Sunday Open House, Monday Morning Quarterback

I think I may have been too optimistic about Washington, DC. There, now you all can start yelling at me that I’m tanking the real estate market again. But I have to call it as I see it. In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard some anecdotal information from my realtor cronies around Georgetown that things are really selling well. Yes, they’re staying on the market longer than last year and yes they have to be sanely priced, but yes--they’re moving.

According to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (, the number of contracts signed in May on existing single family homes was down only 1%, as compared to a year of much larger monthly dips. I also saw a number of homes in my neighborhood sell pretty quickly recently, so I jumped to the conclusion that, in DC housing at least, all’s well that ends well.

I forgot to think about price points. My bad. So yesterday, I decided to take my weekly snoop to a large stone colonial on a rather swanky street in Chevy Chase, DC. Washingtonian Magazine recently ranked the neighborhood one of the top zip codes in DC, thanks to the great elementary school and the proximity to downtown. The houses, however, are still small, despite the massive additions tacked onto the back of each one. The lots don’t allow for a lot, so to speak, so the price points rarely venture past $2 million.

This house, however, was large, 4000 sq. feet, grand and on a pretty good-sized lot. I walked through the large entertaining spaces, past the Viking appliances and peered through the rose window out onto a small but perfectly landscaped patio and yard. While some updating was necessary, the place had good solid bones, and a lot of large spaces and historic details (circa 1920).

And I was perplexed. I know from my trolling that this house has been on the market a while, and the Realtor told me this was the fifth open house, the first after the $100K+ price drop. Current price: $1.849m. I identified myself as a housing spy, and given that I was the only one strolling through the place on that bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, he took some time to dish with me in the kitchen.

“I’ve been in the business 14 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad,” the agent said in a hushed voice, with only the walls and I there to listen. The family had done substantial work in the last two years, foundation and systems, re-plastering, digging out the basement. They had only been in the house a few years before circumstances forced them to sell. So what’s the problem??

The price point. Apparently while some folks are ready to jump off the proverbial fence today for a good deal, in the lower price ranges, the houses above $1.5m are simply not moving (Georgetown I think being the exception). Witness the house I blogged about last week, the Spanish style with the big wraparound porch. Still sitting with the sign up, no offers. This realtor seemed like he was sweating the sale pretty badly, despite the central air. I got a very strong feeling that an offer under asking would be welcomed.

So this is anecdotal DC. Don’t yell at me that one house in one neighborhood doesn’t mean anything, because I’m trying to get you all to write in with your data and observations. Tell me what you’re seeing in your ‘hood, and I’ll post as many as I can. The more we start to get of these, the better picture we’re going to have of the major and not-so-major markets around the country.

Realtors, don’t you dare send me your listings.

Questions? Comments?