From One Anacostia Investment To a Development Firm

by Shilpi Paul

Paula Wu, right, and her agent Megan Markey. Photo by Porter Watkins.

Late last year, UrbanTurf wrote about a young real estate investor named Paula Wu who had recently purchased her first property in Anacostia.

Wu, a recent college grad, crunched the numbers and decided that purchasing, renovating and then renting out a four-unit apartment building in the neighborhood would yield a strong return, and offer her a source of income that would supplement her day job as a researcher. Now that a few months have passed, UrbanTurf was interested in seeing how things are working out.

In short, Wu is very pleased. While the project has not been without its issues — she discovered plumbing and HVAC problems that were expensive to fix — her first investment experience has motivated her to search for more opportunities. Wu even pulled together a small development team, dubbed Dominic Properties, to find, renovate, and sell properties. Real estate agent Megan Markey and property manager Karissa Leake, who both assisted Wu with the first project, are on the team.

Right now, Dominic Properties is working on a four-unit building at 479 Orange Street SE in Congress Heights. Wu is planning on renovating the building, which she bought as a short sale, and then filling it with tenants. While she plans on holding onto her first property for several years, she is hoping to sell the Congress Heights project, renters included.

479 Orange Street SE.

Unlike some investors, who have middle- and upper-class buyers and renters in mind, Wu is focused on investing in affordable housing.

“While there are concerns about overbuilding of Class A apartments in certain areas of DC, there will always be a shortage for low-income housing, especially subsidized housing,” Wu predicted. “The Section 8 waiting list is many years long.”

Wu did run into some competition when looking for her next property; a Columbia Heights home that she was interested in garnered 35 offers. But the Congress Heights property that they ended up purchasing was a short sale, that Wu said they bought “at a discount.”

Like many other investors out there, Dominic is focusing its search for properties in transitional areas where Wu believes there will be growth, and where she can find distressed properties at below-market values.

“Market growth in Ward 8 has only just begun,” said Wu. “Its livability, safety, and access to resources has increased. This trend should only continue as the projects at St. Elizabeth’s, Barry Farms, and Sheridan Station move forward and replace former crime and blight epicenters with mixed-income housing over the next 10 years.”

However, Wu is by no means alone in her thinking as investors swoop in to these areas. Five other properties on the block of Orange Street SE where Wu’s property is located have been or are in the process of being renovated.

For now Wu is holding on to her day job, though she is hiring more people to enable Dominic Properties to work on multiple projects at once. She coordinates her team and the contractors in her off hours…and during lunch. We will check back in with her down the road to see how things are panning out.

This article originally published at

1 Comment

  1. John said at 11:45 am on Thursday March 28, 2013:

    Congrats to Paula on her success. As a recent grad myself (4 years out)I’ve been considering this same idea. Can anyone offer insight as to HUD’s contract period. Is payment for most section 8 units guaranteed for min. 10 years? Also, are there restrictions on the investor having to reside in the property?

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