Month: January 2014

The Streetcar: An Economic Booster Shot?


Image courtesy of

The H Street streetcar is a real thing: I hath seen it with mine own eyes. And while it’s not quite ready for public use just yet, I have seen it doing test runs up and down the street – so I don’t think the big day is too far off. Granted, I’m not thrilled that it basically looks like a skinny Circulator Bus (couldn’t they have picked a cool historic design like the famous San Fran trolleys?), but hey – no one asked me. So what will the streetcar mean for our fine city? Check out this great article in the Washington Post about the positive economic impact that streetcars have had on other major cities in the past, and the expectations for DC’s streetcar:

After streetcar line opens, $18B in development expected in D.C.

Downtown Washington hasn’t seen a streetcar in 52 years, yet the city has plans to build 37 miles of streetcar tracks, joining the ranks of Portland, Ore.; New Orleans; Seattle; and Tacoma, Wash.

Tucson, Seattle and Atlanta also expect to have streetcars operational this year, with another 12 cities expected to start construction by 2015. Arlington County may not be far behind with two proposed routes: one running down Columbia Pike and another between Crystal City and Pentagon City.

The initial $1 billion, 22-mile system in the District begins with the 2.4-mile H Street/Benning Road line, running along Second St NE and H Street NE. Streetcar proponents anticipate the introduction of service will attract additional investment to these corridors. They cite Portland as an example, which has operated its streetcar system for more than 12 years, and watched daily ridership grow from 4,000 at inception to 17,000 today.

The Portland Transportation Department reported in 2008 that $3.5 billion of development has occurred within two-blocks of its streetcar routes. Approximately 90 percent of the allowable density has been built within one block of the streetcar routes, which steps down to 43 percent of the allowable density built three or more blocks away.

The District’s Office of Planning expects up to $8 billion in new development within 10 years after completing work on the eight planned streetcar lines. District officials forecast demand for office space would increase by 3 million square feet and retail space by an additional 1.3 million square feet, supporting up to 1,200 net new households in the District each year.

Development along the H Street corridor has already picked up. A 215-unit apartment building completed construction last year at 360 H St NE, along with a new Wal-Mart at 77 H St. NW. In total, since the beginning of 2013, approximately 558,000 square feet of commercial space has been built or is currently under construction in the H Street Corridor compared with 18,000 square feet built during the 20 years prior.

In addition, the proposed streetcar line will connect developing areas of the District with established parts of the city. A planned 3.6-mile streetcar line will pass along K Street NW through the office-heavy downtown and connect to retail-centric Georgetown.

While few may claim that the streetcar is a fast and efficient way to travel, it is hard to deny the economic impact this mode of mass transit has made in Portland. The question is whether the District can replicate Portland’s success to this area.

Travesty on N Street

Ok that might be a little dramatic, but I really am very unhappy about this bit of news. Apparently, the historical preservation board has given the green light for a 69-unit luxury condo building to replace the beautiful vacant brownstones on N Street just south of Dupont Circle. The renderings make me want to cry. Supposedly, the original buildings will be kept and a new one added – but I don’t sHere’s the full story – with “before” pictures and renderings – from Curbed.

Follies No More: Sixty-Nine Condos Coming to N Street

[Renderings courtesy of Resmark]

It’s official, the vacant N Street rowhouses south of Dupont Circle will become luxury condos. The four and five story homes that had once been tapped for a hotel just got the approval for conversion into N Street Condominiums from the Historic Preservation Review Board. The existing buildings (which will have a courtyard in between) will house thirty one condos and a new building will house an additional thirty-eight. The idea for a boutique hotel called the N Street Follies in that location had long been scrapped, at least in part because Dupont residents feared a hotel would negatively affect the nearby Tabard Inn (an essential D.C. landmark).

Look for construction to start this summer and finish by late 2015. Pricing for these condos is still pretty far away, but the smallest one bedroom units will be 650 square feet and the largest two bedroom condos will be 1720 square feet. Plus, with renovated historic properties, you know there will be cool details like exposed 19th century brick and fireplaces.

The Most Expensive House in Dupont/Kalorama

I thought it would be fun to kick off 2014 with a look at some of the most expensive homes that sold in DC in 2013. Each week in January, I’m posting the most expensive homes that closed in 2013 in the three DC neighborhoods that my clients were most interested in. In week 4, I’ll post the most expensive home that sold in all of DC!

Last week I featured the Logan/Shaw area. This week, I’m looking at the Dupont/Kalorama area. Which, if you’re curious, I defined thusly:

Dupont Kalorama Map

The most expensive home that sold in the Dupont/Kalorama  area in 2013 was 2424 Kalorama Rd. NW*. 

Here are the details:

Sale Price:  $4,500,000
List Price: $4,995,000
Days on Market: 292
Close Date: Nov. 22, 2013
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 4.5
Sq. Ft.: 8,180 (This is the lot sq. footage – the home’s wasn’t given.)

Features worth noting:

  • Huge, gorgeous garden – especially notable in the heart of the city.
  • Spacious laundry room includes temp-controlled wine storage.
  • Fireplace in bedroom – love it!
  • Historic decor contrasts nicely with modern touches like the beautiful open kitchen.

 The eye candy:
(These are just a few of my favorite pics of the bunch. Click here to see the full listings and all of its accompanying photos.)


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Click here to see the full listing!
Listing courtesy of William F.X. Moody of Washington Fine Properties


*Note: there were two other listings in the area that were more expensive, but it was unclear from the listings whether they were multi-unit buildings or single-family homes, so I took them out of the running.

Mortgage Fee Hike Delayed – For Now

Percent Graphic


If you’re the sort of person who keeps track of things like what mortgage rates are doing, then you may have heard back in December that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were going to be increasing the fees that they charge lenders to guarantee mortgages, effectively making mortgages more expensive. These fees were supposed to take effect this spring. However, Melvin L. Watt, the new and recently sworn-in director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (which regulates Fannie and Freddie) has delayed the planned fee increases, stating that he wants to asses the impact these fees would have on the housing market before allowing them to take effect. He hasn’t given a time frame for this assessment, so the best we can say is that you definitely have til April to take advantage of the lower fees.

And don’t forget, this is useful news for buyers AND sellers. Buyers will of course want to take advantage of less expensive mortgage offers, but sellers will also want to take advantage of the more robust market that results from these less expensive mortgages.

Questions? Ready to start your house hunt and/or put your place on the market? Email me at:

Home Improvement Projects: Moneymakers and Money Pits

When deciding whether to undertake a home improvement project, resale value is (or should be) a major deciding factor. Certain types of improvements are proven money makers, while others are proven money pits. So which projects will give you the best – and worst – bang for your buck? I’ve pulled a few handy info-graphics to help you decide. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you take a look at these:

1. Both lists need to be taken with a grain of location-specific salt, as neither one is specific to the DC area or to urban homes. So certain items won’t be particularly relevant to folks living in the city: i.e. if you own a 2-bedroom condo in Logan Circle, a “greenhouse addition” probably isn’t for you. And if you’re in an 800 SF row home on the Hill, I doubt very much that you’re even considering the addition of a 2-car garage.

2. Swimming Pools are actually on both lists (ha!). But they are at the very bottom of the “good” list, with only a 39% return on investment. And frankly, pools aren’t really that relevant to this geographic area anyhow, so we can really throw that data point out as an outlier.

Without further ado, here are the lists:


Best Home Improvement Projects

Courtesy of



Courtesy of Angie’s List

DIY Extreme: A House Built from Pallets

Repurposing wood pallets is all the rage these days – from furniture to decorative touches, they’re a fantastic resource for the DIY home decorator (see my Pinterest board for more). But one woman has taken wood pallet DIY-ing to a whole new level: architectural intern Macy Miller of Boise, Idaho has built herself a 232 square foot house using wood pallets for the siding. The pallets are just one of the many remarkable things about this tiny, eco-friendly house. Check out her blog for full details and tons of great photos – below is a sampling I snagged from her site,

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