Real Estate

It’s So Tough to Sell DC Condos That One Agent Brought in Spider-Man to Help

Can a superhero save this listing?

Spider-man, relaxing in the living room of a Kingman Park condo that's on the market for $399,999. Photos by Kevin Allen.

The 720-square-foot, two-bedroom condo in Northeast DC’s Kingman Park first went up for sale in May. It sat for nearly two months before the listing agent, Jaime Willis, pulled it off the market. Once fall arrived—and, presumably, more potential buyers returned from summer travel—she and her client decided to try again. But still, the listing has languished.

Covid, and all its accompanying lifestyle changes, have made small units like this one a much tougher sell. While single-family homes have flown off the market (often at six figures over list price), it’s not unusual these days for condos to sit for weeks or months. To set her listing apart, Willis decided it was time to do something, um, heroic: “I hired a birthday-party Spider-Man.”

She recently staged a photo shoot in the condo, with the superhero as her model. You can spot him in the kitchen, unpacking groceries on the waterfall-edge peninsula; and in the main bedroom, unwinding after a long day; and in the bathroom, luxuriating in the soaking tub; and in the hallway, making use of the in-unit washer and dryer. Willis posted the new photos on Monday. While she hasn’t yet seen an uptick in showings, she says the listing is getting a lot more clicks—and in this market, that’s progress.

“The crazy thing is, we don’t even get eyeballs. To sell a condo like this, you need like 30 or 40 people to come through and see it, and then one of them will buy it. [We’ve only had] like one showing a week,” she says. “Giving the condo away doesn’t work…You could drop the price a lot, and it doesn’t seem to change the amount of interest.”

Because of the pandemic, agents say the pool of first-time buyers who would typically be interested in a condo like this one—priced just shy of $400,000 and close to Capitol Hill and H Street—has been significantly diluted. Some have moved back in with family, or opted to delay putting down roots now that their jobs are remote. Others have shifted their searches to the burbs, where the same budget might buy a bit of outdoor space and a home office.

This means that condo-sellers don’t just have to compete for buyers—they have to compete for gimmicks. Initially, Willis planned to drum up interest in the Kingman Park unit by including a free Peloton with the sale. But right after pitching her client on the idea, another agent from her brokerage tacked a free Peloton onto their condo listing. That’s when Willis knew she’d have “to do something crazier.”

Take a look at the results.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.