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$500,000 for a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath home on five acres? SOLD.
Live by the water in Lewes for less than $800,000. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Sale price: $365,100. Where: Cumberland.

Photograph courtesy of Coldwell Banker.

For the price of a three-bedroom split-level on a fifth of an acre in Rockville, this three-bedroom contemporary sits on 23 wooded acres.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 08/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
What two people learned by leaving the capital for a quiet Virginia home. By Howard Means
Howard and Candy Means at home in Millwood, Virginia, population 100. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

So, you have a yearning for small-town life? Maybe it’s the traffic that has finally gotten to you, or crime, noise, McMansions, or the relentless pace of urban existence. They all helped drive my wife and me from Inside the Beltway a decade ago. Beware, though: While small towns have much to offer, they’re not fail-safe escapes from the inevitable challenges of communal living.

Take Millwood, our little village of about 100 souls just on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River, at the far end of Virginia horse country. For my wife and me, it was pretty much love at first sight after months of searching: a 1790 house on a bluff overlooking a still-working mill, a millrace that sings us to sleep at night, and even (inexplicably) broadband service.

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Posted at 10:08 AM/ET, 08/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Frankly Realtors’ Frank LLosa shares his secrets. By Michelle Thomas
Illustration via Shutterstock.

So you’ve fallen head over heels with a particular neighborhood—but none of its homes are on the market. What to do? Don’t give up. Just because there are no homes currently listed doesn’t mean that no homes are for sale. You just need to be strategic with your search. Realtor Frank LLosa of Frankly Realtors shares a few pro tips on how to find—and get inside—those unlisted properties.

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Posted at 12:14 PM/ET, 06/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Lots of entertaining space, and a restoration by an award-winning designer.
Photograph by David Pipkin.

Sold: $2,600,000.

Listed: $2,690,000.

Days on market: 1.

Where: West End.

Style: Contemporary townhouse.

Bragging points: Three bedrooms, five baths, elevator, roof deck with fireplace and hot tub; restored by award-winning designer Darryl Carter.

Who: Sold by John Whyte, who oversees outreach for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

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Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 05/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A look at what makes these area neighborhoods so desirable. By Marisa M. Kashino, Harrison Smith
This six-bedroom in Chevy Chase went for $2.2 million. Photograph by David Pipkin

Though Washington’s real-estate market was less frenzied in 2014—with 6 percent fewer sales than in 2013—there’s no question we still live in a seller’s paradise, where low inventory often pushes buyers to extremes. We all know the stories: The friend who bid up a property’s asking price by tens of thousands and waived a home inspection. The coworker who landed a dozen offers after the first open house. The neighbors who sold for 25 percent more than they paid three years ago.

While sales may have slowed last year, 2015 is off to a healthy start. According to the analytics firm RealEstate Business Intelligence—which supplied all the data for this report—both the total number of transactions and median prices were up this January and February compared to last. And with spring finally here, the market is sure to get hotter.

Where You’ll Pay the Most

These six neighborhoods boast the priciest homes in Washington—though interest in some may be waning.

1. Great Falls

Median sales price: $1,112,500.

$2,750,000 Great Falls This 10,000-square-foot house sold in August. Photograph by HomeVisit

22066 While the number of sales in the well-heeled Fairfax County suburb fell by 30 percent, the homes that did sell made Great Falls the only local Zip code with a median price above $1 million in 2014. The sluggish sales volume, says real-estate agent Debbie McGuire, may reflect an aging inventory. While new homes go for upward of $1.8 million, many slightly more affordable options ($1.3 million to $1.6 million) were built in the ’90s and have had few updates, according to McGuire: “Buyers just aren’t interested.”

2. McLean

Median sales price: $960,000.

22101 Already sought after for its schools and proximity to DC, McLean could see even more demand this year thanks to last summer’s opening of Metro’s Silver Line. Agent Barbara Lewis says “inventory is tightening up” for homes under $1 million, and more buyers and builders are looking for properties to tear down and rebuild from scratch. Prices have held steady, appreciating just 1 percent last year.

3. Chevy Chase DC

Median sales price: $925,000.

$1,190,000 Chevy Chase DC Families love the neighborhood for its schools and tree-lined streets. Photograph of Chevy Chase DC house by Rina Kunk

20015 For families wanting the space and tranquility of suburban life along with the amenities and proximity of urban life, it’s tough to beat this tree-lined Zip code with attractive schools. Some houses are grand—one reason the neighborhood is among the area’s priciest—and even modest homes attract intense interest. Agent Heather Davenport had a client last year who had to face off with 12 other buyers for “a starter house.” Her client won, but not without going $112,000 above list price and waiving a home inspection.

4. Georgetown

Median sales price: $900,000.

20007 Though the neighborhood’s 2014 median price remained unchanged from 2013, Georgetown is still a seller’s market and one of the most desirable Zip codes in the District. Among last year’s biggest transactions: the Williams-Addison House, a nine-bed, 13-bath mansion on 31st Street that sold for $16.1 million, beating out any other DC home in 2014.

5. Chevy Chase

Median sales price: $899,000.

20815 After more than 11 percent appreciation last year, prices in this Montgomery County neighborhood have surpassed their 2006 peak. According to agent Melinda Estridge, demand has largely been driven by a desire for convenience—the Zip code is close to Rock Creek Park, the Red Line, and plenty of shopping. It also boasts a mix of historic homes and luxury condominiums.

6. Potomac

Median sales price: $888,000.

20854 Montgomery County's land of sprawling mansions continues to draw interest due to attractive schools, the sheer size of its homes, and their relative seclusion. But the number of sales fell by 6 percent in 2014, and the median price took a slight, 2.4-percent dip, too. As more buyers prioritize walkability and urban-feeling environments, the trend could continue. Says Estridge: "People would rather have something closer in."

Where Your Dollar Won’t Stretch

Price per square foot is arguably the real way to determine which neighborhoods are the most expensive. Here’s where you’ll get the least space for your money.

West End

Median price per square foot: $675.

20037 Even with sales volume down by 22 percent, price per square foot jumped $35 in the fashionable neighborhood west of downtown DC. Prices are buoyed by the ultra-luxe condos favored by international buyers, such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences, though older Foggy Bottom rowhouses are also included in the Zip code.

Logan Circle

Median price per square foot: $632.

20005 Though there’s no question Logan is one of DC’s trendiest neighborhoods, the amount of competition here can surprise even experienced agents. Kevin Wood listed a house on Wallach Place late last year for just under $1.2 million. “I didn’t intentionally price it low,” the agent says. “We looked at the comps, and that’s what we thought it would sell for.” He was wrong. Three cash offers immediately came in, and the 1,500-square-foot rowhouse sold for $1.3 million.

Georgetown

Median price per square foot: $598.

20007 Though the neighborhood’s 2014 median price remained unchanged from 2013, Georgetown is still a seller’s market and one of the most desirable Zip codes in the District. Among last year’s biggest transactions: the Williams-Addison House, a nine-bed, 13-bath mansion on 31st Street that sold for $16.1 million, beating out any other DC home in 2014.

Adams Morgan/U Street

Median price per square foot: $594.

$1,750,000 Adams Morgan This rowhouse almost hit its $1.8-million asking price. Photograph by David Pipkin

20009 Prices stayed relatively stagnant last year, but this sprawling Zip code—which also includes parts of Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights—remains one of DC’s most expensive. Row-house renovations and continued con-do development, particularly on 14th Street, helped give the area more sales (928) than anywhere else in the city.

Dupont/Downtown DC

Median price per square foot: $563.

20036 Don’t let the area’s relatively low median price of $330,000 fool you. Residences in this apartment-and-office-heavy Zip code tend toward the tiny, which ex-plains the hefty price per square foot. The area seems a perfect fit for the 90 micro-units (all 400 square feet or less) that it’s slated to get with the conversion of Dupont Circle’s Patterson Mansion.

Where Homes Sell Fast

Properties spent the fewest days on the market in these areas—so if you spot a house you want, act quickly.

1. Arlington

Median days on market: 7.

$925,000 Arlington This five-bedroom Colonial lasted just nine days on the market. Photograph by BTW images

22205 There are a number of reasons this Zip code remains among the most desirable in Washington. Compared with other areas in expensive North Arlington, the housing here covers a range of prices, says agent Joy Deevy, from townhouses for less than $600,000 to new single-family homes for around $1.6 million. Buyers flock to the Zip code’s especially popular Westover neighborhood for its walkability to restaurants and shopping.

2. Del Ray

Median days on market: 7.

22301 In addition to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood—with a quaint Main Street America-style commercial strip, making it a big draw for families—the Zip code also includes Rosemont, a neighborhood within walking distance of Old Town Alexandria, and Potomac Yard, a brand-new development of condos and townhouses, with a Metro stop in the works. Add all these things up and it’s no wonder competition is stiff when properties become available.

3. Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant

Median days on market: 8.

20010 The number of sales here rocketed 32 percent in 2014, and on average, properties went for more than their asking price. One contributor to the Zip code’s continued rise: the fact that Columbia Heights’ commercial corridor is no longer dominated by big-box chains on 14th Street—the growing district of bars and restaurants along 11th Street to the east has made the neighborhood even more attractive. And as prices directly to the south in Logan Circle and the U Street corridor get more astronomical, agent Kevin Wood says more of his clients are focusing on 20010.

4. Navy Yard/Eastern Market.

Median days on market: 9.

20003 Navy Yard, the Southeast DC neighborhood near Nationals Park, feels like a new city, with its luxury condo and apartment buildings, restaurants, and beautiful Yards Park—a public space finally allowing residents to take advantage of the Anacostia riverfront. The Zip code also includes Eastern Market and two other Metro stops—Capitol South and Potomac Avenue—adding to its allure for commuters. With nearly 2,000 more residential units being built, the neighborhood seems poised for even more growth.

5. Logan Circle

Median days on market: 9.

$3,900,000 Logan Circle In November, a five-story Victorian become the neighborhood’s most expensive home ever sold. Photograph by Marlon Crutchfield Photography

20005 Though there’s no question Logan is one of DC’s trendiest neighborhoods, the amount of competition here can surprise even experienced agents. Kevin Wood listed a house on Wallach Place late last year for just under $1.2 million. “I didn’t intentionally price it low,” the agent says. “We looked at the comps, and that’s what we thought it would sell for.” He was wrong. Three cash offers immediately came in, and the 1,500-square-foot rowhouse sold for $1.3 million.

6. Chevy Chase DC

Median days on market: 9.

20015 For families wanting the space and tranquility of suburban life along with the amenities and proximity of urban life, it’s tough to beat this tree-lined Zip code with attractive schools. Some houses are grand—one reason the neighborhood is among the area’s priciest—and even modest homes attract intense interest. Agent Heather Davenport had a client last year who had to face off with 12 other buyers for “a starter house.” Her client won, but not without going $112,000 above list price and waiving a home inspection.

Where Prices are on the Rise

These neighborhoods—all areas where flippers and homebuyers can still expect a healthy return on their investment—saw double-digit increases in 2014.

Riverdale

One-year price growth: 28.9 percent.

Median sales price: $205,000.

$420,000 Riverdale The median sales price here climbed by almost 30 percent last year. Photograph of Riverdale house by Gloria Rojas/Fairfax Realty

20737 Once over-shadowed by neighboring Hyattsville and College Park, this Zip code—which contains most of River-dale Park and East Riverdale—is beginning to boom. Helping to fuel the uptick is a $250-million mixed-use development—which will be anchored by the first Whole Foods in Prince George’s County—as well as the prospect of a Purple Line Metro stop (although that part is far from certain).

Landover

One-year price growth: 27.3 percent.

Median sales price: $168,000.

20785 Despite huge appreciation, the median price in this Prince George’s Zip code is nearly $60,000 cheaper than in nearby Hyattsville, a sign that there’s still a lot of investment potential here. “Inventory is extremely low,” says real-estate agent Ann Barrett, and development projects along Route 202 will likely spur additional demand. The FBI is also considering relocating its headquarters to the Ted Lerner-owned Landover Mall site, which would bring 11,000 employees to the neighborhood.

District Heights

One-year price growth: 26.9 percent.

Median sales price: $165,000.

20747 Though sales in the area, which includes District Heights and Forestville, declined 19 percent, prices rose 27 percent, with new homes in the Prince George’s Zip code approaching $400,000. Realtor Irene Smith says more young families are moving to the suburb, drawn to its convenient location—midway between Metro’s Blue and Green lines, just off the Beltway and Suitland Parkway—and its historic houses.

Brentwood

One-year price growth: 22.1 percent.

Median sales price: $197,500.

20722 As part of the Gateway Arts District in Prince George’s County, a half mile from the DC line, Brentwood has seen renewed interest from developers catering to its young residents. Agent Ed Haraway says young buyers are drawn to this and other areas along the Route 1 corridor (where Rhode Island Avenue exits DC) because they’re reasonably priced and a short drive to the District. Though on average, houses in Brentwood are going for more than list price, buyers can still find affordable single-family homes.

Anacostia/Hillcrest

One-year price growth: 21 percent.

Median sales price: $242,000.

20020 Sales volume increased by nearly 20 percent in 2014, and particularly in Anacostia’s historic district, bidding wars have become an expected part of the homebuying process. Why is the neighborhood so hot? “It’s the last affordable area in DC,” says broker Darrin Davis. In addition to the spurt of rehabs among the aging houses, new condos along Suitland Parkway are filling up. For now, says Duane Gautier, CEO of Anacostia’s nonprofit ARCH Development Corporation, “the supply is there” to support newcomers. In three to five years, however, that could change.

Posted at 10:19 AM/ET, 04/22/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
In colder months, buyers can get an edge in Washington’s seller’s market. By Marisa M. Kashino
Photograph by Jo Ann Snover/Alamy.

Walter Stillwell, an attorney at Discovery Communications, and his wife, Lisa Sanchez, had been house-hunting in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, and Kensington for nearly eight months without success. “Anytime we found a place we were remotely interested in, of course there were five offers the next day,” says Stillwell. “We were frankly just jaded.”

Then on a Thursday in December, he went for a run near Discovery’s Silver Spring headquarters and noticed a house with a for-sale sign out front. “It was everything we were looking for,” he says. Though the holidays were approaching, the sellers had to list because of an impending move out of town.

Stillwell and Sanchez toured the home the following Saturday with their agents, Heather Davenport and Matt McHugh of Lindsay Reishman Real Estate. The sellers had an open house planned for Sunday—when an ice storm happened to hit. On Monday, Stillwell and Sanchez submitted one of only two bids and finally bought a house.

They credit a couple of factors that can make Washington’s winter market easier to manage: bad weather that keeps some of the competition away and motivated sellers who, for one reason or another, don’t have the luxury of waiting for the busier spring season. Here are four other advantages buyers have during the colder months.

Houses sit longer.

During winter, there’s a better chance Washington buyers will get a night to sleep on one of the biggest investments of their lives—something not always possible in our high-pressure market. On average, properties here spend a median of 35 days on the market, according to a ten-year analysis by RealEstate Business Intelligence. But in January and February, that creeps up to 48 and 47 days. Come May, it plummets to 23.

Contingencies aren’t a deal-breaker.

Because listings tend to last longer, buyers also aren’t as likely to feel pressured into waiving safety nets such as a home inspection. “That’s significant—the fact that you can have a little bit more of a traditional buying experience,” says Robert Jenets, president of Stuart & Maury Realtors.

It’s not just about the bottom line.

Given that many wintertime sellers list in the off-season out of necessity (as in Stillwell and Sanchez’s case), agents say including terms that will accommodate them carries more weight. For instance, a buyer who agrees to a quick close that allows the seller to start an out-of-state job on time might be just as attractive—or more so—as a buyer offering a few thousand extra dollars.

Homes are cheaper.

All of these factors add up to better deals. Though inventory tends to shrink as temperatures drop (the biggest disadvantage to winter house-hunting), shoppers who can find what they’re looking for pay less. The median prices for sales that closed in Washington last January and February were $370,000 and $375,000, compared with $430,000 and $433,000 in May and June.


This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:09 AM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Its seller worked with the Wolf of Wall Street and advised pro sports players—then got caught up in Ponzi scheme allegations. By Marisa M. Kashino

By most measures, Washington is a great place to be a seller—the real-estate market is booming, and bidding wars are the norm. But there are some exceptions, like the recent sale of a seven-bedroom, seven-and-a-half-bath Colonial on Marwood Hill Drive in Potomac, which was listed as a potential short sale. Its former owner, Jinesh "Hodge" Brahmbhatt, sold the home for $1.9 million, according to Maryland property records; he bought it in 2006 for $2.6 million.

You might've read about the former financial adviser last year when he was under investigation for steering his athlete clients, including former Washington running back Clinton Portis, Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight, and 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, to invest in an alleged $18 million Ponzi scheme. Brahmbhatt's lawyer, Alan Futerfas, says his client didn't know the investments were fraudulent and was deceived by the scheme's operator.

Nonetheless, Brahmbhatt, who in the 90s worked at Stratton Oakmont—the brokerage house made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the The Wolf of Wall Street—lost his firm, Jade Wealth Management. And the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority barred him from the securities industry for failing to appear at a disciplinary hearing related to the alleged fraud. Futerfas says Brahmbhatt had to sell the Potomac house as a result.

Among the home's features: a grand two-story foyer, a home theater, a massive master closet, and two kitchens.

Find Marisa M. Kashino on Twitter at @marisakashino.

Posted at 01:08 PM/ET, 10/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What we would buy if we had $2.75 million. By Michelle Thomas
All photos by Fusion Photography by HomeVisit.

In DC real estate, there are few things more enviable than a perfectly renovated old rowhouse—and this particular one is a triple threat, combining a glam restoration with a beautiful private patio and a killer location. The turn-of-the-century end-unit rowhouse sits on one of our favorite city streets, Q Street in eastern Georgetown—a quiet, shady street conveniently positioned just a few blocks from gorgeous Montrose Park and Dumbarton Oaks. The four-bedroom home is a sleek stunner, recently redone with a contemporary style that includes some majorly chic touches. Some of our favorite details? Downstairs, we love the foyer’s bold checkerboard flooring, the kitchen’s Carrera marble counters, custom Porcelanosa glossy white lacquer cabinetry, and statement dining chandelier, and the living room’s modern marble fireplace. Upstairs, the master bedroom is designed with high-drama black wall, and the spa-like master bath features a freestanding soaking tub, eye-catching tilework, and a huge walk-in rain shower. But the best part, perhaps, is the private garden in the rear of the home­—a two-level, surprisingly deep patio space with a cozy stone fireplace area and ample built-in seating throughout. It practically begs for summer entertaining. Fingers crossed for an invite.

This home is listed at $2.75 million. Take a look below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for the full tour.

 

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Posted at 11:59 AM/ET, 06/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Redfin reports on the neighborhoods that mark the largest flipping price gains nationwide—and our city counts four of the top ten. By Michelle Thomas
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

To locals, it’ll come as no surprise that renovating and reselling homes is big business in Washington’s many booming neighborhoods. Now, confirmation: A report released Thursday from the real-estate site Redfin ranked the country’s top ten neighborhoods for price increases due to flipping—and the Washington market counts four of the ten. Which one comes in on top? That would be Petworth, which ranked number one in the country with an average of $312,400 gained per flip. Next up is Brookland, listed at number three with $271,900 per flip, with Fort Totten and Stadium Armory a little further down the list, at numbers six and seven with $233,000 and $230,400 gained, respectively. Other cities with neighborhoods in the top ten include Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Redfin defines a flip as a home that was purchased and sold again within a year—and of course, a pricing increase doesn’t necessarily mean a profit, since improvement costs are often sunk into the home before reselling. 

The report includes a few other interesting tidbits about home flipping in our city: Last year, more than 4,000 area homes were flipped in about 172 days, according to Redfin’s analysis of MLS stats—and with 2013’s average of $104,100 gain per flip (that’s higher than the national average of $90,200), don’t expect it to slow any time soon. This year is already on pace to lap last year’s total.

Head to Redfin to see the full report.

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Posted at 11:53 AM/ET, 06/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Local realtor Erin Mendenhall shares her top tips for first-time buyers. By Michelle Thomas
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

The first time you do anything can be a bit tricky. But throw in a mortgage, a contract, and a potentially life-altering decision? That’s a whole new level of scary. We checked in with local realtor Erin Mendenhall of McLean’s Mendenhall Properties, and she shared her expert wisdom on what to know when you’re first setting out on the house hunt. The number one thing to remember: “Your agent should make you look good,” she says. “Just like a Hollywood agent lands celebs dream roles, or an NFL agent can take a college athlete to the big leagues—you want your agent to make you look good and to fight for you.” Noted. Read on for the rest of Mendenhall’s advice.

1) Get help. “A licensed real-estate agent is like both a matchmaker and a lifeguard—they’ll hook you up with your perfect home and throw you a lifeline to help guide you through the tricky process. But don’t just rely on us. You should also consult with your local bank, and seek a different opinion. Treat this decision as if it were a medical decision. You financial health is just as important. So many people go online to see how much they think they can afford. But if you broke a bone, you wouldn’t go on WebMD—you’d see a doctor.

2) Ask for a personal recommendation. “This business is all about who you know. So—who do you know? Have any of your friends recently bought a condo? Ask for their agent. Your agent is someone you need to trust. You’re going to have a million questions throughout this process—so make sure to think about that when choosing the right fit for you. Will they respond to text messages? Will they e-mail you back within an hour? Or will they make you feel like you work for them? That’s not the way it should work. Remember that.

3) Know what to expect from your agent. “At your first face-to-face buyer consultation meeting, your agent should explain to you the different representation agreements for Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Yep, all those agreements are different. This meeting should be about you: What’s your ideal home? What are your financial concerns? What is your timeline? You should leave that meeting with concrete steps that you’ll make along the process. Think of it as a syllabus of sorts with a college professor at the start of a semester.”

4) Be smart about your loan. “Your agent should fight for you with a lender, and your agent should represent you in a face-to-face meeting with your lender. If you’re taking out a loan, your agent should know before the meeting how much you can afford. Do not let the lender oversell and overpromise how much you can afford. Consult with your bank ahead of this meeting. And whatever you do, don’t use an online website (cough, cough, Lendingtree.com) to fill out your financial information.” 

5) Prepare, prepare, prepare. “Remember when you were applying for colleges? You had your SAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a résumé. This is more important. Have two years of tax returns, two months of bank statements, and two months of pay stubs.”

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Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 06/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()