UrbanTurf Reader Asks: What and Where to Buy With $250K?

by UrbanTurf Staff

Homes in Brightwood

In this installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a first-time buyer with a budget of around $250,000 asks the UrbanTurf audience the eternal question: Where should I buy?

I’m looking for my first place in the DC area. I am one year out of college, work in finance, and currently live in Bethesda. I have been pre-approved for around $250,000, but will only be able to put up a small down payment. I’m looking to go the FHA route, and primarily looking at condos, ideally two-bedroom/two-bath listings with lowish condo fees, so that I could rent out one of the rooms. I work in Bethesda, but have a car, so I don’t need to be right near a Metro. I’m single so I am willing to buy in a place not quite there yet (SW Waterfront, Brightwood, etc). Like most buyers these days, the biggest thing that I am looking for is long-term investment potential. I don’t mind growing with an area. Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_what_and_where_to_buy_with_250k/3075


  1. sarah said at 1:17 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    There are some affordable new condo projects in takoma park and Petworth that are worth looking at in your price range (forgot the names). Also 250 could get you a short sale in a lot dc neighborhoods but that might not be what you are looking for.

  1. DG-rad said at 1:29 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:
  1. Paul said at 1:37 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I think a condo in SW Waterfront might be your best bet. I know DG_Rad loves Anacostia but I would not advise plunging into a fixer upper rowhouse one year out of college.

  1. L said at 1:56 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    This would be my price range too but I’m renting until I can afford a nicer/larger place. My first thought was Petworth/Brightwood also. Since you don’t need metro access you could look at something like this 2BR:

    Or if you want to be closer to Metro these are a couple of 1BRs if you decided to go that route:

    (the 2nd one, on Taylor St has 2BRs but they’re $300,000)

    You might want to also look into Silver Spring.

  1. H Street Landlord said at 2:15 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I think a fixer-upper is doable if you have plenty of heart!

    Areas I would check: Brightwood, Trinidad, South of Benning areas, Anacostia, further out MD areas?, Brookland/Edgewood?

    Good luck and have fun!

  1. Mat said at 2:23 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    What are the boutique condo project that you all just profiled, the Flatiron. I guess it would depend on when exactly you’re looking to buy, but this site showed projections for those condos running as low as $200K.

    The biggest difficulty there would be the commute out to Bethesda every day, but you could try a number of different routes until you found one that worked.

  1. jag said at 2:44 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    There are some decent listings between downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda, e.g. http://www.redfin.com/search#!lat=38.992437995572885&long=-77.05089569091797&market=dc&max_price=300000&num_beds=2&sf=1,2,3,4&v=6&zoomLevel=15

    Would be super convenient commute to work and to downtown Bethesda/Silver Spring/Columbia Heights, etc. for play.

  1. Izzy said at 2:48 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:


    First of all, thanks so much for all of the advice. I sincerely appreciate it. I really think SW Waterfront and Petworth are the best longterm investment areas (especially SW). The thing that I hate most about SW are the high HOA fees or Coop fees down there. What is everybody’s thoughts on Brightwood? I really think the Walmart that is getting put up there is finally going to bring retail to Georgia Avenue. The only thing is lack of metro but since I have a car, it isn’t a big deal. You can really get a lot more for your dollar there. Silver Spring is another place I’m looking.

  1. Izzy said at 3:06 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    Also, I’m realizing that I’ll more than likely have to go the 1br/1ba route, which is fine.

  1. SL said at 3:15 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I live in Petworth so will add my plug…prices are very affordable and there are many developments planned and underway, yet prices haven’t moved much since 2005. You could probably buy a 2BR condo for $150K less than a similar condo in Columbia Heights just a few blocks away. The southern part of Petworth (around Upshur St and south) is still very affordable yet a 15 minute walk from the Columbia Heights metro.

    Here’s a newly renovated condo building in a great location http://bit.ly/eCzh5S - and it’s within 1 block of the farmer’s market and brand new Yes Organic Market, close to the new restaurants (Domku, Sala Thai) and 4 blocks to the metro. One unit is listed here, but the whole building is available (I think only a few have sold so far). I went to the open house and think they look well done.

    SW definitely has some interesting developments on the way…my only hesitation is I don’t know anyone living there. My office probably has >100 employees under 30 yrs old and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone living in SW - they’re all in Columbia Heights, Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan, Shaw, Petworth, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, etc. So my hesitation with SW might be that you’d be isolated from other young people.

  1. Paul said at 3:27 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    @Izzy - Remember that coop fees include the property taxes.

  1. Campy said at 3:40 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:
  1. DG-rad said at 3:52 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    the reason I chose that house was because it didn’t seem like THAT big of a fixer-upper.  And hey now, I bought my first fixer one year after graduating college - so it’s definitely doable.  smile

  1. swresident said at 3:59 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I live in SW, and we’re seeing more and more young people—singles, young couples and families too—all the time. And yes, remember that a part of the co-op fees are tax-deductible and include far more than the typical condo fees. so if you want nightlife, look elsewhere. but we have tons of coming development, beautiful trees, a truly diverse and pretty quiet neighborhood and crazy-good transportation access at a very low price point. And i live in river park, which has had its issues in the past, but we are under new management, and you can get a 2 bd/2 ba for under $200k. It’s not fancy, and it’s not for everyone, but I’ve got great neighbors, have been there 4 years and really love it. good luck in your search!

  1. Paul said at 4:05 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    @DG_Rad - but of course you’re a professional rehabber of distressed properties. If Izzy had half your passion for renovations I’m sure she would have mentioned it in her intro. Instead she highlighted that her focus was condos.

  1. Jare said at 4:08 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    If you’re not against moving to Maryland, do check out Silver Spring (for condos) and Mount Rainier (for houses)

    UrbanTurf did a great coverage of MtR in a previous post.  definetly worth looking at with Busboys and Poets and Yes Organic Market coming into Hyattsville next door.


  1. Leigh said at 4:17 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    The condo fees at Waterfront Tower in SW aren’t bad. For a jr one BR, they are $288/month and the jr one brs are going for a little under $250k. FHA approved. Also featured on HouseHunters! I moved there a year ago and LOVE it.


  1. Ed said at 5:15 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I think the best thing is to choose a real estate agent you really trust, and tour around with them and listen to their advice.  They have probably had years of experience with blossoming neighborhoods, rehab houses and first-time home buyers and will probably be able to offer you some very valuable counsel. wink

  1. Richko said at 5:47 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    Or perhaps the Myerton!  Want to know more?  Just click one of the *8* separate ads for it today on the homepage.

    (Really, UT?  8 ads for the same condo on one page?)

  1. Mary said at 6:21 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    I’m a 30something who moved down to SW in my 20s, and can attest to the fact that there are some of us younger (ish) folks down here! There aren’t a ton of places to go out, but there is the cantina marina on the river, the new restaurant opening at the metro station, the community sailing club on the river, etc and you’re really close (and in zone for parking) to Barracks row and the ballpark. It’s also kind of nice to live close to the restaurants and liveliness of Penn Quarter (I enjoy the walk home along the Mall often in summer) without the noise. And it’s a very friendly neighborhood with a nice culture of saying “hi” to neighbors and passersby as one walks home. The coops down here give you a lot of space for your $$, but, these days, most require a conventional 30 year fixed mortgage with 10-20% down, so that may not be ideal if you’re looking to put a small amount down (put differently, I don’t think you can use FHA loans for coops and I don’t think banks are doing low downpayment loans any more). If that’s the case, the new condo buildings are smaller units but seem to have nice amenities.

    On the up and coming neighborhood thing - my only advice is that while it makes sense to think about appreciation, you should also really pick someplace you like living *now* because it’s someplace you have to come home to every evening and if the last few years have taught us nothing, it is that market fluctuations can make up and coming ‘hoods take a bit longer to get there. (Although the ability of the SW project at metro to get financing during the recession and finish up does point to it being a good bet.)

    I don’t know what condos look like there, but if I had to work in Bethesda and was looking for an up and coming neighborhood, I might also consider Brookland, since it’s on the Red line, has a lot of charm of its own and is set to get all that development stuff over by Catholic U in the next little bit.

    I really like SW a lot but can’t decide if a daily commute to Bethesda would be a bit of a pain because the Rock Creek pkwy goes one way for rush hour, so, if you drive you’d be stuck taking one of the bridges and the GW pkwy (you can get through town once Canal Rd and Rock Creek have reversed, but it’s a bit of a nuisance.) Metro should be pretty smooth, though, and one nice thing about the location is that it’s one of the few from which a MD and a VA commute are manageable, so if you ever change jobs, you wouldn’t necessarily have to house hunt.

  1. swresident said at 7:32 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    oh, i missed the part about your commute to bethesda. if you have any flexibility with when you get to work, using RC parkway, the whitehurst and canal rd is a breeze after the parkway opens. I’m at work in the palisades 20 minutes after leaving sw. but if you have to drive during rush hour, i can see how that would be a pain.

  1. Izzy said at 9:59 pm on Tuesday March 1, 2011:

    Hi all,

    I’m really shocked at how many responses there were to this posting. I really do appreciate it. I’ve gotten some better ideas as to what I should expect and where to look. Petworth seems like a good place for me, because of the proximity to Bethesda. Glad to see some new construction builds in SW (Waterfront Towers). I’ll check out Silver Spring as well. That was my first gut feeling and I think there are some good condo units there. I’ll shoot these ideas to my realtor. Thanks once again!

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