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Tales From the Boom and Bust: Where to Buy Now
Comments () | Published May 1, 2010

Where the Bargains Are

In Virginia: Triangle (22172)

Triangle, in Prince William County, isn’t an obvious place to attract buzz. Home to just 6,000 people and dominated by Quantico Marine Corps base, which takes up much of Triangle’s western half, it lacks the amenities of nearby Woodbridge and Fredericksburg.

But it does have bargains. Houses here have lost more than 50 percent of their value in the last three years—the steepest drop in all the Zip codes we analyzed—thanks to an influx of new construction during the boom years and then a lack of buyers. The median home price in 2009 was $275,000, down from $600,000 three years earlier, and waterfront houses are available for around $450,000. New four-bedroom houses cost around $350,000.

“I think it’s a smart place to invest,” says real-estate agent Debra Marko. “Prince William County is really working on making that area more attractive to homebuyers.” Triangle’s town center, which was a little seedy, has been razed to make space for an expansion of Highway 1 and new retail developments.

While it doesn’t have many businesses, Triangle is surrounded by the Potomac River, Prince William Forest Park, Locust Shade Park, and the Chopawamsic backcountry area, making it a good place for nature lovers. Locust Shade Park has outdoor performances in the summer as well as boat rentals, and Forest Greens Golf Club has a four-star rating from Golf Digest.

In Maryland: Glenn Dale (20769)

Glenn Dale, in Prince George’s County between Bowie and the New Carrollton Metro station, is another area where prices have fallen fast. The median price in 2009 was $365,000, down from a 2006 peak of more than $650,000. Houses spent an average of 156 days on the market last year.

“The prices of newer houses are between $350,000 and $450,000, and for that you’re getting double the square footage you would have before,” says agent Hollie Pakulla. Most homes here are single-family, but there are a few townhouse developments.

Glenn Dale is next to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and less than 30 miles from DC, Annapolis, and Baltimore. Most of its amenities are close by on Greenbelt Road, including a Giant supermarket and several restaurants. The Glenn Dale community center attracts residents for everything from martial arts to cooking classes, and the adjacent outdoor water park is a draw for families.

In DC: 16th Street Heights/Petworth (20011)

Just north of Columbia Heights, the 20011 Zip code—home to the 16th Street Heights, Crestwood, Petworth, and Brightwood Park neighborhoods—is one to watch for DC buyers on a budget. The median price has fallen by nearly 30 percent since 2006, down to $275,000 from $380,000.

Foreclosures are the main reason for lower prices, says agent Kevin J. Wood. The area has one of the highest foreclosure rates in DC.

Most of the homes in Petworth and Brightwood Park are rowhouses built in the early 20th century, and many need refurbishing. But good deals in the last two years have been drawing first-time buyers and young couples. “It’s close in to the city, and it has great housing stock with amazing front porches,” says Wood. “Until recently, there haven’t been many amenities, but that’s changing.”

The area is more residential than Columbia Heights. Prices are highest in 16th Street Heights and Crestwood, an enclave of elegant homes between 16th Street and Rock Creek Park that’s home to DC mayor Adrian Fenty.

International-business executive Eddie Suarez and his partner bought a three-bedroom house in Petworth for $326,000 in a 2008 estate sale. “We just finished our second remodel of the house, and we love it,” says Suarez. “And in the last year we’ve seen a new demographic of young people, Hispanic people, white people, gay and straight people all moving in.”

Suarez is a fan of the Rock Creek golf course, the Scandinavian restaurant Domku, and Fusion, an Indian restaurant. Sala Thai, a local chain, is opening above the Petworth Metro station. Says Suarez: “You can see and feel the change in the neighborhood.”


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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 05/01/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles