DC Buyer: Office Manager and Part-Time Grad Student Looking for First Home

by Martin Smith

DC Buyer is a series on UrbanTurf where we look at buyers from various demographics and provide available housing options for them in the current DC market. After presenting some choices, we will ask readers to help them make their choice. If you are a prospective buyer and would like to be featured in DC Buyer, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

1833 S Street NW

This week, we’re working with Amanda, a 27 year-old office manager and part-time graduate student who would like to buy her first home. Her income is a fairly modest $44,000, but combining her savings (she lives a very frugal lifestyle) and a generous gift from her parents, she is shopping in the $300,000 price range. Her FICO score of 728 and her minimal consumer debt with payments under $200 each month will qualify her for the $150,000 mortgage loan she needs.

Amanda only has a few “must-haves” for her new home. As someone who works and goes to school, she wants her new home to be on the quiet side, so she’s ruled out ground floor apartments and basement units, especially on busy streets.  She doesn’t mind doing some basic aesthetic work or substantial renovations, but does not have the money to do renovations right away. As for location, Amanda is open to exploring new neighborhoods, but would prefer to stay in Northwest if she can.

Lastly, Amanda knows that especially in a condo building, you can often change almost anything that you dislike down the line, but the size and placement of windows is usually permanent. Therefore, she would like something that already provides ample sunlight.

3039 Macomb Street NW

The first selection is a one-bedroom co-op at 3039 Macomb Street NW. This property recently had a price reduction down to $299,000, which puts it exactly at Amanda’s target price point. While the finishes are a little dated, the location (only two blocks to the Cleveland Park Metro on the Red Line) is excellent, and the unit has an airy, welcoming feel due to the high ceilings and windows in every room. The downsides here are the lack of an in-unit washer and dryer and the fact that the kitchen will need to be renovated at some point.

Next up is a one-bedroom condo at 1833 S Street NW priced at $330,000. This unit is right in the middle of Dupont Circle, has hardwood floors, a large bedroom and a small balcony off the kitchen. It is the highest-priced unit that we are featuring for Amanda and it would be a stretch that would require her to borrow a little bit more for the down payment.

1239 Vermont Avenue NW

The final and lowest priced option is a one-bedroom unit at 1239 Vermont Avenue in Logan Circle, on the market for $279,900. This unit has a workable kitchen and bathroom, but at some point she would probably want to do some renovations, especially with the potential to eventually open up the kitchen to the living space. This unit also carries a higher condo fee than Amanda had hoped for ($421), but the building offers a rooftop deck with a pool and expansive city views for that price.

Given these three choices, where should she put in an offer?

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See other articles related to: logan circle, dupont circle, dclofts, dc buyer, cleveland park

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_buyer_office_manager_and_part-time_grad_student_looking_for_first_home/1846


  1. Ali said at 4:06 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    love this feature and was worried it wouldn’t publish this week! I like the S Street or Logan Circle option. The Cleveland Park coop looks like it require more than just a little work.

  1. SL said at 4:49 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    I like the one at 1833 S St. NW. The location is prime, the unit is on the top floor, and with a lower condo fee than the other choices and no need for any immediate renovations I think it’s better for a busy first-time buyer. I also love the architecture - so much better than the Vermont Avenue unit.

  1. Lauren said at 4:50 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    Is it very common for parents to give 6-figure sums of money to their children so that they can buy a condo? If so, I guess that would explain how house prices in DC are so high.

  1. J said at 4:59 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    She probably received less than 6 figures from the parents…she just needed some help for the down payment (which seems like it will be a whopping 50% of purchase price?).  In my honest opinion, 1833 S st is a bit overpriced for what you get.  You also fail to mention that there is no elevator in the building: so it being a top floor unit is a critical disadvantage.  If she is ok with the walk-up, go with 1833 S but push on price.  1739 is small but a compelling value for location.  Ashame about the condo fee.

  1. Lauren said at 5:02 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    @J: You really think she could have saved more than $50k by age 27, making $44,000 and living in DC? Even with roommates, the cost of living is so high in this town that on that salary you really can’t put away more than a few thousand a year, even if all you eat is ramen noodles.

  1. Marge Simpson said at 5:19 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:
  1. SWester said at 6:50 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    Keep the discussion on-topic, ladies and gentlemen. You don’t need to be privy to her entire financial background - just work with the numbers provided.

    The 1833 S St. is nice, even though I don’t care for the layouts in those ancient Dupont buildings. And frankly it’s in a different league than the other two price-wise. That extra $30-45k is almost a year’s salary after taxes for her, after all.

    And the listing has it at $330,000 - not $340,000.  Was it just reduced?

  1. Mark said at 6:58 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:


    Good catch. Price for the S Street unit is $330,000.


  1. jeffrey gordon said at 8:06 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    A wise man once said, “friends don’t let friends buy condos”.


  1. SWester said at 11:47 pm on Friday March 5, 2010:

    Nah, nothing wrong with the condo life.  You’ve just got to do a bit of extra due diligence when it comes to management and condo fee history.

    That, and if she actually wants to live inside the District of Columbia, she’d be hard-pressed to find an actual house in livable condition in a good neighborhood for less than $500k.

  1. Simon Landau said at 8:35 pm on Sunday March 7, 2010:

    Thanks for the article Martin.  There are tons of this type of buyer moving to DC, so great to see a breakdown on a specific one.

  1. JS said at 12:30 pm on Monday March 8, 2010:

    That, and if she actually wants to live inside the District of Columbia, she’d be hard-pressed to find an actual house in livable condition in a good neighborhood for less than $500k.

    Not true.  Maybe in a trendy neighbohood, but upper northwest (Shepard Park, Brightwood) and NE (Riggs Park, Lamond, etc) have tons of great, affordable rowhouses and detached dwellings.

  1. JS said at 12:39 pm on Monday March 8, 2010:

    “J: You really think she could have saved more than $50k by age 27, making $44,000 and living in DC? Even with roommates, the cost of living is so high in this town that on that salary you really can’t put away more than a few thousand a year, even if all you eat is ramen noodles.”

    She also could have been from here (like a number of buyers) and lived with family to save money.  44k a year isn’t a lot of money, but if you’re saving 20k a year by living at home and not paying for rent, utilities or (some) food, then you really are able to save a LOT.

  1. emerald said at 1:31 pm on Monday March 8, 2010:

    I think she should keep looking. The only decent condo is the S street location and I’m not a fan of that one.  She might consider broadening her area and look in the SE area.

  1. SWester said at 3:02 pm on Monday March 8, 2010:


    I agree that she should keep looking. Both SW and SE have some great condo properties in safe areas, closer to metro stops than any of these 3 choices, and at a far greater value for your money.  I spent plenty of time looking in a similar price range recently, and I just couldn’t find anything in NW that fit the bill.

  1. DCster said at 3:32 pm on Monday March 8, 2010:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the suggestions she should consider other parts of DC.  Among these options, though, I’d suggest Cleveland Park for its proximity to the metro and bright interior (kitchen excluded).

  1. Felicity said at 3:27 pm on Tuesday March 9, 2010:

    I really enjoy this feature.  I think she should keep looking.  The Macomb Street unit seems to have lots of light, but Cleveland Park is not the most exciting n’hood for a 27 yo. I’m not loving the S Street unit from the photos, but it could be b/c they’re full of someone else’s clutter.  If she can see herself living happily in Logan Circle and amenities such as the pool justify the $421 condo fee to her, maybe she should take a closer look at it. How fortunate she is to have parental $ support in this purchase.

  1. kk said at 2:21 am on Thursday April 1, 2010:

    I would avoid the Vermont Ave location…do some research on code violations/rodent infestation/and how little the pool has actually been open over the last 5-10 years

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