Buy This House: 1616 4th St NW

So our longtime neighbors have moved and are selling their house. Since they bought the house they moved into (for more space w/ legit parking), they need to get their old one sold, pronto! So if you’re thinking about buying a house in the TC let me tell you about 1616 4th St NW by pointing out a few things. Also, there will be an artshow/ open house on Friday 12/6 at 5:30pm , where the current owner will be showcasing some of his art work.

Greenery in the city– The owners love growing things. They had plants inside and out. In the rear are several pine trees, that was so the owner could wake up and see green. In the front they grew tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, and other edibles. They also have planted a Japanese maple, right now it isn’t looking too hot, but in the spring and fall it is lovely. Their small porch they had several small potted plants. There are exterior spigots in the front and back for easy watering.

Kids on the Block– There are kids on the block including my own. A lot of the daycare and pre-school set, mainly boys. When they are seen (they aren’t out hanging about) they are with their mommies and daddies in a stroller. We are in the boundary of Seaton Elementary School (Pre-K 3- 5th grade) which scores highly on Great Schools. There are several Seaton families on 4th St.  The Google group for parents is Bloomingdale Kids.

Awesome Commute?– Yes, depending on where you are going. On the other side of the block you can catch the G2 (LeDroit to Georgetown), and the 96 (Tenleytown).  A block or two away are the 90, G8 and G9 bus stops. A 10 minute walk for me is the Shaw-Howard metro station. It is between the Q and R street bike lanes and there are two Capital Bikeshare stations within a block (or two). I haven’t had to wait more than 6-8 minutes for an Uber. If you must drive, the entrance to I-395 is a few blocks down New Jersey Avenue. So plenty of options.

Walkable neighborhood– The Walkscore is 95. We walk almost everywhere. The Giant is about a 10-15 minute walk if you don’t want to catch the G2. ANXO, is so close you could walk home drunk, but please drink responsibly. Truxton Inn is close too but that requires crossing Florida Ave, so you still need your wits about you.

Great block– The 1600 block of 4th St is the best. Our unofficial block captain Brian keeps the sidewalks clean, along with help from other neighbors. If you move here introduce yourself to the blond giant from Chicago and get on the no drama block email list. It is a quiet street, except when a firetruck is roaring down New Jersey, but eventually you kind of ignore that.

1616 4th Street NW– Built circa 1872-1875 housing black laborers, it is modern and renovated. It has a few flourishes from the previous occupants, notably the interior windows in the front bedroom that allow for light to go down into stairwell. It is listed by Keller Williams Capital.

Who can buy this– Okay, let’s just address an elephant in the room. Yes, $750K is a lot of money. But a shell, a cursed shell mind you, several doors down sold for $625K in November. Most likely buyers would be a DINK, double income, no kids (yet) with professional jobs who sold their condo. Other possible buyers could be single adults who are getting assistance from family (grandma’s will, parent’s co-buying, divorce settlement, etc). A developer could buy it since we aren’t in a historic district and try something, but FAR and a near neighbor’s solar panels might limit that. Families on public assistance aren’t potential buyers. Even with a 20% down payment a 30 year mortgage with great credit is over $3,000 a month (including taxes & insurance). That is above what the voucher program allows in this neighborhood even if it were to be rented.

If you think you are going to be around DC for a while, I would encourage you to buy a condo (although I, myself, despise condos) because maybe you can upgrade later in life when you’ve become more established in your career. You can use the sale of that condo, plus savings, and you have to have savings, to buy something like 1616 4th St NW in the future.

Thought Exercise: Moving out of Shaw

B/W px of a early 20th century moving vanI had a job interview a few weeks ago, it went well, so well I seriously gave thought to what we would do if I was chosen for the position. You see, it is in the same suburban area of Maryland where my spouse, the Help works, and I said if I were to get a job there, we’d move. So for several days I was looking at moving to Maryland and all that would entail.

We already know what neighborhoods we want to live in on the other side of the border. Yes, this is something we think and talk about on a regular basis. But I hadn’t thought about the consequences of leaving Shaw and the city.

What we’d lose
Walkability
Our part of Shaw is a wonderfully compact. Within a 1/3 mile I can walk to the grocery store, a couple of bakeries, a bunch of restaurants and bars, the metro, and Destructo’s daycare. I haven’t owned a car for over twenty years and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven. I like being able to walk with Destructo or plop him in a stroller and walk to a park. When I looked at a few houses on-line that I thought was close enough to a metro station, PG Plaza was over a mile away, and a park well over 1/3 mile. Whereas our block has a WalkScore in the 90s the areas I was looking at had scores in the 30s… and no sidewalks.

Lower Property Taxes
When looking at possible homes in our price range, looking at the property taxes made some places just, unaffordable. A lovely little 3 bedroom in the $300-400K range had taxes above $5,000 a year. Our taxes in DC are somewhere just below $3K a year. A couple hundred dollars of our monthly mortgage goes to taxes and insurance, but I was seeing sizable $400-$700 a month going to taxes for PG Co. properties.

Free Pre-K
Dangit, I been paying into this system, I’m going to get my 2 free years. Destructo won’t enter the school system until 2020-21. If we were to move, we’d be paying for  2 more years of daycare since PG County doesn’t have free Pre-3-4K. That’s when I decided I’d rather have a bad commute (I’d worked at this location before) than pay $30,000+ for 2 years of daycare.

Loss of connections
Living here for nearly 20 years, despite people constantly moving, we’ve got some deep strong connections here. After observing others move to other nearby neighborhoods or over into suburbs, I know after a while you stop seeing those people. I wouldn’t expect us to be any different. We have friends and family in PG County and those connections would get stronger, but I would miss what I have built here in Shaw.

Other things I had to consider
Sell/Rent house?
Then there is the question of selling or renting. I’m emotionally attached to this house I live in. It was my first property. I’m not sure I can just hand it over to some renter to make their mark on. However, renting would allow me to return to the TC if I manage to return to my current duty station if an opportunity arose. Also the rules about renting in this city seem to get more complicated, which would mean hiring a property manager. Some of my former neighbors self manage, other use a property manager. Question would be would I want to self manage my baby?

Then we’d have to make the house suitable for renters. When you own your own home, there are things you let slide. Our AC died 3 years ago. We’ve got portable and window units that work well. The bathrooms aren’t painted that well, because I painted the whole house myself and never ever got back to them. There is a whole long list of little repairs that should be done, but since the health of the house does not depend on those repairs getting done anytime this century, they don’t.

If I were to sell, the property tax issue I have such a problem with would be less of an issue, because the equity we have in our home would make some places mortgage free. I wouldn’t have to think about managing a DC property.

Mari InShaw to Mari N. Peagee?
A lot of my on-line identity is based on being in Shaw/Truxton Circle. Would I change it if I moved? I’m still pondering that one.

Recently, I found out I wasn’t chosen. I called one of the interviewers, who I knew professionally, regarding why I wasn’t and now I know what areas I need to improve. So when the next opportunity pops up I know what I will do, and if chosen, I have a plan.

Edited 12/11/19 to add Walkscore URL.

The Curse of 1640 4th St NW

1640 4th St NWWhelp, it looks like 1640 4th Street NW has thwarted another owner. The last owner, apparently had contractor problems, as in ran away with money problem. The owner before that, tried her hands at renovating the place and for some reason failed. The owner before that, well, she’s the reason I believe 1640 is cursed.

The 3rd owner back and the neighbor next to 1640 had a toxic relationship. The neighbor claimed the 3rd owner called her the N-word, but even before that, they hated each other. I doubt they ever liked each other. So the neighbor was very antagonistic towards the 3rd owner back…. and the woman who bought it from the 3rd owner…. and the current owner. So whoever buys 1640, know the neighbor will hate your guts and do everything in her power to make things difficult.

The plans the current owner has doesn’t help. In the row of 2 story homes, the plans show a pop up that does not match any of the housing on the row. Now I can already hear Scott Roberts saying, “if you don’t want a pop up you should’ve fought for a historic district.” Yeah, no. I have no problem with the idea of a pop-up, I just have a problem with fugly pop-ups. Non-fugly pop-ups are possible.

This property is a shell. The current owner had the back ripped off (so it’s exposed to the elements) and the owner before that had done some demo. $735K seems to be a lot for a shell in my opinion, however, it isn’t the only shell in Truxton Circle in the $700K range, so what do I know?

So whoever buys 1640, not only do they have to deal with a cantankerous neighbor, they also have a partial shell. This would be for an experienced developer, someone who has developed property in the District. However, at the current price, anyone with more sense than money won’t touch it.

Affordable Chapman Stables?

Screen Capture of http://opendata.dc.gov/ data set of Affordable Housing

I started searching because the Open Data DC.gov site has a map so you can find affordable housing projects in the District. So I went to the side and drilled down to Truxton Circle.

So I saw Chapman Stables was in there and there are supposed to be 11 affordable unit of the 100 plus units. Six units are at 31%-50% AMI and 5 units at 61%-80% AMI.

But then I wondered. Wait. Condos have condo fees. These fees can start off reasonable and then if something happens creep or jump up. Then I wondered what do these affordable units look like? Are they segregated from the other units, like some apartment buildings?

So I went a looking at the DC property sales database to look at what sold below the $300K advertized basement price. This is public information, but I’m not going to use names or unit numbers. I found 5 units, they are not all on the same level, and they are not all studios. The first was sold on October 9th for $237,400 is a corner two bedroom unit. I noticed several of these affordable units share a wall with some common space things, like stairwells. Three units were sold for $114,600 in 2018. Two of those are one bedrooms and one is a studio.  The one bedrooms share a wall with a common space thing and the studio is well, a studio. And lastly a one bedroom unit sold for $214,300.00 on October 16, 2018, and it only shares walls with other units.

The monthly condo fee for a one bedroom is $362. The fee for a typical studio is less than $300, and for a two bedroom in the $600 range. Remember kids, the condo fee is in addition to the mortgage and real estate taxes. I don’t know if the buyers of the affordable units get to pay a reduced fee or must pay the same rate as the market rate buyers, because everyone must contribute to the maintenance, trash, and all that other good stuff.

Also, let’s look at the categories of 31% to 50% AMI and 61% to 80% AMI. This is more about the buyer of the unit than the unit. Six units are for 31-50% AMI. According to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s chart that’s an income ceiling of $41,000 for a single person and $46,900 for a household of two. On the off chance the two bedroom was available for this category, a household of four’s limit is $58,600. There is nothing for the 51-60% AMI group.  Five units were set aside for the 61-80% AMI group and the ceilings are $65,650, $75,000, $84,400 and $93,750 for households of one, two, three and four persons.

There is another condo in Truxton that is not yet completed, which has just 2 affordable units for 61-80% AMI, and that is Compass’ Five Points Flats. I have no clue as to what the condo fees for this thing will be.

It is easy for me to imagine single teachers, non-profit workers, civil servants, or savvy retirees, being able to fit into these income categories AND keep up with the HOA/condo fees.  What I cannot see is how people who are in those AMI groups find out the availability and price of these units. As I see with Chapman Stables, they did manage to find those units.

Church spot gone condo: Scripture Cathedral

1957ChurchMap

Looking at the 1957 Northwest Church Survey, Scripture Cathedral did not exist. It would have been at 9th and O Streets Northwest. But the only thing on that block was a storefront church called Christ’s United Baptist Church at 1329 9th St NW, now an outreach center. So historically, in my opinion, this means it can’t claim a rich history with the neighborhood. And I don’t feel like researching it to see if this was  a post riot church. Looking at the website for Scripture Cathedral, currently in PG County, they don’t provide a useful history, or details.

Boarded Up Cathedral    Former Church Spot- Condos

The website for the condo building replacing it has plenty of details about the condos, ranging from $600K to $2 million.

The usual narrative would be Black church replaced by rich (let’s just assume) white condo owners, and then we are supposed to feel bad about losing people who park poorly in the neighborhood. Instead let’s go with ‘yay, new neighbors who may be overpaying for their home.’ Seriously, people still get shot a block or so away on 7th Street, and they can come home from the Mt. Vernon metro assaulted by the smell of K2 in the air.

Looking at the whole volume of the October 1957 Northwest Church Survey, there are plenty of churches that no longer exist. Churches that may have left because they ended their normal church lifecycle. Churches that picked up and moved before and after the riots, and before and after ‘gentrification.’ Neighborhoods change.

319 R Street the plan

319 R St NW, 20001Okey dokey. The fugly, and I’m gonna call it fugly, ’cause it was a plan of ugly of freaking magnitude, plan of replacing the top level of 319 R St NW with a meh 3rd floor and an out of proportion dunce hat is no more. The Historic Landmark application, killed that.

So the developers played chicken, lost and looks like they’re gonna try to recoup their money by selling it, unimproved, for $1.05 million. Unimproved. I don’t think the plans are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that’s just my opinion.

So what’s the plan? Go down.

New plan for 319 R St NWThere will be three floors but you’ll have to go down, into the basement. Have they dug the basement? I don’t think so, so there is no guarantee of anything. If they haven’t, you could hit water. Anywho. The top floor is a rooftop deck of sorts, because you can’t change the top anymore. Because of historic stuff. If they just left the damned turret alone, like 210 P Street NW, they would have had more freedom to put on a 3rd floor.

210 P St NW Open House
Turret on 210 P St NW.

But, noooooo. They had to plan to destroy the original turret or threaten to tear down the building. Now they expect someone to pay over a million dollars for the mess they made.

319 R St NW

319 R St NWI ran into a neighbor who apparently went to the last BACA meeting. I stayed home because of a sick kid. He’s fine now, thanks for asking. Anyway, she informed me of what is going on with 319 R Street NW.

For those of you new to the story, here is the Cliff Notes version of the 319 R Street NW saga. The property was sold by a Korean Presbyterian church to a developer. The developer wanted to chop off the roof and turret and make a fugly building. There was some pushback by neighbors and the developers threatened to demolish the building as a matter of right. The developers, and other people, forgot that 319 was on a block built by celebrated developer Harry Wardman and a majority of the structures on the block were Harry Wardman originals. When it looked like the developers were going to be able to get their fugly building with a dunce hat of a turret, someone submitted a historic landmark application for the whole damned block. The submission and the approval meant no changes could be made, so no ugly 3rd floor or dunce hat, but unfortunately a bunch of innocent homeowners got caught up in it like dolphins in a tuna net.

Anyway……

The developers got permits to make changes (but not the fugly building) and plan to sell 319 R with the approved permits. They played chicken and they lost. Depending on how much they sell the building, a talented developer like Ditto could turn it into a two unit, million+ property.

Some DC Homeowner Tax Hacks

319 R St NW, 20001Yes, I know it is a click-baity title but bear with me, I got some good stuff.

1- Get your property taxes deferred. Single? Do you make less than $50K a year? Then you may be able to get a deferment. Unfortunately this doesn’t look like the same deferment I had. Those were 5 wonderful years of not paying any property tax, then one year, I made about $500 too much, and that was the end of that. It looks like you fill out the second (1st half is for old people) part of form FP-110.

2- Are you 65 years or older OR do you receive SSDI? Pay less on your property taxes than those suckers with just a Homestead Deduction. Go to the forms page, fill out FP-100.

3- Did you for some odd reason not take the $5000 if you bought during or before 2011, the 1st time homeowner tax credit? Really? That was just free money. Since there can’t be too many people that qualify for this, I’m going to move on.

4- Do you make $20K or less? You don’t have to be a homeowner for this, renters can qualify. On your DC state income tax, fill out Schedule H, you’ll get a credit.

 

Should Your Property Taxes Go Up 50%+ a Year? Because, Racism

1500 First Street.JPGOnce upon a time in DC parts of the city experienced gentrification. Homeowners who had lived in the city through the crack years, the control board, or got in before the house prices went to crazy town began to experience unpleasant surprises year after year. Say their home that they may have bought for $75K was being assessed at $100K one year, then about $300K the next when the owners did not do any improvements to their home. I remember neighbors who bought their home for something around $200K , later got an assessment of $500K. Of course, people freaked the hell out, because their property taxes kept jumping up and up, near 50%. Some going from several hundred one year to several thousand dollars a few years later. If you’re a lower or low middle income homeowner, this is a very good reason to freak the hell out.

A tool to stop the freaking out and accusations that the city was trying to push out long time homeowners with high property taxes was the 10% cap. A DC homeowner’s taxes cannot go higher than 10% each year, regardless of how much the city thinks their house is worth.

So the DC Policy Center is saying the 10% cap is wrong and possibly racist. It seems to defy logic. They attacked the homestead deduction and failed to show how these things directly related to racism.

There also is some misleading language. In DC there is a homestead deduction, in some other places such a thing is called a homestead exemption, usually it’s a discount off the full tax bill for resident homeowners. Exemption does not mean no taxes are paid, the report seems to hint that it is in not being clear. Another word, “elude” or “eludes”, which according the the dictionary means, “evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way; (of an idea or fact) fail to be grasped or remembered by (someone); (of an achievement, or something desired or pursued) fail to be attained by (someone).”. The claim, “Home ownership and the wealth associated with it eludes communities of color, ” irritated me. I totally acknowledge home ownership is challenging, but DC is frickin’ filled with opportunities for those who are first time home owners that other places don’t have, so much that it is worth another post to go through them.

Will Buy Your House For CA$H

It was something from a DCist post about the Hillcrest neighborhood I noticed. It seems the people of Hillcrest have been peppered with offers to sell their homes to developers. If those offers come in the form of post cards and yellow letters like the ones below, they aren’t special. I get these offers almost every week. Sometimes I get phone calls.

I have two rentals, bought for the price of a new car, in addition to our primary home. So every week, I will get some letter or postcard asking if I want to sell. These things are called yellow letters. Note, they are yellow. They come from people looking to buy houses for developer investors. Most are not a scam, but they aren’t going to offer you the amount of money you’d probably get if you were to sell with a Realtor. They are for people who want to sell a house quickly without doing anything (fixing things).

I don’t feel pestered by these mail in inquires. They are like any other service being offered that I don’t want. Don’t want a credit card. Don’t want your cable package. When it is an offer on my primary residence, I do feel slightly insulted, because, yes, the outside could use some sprucing up. I think they figured I’d want to sell because I haven’t gotten to fixing some things. Those things are on the 2019 docket of expensive house crap to do. I replaced the roof this year so the 2018 budget is blown.

So say you’ve gotten several of these yellow letters, what do you do? Are they serious offers? Well if you have no desire to sell, toss them in recycling and give it nary a thought. If you’re thinking about selling, but you want top dollar and you have time and are willing to repair and repaint, toss them in the recycling bin and hire a Realtor. But if you just want to get rid of it (bad tenants, repairs you can’t afford, desperately need to fund your mother in law’s stay in a nursing home) sure give the number on the letter or post card you got a call. Just be aware you’re going to be offered a price below market.  It doesn’t matter that the house next door to you sold for a million dollars, the people offering to buy your house are not going to offer a million dollars.