DC Buyer: The Southern California Couple Relocating to DC

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.

321 D Street SE

This week, we are working with Sharon and Tom, a couple that is relocating from southern California to the DC area in the coming weeks. They are 30 years old, and would prefer something with a minimum of two bedrooms, so they can stay put as they start a family. Tom would like something that offers an easy commute each day to Metro Center, where he will be starting a new job. Financially, they are prepared for DC prices - they have a combined income of about $200,000, a nest egg of $120,000 for a down payment, and solid credit scores. Also, they have no consumer debt between them. While they are open to Virginia and Maryland, they want to avoid anything that is “too suburban”. They specifically want to be able to walk to grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping. They have a dog, so pet-restricted properties are not an option. They anticipate shopping in the $550,000 to $620,000 range.

The first option for Sharon and Tom is 321 D Street SE. This three-bedroom home on Capitol Hill is 105 years old, making it actually a relatively “young” property for this neighborhood. In addition to being just three blocks from the Capitol South Metro and Eastern Market, the home has a deep backyard and a large deck, that are great assets if the couple stays here when they have children. The inside needs to be cleaned up some, but not all that much. The family-friendly Hill neighborhood comes at a price, however: 321 D Street is listed for $619,000.

3837 Albemarle Street NW

The second option is 3837 Albemarle Street NW in Tenleytown. Of all the homes featured, this three-bedroom farmhouse built in 1875 probably has the closest feel to the southern California environs from which the couple is moving. It has a rustic and open design and a large backyard that is good for barbeques now and could be a great play area for the couple’s kids in the future. The home is close to the Red Line and the Tenleytown Whole Foods as well as some of the better public schools in DC. This charmer is listed for $629,000, making it a justifiable stretch for Sharon and Tom.

67 N Street NW

Our last choice is 67 N Street NW in NoMa. This four-bedroom, 3.5-bath Victorian may have been built in 1915, but the recent renovation has brought it up to modern standards with a stainless steel and frosted glass kitchen, a Bosch laundry center, and a landscaped rear garden offer everything a young, growing family could need. This townhouse also offers an in-law suite below, which could offset some of the monthly mortgage payments if it is rented out. There is also a parking pad in the back. While NoMa and the North Capitol corridor is still emerging and developing, there will be a Harris Teeter in the Constitution Square project shortly, and the house is three short blocks from the Red Line at New York Avenue. 67 N Street hit the market six days ago, and is listed for $565,000.

Given these three choices, where should Sharon and Tom put in their offer?

See other articles related to: dc buyer

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_buyer_the_southern_california_couple_relocating_to_dc/2084


  1. Raj said at 7:41 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Normally I would say 67N, the biggest, nicest, cheapest, and a 10 minute walk to metro center.  But if I had a baby I’m not sure I would want to raise it in that neighborhood.  Of course, once Harris Teeter opens 2 blocks away I suspect the gentrification will continue at rapid speed.  I think there is already a Safeway like 3 or 4 blocks away.  Tenley is too far away, so I guess the Cap Hill one wins by default unless they are OK having a family in Shaw.  There aren’t a lot of good photos on the CapHill one and it’s been on the market for 40 days so maybe they can get a deal?

  1. Allison said at 8:08 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    If I were them I would go with the Tenleytown home. It is located in a great neighborhood and has what looks like some very cool rooms and a large backyard.

  1. Janney said at 8:45 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Kind of agree with first post, it’s beter location and much less nice of a house for Tenley and Cap Hill, versus a really nice house and a transitional hood in the NOMA house.  However, Tenley isn’t “too far” if you consider it’s near the red line.  If their emphasis is on family life, I’d prob go with Tenley, but personally, I’d buy the NOMA and if it isn’t family friendly in a few years sell it and make a ton of money on it in 3 years.  Finally, if I were their realtor I’d show them stuff in Arlington or Takoma Park, though I don’t know the market there enough to know if they can get a house under 600.  It’s certainly not too suburban.

  1. Cory said at 9:30 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Absolutely NOT 67 N!! I used to live near there and continue to work in NOMA.  This is a neighborhood for intrepid young hipsters who don’t mind random and regular violent crime.  It is not for young families moving from a sunny environment. Shootings happen here in broad daylight and, as much as I believe it will change, it simply is not fit currently for transplants who are not completely familiar with the risks associated with this neighborhood or even the costs/benefits associated with other, more family-friendly neighborhoods.

  1. Scott in DC said at 9:37 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Alarmist much?  Shootings happen in the open in Logan Circle and Adams Morgan too.  I think they should keep looking…. but for the budget and their desires they are going to have to get something smaller and fixer-ish or be in a transitional neighborhood.  But painting NOMA Shaw that way is absurd.  Random and regular violent crime?  Please.

  1. SimonF said at 9:42 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Tenleytown. Best value, close to Metro and the public schools are good.

  1. Lauren said at 10:27 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Yeah - Tenleytown for the schools.

  1. Lauren said at 10:49 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Sorry for the double post but in response to Cory & Scott, I would say that while Cory’s post might have been a *little* over-the-top, I would agree that before buying in a neighborhood like that where things change block-to-block, it’s really a good idea to spend a lot of time there first - since that’s probably hard to do from CA, I would say they should cross 67 N off their list.

    Actually, it’d probably be a good idea to rent in DC for a year in any event - would give them a chance to get to know the area plus I’d imagine it’d be difficult to house-shop from 3,000 miles away.

  1. Madison said at 11:47 am on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    The Capitol Hill house is “As-Is” condition.  A buyer needs to be extra skeptical about it.  Whatever fixes need to be made are too expensive for the seller to do.

  1. gina said at 12:05 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    If they are open to Maryland, Cabin John has a great sense of community, a great place to raise kids and renowned school cluster.  There are neighborhood stores walking distance even though it is in the suburbs.  They can get a 3/2/1 for less than 600K, but it might require timing.

  1. phil said at 2:35 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    That’s an amazing location on the Hill for that price.  Great area for young adults looking to start families who want to stay in the City.

  1. Dave said at 3:47 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    I share this couple’s demographics - I’d say tenley town is too fuddy-duddy.  It will compromise your social life.  The Capitol Hill home and neighborhood - esp eastern market & baracks row (not to mention terrific proximity to ballpark and what will someday be a cool neighborhood when stores, restaurants finally begin to open) makes me think I’d lean towards that choice if I were them.  It really is just a great mix of family friendly, laid back yet active and fun.  Tenley town is for you if you want suburbs light and don’t expect to go out too frequently.  So I would say Cap Hill, for sure - UNLESS, the couple wants to maximize return on investment and doesn’t mind putting up with moderate & occasional sketchy-ness in the first few years.  If that is not a bother, then the location will only get better and better!

  1. Mary said at 5:41 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    If kids are in the mix, I think they’d do themselves a favor to try to land somewhere that they’d like at least the elementary schools, so they can sit tight if, in six or seven years, the market’s still not where they’d prefer to sell. I’m not sure of the house on the Hill is in teh Capitol Hill Cluster schools, for example, but that’d be worth prioritizing. And, as one poster noted, that’s a real virtue of the one in Tenley. I also think parking is something I’d want - either easy street parking or a space, so one’s not wrangling said putative kid and its gear blocks and blocks from where ever one found street parking.

  1. Mark said at 7:11 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    I really enjoy these postings. Could you potentially feature a realistic situation in the future? Maybe a single professional or couple that have student loan debt, consumer debt, etc.

    I can’t imagine all DC home buyers are debt free with six figure down payments ready to throw down.

    Thank you.

  1. Mark Wellborn said at 7:31 pm on Wednesday May 19, 2010:

    Hey Mark,

    DC Buyer is about prospective buyers in the DC area that write into UrbanTurf looking for recommendations based on their profile. It just so happens that the last two were buyers in the fortunate position of having no debt, good-sized nest eggs and high incomes.

    If you look back at past columns, you will see that we have featured buyers that have debt, lower incomes and smaller down payment amounts. Because we write about people that write in requesting to be featured, we are limited by that individual/couple’s financial situation.

    If you or someone you know is interested in being featured, please email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


    Mark Wellborn
    Editor, UrbanTurf

  1. Diane said at 7:43 pm on Sunday May 23, 2010:

    For comparison, they should also look at Alexandria—Yellow line in from Braddock Metro or King to Gallery Place and walk is a short commute or take Blue line to Metro Center. To be in a better elementary school zone, they’ll be further from Metro but the bus access is good either from Del Ray (http://franklymls.com/AX7280798) or Southeast Old Town (http://franklymls.com/AX7223787).  Very dog friendly and a bit more laid back than the District, which may or may not appeal to them.

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