Both are centered around stops on Metro’s Red Line and offer a mix of large apartment and condo buildings and older single-family homes.
On the market: National Park Seminary, starting in the low $400,000s (2750 Linden La., Silver Spring; 301-495-7707; nationalparkseminary.com); Takoma Overlook, starting at $109,500 for studios and $169,500 for one-bedrooms (7333 New Hampshire Ave., Takoma Park; 301-434-7333; tenacitycondos.com).
U Street/Logan Circle
During the real-estate boom, the U Street corridor and Logan Circle became proof of downtown DC’s renaissance. Today there are theaters, art galleries, clothing boutiques, and a Whole Foods grocery. Trendy bars and restaurants seem to open every month—popular newcomers include chic speakeasy the Gibson and Italian eatery Posto.
Khelan Bhatia, who bought a new condo on U Street in March, was drawn to the neighborhood’s unique style: “I really wanted to live in an area with its own identity.”
On the market: The Moderno, starting at $346,000 (1939 12th St., NW; 202-637-0102; lovemoderno.com); the Flats at Union Row, starting at $299,900 for studios and $394,900 for one-bedrooms with den (2125 14th St., NW; 202-232-1997; pnhoffman.com); the Lacey, starting at $325,000 (2250 11th St., NW; 202-744-1007; laceydc.com).
The Arlington neighborhoods along Metro’s Orange Line are among the region’s most sought-after. The three-mile corridor stretches from Rosslyn to Ballston and is lined with apartments, condos, office buildings, bars, restaurants, and shops.
Although ultra-luxury buildings such as the Waterview Residences and the Wooster and Mercer Lofts have risen along the corridor’s eastern end, home hunters can still find deals in Virginia Square and Ballston, where new condos mingle with older townhouses and garden-style buildings.
A block from the Virginia Square Metro station are Arlington County’s flagship library and Quincy Park’s tennis courts and baseball fields. Ballston Common mall has dozens of shops and restaurants, a movie theater, and a health club.
On the market: The Residences at Liberty Center, starting at $350,000 (888 N. Quincy St., Arlington; 703-875-2211; libertycenter.com); the Hawthorn, starting at $524,000 for remaining two-bedrooms (820 N. Pollard St., Arlington; 703-294-6611; monumentrealty.com).
The New Rules of Real Estate
How can I avoid overpaying?
Agents warn against buying in this market if you plan to move soon. “It used to be we’d say to people, ‘You can think about selling after three or four years,’ ” says agent Roselyn Abitbol of Habitat Real Estate. “Now it’s five or six.”
How much money will I have to put down?
Two years ago, lenders often offered mortgages to buyers without asking them to put any money down. Not anymore.
With a few exceptions, the only way to put down less than 10 percent in today’s market is to get a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, which allows a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. FHA mortgages come with an up-front premium of about 1.5 percent of the loan and require that you pay for mortgage insurance, which typically costs about half a percent of the loan per year.
How much should my offer be?
Even though we’re in a buyer’s market, properties are selling. Agents say one of the biggest mistakes buyers make is alienating the seller by low-balling the original offer.
“The average offer I’m seeing comes in at about 10 percent below the asking price,” says Long & Foster agent Roby Thompson. He says sales prices on his properties are averaging between 3 and 5 percent below list price, though some properties do sell for much less, especially if they’ve been on the market a long time.
Should I look into adjustable-rate financing?
Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, were popular during the boom, when prices were climbing and buyers thought they could resell their homes before their payments increased.
Now prices have leveled off and most ARMs no longer offer a lower initial rate than 30-year fixed mortgages, so buyers have no incentive to take that risk.