By now, you’ve read something like a zillion stories about people fleeing cities in search of more space because of Covid-19. But Gina Hardin and Chris Hartranft did the exact opposite.
The couple, both 52, lived in a single-family home in Kensington, not far from the Mormon temple, for more than 13 years. They had all the amenities that have become especially desirable during the pandemic: plenty of space, their own big yard, the ability to easily avoid running into other people. But a few months into the public health crisis, they were craving a major change of scenery. Hardin, who does sales for Thomson Reuters, and Hartranft, who’s in finance, say their suburban environs had begun to feel too isolated. They missed traveling, and just seeing other humans. “We thought, what do we like doing when we travel?” says Hardin. “Sitting outside, people-watching—all the things we weren’t doing in our own city.”
After spending a day this summer wandering around Navy Yard—going to Ice Cream Jubilee and reminiscing about seeing Nats games and DC United matches in the neighborhood—they decided to put their house on the market. In about a week, they had five offers, and they closed in September.
The couple toured a number of apartment buildings in and around Navy Yard, ultimately settling on a unit at the Watermark, a new development on Buzzard Point. Though not as spacious as their house, it’s still big enough—at 1,350 square feet—that they have separate areas for working from home. They say the other residents are respectful about keeping a safe social distance and wearing masks at all times, and that building management keeps the common areas sparkling clean. The takeout options are much more plentiful, too: “When we were in Kensington, we’d order pizza, subs, or Chinese,” says Hartranft. “That’s all there was.” Now they enjoy walking to all the restaurants around Nats Park, and at the Wharf.
So, is their story indicative of another Covid real estate trend? Not exactly. Inquiries to several similar apartment buildings didn’t yield any other examples quite like Hardin and Hartranft. And the latest DC stats show that as the pandemic marches on, rents here are continuing to fall, and vacancies in luxury buildings are continuing to climb. Still, for anyone considering ditching city-living for the ‘burbs, it’s not a bad reminder that the proverbial grass is always a little greener.