DC Buyer: Small Business Owner Looking for Live/Work Space

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. 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). See all of our past DC Buyer articles here.

Today we’re working with Alex, a small business owner looking for a live/work space on or near Capitol Hill. He has a good credit score of 722, an older car that is fully paid off, and carries minimal personal debt, leaving his debt payments at less than $200 per month. His income is typically around $80,000 each year. While he has several large loans for his business, they are all in the name of his company and are paid out of the revenue it produces.

Alex’s third option: 1242 Penn Ave SE

Alex currently lives on the Hill and enjoys it very much. He founded his company five years ago, and it has since become very successful. About three years ago the company outgrew the ability to be run from his home, so Alex has rented office space ever since. He now has two additional full-time employees and would like to find a property where he can have a small office component that is separate from the residence. In addition, he would like to have enough space for a meeting room to accommodate the occasional client visit, since he will no longer have the shared conference room his current rental space provides.

On the residential side Alex doesn’t need very much, but he would welcome more space than he has now in his 550 square-foot home. He knows he will likely end up with another small kitchen, so he anticipates having to renovate it himself to maximize use of the space. Lastly, he would really like to have an outdoor area so that on nice days he can move the office outdoors where he, his employees and his dog can enjoy the sun.

Alex currently owns a condominium near Union Station, which has about $230,000 in positive equity that he will roll over into his new home. In addition, he has managed to save about $60,000 that he can either apply toward renovation costs for the residential component of the home or as an additional down payment. Finally, his business has set aside $25,000 in this year’s budget for office renovations for the work space in the property. He is going to be shopping in the $400,000 to $450,000 range.

The first choice for Alex is 258 14th Street NE, which is new to the market and listed at $435,777. This corner building had a retail tenant in the past, but currently has a large unused store room on the first floor with a half-bath and a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment upstairs.

Out of all three options, this one is in the best condition and really only requires cosmetic changes to become functional, although Alex would likely undertake some more intensive projects immediately to make the space exactly how he wants it. An added bonus is that the two spaces are already separately metered for utilities, which makes keeping personal expenses and business expenses separate much easier from an accounting perspective, and is one more cost he would not have to take on. Lastly, there is an outdoor space with this property that would easily exceed Alex’s needs.

The second property we found for Alex is 58 Florida Avenue NW. Listed at $429,000, this three-level row house has been fully renovated into office suites and includes a full kitchen and off-street parking. While it is not on the Hill, it is still close enough that Alex can get there to meet with clients quickly and easily.

The primary downside is that there is not currently a residential component to the building, so he would need every penny of his construction budget for that build-out, and there are additional zoning and permitting issues that need to be addressed before he could move forward. The location, however, is very close to the developing NoMa business district where several of his clients and the New York Avenue Metro station are located.

The final option for Alex is an unexpected find for his price point. 1242 Pennsylvania Avenue SE is a two-floor Victorian that was built in 1900 and is currently on the market for $425,000.

This property was once residential, then was converted to commercial, and is now just a construction mess. It has been mostly stripped to the studs, but the advantage of this is that it is easier to estimate construction costs when all utilities and framing are already exposed. Plus, the build-out can be completed to Alex’s exact specifications and preferences. The construction costs on this property will be more than he had originally budgeted, but a Pennsylvania Avenue address only two blocks from a Metro station (Potomac Avenue on the Blue and Orange Lines) is certainly tempting. He feels that this property is also the most likely of the three to have an appreciable increase in value after he has finished it.

Given these three options, where should he put in his offer?

See past DC Buyer articles from UrbanTurf:

See other articles related to: dc buyer, capitol hill

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_buyer_small_business_owner_looking_for_live_work_space/1885


  1. wdc said at 3:22 pm on Wednesday March 17, 2010:

    Would say either Penn Ave or 14th St.  Penn Ave listing says under contract, so maybe that answers the question.  That said, why no H St listings here?  That seems like the obvious spot for what he’s talking about.  Maybe if there’s something reasonable available on the 400-500 block?  Or are those spots all holding out for too much money?

  1. skt said at 4:04 pm on Wednesday March 17, 2010:

    Look at 1025 7th St. NE.

    Nice commercially zoned first floor with apartment up top in middle of a quiet row of houses. Has a good sized back yard (for downtown).

  1. SimonF said at 10:44 pm on Thursday March 18, 2010:

    I like 58 Florida Avenue. Seems like a good unit and I think that area is coming up.

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾