DC Buyer: Two-Bedroom, Two-Level Units for Two People Who Saved

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.

This week, we’re working with Samantha, 31, and Aaron, 34, a couple who has saved for years and is now looking for a two-bedroom home in DC. Alice earns $71,000 a year as a contracts administrator in Dupont Circle, and Aaron earns around $48,000 working in a museum near the National Mall. Samantha and Aaron have saved about $90,000, most of which is the return on a long term investment. They do, however, have about $850 a month in consumer debt that they are aggressively working to pay down. While Samantha has a good FICO score of 742, Aaron’s score dipped down to below 700 last year. The couple plans to shop in the $475,000 to $525,000 range, but are very sensitive to condo fees, and will not consider anything with a fee over $400 per month that doesn’t include utilities.

1861 California Street NW

Samantha and Aaron just have a cat right now, but they are thinking about having a child at some point in the coming years. Therefore, a unit that is both pet-friendly and has a second bedroom is a must. They share a car, so off-street parking is also a bonus. Samantha likes units with some architectural character, while Aaron’s biggest request is to avoid high-rise buildings. They both agree that a two-level unit would feel more like a home, but without the maintenance a townhouse requires.

The first selection for our couple is 1861 California Street NW, Unit #4. This two-bedroom, two-full bath unit offers 1,229 square feet on two levels, in addition to a small loft. While the condo offers abundant natural light and a massive master bath, the kitchen could use some updating. Still, the unit is pet friendly and offers deeded parking in the back, skylights, and a monthly fee of $383. The Kalorama neighborhood is an easy commute, with both able to walk to Dupont where Aaron can take the train and Samantha can go the extra two blocks on foot to the office. 1861 California Street is on the market for $510,000 after a recent price reduction.

1442 Corcoran Street NW

Next for the couple is 1442 Corcoran Street NW, Unit #4. This two-bedroom, 1.5-bath condo is brand new to the market, and is also a bi-level unit. On the smaller side at 900 square feet, this property offers a recently redone galley kitchen with stainless steel appliances, wide plank (possibly original) wood flooring, a fireplace, skylight, and in-unit laundry. The Logan Circle location is still a quick walk to the Dupont Metro and is just a block from Whole Foods and other neighborhood retail. This unit is also pet friendly, and has a slightly lower condo fee of $349 than the California Street unit. The price, however, is slightly higher than what Samantha and Aaron wanted to spend: 1442 Corcoran is listed for $539,950.

1024 Massachusetts Avenue

Our last choice for the couple is a bargain near Lincoln Park. 1024 Massachusetts Avenue NE, #2 is a 1,076 square-foot, two-bedroom condo, once again on two levels on Capitol Hill. This property features a new kitchen, a formal dining room (rare in a condo), and private outdoor space in the form of a narrow, wrap-around brick patio on the ground level. The unit could use some updating to lighting, upstairs carpets, and some fixtures, but is in move-in condition overall. The generous depth of the patio helps conceal that the first level is technically the basement of the building. In addition, the property is a corner unit facing beautiful Lincoln Park and three short blocks to Eastern Market. The condo shares a private entrance with one other unit in the building, has ample closet space, and offers an in-unit washer dryer. Best of all, it’s the lowest priced of the three options at $469,900.

Given these three choices, where should Samantha and Aaron put in their offer?

See other articles related to: logan circle, kalorama, dclofts, dc buyer, capitol hill

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_buyer_two-bedroom_two-level_units_for_two_people_who_saved/2106


  1. Abbrev said at 8:56 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    The Corcoran Street property with those beautiful floors!

  1. Jason said at 9:58 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    I have been to the California Street unit and the rooms have a weird layout. The photos look great, but once you get there, it is disappointing.

    I like the Corcoran Street property, even though it is the most expensive. The living room looks like it has a lot of character and the location is very nice.

  1. pmt said at 10:23 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    Lincoln Park is a huge amenity.  I used to live two blocks away and I miss it.  They can touch that place up and add finishing touches over time.

  1. guest said at 10:28 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    my wife and I were in a similar situation when we bought a house in nov. we went for a house in columbia heights for the around $500K. CH isnt as nice as the addresses above but 1) we get an entire house w/ parking, backyard, and a roof deck 2) no condo fees 3) the potential for a large increase in value of property as the neighborhood continues to gentrify.

    i am convinced that condo fees are a scam especially in dc where you dont get any amenities like a pool, tennis courts, internet or cable.

  1. Jeanne said at 10:48 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    @ guest—What was the condition of the home when you bought it and how much work are you going to have to put in?

  1. Ashley said at 11:06 am on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    Another option is to look slightly further out of the dupont area.  I have lived in the apartments in Fort Totten for about a year and decided that the area was convenient enough to everything I need and has great things coming to the area that it would be a worthwile purchase.  A 10 minute walk to the metro there are brand new townhomes for the high $300s.  Another option would be to look into the new townhomes in Brookland.  If you want to live in DC but are willing to live away from the center of it all there are many great options.

  1. lauren said at 12:26 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    Unfortunately I don’t see how they could possibly afford the Corcoran St unit:

    They earn $119k a year, which after taxes I would estimate to be ~$6,000/month take home.

    With 17% down (this is assuming they put *all* of their saving toward the downpayment) and a 5% interest rate, the mortgage is $2,400. Add in condo fees, insurance and taxes and you’re talking over $3,000 a month. Add in their $800/month in debt and their debt-to-income ratio is almost 2/3rds. 

    Am I missing somehting?

  1. Furi said at 2:09 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    @Lauren - Yes, as usual this is a crazy financial option for these guys who are going to be their whole finances into real state. Good luck!

  1. benji said at 2:29 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    Crazy financial option? Please.

    For those who don’t think that you are going to have to sacrifice mightily in terms of your day to day finances to buy a home, think again. I bought my condo for $400K, the upper reaches of what I was approved for. So I cut back on buying clothes, going out to eat, drinks, etc. But I have a great place and I am happily making my mortgage payments every month.

    As I see it, these guys are approved up to about $520K, so yes, $539K means that they will have to cut more out of their weekly budget to afford it. So do it. Eat out less, go out less, don’t go on vacation. If you do stuff like this, Samantha and Aaron, you will be happy every time you come home at night to your new place and will be able to make mortgage payments.

  1. lauren said at 2:36 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    @ benji - 2 comments:

    1) I really doubt they would be approved for $500k in the first place. It isn’t 2005 anymore.

    2) I guess to each their own, but personally I think their is more to life than having granite countertops and the right zip code. Being able to go on vacation, save for the future (e.g. children), and enjoy a nice restaurant once in a while seems far preferable than spending 60% of your take-home pay on housing.

  1. m said at 5:37 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    It’s also important to note that just because the current ASKING price is more than where they wanted to be financially, that doesn’t mean the property wouldn’t sell for a lower price. One of the other properties in this post just took a pretty sizable reduction, and still hasn’t moved…

  1. Jesmoi said at 8:10 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    @ Lauren-

    I completely agree with you.  If anything, this crisis should have taught people that you should NOT think of your home as an investment.  And the asking price is nothing compared to the real cost of the home once you add in all the interest you’ll be paying on the loan AND the condo fees that never go away.

    I too appreciate a night out at a restaurant, a vacation, and the peace of mind of knowing that I have money in the bank for emergencies.  But hey, to each his own.

  1. Diane said at 8:15 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    22301 zip code in Alexandria might be a good option for them if they aren’t urban pioneers, are willing to leave the District, and willing to tackle TH maintainence.  There are several 2 bedroom THs in the 475,000-490,000 range zoned to Mt. Vernon Elementary.  The Del Ray area is young but family-oriented, has a main street feel with lots of shops and restuarants, and good access to transit (walk to Metro or frequent bus service to Metro).  Longer commute is the main tradeoff.

  1. guest said at 11:41 pm on Wednesday May 26, 2010:

    @jeanne - i am guest. my $500K was a total renovation. everything except 3 walls was brand new.

  1. DG Cromwell said at 9:56 am on Thursday May 27, 2010:

    consumer debt = $850/month
    Savings = $90k from long-term investments

    interests rates on debts usually outpace the yield on investments. Suzy Orman is banging her head on a table. Bang Bang!

  1. benji said at 10:11 am on Thursday May 27, 2010:

    People should do their homework before making uneducated comments. This couple is approved (based on the information given) for between $500K and $550K, according to a loan officer I know that I ran the numbers by. The Corcoran option is thus doable.

  1. lauren said at 10:42 am on Thursday May 27, 2010:

    @ benji,

    This is what I got after running the numbers. I’d be interested in seeing how your loan officer friend found differently.

    They earn $119k a year, 9,916 monthly gross.

    Using the back-end ratio of .36: (http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/how-much-house-can-you-buy—1.aspx)

    9,916 * .36 = 3,570 is their max allowable debt obligation.

    They already have 850 in debt service, so
    2,720 is maximum allowable housing expense.

    The expenses for the Corcoran condo are:

    2410 mortgage (449k (539-90 downpayment) @ 5%)
    348 condo fee
    347 taxes

    = $3,105

  1. Frag said at 12:59 pm on Thursday May 27, 2010:

    Approved at 500-550 I dont see why they wouldnt check out houses with rentals, like last week’s one (featuring the CA couple) in NOMA that was huge and had an inlaw that rented for 850 a month.  If I recall it was around 550.  Seems liek something like that might actually match this couple’s needs.

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 ▾