Cover story: Old homes, communities draw buyers
Nine years ago, when Michael Henderson checked out a vacant lot in the District’s Edgewood neighborhood, he saw possibilities. He was right. Today, that lot is ablaze in summer color. Mr. Henderson is the proud owner of the home across the way, with a few improvements of its own - new drywall in the bathroom and flagstones in the front.
“I thought it would be a great community garden,” says Mr. Henderson, a music teacher at Sidwell Friends School. “Now I sit on my deck and just see this beautiful space.”
Whether you are a brand-new homeowner or one who is just looking to make a change, the possibilities are far from endless in today’s tightened economy. You may have to look a bit harder for places to make your own splash of color.
“There are some places where you can find a fixer-upper you can afford,” says Amy Fisher, vice president of District-based Realty Group Inc. “Petworth, Brightwood, NoMa - the area North of Massachusetts Avenue - and SoFlo, the area south of Florida, parts of Brookland, Woodridge, all have possibilities.”
Old neighborhoods are new again, as homebuyers seek shorter commutes and closer proximity to shopping and nightlife, says Jennifer Walker, a Realtor with McEnearney and Associates.
“People are flocking to places that are walkable,” she says. “They like having a sense of community and getting to know their neighbors.”
But old neighborhoods also mean old homes that may require some work.
What will you have to do? It all depends on the home you buy, but many residents end up doing some rewiring and dealing with basement moisture, the result of years of clogged gutters and poorly positioned downspouts.
In neighborhoods such as these, some bargains still can be had, particularly if you are willing to put in a little sweat equity as you go. Woodridge, an area of detached frame houses from a variety of eras, has fixer-uppers that can be had in the $225,000 range, while Petworth and Brightwood homes that need some work can begin in the high $200,000s and low $300,000s.
Here are a few possibilities to explore:
Located just off North Capital Street between Rhode Island and Michigan avenues, Edgewood is a mix of single-family dwellings and some later apartment buildings that provide a diverse mix of people in a community that is only growing more diverse. It began as a development that followed the extension of the streetcar lines from the city core in the 1920s and was known for the large number of city workers who went there, drawn by affordable pricing and the chance to catch a breeze or two from the area’s higher elevation.
Residents in places like Edgewood have known all along something that today’s developers are only beginning to appreciate: Front porches make for friendly neighbors and even friendlier neighborhoods.
That community feeling was something that appealed to Jioni Palmer when he decided to purchase a home in Edgewood a little more than a year ago.
“I looked at lots of neighborhoods, but I didn’t see people sitting out on their stoops,” says Mr. Palmer, communications director of the Congressional Black Caucus. “We’ve got lots of people who have lived here for a long time who know everybody on the block. People here really look out for each other.”
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