Best Up-and-Comers in 2009: Redfin.com, Streetcars and FHA Loans

by Mark Wellborn

This week UrbanTurf is taking a look back at the best that DC’s residential real estate market had to offer in 2009. From the best deals to the best trends to, of course, the best listings, we believe we have sussed out the cream of the crop.

2009 was full of trends, developments and websites (just look at this one!) that increased in popularity and utility during the year. Below are our top three “up-and-comers” that gained the most traction in the DC real estate market in 2009.



If you are a regular reader of UrbanTurf, you are familiar with Redfin. The online real estate brokerage initially made a name for itself by refunding a portion of the buyer’s commission to the buyers themselves. But in 2009, the company’s website Redfin.com solidly established itself as the preferred resource for those looking for a home via the internet in the DC area. While we cannot vouch for the local knowledge and expertise that Redfin agents bring to the table, the company’s site combines ease-of-use with rich market data into a great resource for both the casual and hardcore homebuyer. Its comprehensive search of home listings includes not just those in the MLS, but also for-sale-by-owner properties, foreclosures, and even past sales. Our favorite feature: the default view when you look at neighborhood pages shows you the newest listings on the market.


The Return of Streetcars

Granted it hasn’t happened yet, but 2009 was a big year for the return of the streetcar to DC. Barring any more hurdles, DC will eventually have eight streetcar routes including a line along H Street NE where the track work has already begun. Lines will eventually also run along 7th Street and Georgia Avenue, and Minnesota Avenue between Anacostia and the Minnesota Avenue Metro. The arrival of this new form of public transportation will do wonders for the housing stock in these areas where bus and Metro access can be scarce. To the delight of many, the first three streetcars just arrived at the port of Baltimore from the Czech Republic earlier this week.


The Rise of FHA Loans

Last week we spoke with a loan officer at Prosperity Mortgage who was taken aback at how popular FHA loans have become. He said that five years ago, FHA loans comprised about 5 percent of his business; today that number is closer to 60 percent. The popularity of this type of loan should not be surprising. Compared to traditional loans that require 10 to 20 percent down payments, FHA’s 3.5 percent down has become more and more attractive to cash-strapped buyers in a tough economy. Also, FHA loans have no income restrictions, so you can take advantage of the government-insured loan whether you are making $50,000 a year or $150,000. 2009 may be the last year that these loans look so attractive, though. A recent study showed that the FHA’s insurance fund reserves are far below the congressionally-mandated minimum, so the days of 3.5 percent down payments may soon be over.

Previous Best Of 2009 entries:

See other articles related to: redfin, fha, dc streetcars, best of 2009

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/up_and_comers_in_2009_redfin.com_streetcars_and_fha_loans/1608

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