The conventional wisdom of real estate is location, location, location. Washingtonians always have paid extra to have easy access to the city. In DC, the period homes of neighborhoods like Georgetown, Kalorama, and Massachusetts Avenue Heights have always boasted high price tags. In Maryland and Virginia, the greatest number of homes over the $1-million mark can be found on the tree-lined streets of established neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, Bethesda, McLean, and Old Town as well as the big lawns and wooded lots of Potomac and Great Falls. In recent years, prices for homes and condos along the Wilson Boulevard corridor in Arlington have skyrocketed.
But this year, houses sold for millions in areas like Vienna and Clarksburg. Why the high price tags so many miles from DC? Size, of course. Some of these homes could be small hotels. But homebuyers are also willing to pay top dollar for a distinctive design or for historic significance, acreage, and great views.
High-quality materials and extravagant details, especially with custom or recently renovated homes, can drive up prices. Mark Richardson, president of the remodeling firm Case Design, says high-end homeowners love luxurious touches. Richardson notes new trends such as showers with sleek frameless doors, elaborate lighting, and dual showerheads and kitchen appliances designed to look like–and cost as much as–sculpture. Expensive homes no longer have closets–they have "dressing rooms."
Here's a look at some of the big home deals of 2005:
Real-estate developer Mark Lerner sold an eight-bedroom, ten-bathroom house on Iron Gate Road in Potomac for $5.2 million. The 16,000-square-foot house sits on more than two acres. Lerner is part owner of the Washington Capitals and a principal of Lerner Enterprises of Bethesda.
Neurosurgeon Yonas Zegeye and his wife, H. Seleshi Zegeye, sold Marwood, a historic riverfront estate in Potomac, to telecommunications executive Chris Rogers and his wife, Nalini, for $4.91 million. The chateaulike mansion was rented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as John F. Kennedy's parents, Joseph and Rose Kennedy, in the 1930s. Built in 1931, the 11-bedroom, 11-bathroom house sits on 13 acres and has views of the Potomac River. Rogers was one of the founders of Fleet Call, which became Nextel Communications.
Finance expert Kenneth Brody bought a seven-bedroom Colonial in Kalorama for $4.7 million, then put the house back on the market seven months later for $5.3 million. Brody, who cofounded Taconic Capital Advisors, an investment firm, is former head of the Export-Import Bank and a former Goldman Sachs executive.
Food-service executive Warren Thompson put up $4.49 million for a Colonial in Vienna that boasts eight bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, and a four-car garage. Thompson is president of Thompson Hospitality, which operates food-service accounts, mostly on college campuses, throughout the country.
Entrepreneur Steve Chapin paid $4 million for a 5,300-square-foot house on Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda. Chapin has started several tech companies including Lifeminders, an electronic reminder service that he sold in 2001.
Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, bought a new six-bedroom, eight-bathroom house in DC's Kent area for the asking price of $3.75 million. The 9,000-square-foot home has six fireplaces. Cicerone is an atmospheric scientist.
Dermatologist Tina Alster and her husband, Paul Frazer, paid $3.7 million for a five-bedroom stucco house in Kent. The new house has seven bathrooms and five fireplaces. A former Canadian diplomat, Frazer is a consultant for the Livingston Group, a lobbying firm.
Businessman Elliot Gerson and his wife, Amy, an advertising and publishing executive, traded in their Great Falls Colonial for a Beaux Arts Kalorama mansion. The couple collected $3.7 million from Fried Frank lawyer Charles "Rick" Rule for the Great Falls home that boasts an outdoor kitchen, infinity pool, nine fireplaces, and a lighted tennis court. Their Kalorama home–purchased for $3.6 million from interior designer Mary Drysdale–has a library, sculpture garden, and a roof deck. Gerson, who has run several startup companies, was an adviser to Senator Joseph Lieberman's presidential campaign. He is an executive vice president at the Aspen Institute.
Scoring Big In Virginia
Northern Virginia is the region of choice for top professional athletes and coaches.
Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels bought a six-bedroom contemporary home in Vienna's Browns Mill Forest neighborhood for $1.9 million. The stone-and-stucco home has a three-car garage and sits on a two-acre lot.
Skins wide receiver James Thrash paid $1.3 million for a four-bedroom, six-bathroom Colonial in Loudoun County. Sitting on 12 acres near Hamilton, the new house has two kitchens, a conservatory, and media and exercise rooms.
Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III bought a Colonial in Arlington's Country Club Grove neighborhood for $1.5 million.
After getting $1.78 million for his Spring Valley home, Missouri senator Christopher "Kit" Bond paid $2.2 million for a similar house–both five-bedroom, five-bathroom brick Colonials–near DC's Observatory Circle.
Alaska senator Ted Stevens traded his four-bedroom $1.55-million Colonial in DC's Foxhall neighborhood for a $1.43-million townhouse on Highland Court in Burleith. Although he left behind a winetasting room in his old home, he gained a library and a garden terrace.
Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln's five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial sold for $1.5 million in Arlington.
White House budget czar Josh Bolten paid $1.53 million for a five-bedroom Great Falls home with an elevator, hot tub, pool, and three-car garage.
Media Buys–And Sales
Radio personality Donnie Simpson paid just over $3 million for an eight-bedroom, 12-bathroom Colonial in Potomac. The 15,000-square-foot house has a two-story English library and whole-house surround-sound stereo.
Journalist Alan Murray and his wife, Lori, a consultant, sold a five-bedroom brick house in DC's Kent neighborhood for $2.65 million to political writer Elizabeth Drew and her husband, David Felton, a computer consultant. The gated home has a two-story entry foyer, embassy-size dining room, library, and a pool. Murray is an assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal.
NBC White House correspondent David Gregory paid $2.45 million for a five-bedroom Colonial in DC's Wesley Heights. The house has a music room, two-sided fireplace, three-car garage, and hot tub.
Television journalist Peter Barnes and his wife, Cheryl, a children's-book author, sold a brick home on Russell Road in Alexandria for $1.95 million. Barnes is the DC bureau chief of Hearst-Argyle Television.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne bought a shingle-and-stone Colonial in Bethesda's Glen Echo Heights for $1.6 million. The 2004 house has ten-foot ceilings on the first floor, three fireplaces, and an elevator.
Roll Call founder Sid Yudain sold a four-bedroom, five-bathroom home in DC's Palisades neighborhood for $1.5 million. The house has views of the Potomac, an outdoor pool, and a covered stage and tiki bar.
Journalist Ron Brownstein and wife, Eileen McMenamin, Senator John McCain's communications director, bought a six-bedroom Colonial on Chestnut Street in Bethesda for $1.2 million. Brownstein is a political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.
Washington Week moderator Gwen Ifill bought a five-bedroom Tudor on 33rd Street in Chevy Chase for $1.18 million. The house has a master bedroom suite with cathedral ceilings and French doors opening onto a balcony.
Power Players Trading Up
Although husband-and-wife political sparring partners James Carville and Mary Matalin like Old Town Alexandria, they seem to be having a hard time finding the right house. In 2003, they sold a Colonial townhouse overlooking the Potomac for $1.4 million and bought a home a few blocks away for $1.7 million. This year, they sold that house for $2.4 million and paid $3.9 million for a five-bedroom Colonial townhouse in Ford's Landing with water views from every window, a library, sauna, and exercise room. Carville ran Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Matalin is a GOP operative and former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Former Michigan governor John M. Engler, now president of the National Association of Manufacturers, bought a $2.9-million Colonial in McLean's Kedleston neighborhood. The six-bedroom, eight-bathroom house has a bar area and an outdoor pool.
Lobbyist James P. Fabiani, founder of the DC government-relations firm Fabiani & Company, sold his McLean Colonial for $2.67 million. The house has a pool, master bedroom with breakfast bar, and exercise room.
Longtime GOP operative Peter Teeley paid $3.5 million for a stone-and-stucco Colonial on two acres adjacent to Congressional Country Club. The six-bedroom house has an indoor pool, three-car garage, and elevator.
Former secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman sold her Victorian townhouse in Alexandria's Ford's Landing neighborhood for $1.93 million.
Lobbyist Steve Ricchetti, former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton, sold a five-bedroom Colonial in McLean for $2.25 million.
Ralph Neas paid $1.63 million for a seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom Colonial with a pool in Bethesda's Spring Hill neighborhood. Neas heads People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group.
Hilary Rosen, former director of the Recording Industry Association of America, and Elizabeth Birch, former Human Rights Campaign executive director, sold a four-bedroom Colonial in Spring Valley for $1.55 million.
CEO-Style Condos And Colonials
Tech stars, real-estate moguls, and businessmen paid big money for houses. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina spent $3.6 million for a three-bedroom condo on South Street in Georgetown. The condo, part of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences, has an Italian-style entryway, marble baths, and views of the Potomac.
Real-estate and construction magnate Norman Rales sold a six-bedroom brick Colonial on River Road in Potomac for $2.5 million. The house sits on four acres with a pool and tennis court.
Internet executive Linda Dozier paid the asking price of $1.85 million for a four-bedroom Colonial with an outdoor pool on High Hill Place in Great Falls. After cofounding Navisoft, a Web-server system, Dozier worked in corporate development at AOL. She is president of In2Books, a nonprofit literacy program.
Developer Michael Gewirz sold a five-bedroom Colonial in DC's Cleveland Park for $1.8 million. Gewirz is an executive with Potomac Investment Properties, a family-run development firm.
Developer Gerald T. Halpin bought a brick condo in McLean's Evans Farm neighborhood for $1.6 million. Halpin is the president of West Group, a commercial real-estate development firm in McLean.