Thursday, May 17, 2012

Should DC Raise Its Height Limit?

That question is being discussed by Mayor Gray and Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (  Evidently, the current height restrictions, 130 feet for commercial districts and 90 feet for residential districts are restricting developers from providing more office and residential construction.  In turn this has lead to higher prices. 

On the other hand, having a low density city with historical housing stock is what makes DC unique.  We don't want DC to turn into Rosslyn or else it wouldn't be such a special place to live and work. 

What's your thought?  Preserve the status quo or let the market decide what the landscape of DC looks like?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Extra Cost to Live in a Great School District? $200,000

Ever wonder what the average housing cost differential is for homes in high-scoring public school districts vs. low-scoring public school districts?  A new report ( Jonathan Rothwell of the Brookings Institution breaks down the numbers. 

Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.  This housing cost gap reflects that home values are $205,000 higher on average in the neighborhoods of high-scoring versus low-scoring schools.  

Those sorts of numbers should weigh heavily on your home-purchasing decisions.  If you don't have school-age kids at the moment, is the purchase price premium and property tax premium really worth it?  
Another factor to consider is that homes in good school districts will keep their values better even in tough times.  With more data, you'll make better informed purchasing decisions.  We'll keep sending it your way!   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Alexandria Planning Commission Approves Major Gentrification Project

The Alexandria Planning Commission voted to approve a major gentrification project yesterday:

The implications are broad reaching:  The area affected is 430 acres or four times the size of the Pentagon and its parking lots.  The move will shift from many of the townhouse and garden-style apartments currently available to more working class tenants to high-rises with a much higher price tag.  The city is setting aside 800 low-income units that must be provided as well as a number of improvements: a new fire station, $50 million for roads, athletic fields, etc.  

This effort is a part of a larger trend for the close-in suburbs. The real estate where many working class folks live is just too valuable to continue serving those populations.  

We'll continue reporting on these trends so you can make your investment decisions accordingly. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Look out Zipcar - New Carsharing Competition Comes to DC

You've probably seen them already.  The little blue Smart cars owned by car2go ( zipping around DC streets.  They are the latest entry into the carsharing market in DC.  As this great article on the Discovery website explains:, car2go has some interesting features.  

The most novel is that you can pick it up and return it from anywhere in the District (with a few limits).  The cars use GPS to show their current location and you can find them where the last person left them.  

Another benefit is that you don't have to reserve it in advance.  If you see one on the street all you have to do is walk up to on swipe the card they give you.  They charge you 38 cents a minute up to an hourly rate of $14.  

Lastly, you can leave the car in any legal parking spot.  

We'll see if these options draws consumers away from the more established carsharing companies.  Anything that shakes up the transportation options in the region is cause for celebration though.   

Friday, May 4, 2012

Despite Young Stars Nats Not Drawing a Crowd

Even though the Nats are in first place they are still only filling about half the stadium:

This is unfortunate.  They are a really exciting team right now.  Even with a slew of injuries to some of their best players, they are winning.  Two of their young phenoms are also electric to watch.  19-year old Bryce Harper brings an intensity to the game, which few can match.  Pete Rose (aka Charlie Hustle) would be impressed.  

Harper has a canon of an arm (here he is throwing a strike to home plate from the outfield: and is proving to be quite fielder in the outfield.  All this even though he was trained as a catcher!  In addition, the guy hits the ball hard every time.  He hit the game winner last night and is batting .375. 

Stephen Strasburg was also National League pitcher of the month in April.  He's 2-0 with a 1.13 Earned Run Average.  What do these guys have to do to get some attention?  Have Robert Griffin III throw out the first pitch?  

Eventually people will start to believe this team is legit and this will be a tough ticket to get.  Get out there and give them a look before that becomes true. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Private Equity Investors Buying Residential Investment Properties

It seems that the hedge fund and private equity crowd has finally figured out the returns that are available in the residential rental market at the moment:

The principles that we have been extolling for several years are now becoming clear to the denizens of wall street.  

Rental properties provide a hard asset with a solid return at historically low prices with room for appreciation growth.  They are definitely an opportunity ripe for the taking.