The Roads Taken and the Houses Not Bought

This is also a personal blog so I’m going to step away from the neighborhood history and talk about houses.

Last year we sold our lovely home on 4th St in Truxton Circle with the plan to buy something in a certain corner of Prince George’s County Maryland. We moved a few doors down on 4th St and rented from former neighbors while we looked at houses. Today and yesterday, I had to run a few errands, and I passed by 4 houses we looked at but did not buy.

The House On the Busy Road- I had to pick up something the Help did not get from the store and on my way back, I passed by the first house we looked at. This was before we were actually serious. Before we got a realtor. Any realtor. As I walked by the house, I noticed a woman enjoying the side porch we did not buy. I wasn’t sure if it was the exact house. The wildly painted stairs had been repainted something more neutral and the house looked like neighboring homes. We agreed that being on a busy road was not right for us.

When we looked at it Destructo-kid was still solidly in diapers. I remember this because he had a blowout. And cut our viewing short so we could change him in the back of the car. We had parked the car near the home of people we knew, but they didn’t seem to be home at the time. Where we were looking had a lot of people we knew, which is why we picked the area we chose to buy. Destructo is mostly potty trained now.

The Divorce House- I’m calling this the divorce house because our Realtor was told the seller was getting or had gotten divorced. It was a wonderful house, with a nice screened in side porch, nice big backyard, finished basement, bathrooms on 3 of the 4 levels, almost everything we wanted…. except the price. We inquired if it would be worth putting an offer. Even before their open house, they already had a few all cash offers at their asking price.

I was passing by the Divorce House to deliver some misdirected mail. The new owners made some similar exterior adjustments that we made with the house we eventually bought. I also noticed some backyard kid stuff. That side porch, which was actually a sunroom, would have been nice. There were a few things I did not like about the house, but that’s a non-issue.

The House on the Corner- Another errand had me on my bike passing the House on the Corner (HotC) that I liked. I really liked the house…. the yard… what yard? The problem I noticed with a lot of houses on corners were that most of the yard was in the front. The point of leaving our lovely townhome on 4th St was to get a yard. With grass. This was scraggly grass, weeds and tree roots in the front and a path from the garage to the house in the back.

I really liked that house. It had a side porch, we really wanted a porch. The second floor had connected rooms. When we looked at the house, without Destructo. I had fun running in a complete circle from one connected room to the next. The converted attic space had reading nooks in front of the Amity windows. The Divorced House had a similar set up, but the connection was closed off and the attic stairs were poorly placed.

Lastly, the Slopey House- We looked. We decided it was too small and we could not to a dang thing about the super sloped back yard. The backyard of this home was the big no that had us passing on it.

Back from another errand, I biked by slowly. Slowly because I was going uphill, being lazy, and using the electronic assist. I could still see the yard remained sloped with a big dip in the center. I could also see the new owners removed a lot of the greenery the previous owner seemed proud of. How sloped you’re wondering? In parts 45 degrees.

I’m enjoying my perch from my upstairs office in the house we are calling home. The house has a number of old house quirks that probably would have been avoided with the Divorce House. We are working on reclaiming more of the yard from the previous owner’s projects.

When I pass the houses we looked at and failed to win the bid on, I think about what could have been. But I also realize we could have missed out on what we have. We didn’t get radiators but we did get the porch we wanted. There are things we didn’t get but in time, I can turn this house into another project.

Death, taxes and a building that's gonna fall


Decay
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

This is the alley side of 1607 New Jersey Avenue, NW. I’ve been told by one citizen living on this block that he’s fearful when walking by this building because it looks like it is going to topple over at any moment. It’s got missing bricks at the base on the alley. It bows out. Its got some pretty wicked looking cracks and I think that upper window is broken.
Well I took a look on the property tax database and 1607 is owned by Arvid W Broadus who is receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction. Mr. Broadus is dead. According to the Social Security Death Index he died last year 16 Jan 2009 (born 30 Sep 1919) and unfortunately he didn’t make it to his 90 birthday. Unfortunately for us, and anyone walking by this structure, it hasn’t turned over to the living.

ADDITION- Apparently people still read this blog, even journalists. It appears Channel 7 did a story on this house.

Going down and taking everyone with it

A neighbor on my block must really love this neighborhood. Mainly because his (and his wife’s) house is under construction for the 2nd… 3rd time? I lost count, but they’ve must have put in more money than the house is worth. The previous fixes have been mainly minor and one major thing. There was something dealing with poor drainage that plagued them for the longest. Well the current venture has them gutting the house. They didn’t intend to gut the house, but when you start to pull up floors and knock away old plaster you discover fresh heart sinking, bank busting horrors, like I did when I had my house renovated.
One of the horrors discovered was a combo pack of a poor electrical, mixed with bad brick, which under the right conditions could take out 1/3 of the block in a house fire collapse situation. Okay maybe 1/8th of the block trusting that at least one connecting house was renovated well enough to block disaster. Yes. There are supposed to be fire blocks between these old row houses, but ‘supposed to be’ and ‘actually is’ aren’t the same thing. Pulling away the drywall and plaster revealed failing brick load bearing walls, party and exterior walls with failed (questionable if brick was there in the 1st place) portions. Add these failed portions to an electrical system that came in contact with a leak and lint filled jerry rigged dryer vent, and we have the higher risk for fire. If the fire didn’t come then the failing brick wall, if it fell, would definitely have taken the neighboring house with it.
A former TC resident once told me that you never really know what you have until you get down to the brick and the joists.

Quick Sale

This weekend a house near me got under contract, despite the price. Honestly, I thought $599K was too much, considering a house on the same block with a similar layout, but with a basement and a somewhat functional gas fireplace sold for about $150K less. Others who’d seen the interior of the higher priced home had said it was in move in condition and done very nicely. I saw the inside and admittedly couldn’t play the IKEA/Home Depot game, but I swear one of the interior paint colors was the same as my dining room’s. Ralph Lauren, Stony Mountain, NA15.
Well I gather the Real Estate market in the circle of Truxton, is healthy. That or someone really wants to live on our street. Maybe I’ll go with the second theory as Sunday was nice out, which meant the cute 5 and under set were out riding their bikes and razors. “Hey look, if you had kids they’d be playing with these kids by now.” And the people with dogs chatting with the neighbors doing things in their yards. For a while it was the best advertisement. A living brochure. A clean block (cleaned earlier that day by a neighbor) with happy children, a diverse (age & race) set of friendly looking adults being all frigging neighborly, smiling, laughing. That’s worth about $150K right there.
So putting your house on the market anytime soon? Somehow pick the nicest day for an open house and during the open house, convince your neighbors to make your block look like it’s fricking Sesame Street. Guaranteed sale.

So far, so good

After chatting with neighbors on the phone and passing by with the old snow shovel (but we’re running out of places to shovel it) I found out I’m okay comparatively.
1- I haven’t torn anything in my leg and thusly I’m not crippled like one poor soul.
2- My roof, so far is holding. The folks down the block suffered a partial roof collapse.
3- And the furnace still works. Last I spoke with another set of neighbor’s whose heat went out. Hopefully they can get it back up and running again.
4- Luckily no one expects me to be at work as the Federal gov’mit is closed. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine who is a contractor, (lowly paid, not the big money type), can’t work when we’re closed and will have to find a way to eat the week of non-work he’s not getting paid for.

I cleaned off the roof of my first floor kitchen and knocked off some of the ice icicles from the safety of a window. There is a big hunk of ice weighing down one section of the gutter that I couldn’t reach safely. Sigh. I’ll try to deal with that tomorrow. I’ve been checking some of the old cracks in the kitchen ceiling and so far no change. My next door neighbor is very worried about his roof and shoveled it. I’m just trusting that the equally spread out weight and some fixes after the gut job renovation helped.
Here’s to praying for sun and above freezing temps.

Truxtun, townhouses, and misc


osaycanusee.JPG
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

How was your weekend? Mine was supposed to be spent finishing up the Ten Days of Truxtun, which I didn’t do, so no Tom Truxtun today.
Somewhere among the row of townhouses on 4th Street, one has popped up for sale recently, making 3 houses on 4th Street on the market. I’ve been inside 2 of the 3. Going from highest to lowest is 1714 4th St NW on the market for $519K. It’s got an apartment downstairs and I haven’t been inside. It is next to a green space neighbors carved out of an abandoned lot, and parking that according to records is another lot, but looks like part of the road. On a smaller lot with no off street parking and no alley is 1547 4th St NW at $479,900. I’ve been in it. From what I can remember the basement is not a separate unit. It is also on the same block as the mosque. But residents of that block tell me they sometimes mentally block out the calls to prayer. Lastly is 1619 4th St NW on the market for $439K. The backyard is deep and has a wide alley. An alley wide enough for dump truck to go through, so trash is collected alley side. One could park in this backyard or if you have a compact car, carve out some parking and have a decent back patio. The fireplace in this house is a gas fireplace, and not the old fashioned find wood and throw it in kinds. That fireplace does warm up the house pretty nicely. A few things I dislike about the listing is that the neighborhood listed is “Convention Center/Shaw”. Well at least the Shaw part is right.
If you have questions about the neighborhood surroundings of these houses feel free to email me at mari at inshaw punt com.
Miscellany? Friends don’t let friends get Obama chias. I would take a picture of the current state of the Obama Chia, but it looks so wrong. The chia is so uneven and spotty, it is sad.

Fun With Redfin- Affordable Housing

Okay, I want a house 2 blocks from the metro, with more than 1,500 square feet, a nice sized southern facing backyard, decent front yard, quiet, near a good restaurant/coffee shop, with parking, in northwest, in move in condition for about $200,000.

You can stop laughing now.

I’m about 4-4.5 blocks from the metro, small yards, no parking, quiet??? depends, under 1,500 even counting the cellar, in NW, and close enough to Big Bear. However, I would have to be either mentally insane or desperate for a quick sale to even consider selling my lovely home for anything in the $200K range.

So with that in mind let’s head over to Redfin to see what’s selling around the hood for less than $200K and $300K. In the general Shaw area, you can get a parking space for something in the $30K range, a foreclosed condo for $165K, and a short sale condo for $159K in the same building. Over in Mt. Vernon Square there is still 481 Ridge Street NW on the market for $199,900. Yes, it will require a lot of work, but come on, it’s two blocks from the metro, a couple of blocks from the Safeway. What’s not to love?
There are two actual ‘affordable housing’ co-op units available up near U Street. The listing reads as, “PURCHASER MUST BE APPROVED BY COOP AND MAKE LESS THAN $48,800.00 For Single Buyer and $51,200.00 for two buyers.” However the monthly co-op fee, and explains why co-ops are so cheap, is $1,045.
When you bump up the search to include places $300K or less there are more choices than the odd foreclosure and short sale. More foreclosures and short sales. There is a short sale in the Rhapsody, a foreclosure on 6th St, on and 5th St in that weird funky looking townhouse with the thing in front. There are some regular places that either need lotsa work, or some work, or are 1 bedroom condos (see here, here and here). I dunno what category to put 36 Q NW, a 4 bedroom condo @ $295K that’s been on the market for 585 days. What’s wrong with it?

So what’s wrong with 481 Ridge St?

Okay it’s over in MVSQ-land but I’ve seen it listed and it is affordable, so what’s wrong with 481 Ridge St NW? I mean it’s listed for $199,900. Two blocks from the metro. Walking distance to Gallery Place-Chinablock, the Safeway, a bunch of stuff I like.
What is it riddled with termites? Dead bodies under the floorboards? What?

Back to the drawing board


1721 4 St NW
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I’ve told a friend that if you want to get active in this neighborhood there are lots of fights to get involved with. There is the billboard fight, the dog park, the Cook school, and closer to me zoning issues. The poorly painted house is on next weeks’s ANC 5C’s agenda. The owner wants to add a fourth floor. At the last ANC meeting, where he, the owner, wasn’t listed on the agenda, he apparently agreed to keeping the mansard roof. However when appearing before the BZA (Board of Zoning Adjustment) the owner’s drawings had a gabled (think suburban house roof) roof. It will be interesting to see if the owner took the BZA’s recommendations to heart.
Also the Cook School is on the meeting’s agenda as well.

ANC 5C Meeting
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
7:00pm -9:00pm
All Nations Church
Rhode Island at North Capitol Street, NE