Monday, January 28, 2008

Buying houses is a human a thing.


This human endeavor of creating and finding a home ( both practical and yet every bit motivated by the same spirit that is the impetus for rearranging the furniture or planting a flower garden) will not cease simply because an article in the Washington Post wants to paint the DC region in broad strokes of crisis. (The District home prices ares down only 2% overall and actually higher than 2006 for two months in the fall--- if you read the fine print!)

Building a home (or buying and establishing a home) is a fundamental human endeavor. There are many creatures who participate in the act of building their homes. Beavers come to mind, as do birds. ( But foxes are more renovators than builders of new.) At the beginning of human civilization when homo sapiens generally ceased to be nomadic, food surplus from the expansion of subsistence farming allowed a diversification of societal roles and the development of specialized jobs. Art began to flourish, writers recorded events, trade skills for the building of homes in villages and cities became respected and permanent unique contributors to society. The need for shelter, basic for human existence, now was not just a practical concern but a channel for human expression and beauty, lasting tributes to the growth of civilization. I think of the mosaic tile floors with their testimony to Roman life among the flourish of colored pieces requiring much time to assemble. I think, too, of the Greek adornment of the Corinthian column and in the later years the expression of humanity in the great cathedrals—many planned and constructed during periods of economic crisis.

Finding a home as a human endeavor is very much like funeral industry. We are down to basic human activities that go to the root of being human: birth, living and death. That second one requires a home of some sort. Humans must build their world, unlike the wild animals whose instincts take care of the living. So we build our homes. They are expressions of humanity’s search for happiness. We never take a break for or search for happiness for ourselves and our families. (Just watch HGTV for an afternoon!)

So I am not giving up on my career of helping people find the home that makes them happy. I am confident that people will continue to want:


A change of place

More space for a growing family

Less space and more decoration

Less space for a shrinking family

A place to not have to mow a lawn

A place close to a grocery store and a bank

A place that has more windows and light

A place to own

More comfortable living

A change of perspective

Seeking community

Saving the environment

Taking control of one’s life

Building a family and a future

Creative and aesthetic building is a human endeavor

Preserving history

All my listings from 290 k to 600 k have regular activity at this time. While it takes longer to come to agreement on price, I have made a living in this last slow year and 2008 for me has started out with more activity than 2007!

Let’s hear it for humanity!

Lincoln Heights & Richardson Dwellings


As part of the extremely successful Anacostia Waterfront Community Fair, the Washington, DC Economic Partnership had a booth displaying some unusual development news regarding Lincoln Heights & Richardson Dwellings. News to me, I had to pick up some informational packets they put together describing the project.

Here's what it says
"...the Lincoln Heights and Richardson Dwellings neighborhoods will become healthy mixed-income communities where residents have quality housing options, economic opportunities...the proposed plan is to created approximately 1,609 new mixed-income housing units of varying types, a new mixed-use town center and..."

Does anybody else know about Richardson Dwellings in Deanwood...did I overlook something?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fenty Offers $200 mil towards $1.1 billion Southwest Waterfront

It was announced this afternoon that Mayor Fenty has struck a deal with Hoffman-Struever Waterfront LLC for the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront property. As a part of the $1.1 billion redevelopment, the city will be contributing $200 million in public funding for the deal, mostly to pay for public parks, piers, infrastructure, bike trails, promenades etc. Most of the funding will come from tax increment financing as well as 'payment-in-lieu-of-taxes with the expectation that the '16 acres along the waterfront' will increase local taxes sixfold, from $5 million to $32 million. The last announcement of tax increment financing on a development was the 1150 room Convention Center Marriott Hotel.

The project is projected to incorporate "767 housing units, of which 231 will be affordable, 400,000 square feet of office space, 280,000 square feet of retail, 476,000 square feet of hotels and 150,000 square feet of cultural space...including a National Maritime Heritage Museum," according to the Washington Business Journal. In addition, JBG Companies agreed to offer their land to the partnership in exchange for a 358 room hotel as well as an estimated 45,000 square feet of retail.

The site itself totals 47 acres that stretches from the historic Fish Wharf to Ft. McNair which includes 14 acres of parks and open space. Additionally, according to DMPED,

Neighborhood Investment and Economic Opportunities:

  • $100 million in infrastructure upgrades, including new parks
  • New neighborhood-serving and regional retail
  • Expansion and improvements to the existing fish market to include public seating
  • Maritime education opportunities
  • Creation of 1,300 permanent jobs in a variety of industries
  • Creation of 3,000 construction jobs
  • Estimated $400 million in total contracts during the next seven years, including $140 million in contracts for certified local, small and disadvantaged businesses (LSDBEs).
Whats great about the project is its proximity to the other larger developments currently underway across the city. If you take a look at the map I have made, the project is amidst the new Half-Street Project from Monument Realty (light blue), the new baseball stadium (green, which incorporates Capitol Yards; four rental buildings and upwards of 1200 residential units, upcoming Poplar Point (pink)and has direct Ferry Access from the proposed route to and from Quantico base.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Broadcast Center One Moves Forward, $23 Million Awarded to Development


This week marks a historic period for the Shaw neighborhood as the city council approved a $23 million budget for Radio One's new headquarters, Broadcast Center One. The former Wonderbread Factory, owned by Douglas Jemal, will soon be transformed into the entertainment district of the city. The approved plans call for 103,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of retail, 180 rental apartments and 195 underground parking spots. According to the Washington Business Journal " D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty reached the deal with developers Four Points, Ellis Development Company and the Jarvis Company."

While the deal seems like nothing but an opportunity for the community, Radio One's profits for the third quarter of 2007 fell 40%, hardly a monument worth celebrating. So while the recent budget approval is great news, who knows if Radio One will be able to commit once the project is finished.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Calling Nothern Virginia Homeowners, the Grantors Tax is Now $.50 /$100, Up 500%

You heard right! As of the first of the year the grantors tax you pay for the purchase of your home has skyrocketed. Originally $.10 cents per $100 of the sales price, the new tax pushes 500% increases up to $.50 cents per $100 of the sales price.

Why the increase?

The NoVa transportation authority voted to increase the taxes to pay for transportation improvements in the most congested areas of Virginia. The counties the tax affects are Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties as well as the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Follow the rats to low-cost living in Logan Circle

Jesse and I were walking back from our tax-deductible business lunch at Subway when I pointed out a really cool building that would be a great condo conversion—and right next two Caribou Coffee on shady, boulevard-like Rhode Island avenue between 14th and 15th streets NW.

(It is a building I know well from my adventures trying to help several new young and shiny DC residents find a rental convenient to everything. To be honest, it is not the first place I show. We end up here after exhausting all other possibilities and credit scores. Of course, I know that the same sloppily- dressed guy in an ill-fitting pair of pants shirt and woven 80’s tie guy will be there doing word search puzzles in an empty office with an empty desk. He will shrug and silently walk us through the stuffy unattended lobby to see the worn-out apartments. We will follow the paths made by previous tenants in the parquet tile floors, dirty vertical blinds missing a few teeth, the smell of cheap lacquer, the fluorescent hum and the groovy pendant light inside the door. While the sales rep busily thumbs a text message (to WHOM? I wonder) we realize that it could be worse—and the price is right. (Initially, the Craigslist ad excites: great location, rooftop deck, great views, near Whole Food Market and Caribou etc---) But I had heard about rodents….)

So we walked closer to take a look. We were both caught off guard by the huge fluorescent signs posted in an upper floor’s windows facing Rhode Island: 47 Rats Killed, it read. “Don’t Rent Here.” So my hunch had been correct. And apartmentratings.com bloggers were not lying. Every market needs a place like this. I would just love to be able to buy it and transform it..

The rats have good taste…in design too. All that aside, it has great natural design. The place just needs to be gutted and given a second chance. It’s of concrete construction, retro chic lines, and young enough to be worth putting some work into .Many of the units whether one or two-bedroom, have two levels with high ceilings and great windows. This place seems ripe (and smells it!) if you can get your hands on it! BUT--Do rats have the “right of first refusal?”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Douglas Jemal Buys Again


The infamous developer for which I continually write about has just increased his real estate portfolio buy purchasing yet another property. According to the Washington Business Journal, "The American Immigration Lawyers Association has sold 918 F St. NW, a 30,977-square-foot, six-story historic office building in D.C.'s East End, to Douglas Development Corp. for an undisclosed amount."

The property was completely renovated in 2001 by the Association and conveys with a short-term sale-leaseback transaction. The association is renovating their new office at 1331 G St NW.

The sales was conducted by Jayne Shister, Brian Daly and Chris Woods of Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

DC Keeps on Trucking Despite the Housing Market



This afternoon while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic I couldn't help but take two photos of the cities development 'hot spots' from 395 just up from Results: The Gym. The first photo reflected the projects taking place in the Southeast quadrant near the new stadium and the second from the same location looking Northwest towards the National Memorial. One cant help but wonder how the construction can continue with the downturn in the market.

Monday, January 7, 2008

$2 Million Declined for $200,000 House




On the same day that I wrote the previous post (see below) I happened to come upon the infamous Ledo Pizza site on Mass Ave NW. Fortunately on this day I had my camera.

The owner, Mr Spriggs, turned down an offer upwards of $3 million from both Broadway Development and Penzance Company to purchase the 'spike' in the way of their development. At the time many would have called him rediculous for turning down such an offer on a home assessed by the DC Government at $199,000. Well, it didnt seem to phase him. Consistently turning down phone calls and meetings, he continued with his dream.

The two-story row home located quite inappropriately between two of the cities newest additions. This building, located in between the Dumont Condos, currently being built, and Penzance Company's 12 story commercial structure has been closed since construction started. The owner has plans though. He recently took out a $650,000 loan to open a Ledo Pizza on the site and will continue to sit tight while the city gets built up around him.

Good luck Mr Spriggs.

Douglas Jemal: More Places Than You Think


This afternoon while driving from my office located just around the corner from Logan Circle to one of my clients developments I happen to pass a building at the corner of Florida and Georgia Ave NW. To my surprise was the recent addition of 'for lease' signs in every window and right below was the infamous name Douglas Development. Thats right, DC's very own Trump owns this too and he's looking for a new tenant.



As an aside, the man is absolutely intelligent. History shows us his ability to choose wisely but upon closer consideration, most of his properties are either corner lots, 1+ acre parcels/assemblages or prevent someone else from having an assemblage. Keep his strategy in mind during your next investment....

Thursday, January 3, 2008

So Just How Many REOs are on the Market Right Now in DC?

The answer might surprise you. According to my research - 112.

With all of the recent talks about a downturn in the market I had to see just how the city faired compared with the rest of the country and I'd like to think that 112 is a rather low number.
The breakdown in DC...
.........................Active Cont Sold (w/i 90 Days)
Northwest..........56.......9.......23 (there is only 1 REO over $1 mil)
Northeast...........45......10......23
Southeast...........10.......3........7
Southwest..........1.........0........1


What does this tell us? With the understanding that many of the properties in Southeast DC fall within the conforming/conventional guidelines of Fannie Mae, I'd like to think that this is one of the most secure areas of the city to purchase.

If we compare this number to the amount of REOs on the market in the local counties...

284 - Montgomery County
324 - Prince Georges County
28 - Arlington County
56 - Alexandria

What are your thoughts on the Local Market?