eotr, and maybe takoma is still accessible to people and in DC. I can’t speak to the 1 income person who owns already (there by missing out on programs), but 2 income like Anon should be able to do it, I hope.

          • anonymous

            But this is still quite doable. For example a neighborhood like Trinidad- where homes are now coming up on the market at 850k. Even if you bought just 2 years ago- you are sitting on nice equity. But hey- while some sit on the sidelines–others are able to jump in and take advantage. they will reap the benefits easily in 5-10 years.

          • Anon Spock

            I’m speaking to larger houses specifically.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Yes, I agree that there are still opportunities for people to buy homes in those neighborhood. However, the days of buying at bargain basement prices now and then selling for north of a million after 10-15 years are in all likelihood gone. The houses at today’s entry level of say $350K in Takoma or Brightwood aren’t houses that might plausibly appreciate to north of a million in 15 years like a house bought 15 years ago in Columbia Heights or Shaw would have.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Note – I am trying to stick to the topic of how people without massive incomes are able to afford houses like today’s GDoN. All of my above comments were intended to be read in that context. Yes you can buy a home in lots of places for way less than today’s GDoN. That’s not the point, though. Buying a run down house in a rough neighborhood was great way to get to be able to afford today’s GDoN. Buying a run down house in a rough neighborhood today is a perfectly good way to lock in your mortgage payment and have yourself a home that will likely appreciate some, but that is unlikely to lead to the equity that it would take for somebody who earns say $75K per year to buy today’s GDoN. That is what I meant in all of my comments above.

          • Colhi

            Ok so you were in High School then but what is your excuse now? I have some friends who just bought an amazing house in Anacostia for about what I paid for my house 15 years ago in CH. The point is that you can buy houses in non-NW neighborhoods if you really want to buy a house.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Dude, it ain’t personal. I own my house. I just mean that as a general matter, the days of buying a house for cheap and having its value increase by 1000% in a decade are over.

    • K

      I’d guess to afford something like this you have to be either:

      -Old enough to have bought this house back when it was affordable
      -Old enough that you have acquired enough wealth over the years
      -No student loans and high income
      -have a family gift or inheritance for down payment
      -Really smart investments

      I am none of these.

    • Anon Spock

      You can avoid pmi at 10% down, so while 20% is more ideal, it’s not mandatory.
      Selling or renting one and moving in together can cut housing costs.
      Maybe with all that, you still won’t get into the over 1mil range, but you’ll certainly be able to afford a house in the not too distant future with diligent saving and planning.

      • petworther

        That’s true for conforming loans, but it will be very hard to get a jumbo loan with under 20% down.

        • Anon Spock

          Fair enough. Cutting costs and diligently saving is the only way I see to get there.

          • petworther

            Also worth keeping in mind when you invest in a home. There’s a lot of room for growth up to about 750/850. Once you hit the conventional loan limit the market is substantially smaller.
            So if you buy a house for 850 there’s not a ton of room for growth unless the market really changes.

          • Anon Spock

            I can’t imagine people buying these upper tier homes do so with the intention of a huge amount of equity via appreciation 5, 10, 15 years down the road.
            For me, it would be the raise kids home and pass down place, but that’s just me.

        • Nathan

          Not as much as it used to be. More lenders are offering jumbo, portfolio loans that require 10% down. SoFi will, and just about a month ago I recall a WSJ article mentioning other lenders entering the market to cater to those with high incomes but not tons of wealth built up yet.

          • Anon Spock

            Makes lots of sense in DC.

    • petworther

      Do not own a home like this, but have a few useful pieces of information:
      (1) Most people are selling another property at this point and have significant cash. A lot people have 300k+ in home equity and maybe another 100k in savings.
      (2) You may actually need even more than you think. The conforming loan limit (625k in DC) becomes very significant around 800k. If you have a jumbo loan rates increase and reserve requirements will go up substantially. So ideally you have enough cash to borrow 625k or under.
      (3) That’s one reason multiple units matters. If you buy a two legal unit building the conventional limit goes up above 800. It may be cheaper (net) for some people to buy a 1M house with two units vs. a 900k house with one unit.

      • Anon

        That is some good information. Thanks!

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      I know a few people who have bought close to this range and it usually involves one or more of the following:
      1. Bought low in a neighborhood and sold that property to roll into the new $1 million+ property
      2. Cashing out investments in combination with the above scenario
      3. No student loans/major debt
      4. Parents help with the down payment or even pay cash for the property (not at this price, but the 500k price and then later you’d def be able to afford a house like this)
      5. Spend more than they can afford…as in “stretching” the budget

    • HaileUnlikely

      Excluding the wealthy parents / trust fund buyers, the ones I see buying these houses usually fall into one or more of the following categories:

      1. Have equity from sale of prior home that appreciated *a lot.*

      2. Have combined incomes well into the six figures (first digit definitely not a 1 and likely not a 2).

      3. Have very little or no student loan debt.

      4. Has different ideas than most of us about things like savings.
      I know this doesn’t cover everybody and somebody out there will be personally offended by my list, but I’m pretty confident this covers well over three quarters of buyers of $1.2M homes.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        Haha, I agree. We basically said the same thing (see above).

      • I agree with your list and would add one more item: age of buyer(s). There’s a strong chance that someone buying a $1.2M home is not under age 35, and therefore has had a few more years to acquire either more equity in an existing property, or to pay off/down those student loans, or to save more. One of the reasons I was able to put 20% down when I bought my condo was because I wasn’t a spring chicken and had already paid off my student loan debt almost a decade earlier.

    • clime

      It’s not too complicated to save such money. I’m a mid-level government worker and I saved $100k for a down payment by simply auto-contributing $500 into a mutual fund each paycheck ($13,000 per year) over about 4.5 years, reinvesting dividends. Two people doing that could easily get up to $250k. It hardly even requires discipline, once the payment is set just live within your means. I certainly don’t feel like I deprived myself during that time. Obviously if this is your second home purchase you also have the accumulated capital from the first house to add toward that limit.

      • HaileUnlikely

        And you can afford the mortgage payment on a ~$1M loan and taxes on a $1.2M home while making reasonable retirement contributions and saving up for other stuff? (If so, that’s cool, congrats.)

        • Anon Spock

          If both people did this over 4-5 years & sold their homes, they’d be well below a $1 mil mortgage. Even if they didn’t, ballpark take home pay monthly from 200k is around 10-12k. Spending half of take home on the mortgage is a bit high, but it should be doable while allowing savings elsewhere.

        • clime

          Yeah, borrowing 5x your combined income would be stretching it, but if you wanted the house (which is what I was responding to), you could do it. Whether it’s wise to go to the very limit is a personal choice. Some people prefer to spend their money on travel and restaurants, some people like buying a nice house and staying in.

    • 1) own your property(s) long enough to make a good profit when and if you sell
      2) continue to pay off student and / or credit card, auto, etc debt
      3) cut out frivolous spending if an expensive house is really your priority and save all the rest
      4) potentially have your partner move in with you now and rent out their place for extra income, or vice versa

      Those obviously aren’t the steps that all people who own $1M+ homes take, but it might at least help you attain it if it’s something you strive for.

    • ET

      I live in house that within a year I couldn’t have afforded. It is nothing on this scale however. Sadly the Hill isn’t a place where that happens anymore. I wonder if this is a house where the owners bought in the 1990’s when it didn’t take that much money to buy that house.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        According to Redfin it last sold in 2007 for $875k. Quite the nice gain over 8 years!

        • Nathan

          5.5% annual return isn’t totally crazy.

          • Anonymous

            They would have done much better in the market. Then again, the bank probably wouldn’t let them gamble with $800K.

          • Nathan

            True – annual return on the home is one thing, but adding in the leverage would juice that equity return.

    • Andie302

      I’ve had this conversation many time with real estate clients. I think that lacking student loan debt is a huge factor. Generally that means you’ve had some help from family (or worked your butt off) and may have had an opportunity to save while you’re young. It means you have more money available each month for a mortgage payment. That could translate into your first house being a single family (anywhere) versus a condo, which has the potential for a higher amount of equity (in my mind) 5-10 years from now.

    • LedroitTigah

      A few folks in DC I know also worked abroad for several years as there are significant tax advantages to doing so (you can save $15k-$20k per annum on your tax bill alone, plus reduced cost of living = $$ down payment)

    • anon

      Why are their so many comments like this on PoP. Doesn’t anybody understand about family money.
      If the grandparents took out a mortgage for a house post WWII, then that equity should be trickling down into substantial down payments or full cash buys by this generation. It is really quite easy–stay married, live within your means, teach your kids to do the same, die at home (nursing homes kill family wealth), don’t skimp on life insurance, repeat.
      Anyone with student loans saving up for the minimum downpayment on a house like this is likely not saving enough to keep their children out of housing/school debt. With only 255k I would put 200k toward a 300k 3/2 near glenmont metro, keep the other 55k in one of your current properties for rental income, and save like hell so the future generations don’t have to depend on the banks.

  • Anna Cooper

    “no open houses”?!

    • petworther

      Open houses are stupid for the seller. Most serious buyers will avoid the open house anyways. The open house is an advertisement for your realtor not your house.

  • PetworthAdam

    Really like the molding and ceiling/wall colors on that first floor. And the archway above the bed. And the backyard. …. Everything about this house is beautiful.

  • logandude

    And I see PoP really wants this one.

  • The house was built in 1888, not 1880, as the listing says. Be careful RE agents – this incorrect information can get you in hot water with the law. It was designed by Appleton P. Clark Jr. for Patrick Maloney.


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