Friday, June 29, 2012

Morning Real Estate Review

US cities now outpacing suburbs, new data shows (Slate) For first time in half a century, urban areas are outpacing their suburban neighbors in population and economic growth.

CitiMorgage launches program for soldiers on the move (HousingWire) To help soldiers who are stuck with existing mortgages while they move bases, CitiMortgage has introduced a Citi Military PCS (permanent change of station) transfer assistance program.

30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates unchanged, 15-year fixed-rate falls to new low (The Washington Post) While the 30-year fixed-rate average mortgage rate has continued holding steady, the 15-year fixed-rate average has found itself at a new low.

Cover story: Good manners a must during open house (The Washington Times) Though it may not be on the forefront of every seller’s mind, it’s important to remember to have good manners while selling a house.

Charting the market: Sellers’ prospects improving (The Washington Times) More demand and less supply, as this year is seeing, leads to a seller’s market.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Your Next Place

I'll admit, I'm kind of an "old things" snob - I only wear vintage clothes, won't drink bourbon unless it's at least 12 years old, and don't like any movie made after about 1978.  But one new thing I really love is a new condo, especially when they're like this.  I mean, look at it!  It would be like living inside an iPhone.  What snob could resist that?

This two-level Logan Circle condo in the Metropole features a wide-open floor plan, high ceilings, and totally unique finishes.  The kitchen gets a ton of light from the massive wall of windows; there's also exposed ductwork, for that frisson of rough industrial edges, but also Bosch appliances and custom cabinets for that frisson of, well, living in a million dollar condo.  Both good frissons.

Upstairs are the fine, spacious bedrooms, and there are three, yes three, very fine bathrooms.  As with the rest of the house, the utmost care has been given to every detail - the cabinets, the towel racks, the light fixtures, even the shower curtain rods are cool.  This is a condo that's guaranteed to make all your friends feel inferior and lame when they visit, which in my mind is the real point of home ownership.

And of course, the location.  Everything you could possibly want is within a block; a gym, a salon, restaurants, half a dozen bars, Whole Foods.  The condo comes with a parking space, but only a very bad person would live here and still insist on driving.  (Just kidding, when I visit my parents in Iowa, I drive their car twenty feet down the driveway to get the mail.)

1515 15th Street NW #430
2 Bedrooms, 3.5 Baths

Morning Real Estate Review

Servicers cut principal on 10% of mortgage mods, numbers expected to rise (HousingWire) This year mortgage servicers included principal reduction on 10.2 percent of modifications during the first quarter, which is a raise of 3 percent from this past year.

Freddie Mac reduces mortgage portfolio 9.4% in May (HousingWire) Though Freddie Mac bought $30.7 million in loans this May, it sold or liquidated $46.7 million. As a result, the mortgage portfolio balance shrunk at an annualized rate of 9. 4 percent in the same month.

Pending home sales match two-year high (The Washington Post) Pending home sales rose last month and matched its highest level in two years.  Contracts on existing homes were up 5.9 percent in May compared to April and 13.3 percent from a year ago. 

Investors are putting cash to work in residential real estate (The Washington Post) Investors are  favoring residential real estate as investment opportunities, a trend that’s been increasing during the past few years.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Ground Floor

The Chevy Chase location of Barney's Co-op, the edgier, funkier version of Barney's department store, is closing in August.

C. Wonder, the preppy, reasonably priced home and clothing store, is coming to Tyson's Corner.  The brain child of Christopher Burch (ex-of Tory Burch), C. Wonder will look familiar to Tory fans.  So familiar there seems to be a lawsuit in the making. Estimated construction start date is 8/1/12.

Pappa Razzi, an Italian-ish restaurant located at 1064-1066 Wisconsin Ave, NW in Georgetown, has closed.

Riot Act, a comedy theatre in Penn Quarter, is closing temporarily for rebranding and renaming.  It will re-open July 9th as Penn Social.  The new concept will be a collaboration with United Social Sports, a social sports league. The venue will add games such as skee ball and shuffle board plus keep the stage for music, comedy and game shows.

Jen Angotti is a DCRE agent licensed in DC and VA.  She also writes Concrete Jungle DC, a blog about real estate and design.

Long Branch Community Revitalization Plan Unveiled


Montgomery County planners unveiled an ambitious, wide-ranging community revitalization plan for the east Silver Spring community of Long Branch earlier this week, the first step in a long-term reinvention of the area that will peak with the opening of the Purple Line sometime later this decade.

In essence, the plan seeks to transition Long Branch from a car-centric and pedestrian-unfriendly neighborhood of strip malls, surface parking lots, and little to no public transportation, to a greener, mixed-use area connected by bike lanes, redesigned sidewalks, and two Purple Line Stations. One of the biggest challenges facing the area are the poorly-functioning intersections at Piney Branch Road and Flower Avenue, and Piney Branch Road and University Boulevard (see above).  This inefficiency is compounded by narrow or nonexistent sidewalks in much of the area.  The plan aims to correct this by widening and reconfiguring the above intersections, as well as installing medians, and dramatically widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes throughout Long Branch.

Of course, accessibility should improve while traffic should (theoretically) decrease when the Purple Line opens in a few years.  Long Branch will incorporate not one but two Purple Line light rail stations (see above and below), which will bring considerable changes to local transportation patterns.  The stations, at University Blvd. and Piney Branch Road, and at Arliss Street and Piney Branch Road, should reduce congestion along Piney branch and University, the main traffic arteries; combined with the proposed street improvements, this could have a serious calming effect on the neighborhood.

On the green front, planners also propose street trees throughout the area, wide-ranging park improvements, and the creation of two entirely new parks on the very west end (see below).

This blogger visits Long Branch semi-regularly - there's no better one-stop community for thrift shopping, authentic vietnamese sandwiches, and 99-cent VHS rental emporiums - and I can attest to the almost aggressively indifferent urban design (or lack thereof) in the area.  It's taken the mediocrity of the suburban strip mall aesthetic and added comically inefficient traffic management and a palpable indifference to pedestrians and cyclists.  One is often forced to make right turns off the main traffic arteries, which means braking to a crawl on a zooming four-lane road; when you add in jaywalkers and cyclists forced to ride in the gutter, it's a recipe for disaster.  This plan won't turn Long Branch into NoMa, or even downtown Silver Spring, but it will, if carried out, produce a safer, greener, more functional community.

Silver Spring, Maryland real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

Column: Historic preservation and contemporary renovation collide in Cleveland Park  (The Washington Post) Is historic preservation sometimes detrimental to neighborhoods, especially when it comes to renovating?

Housing exuberance led by 'glamorous cities' (Bloomberg) Schiller, found of Case-Schiller index, says there is a new risk of "speculative fervor".

Suspected mortgage fraud filings down 31% (HousingWire) Compared to the same quarter from this past year, suspected mortgage fraud filings are down by 31 percent. An abnormal spike occurred in the first three quarters of 2011.

Secondary loan market still weak (The Washington Times) Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now government-owned mortgage giants, there remains little incentive for a strong secondary loan market.

For rent by owner: Legal landmines for landlord (The Washington Post) While renting out an apartment, there are a number of somewhat obscure laws potential landlords should aware of.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Morning Real Estate Review

Half of those living under someone else's roof are 24 to 35 (HousingWire) Half of persons living under someone else's roof are 24 to 35 years old, mostly for economic reasons (45.3 percent of this group are living in poverty, according to the Census).

May saw best housing sales in D.C. since 2005 (The Washington Times) Sales are dramatically higher than they were simply one year ago. Not only are more selling, but more are selling faster. Good news all around for the Washington area.

Tax rules for renting out your vacation home (The Wall Street Journal) Summer's here, so it's a good time to review the tax rules connected to renting out your vacation home.

Historic Preservation Review Board and solar energy clash (The Washington Post) The HPRB has disallowed solar energy because of the panels' visibility from the street.

Monday, June 25, 2012

HiRISE WINDOWS Sheds Light on Window and Door Renovation

Sponsored Announcement 

 For many condominium and co-op owners, the first signs of trouble might be subtle – increased dust on the windowsill, noticeably more street noise, but before long comes the realization that a window or patio door needs replacing. HiRISE WINDOWS is a locally owned company whose professionals often find themselves meeting with condominium boards, groups of owners or property managers at exactly this point. 

Specializing in window and door replacement throughout the Washington area, HiRISE is renowned for solving problems that are due to age, wear or poor installation. HiRISE has carved a niche in the business with a steadfast dedication to the highest level of customer service.

 Founded by self-described former techie, Kevin Vincent, the business was born after he left a successful career in software and technology and took a job with a window replacement company. In short order, he saw the void in customer service and decided he could do better.

 From obsolete aluminum windows in high rises to historic iron-frame windows in Georgetown, HiRISE meticulously identifies the right solution, always to AAMA standards, and with an eye towards improving energy efficiency and enhancing livability. As one client said, “The recently installed windows and balcony door [from HiRISE] are just fantastic. It's so quiet and peaceful that I feel as though I have a brand new apartment!”

Bright and Bold: Shaw Apartments Nearly Complete


McCullough Construction, LLC, will soon complete construction of one of the more colorful apartment buildings in Washington D.C.  Bailey Park, located at 625 Rhode Island Avenue in Shaw, was designed by Suzane Reatig Architecture, and includes an unusual color scheme and Trespa panels, rare in American architecture.

The 32,125 s.f., 4-story apartment building will hold 16 units in place of the 4 townhouses torn down in advance of construction, and 2 will be reserved exclusively for tenants making less than 80% of the AMI (area median income), with 14 of those being rented at market rates.

More noticeable, however, is the now complete façade of background grey with three bright accent colors: carmine red, ochre and purple.

“They picked some very interesting façade colors,” said project manager Seamus McCullough. “We’ve gotten some complements. It definitely grabs your attention as you walk down Rhode Island, let’s put it that way.”

The building’s façade is made of aluminum windows, architectural concrete masonry and Trespa phenolic wall panels for screening rain.

“[The panels] are supposed to be extremely durable and hold up to weather and sun for a lifetime,” McCullough said. “There’s no caulk in the joints, so it’s an open system.”

“It has a roof deck with four individual patio areas,” McCullough said, as well as a green roof.  “From the inside, one of the nicer features is the amount of natural light,” McCullough said. “in most of the units, you don’t even need the lights on during the day.”

Ground broke on the project on Sept. 26, 2011, and completion is expected at the end of July.  “We expect to turn it over by July 15, at the very latest,” McCullough said.

Washington, D.C. real estate and development news

Morning Real Estate Review

Foreclosure machinery creaks back to life (Washington Post)  After years of paying little attention to the process, banks are starting to take a closer look at the process of foreclosing.

Trade groups lobby against new green building rules (Washington Post)  The plastic, vinyl and chemical industries take issue with new rules proposed by USGBC.  The updated standards would eliminate some of their products for LEED building certification.

Housing economists predict better times for the market (HousingWire)  Economists from several real estate associations expect the housing market to improve over the next year.

House sales hampered by appraisers who fail to recognize appreciation (Washington Post)  Increasing numbers of real estate agents find appraisers aren't keeping up with the market.

Your Next Place

This condo might be on the first floor, but it's nicely elevated above street level, so you can literally look down on the rest of the world, to match how you figuratively look down on the rest of the world.  What, you think we didn't notice?  You should see what we say about you on gchat.

This very large two bedroom/two baths unit has everything you could want in a house, much less a condo; a beautiful living room with exposed brick, a huge bay window and gas fireplace, a gourmet kitchen with granite counters, and island, and stainless steel appliances.  The master bedroom suite boasts a huge walk-in closet to store all your clothes or hide in if an axe murderer breaks into the place.  Recessed halogen lighting and hardwood floors throughout, and it comes with rental parking prepaid through 2015!  (Man, I really am a commitment-phobe; even the thought of staying with the same parking space for three years gave me chills.)

And it's ideally situated just off 14th street, so you're a stone's throw from some of the best bars and restaurants in the entire city.  From riding a bike full speed while vomiting to throwing an entire pizza onto the windshield of a taxi to jumping off a second story patio to impress a girl (surprise, she wasn't impressed), I don't think there's a block of 14th between O and W Streets on which I haven't engaged in some serious late-night foolishness. And if there's a better endorsement for a neighborhood, I certainly can't think of it.

1433 R Street NW #2
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

Friday, June 22, 2012

Morning Real Estate Review

Despite recent growth, many Washington DC houses still underwater (Washington Post)  32% of homeowners in the DC area remain underwater, according to a new report.

Washington D.C. property values shrink 10% over last 2 years (Washington Times)  According to a report from DC's Chief Financial Officer, property values shrunk by 10%, costing the city $100m in tax revenue.

No buyers market for first-time home shoppers (CNBC) Buying isn't just competitive in Washington D.C., other markets are facing investors with plenty of cash.

Housing recovery happening, in some places (Wall Street Journal)  While the nationwide market caused a crash all around the country, different regions are exiting the housing crisis at varying levels and at different times.  The DC area is up a mere .3% in price appreciation over the past year.

Housing may actually add to GDP this year (HousingWire) Having taken away from GDP growth for the past 5 years, housing may actually contribute, though it will probably account for 2% of the economy, a third of what it was before the crash.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Douglas announces first tenant for Wonder Bread Building

Douglas Development announced its first tenant in the historic Wonder Bread building at 641 S St NW: WorkSpaces, LLC. The company will take residence immediately following the completion of construction, which is planned for January 2013.

Douglas leased 20,817 s.f. to WorkSpaces, a “strategic furniture solutions consulting agency,” according to a press release, which will be the property’s first tenant since 1988, occupying the entire third floor.

Douglas recently began construction on the Wonder Bread building, which it purchased in 1997. Douglas also applied for landmark status this past year with support from the D.C. Preservation League, which supported its plans.

The Wonder Bread building sits next door to Progression Place, also under construction. Progression Place will have 100,000 s.f. office space and 205 apartments above the Metro entrance.

Washington, DC real estate and development news

Your Next Place

I have to say, these huge loft-style units might be my favorite type of place, and not just because you could potentially lie in wait up on the top elevated level and dump a trashcan full of water down onto your significant other as soon as they walked in the door, after you hacked their email and found the "missed connection" they posted on Craigslist.  Though you have to admit that would be extremely satisfying, potentially. (As an alternative, you could just act normal but then email them, pretending to be the missed connection.  Which is what I did.)

With a 20-plus foot peaked ceiling, this penthouse loft has an epic feel to it that you could never get in a place with boring old "rooms."  As soon as you enter through the private entrance, you can tell you're in a place in which the designers paid great attention to every last detail.  The kitchen, tucked discreetly under the loft, features high-end Bosch appliances, fantastic lighting, and there are really cool cutout panels of exposed brick throughout the place.  Upstairs, there's a low wall of translucent glass partitioning off the loft, and both baths feature five-star hotel style finishes.  (Check out the showers.)

It's also close to everything and right next to Chinatown, where I'm convinced you can buy literally anything, from an Ann Taylor Loft flower-print bucket hat to one of those canes that unscrews into a sword.  (Not even kidding - those two items are sold within a block of each other.  And yes, I bought a sword cane.)

1002 M Street NW #4
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Falkland Apartments Plan Up for Review, Again

Today, Home Properties of New York, owner of the Falkand Apartments, finds itself once again before the Montgomery County Planning Department concerning the site plan for a multi-building, mixed-use development at the northeast quadrant of the intersection of 16th Street and East-West Highway near the Silver Spring CBD. The 9.7-acre site, split into three parcels, is within walking distance of the Silver Spring Metro and the MARC station.

In 1985, the area was denied eligibility for the designation in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation, but in 2007 all three parcels were found eligible and the Board “directed the Planning staff to initiate an amendment to that Master Plan,” according to the MCPD report on today’s hearing to approve the site plan. In 2008, the south and west parcels were added to the plan, but the north parcel was added to the Locational Atlas, which was created in 1976 and identifies potential historic sites.

That particular restriction called for the removal of the north parcel from the Atlas upon approval of the site plan.

"Faced with the challenge of weighing the benefits of historic preservation with those related to other planning objectives, the Board found that greater public benefit would be achieved through the redevelopment of the north parcel than by the parcel's designation in the Master Plan," according to the Staff report.

Being part of the Master Plan comes with eligibility for financial incentives for qualified rehabilitation and maintenance projects as well as certain protections.

The designation led Home Properties to revise their development plan and follow a few provisions, including 4.72 percent of the dwelling units to be subject to the County’s Workforce housing law for 20 years and the same amount provided for off-site Workforce housing.  Home Properties must beautify the stream on the South parcel, and all buildings must be rated LEED-Silver.

The proposed plan is for a 1.2 million s.f., mixed-use development that includes 70,000 s.f. of retail and 1,250 townhouse units with 12.5 percent MPDUs and 4.73 percent Workforce Housing units.

The project consists of four buildings, oriented to a perimeter public street or a proposed private internal street. The buildings on the East-West Highway include ground-floor retail.

The proposed development provides 65,091 s.f. of public use space, 20 percent of the lot area. This includes a public plaza, garden and pedestrian area.

Staff recommends approval of the proposed plan today.

Maryland real estate and development news

Lumber Shed Construction at the Yards Begins this Week

Construction begins this week on the Lumber Shed, an adaptive reuse component that will become the retail centerpiece of the Yards, a Forest City project. The Shed is set to be completed in the third quarter of 2013, according to a press release.

The Yards, which is one of the largest projects in Southeast D.C., has been named the best new public space by City Paper. Seven restaurants and a Harris Teeter were announced this past year in the boilermaker shops, and recently, the Alatmarea Restaurant Group of New York City announced a new Osteria Morini restaurant to open in The Yards in summer 2013.

The area was formerly the Navy Yard Annex then the Naval Gun Factory. Forest City Washington received the chance to redevelop the 42-acre riverfront property site in 2004, and construction began on several parcels within the yards in 2007.

When finished, the Yards will be a 5.5 million s.f. development, completed during three phases during the next 10 to 20 years.

The Lumber Shed - formerly owning up to its name - is located on the edge of the Yards park overlooking the Anacostia River.  The Shed will be a 30,000 s.f., two-level, retail, glass pavilion, which will temporarily house Forest City’s offices on the second floor and include five restaurants.

The inclusion of Osteria Morini and Forest City’s offices means the building is 60 percent leased.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

The Ground Floor

Tom Power, owner of Corduroy restaurant, is moving forward with renovations to 1124 9th St., NW. Plans are for a 6,200 s.f. restaurant and bar.  As reported previously, it will be a more casual concept with a "raw space feeling with exposed brick, a sky light and a big bar."  Permits are pending.

3 Stars Brewing Company, a DC brewery offering hand crafted artisanal beers, is opening their brewery at 6400 Chillum Place in northwest DC.  They hope to release their first batch for public consumption in early July.

Noodles and Company, the national chain that serves all things noodles, is coming to 1815 Wisconsin Ave, NW., into 3,000 s.f. of new space next to the Georgetown (is it still Social?) Safeway.

Louis' Rogue Club, a gentleman's club at 476 K St, NW, has closed for updating.  Current plans call for renovations of 8,000 s.f. on the second and third floors of the building.

The Dry Bar, a hair salon that only provides blow outs: no cut or color, is opening two locations in the DMV.   The DC salon will be a 1,458 sf space located at 1815 Wisconsin Ave, NW.  The Bethesda salon will be 2,005 s.f. space located at 4840 Betheseda Ave.

Buddha Bar in Mt. Vernon Triangle has closed.

Jen Angotti is a DCRE agent licensed in DC and VA.  She also writes Concrete Jungle DC, a blog about real estate and design.

Morning Real Estate Review

GOP highlights empty federal buildings in DC (AJC) Republicans will hold hearings to discuss vacant federally-owned buildings in the District of Columbia, such as the Georgetown heating plant, which the GOP estimates cost an extra $1.7b annually to operate.

Marion Barry tries to stop H Street streetcar line (Washington Post)  A week after Mayor Gray announces a contract for the turnaround of the streetcar line, Barry says he's protecting the taxpayer.

Single family housing starts rise 3.2% in May (Realestaterama) May marks the third straight month of increased permits for single-family homes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wesley Seminary Residence Hall to Break Ground Next Month


The first new housing in over fifty years for the Wesley Theological Seminary is set to break ground next month, after an almost six-year planning and approval process.

"We just went in for permits a couple weeks ago," said Paul Taylor of general contractor Vantage Construction.  "We hope to break ground in July, if everything goes through as planned.  Construction should take about a year, so they'll be finished by next summer, and ready for the fall semester.  Right now it looks like the final building will encompass 74 beds in about 56 units."

Back in 2006, the Zoning Commission approved an ambitious Wesley Seminary Campus Plan that would've added over seventy thousand square feet of residential, academic, and chapel space to the campus.  But the economic downturn forced a reevaulation of this plan, and in the end, this residence was the only new planned structure that survived the process.

The three-story thirty thousand square foot residence hall, designed by Falls Church-based MGMA, will feature a facade of brick veneer and contrasting concrete panels, to match the rest of the campus, and will house plant facilities for the entire campus on the lower levels.  The design has evolved over the past year, after consultations with citizens groups, to produce a more visually dynamic, varied structure.  Designers pulled out stairwells, added elements to the roof, stepped back precast elements, and "reduced the institutional feel" by strategically adding window, to create a "more interesting and more residential" building.

Wesley Seminary was founded in 1882 in Westminster, MD, and has been at its present Spring Valley location since 1958; according to the latest Campus Plan, the campus, though "outwardly tranquil and relaxed is, in reality, a place of great energy and excitement."

Washington, D.C. real estate development news


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