Neighborhood of the Day, day 27 Edgewood

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Edgewood, a densely populated maze of rowhouses and bungalows in Northeast DC, tends to lose top billing to buzzier neighbors: Bloomingdale, Eckington, Brookland all command more headlines, more visitors, and more retailers.

Frequently used descriptors like “friendly” and “under the radar” are used by residents to describe Edgewood, perhaps because a shortage of eateries and bars keep the foodies and hipsters away.

But none of Edgewood’s residents want the neighborhood to turn into H Street NE. Residents say they were attracted to the diversity, spirit, and decent home prices the community had to offer.

Attainable Home Ownership Attracts All Kinds

The Edgewood neighborhood sits just to the west of Brookland, roughly bounded by Lincoln Road and Glenwood Cemetery to the west, Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street to the north, the Red Line tracks to the east, and Rhode Island Avenue to the south.

In five years, homes in Edgewood have gone from rock-bottom fixer-uppers to moderately priced gets. Kenn Blagburn, a real estate agent with City Lights Realty, says the neighborhood was “not always people’s first choice” when he started selling. In the past three years, though, both interest and prices “have grown incredibly.”

A spot in the sparkling new EYA development Chancellor’s Row runs in the $600,000 range whereas the solid row houses dotting the rest of the neighborhood might list for $300,000. The range isn’t the city’s cheapest, but it’s attainable for folks who’ve been priced out of other “up and coming” neighborhoods. Edgewood also offers a healthy rental market, with several large apartment buildings.

Blagburn says he sees no common denominator as to who the buyers are, unlike pockets of the District that are hot among young parents or young professionals. “From investors to first-time homebuyers,” he said. “There’s no specific demographic looking at it.”

Edgewood has seen its population get whiter and wealthier in the last decade, according to census data. “Now, some people will have a problem with that,” Michael Henderson, a teacher who moved to Edgewood in 2002, said. “But more so, people are welcomed and welcoming.” He describes a neighborhood where neighbors see him cooking out and stop by and vice versa.

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Chancellor’s Row

Sally Hobaugh agrees that Edgewood has remained friendly through its economic transformation. “I feel like I know half the neighborhood,” she said. Hobaugh notes that neighbors responded positively to Chancellor’s Row, an upscale development of “Truman Show”-like perfection.

“I know some of [the townhouses] are affordable,” she said. “[The developers] also gave money for different things in the community.” (A small triangular park at 4th, Lincoln, and Franklin is currently being rehabbed by EYA.)

Houses, Houses Everywhere, But Not a Place to Drink

Neighbors are more likely to complain about the lack of restaurants and retail in Edgewood than gentrification.

“We’re not like other neighborhoods,” Hobaugh said, referring to the eateries and bars popping up in neighboring Bloomingdale. Besides Chez Hareg, an upscale bakery, and a few carryout spots, Edgewood is a veritable restaurant desert.

“For some reason, we seem to have been left out of the retail changes,” she said. “We’re not sure why it seems to be hanging back.”

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Park at 4th, Lincoln and Franklin streets.

Henderson had a more definite answer. “Retailers, the kind that folks like me really want to set up shop here, are not going to come here until more folks like me are here,” he said. Henderson says he appreciates the Home Depot and the Giant (recently spruced up) that serve Edgewood but longs for more dining options.

“The problem is we don’t really have a nice restaurant, where you can sit down and have a glass of wine and a good meal,” Henderson said.

Despite the lack of restaurants, other developments in the neighborhood have become points of pride for neighbors. The Chocolate City Brewery, established in 2011, might be the most attractive Edgewood amenity to outsiders, and residents say they enjoy filling up their growlers there on Saturdays. The brewery is located off of another Edgewood amenity, the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which serves the neighborhood’s many cyclists.

“Everyone’s excited about the Metropolitan Branch Trail,” Hobaugh said. “They’re supposed to build a bridge from the trail to the Rhode Island Metro. We really can’t wait.”

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Chocolate City Brewery. Courtesy of Brookland Avenue.

Pushing to Make Edgewood Better

Edgewood has shown itself to be more substance than style—short on chic bars, but long on community activism. When residents see something they don’t like, they act.

“When I came to Edgewood, Edgewood had no presence,” Henderson said. “Not on the city council, not the Internet.” In the past 10 years, Edgewood developed a website, a listserv, and a number of civic-oriented projects, including a community garden, a non-profit to develop the Edgewood Recreation Center, free music lessons for kids, and monthly trash clean-up days.

Hobaugh started the trash pick-up four years ago. “When I first moved to the neighborhood, I noticed there was a lot of trash around the rec center,” she said. “I asked on the listserv if anyone wanted to do a neighborhood clean-up.” A strong response followed, and now neighbors meet monthly to pick up garbage and then enjoy a cookout.

Crime in Edgewood’s ANC district is fairly average for a DC ANC, according to city data on property and violent crime, but schools remain a tricky issue for residents. Despite an active neighborhood, the District closed Edgewood’s primary elementary school, Shaed Education Campus, last year for under-enrollment and underperformance. Noyes and Langley serve the kids of Edgewood now, and residents say charter schools are extremely popular; DC Prep’s Edgewood middle and elementary schools draw high marks from school ranking site GreatSchools.org.

“A lot of [parents] are trying to figure out the school thing,” Hobaugh said. “All my friends who are moms in the neighborhood went through the lottery. Only one went into a DCPS school. A couple are homeschooling, or they got into a charter, or they’re waiting for next year.”

Hobaugh says she’s seen some parents move rather than playing the lottery or hope that Edgewood’s public schools improve. “I know they all wanted to stay,” she said, “but they were concerned about the schools.”

The Bottom Line

There’s a reason why real estate in Edgewood is still within reach for DC professionals: you have to leave the neighborhood to sit down to dinner, and some might feel they have to leave to get their kid the right education. But for the civically-minded sort who cares about clean streets and grilling out with the neighbors, it’s a fine place to call home.

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Northside Social Opens Falls Church Location

 

Northside Social Opens Falls Church Location

FALLS CHURCH, VA—Northside Social, a coffee shop and wine bar with a flagship location in Clarendon, opened its Falls Church location Monday.

The restaurant held a ribbon cutting Monday. Menu offerings include coffees and teas, freshly-baked pastries, salads and bowls, quiches, sandwiches, soups, pizzas and happy hour-style evening offerings. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.

The restaurant had been slated for a spring opening but faced delays in construction and hiring. The Liberty Tavern Group, which also runs The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social in Clarendon, opened Liberty Barbecue in Falls Church late last year.

Free Concerts In The Park Begin In Falls Church

Free Concerts In The Park Begin In Falls Church

FALLS CHURCH, VA—In summer, we can do just about everything everything outdoors, none of the least being listening to live music.

The Falls Church Summer Concerts in the Park return on June 21 at Cherry Hill Park (312 Park Avenue). Concerts feature local musicians and will be held on Thursdays at 7 p.m. throughout the summer.

The events are free and open to the public. Spectators may bring blankets, food and drinks to the park. In the event of rain, concerts will be held at the Falls Church Community Center (223 Little Falls Street).

Here is the full schedule:

 

6 Things to Do Before Moving Into a New Home

 

 

Image result for movingCongratulations! You signed on the dotted line, you said goodbye to landlords forever and you knocked that SOLD sign into the ground – the house is officially yours.

Enjoy it and bathe in the sweet success of equity!

Without being a party pooper, things are going to get very real very soon and there are a few things that you might want to do before you move into the house and make it your own.

These are what experts say are the six things to do before moving into your new home:

#1 — Borrow your real estate agent’s contacts

Well, it might not necessarily be as cheeky, but let’s face it: your real estate agent is like a walking network, so you might as well put him to good use for old times’ sake.

You are probably going to need the plumbing, electricity and telephone lines to be sorted out, and you can bet that your agent has some contacts in those areas.

Ask him for a list of preferred providers that they trust and keep the list for future reference. That’s wouldn’t be too much to ask from him, no?

It will be one less thing to stress about and it will be a comfort knowing that they are recommended by the very person that led you to your dream home.

#2 — Time to get an energy audit

Besides doing the home inspection, an energy audit is a great way to save on your electricity bill.

During such an audit, you will be told how energy efficient your home actually is and what all there is for you to do in order to save more energy in the long run!

Besides the prospect of any additional spending, this audit will also identify shortcomings and inform you of what needs to be attended to, thereby saving you money.

#3 — Make sure to keep every receipt

As if you hadn’t figured it out by now, homeownership means you’ll have to start getting organized about everything!

During a move, important papers are the first things to go missing and you definitely don’t want to stress out over any slips that you might have lost along the way, especially if you are setting up a home office. Plus, you will be surprised at how many things are tax-deductible!

Make a folder and keep it with you, if possible, during the move!

Then when you get to your new home, file it in a safe place in the room where your office is going to be.

#4 — How about a doggie meet-and-greet

This is a great way for you to get to know the neighbors and for your dog to get to know the neighborhood, pick up on new smells and get used to his or her new surroundings.

Hand out your details and let your neighbors get to know your dog for in case he or she ever escape the yard.

Plus, they might also be more forgiving when your beloved pup starts barking in the early mornings, all confused where it is, hours before it’s time for the world to wake up.

#5 — Hold off on painting those walls just yet

Living in your home unpacked may be something that you don’t necessarily want to do, but this will help you to see how light reflects the walls.

This is why you shouldn’t rush to paint the walls immediately:

  • You might paint it a color that doesn’t suit the room and that you end up hating.
  • Experts also note that light bulbs can change the hue of the color.
  • Whilst walls are important, they can wait: it is far more important for you to repaint the ceiling before you unpack the boxes.

#6 — Throw a house party

Last, but not least, throw a good old fashioned house party!

See it this way: throwing a house party 4 weeks after moving in will give you a deadline to unpack those last few stubborn boxes before guests arrive.

And wow your guests with your efficiency and enjoy the evening in your very own home

The Neighborhood of the Day, Day 26 Brentwood

 

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Brentwood
The neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Brentwood within the District of Columbia
Brentwood within the District of Columbia
Coordinates: 38.9187°N 76.9902°WCoordinates38.9187°N 76.9902°W
Country United States
District Washington, D.C.
Ward Ward 5
Government
 • Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

Brentwood is a neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C. and is named after the Brentwood Mansion built at Florida Avenue and 6th Street NE in 1817 by Robert Brent, the first mayor of Washington City. He built it as a wedding present for his daughter Eleanor on her marriage as the second wife to Congressman Joseph Pearson, and it stood for a hundred years before burning down in 1917.

The mansion stood on a large expanse of land, a farm owned by Mayor Brent, that also went to Eleanor. Congressman Pearson also purchased additional properties and expanded the estate further. The property then known as Brentwood was larger than the present (2007) neighborhood known as Brentwood. Images of the mansion may be found in the book “Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington’s Destroyed Buildings” by James W. Goode, and in several books in the collection of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.[1] A descendant (Edward Sisson) of the family that owned the mansion throughout its existence has posted a collection of paintings, drawings, photos, and histories of the mansion online in an “album” titled “Worthington House and Brentwood Mansion” on a Mac Web Gallery site.[2] The Frick Art Reference Library[3] has drawings, paintings, and perhaps photographs (although none appear to be accessible online as of late 2007). On the web, a small drawing of the mansion, together with a brief description of its owners in 1873, Capt. & Mrs. Carlile Pollock Patterson, may be found in “Washington Outside and Inside” by George Alfred Townsend, at page 620, searchable as a “google book.”

The design of Brentwood Mansion has traditionally been ascribed to the Capitol’s architect, Benjamin Latrobe. The definitive 2006 book, “The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe,” by Michael W. Fazio and Patrick Alexander Snadon, (who call the house the Pearson House) states that this is uncertain. At the time of the house’s design, Latrobe was suffering family troubles and his records for this period are poor.

During the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), Brentwood Mansion was a center of Washington social life, with many parties hosted by Elizabeth (Eliza) Worthington Patterson (daughter of Joseph Pearson and his third wife Catherine Worthington Pearson) and her husband Carlile Pollock Patterson. Patterson had known Grant since 1852; Patterson’s brother-in-law David Dixon Porter, married to Patterson’s sister George Ann, was the highest-ranking Admiral in the US Navy; and Patterson’s brother Thomas H. Patterson was commander of the Washington Navy Yard (1873-1876) before becoming the Rear Admiral in command of the Asiatic Squadron (1877-1880). Patterson Street, N.E., which is adjacent to the property, was probably named for the Patterson family.

C.P. Patterson, a Naval officer, and ship captain turned scientist and administrator of a government department, had neither the interest nor the aptitude to manage the transformation of a large rural farming and forest property into an urbanized part of the city growing around it. After C.P. Patterson’s death in 1881, long-delayed financial problems came to a head, and on June 6, 1884, three years after Patterson’s death, Congress enacted a private bill, House bill No. 4689, entitled “An act for the relief of Eliza W. Patterson,” C.P. Patterson’s widow, excusing accumulated District of Columbia property taxes on the Patterson land. President Chester A. Arthur neither signed nor vetoed the bill, but held it ten days and allowed it to become law without his signature. In a message dated June 21, 1884, the President explained “I do not question the constitutional right of Congress to pass a law relieving the family of an officer, in view of the services he had rendered his country, from the burdens of taxation, but I submit to Congress that this just gift of the nation to the family of such faithful officer should come from the National Treasury rather than from that of this District, and I, therefore, recommend that an appropriation be made to reimburse the District for the amount of taxes which would have been due to it had this act not become a law.”

After five more years of drift in management of the property, in March 1889, Patterson’s son-in-law, Lt. Francis Winslow (II) USN (oldest brother of future Rear Admiral Cameron Winslow), after 19 years of Naval service during the slow-promotion post-war years, resigned from the Navy to devote himself to subdividing, renting, developing, and selling portions of the property. He was successful. A portion of this property later became the subject of a lawsuit that reached the United States Supreme Court, Francis Winslow v. Baltimore & Ohio RR Co., 188 U.S. 646 (1903),[4] which includes excerpts of the will by which Mrs. Patterson came into the property on the death of her mother, Catherine Worthington Pearson, in 1868. The suit, which the Patterson/Winslow family won, involved the renewal of a lease of some of the lands to a railroad. (Winslow (II) also developed an expertise in oysters, having led government surveys in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. A “google” search on “Francis Winslow” and “oyster” returns dozens of “hits,” referring to the Francis Winslow who managed the Brentwood property. His work is still cited today (2007) as authoritative and accurate.[5] Winslow was also a leader of US government survey expeditions in Nicaragua, studying potential routes for a canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific.).

The death of Francis Winslow (II) in 1908, suspected to have been caused by illnesses contracted in the Nicaraguan jungle, led to another period of drift in the management of the property as his four sons pursued other careers. In 1917, 100 years after it was built, the vacant Brentwood Mansion burned, and the land became the site of a World War I Army staging camp, Camp Meigs. Three of Francis Winslow (II)’s sons were officers in World War I, and they may have staged in that camp, on their own family land. In 1919 the partially burnt house was finally demolished. Part of the property became the first lumberyard for the building supply and hardware company Hechinger Co., a store that was prominent in Washington into the 1990s.

In the 1920s, Lt. Winslow’s son, Francis Winslow (III), ended his career as a mining engineer and took over active management of the Brentwood Patterson/Winslow land. His most notable achievement was the development of the Union Market. For years called the Florida Avenue Market, it still operates after 80 years as the city’s principal wholesale food and produce market. Photographs and a detailed history of this development may be found in an April 24, 2007, District of Columbia planning document, the Florida Avenue Market Study, at http://www.anc6a.org/FLaveMarketStudy.pdf.

In the early 1940s, the District of Columbia used eminent domain to acquire a large parcel of the Patterson land known as “square 710”, on which is being built (2007) the new headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (200 Florida Avenue, N.E.). Illustrations of the ATF headquarters can be found at http://www.loopnet.com/xNet/MainSite/Listing/Profile/ProfileSE.aspx?LID=15025032&linkcode=10850&sourcecode=1lww2t006a00001. The seizure of square 710 led to a suit by Winslow (III) as trustee, asserting that the compensation offered by the District was inadequate. Winslow won the suit and a judgment for a larger sum, whereupon, according to the family, the District informed him that it simply didn’t have the money to pay the larger judgment. Regardless of payment or nonpayment, the title had vested in the government. At about this time, Winslow was demoralized by the death of his 17-year-old daughter in a 1946 car accident and was then diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1948.

His youngest brother Cameron, an insurance executive in Hartford, CT, stepped in as trustee, but it is unclear whether either Francis or Cameron ever received payment from the government of the court-ordered price of “square 710.” If not, there may be the ironic situation of a government law-enforcement agency headquarters located on land for which the government did not comply with the law by paying the lawful price. Cameron Winslow, determining that no one in the next generation appeared interested in managing the property, and unable to manage the properties day-to-day from Hartford, began selling all remaining parts of the property in the 1950s, completing the last of the sales in the 1960s, breaking-up the landed estate that Robert Brent had assembled some 200 years before.

Over the decades, much of the land was acquired by or donated to Gallaudet University, a prominent school for the deaf. Cogswell Hall, a residence hall of Gallaudet University, is said to be built on the site of the old Brentwood Mansion. According to a website on Washington ghost stories, http://members.aol.com/waniehol/DCplaces.html, students have reported that it is haunted by the spirit of a little girl. Allegedly, blankets have been yanked off, an unplugged alarm clock went off, papers have moved with no draft or breeze, there are feelings of being watched, and at least one student has been tapped awake with no one there.

The Brentwood and Bloomingdale neighborhoods are low-lying areas, located at the foot of hills a few blocks north. Because of this, flash flooding can occur during the spring and summer downpours which are common in Washington. Current storm drains are not adequate, resulting in submerged vehicles and filled-up basement apartments.[6]

Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Station of the Washington Metro

Brentwood neighborhood as it is today (whose boundaries are somewhat different than the original Brent property, as increased by Pearson) is trapezoidal in its geography. It is bounded by New York Avenue to the south, Montana Avenue to the east, Rhode Island Avenue NE to the north, and the tracks of the Washington Metro’s Red Line and Amtrak‘s Northeast Corridor to the west. It is serviced by the Rhode Island Ave-Brentwood Metro station. Politically, Brentwood is in Ward 5.

It is best known as the site of the Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Processing and Distribution Center, the postal mail sorting facility through which anthrax-contaminated mail addressed to two members of the U.S. Senate passed in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Curseen and Morris were members of the American Postal Workers UnionAFL-CIO who died after exposure to anthrax in the incident. The 633,000-square-foot (58,800 m2) facility was closed October 21, 2001, because of anthrax contamination and did not reopen until December 21, 2003.

The area also is the site of a major rapid transit rail maintenance facility of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), the principal public transit operator in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

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Homes, just like people, need regular checkups to help catch potential problems before they become full-blown disasters. Doing some vital maintenance tasks at least twice a year is essential to ensure a safe and efficient home.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with a semi-annual house maintenance checklist every homeowner needs to read.


Find Top-Rated Home Maintenance Professionals Near You


Plumbing

Preventing water damage is a lot less expensive than fixing it after the fact. That is why it’s best to make sure your home’s plumbing is working properly now. Some key items to check include:

  • Toilets – Check for leaks in the water feed and the bottom of your tank.
  • Sinks – Check all faucets, hose bibs and supply valves for leakage.
  • Bathrooms – Check for evidence of water leaks under sinks, showers, toilets and tubs.
  • Water Heater – Drain the water until it’s clear of sediment. Inspect the flue assembly and check for corrosion. If this doesn’t sound like a DIY task for you, not to worry: Most plumbers can handle it in under an hour.

Find Local Plumbing Professionals


Appliances

To help your everyday essentials last longer, make sure to inspect the following as part of your semi-annual checklist:

  • Washing Machine – Clean water inlet filters, check the hoses and replace any that are leaking.
  • Dryer – Vacuum any lint from the dryer ducts and the surrounding areas.
  • Refrigerator – Clean the drain hole and the pan (this should be done more often in warmer weather), wash the door gasket and vacuum the condenser coils.

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Electrical

Trip any circuit breakers and ground fault interrupters monthly to ensure proper protection. For anything involving wiring or electrical work, hiring a licensed electrician is money well spent.

That said, you should check the exposed wiring in your home every six months for frayed cords or wires. If anything looks damaged or dangerous, call in a professional to take a further look.

Find Local Electricians


Basement

Check your basement and foundation for cracks and excess moisture. If either problem is severe, bring in a professional to discuss what can be done to remedy the issue and prevent future damage.

Find Basement Contracting Professionals in Your Area


Extras

A little cleaning and caulking should be part of your semi-annual home maintenance checklist, too. At least every six months, take a few minutes to work on:

  • Exhaust fans – Clean the grill and fan blades.
  • Range hood fans – Wash the fan blades and their housing.
  • Interior calking and grout – Inspect the caulking and ground around tubs, showers, and sinks. If the caulking has been pulled away, you should scrape it out and recaulk or call in a professional who can.

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Professional Home Maintenance and Inspections

If completing these semi-annual home maintenance tasks twice a year seems too tedious or time consuming for you, you can pay a home inspector to evaluate your house. The inspector can also perform a roof inspection and troubleshoot potential problems with your home.

Find Home Inspection Professionals in Your Area

With The Arlington Cemetery Station Closed, The Blue Line Will Be A Pain This Weekend

If your weekend plans require travel on the Yellow or Green lines, fret not: those are the only Metro lines offering up regular weekend service on June 23 and 24. If you have to take the Red Line, things look a little worse—trains are running every nine to 18 minutes. The Orange and Silver lines are capping weekend run intervals at 24 minutes.

The Blue Line will be the most frustrating to navigate. With the closure of the Arlington Cemetery station to install cables for cellular communication, trains are only operating between Franconia-Springfield and National Airport. Riders will have to take shuttle buses between Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery, and rely on the Silver or Yellow line to complete their trip.

Additionally, the Orange and Silver lines will be single-tracking between Foggy Bottom and Clarendon for more cable work. The Red Line is single-tracking between Twinbrook and Grosvenor to allow for new rail, fasteners, and cover boards to be installed.

Red Line

Trains every 9-18 minutesRed Line trains operate every 18 minutes between Shady Grove and Glenmont with additional trains between Grosvenor and Silver Spring during daytime hours.
Single tracking between Twinbrook and Grosvenor-Strathmore to allow for rail, fastener and cover board renewal.

Orange Line

Trains every 24 minutesSingle tracking between Foggy Bottom and Clarendon to allow installation of cable/communication equipment to support cellular service in tunnels and new radio system.

Silver Line

Trains every 24 minutes Wiehle-Reston East to Largo Town CenterSingle tracking between Foggy Bottom and Clarendon to allow for installation of cable/communication equipment to support cellular service in tunnels and new radio system.

Blue Line

Buses replace trains at Arlington Cemetery, trains operate Franconia-Springfield to National Airport only

Blue Line trains will operate regular weekend intervals between Franconia-Springfield and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport only. Customers traveling to other stations should use Silver and/or Yellow line trains to complete their trip.

Free shuttle buses will provide service between Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery stations.

Stations closed: Arlington CemeteryWork performed: Installation of cable/communication equipment to support cellular service in tunnels and new radio system.

Blue line customers traveling to/from Benning Road, Capitol Heights, Addison Road, Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center should use Silver Line trains to complete their trips.

Last Train information: To coordinate with this weekend’s service changes, the last Blue Line train will meet customers at National Airport. Customers must take a Silver Line train to L’Enfant Plaza then transfer to a Huntington-bound Yellow Line train upstairs. At National Airport, transfer to the last Blue Line train for service to Van Dorn Street & Franconia-Springfield.

Yellow Line

Regular weekend service, Huntington to Fort Totten

Green Line

Regular weekend service

Top 10 Things First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know

Top 10 Things First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know - Quicken Loans Zing BlogBuying your first home is not something you (or anyone) should take lightly. You should be prepared with as much information about the process as you can learn before you begin. You should understand your real estate market and the current mortgage market. The more you know – the better.

The Best Buyers Market in History

For example, did you know this was one of the best times in the history of the United States to be a first-time home buyer? Not only are home prices at their lowest levels in years (some areas have seen prices drops up to 50% in the past few years), but there are other great reasons to buy a home today.

10 Tips Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Consider

The following are the 10 key questions you, as a first-time home buyer, should ask yourself:

How Much Home Can You Afford? As a first-time home buyer, it’s important to have an accurate idea of how much money you can borrow for your new home and most importantly, how much you can afford. Sometimes those two aren’t exactly the same (depending on your financial situation), so always use what you can afford as your main metric for deciding how much house you should mortgage. One of the realities of first-time home buying is the frustration of finding that perfect home only to discover that it is not in your price range. Finding out how much home you can afford is actually not that difficult. Your mortgage banker will help you, of course, but first you can try using our purchase calculator.

Should You Get Pre-Qualified or Pre-Approved? Often a mortgage lender will tell a potential buyer they are “pre-qualified” for a loan. This can confuse first-time home buyers, who think they will qualify for that amount. Not likely. With a pre-qualification, little information about your finances is verified (often none). You might find out later that the amount you were “pre-qualified” for is far different than what you actually will qualify for (or even afford). What you need is a “pre-approval” in which more information (your credit and other factors) is checked and you can have a better idea how much you can afford for your first home. With a pre-approval, you’re in a better position to negotiate because the seller knows that your offer is more solid. You’ll avoid wasting time looking at homes outside your price range.

What Is Your Credit Score? First-time home buyers should obtain a copy of their credit report and review it. Your mortgage company will pull your credit, but it helps if you know before you start the process. There are places, like Quizzle.com, where you can actually get a free credit report. If you find an error, it’s much easier to fix it before a house has been found, rather than dealing with it when trying to close on the loan. Your mortgage banker can even give you tips to help with any minor blemishes. Check out our Zing guide on Credit 101 for information on your credit score and on credit reporting.

What Kind of Mortgages Should You Consider? For first-time home buyers, mortgages can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. Ask your mortgage banker every question you can think of. There are no dumb mortgage questions, especially for first-time home buyers. A good mortgage banker will ask you numerous questions about your specific financial needs so that they can match you with the best mortgage.
The mortgage best for you will depend on:

  • Your current financial situation
  • Whether or not your financial situation will change in the next few years
  • How long you want to stay in your home
  • If your income is steady or fluctuating

What Documentation Do You Need? Almost always, you’ll need these items to complete your mortgage application:

  • W-2s
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank and/or other asset statements

What Is a Reasonable Offer? Unless you are very familiar with your area and completely understand how to price an offer on your first home, you might want to consider getting help from an expert. A real estate agent can be very helpful in deciding how much your offer should be. In today’s buyers market, your best reasonable offer might actually be lower than you would think. Have your real estate agent run comparable sales in your area and pay attention to prices per square foot for recent sales. This can give you a very good idea of how much to offer.

What Is a Purchase Agreement? The purchase agreement sets the amount of your offer and usually includes extra details, such as which appliances stay, who pays closing costs (seller can pay closing costs on some home loans) and when you’d like to take possession of the house. The seller (or selling agent) will have you sign the purchase agreement and offer “earnest money.” Earnest money is a deposit showing that you’re serious about your offer to buy the home; it’s usually three percent of the asking price and later applied as part of your down payment or other closing costs. It is a check that your agent holds on to until the offer has been accepted. Title companies can also prepare a purchase agreement. If you choose not to work with a realtor, seek the advice of an attorney to help you prepare your documents.

Should You Have the Home Inspected? Yes, you should. You should never buy a home without inspecting it, and most purchase agreements are contingent upon inspection. Spend a few hundred dollars and hire a qualified/licensed professional to inspect your new home (before you buy it) —it’s the only real way to ensure the home is in good condition. The home inspector should provide a very detailed summary report listing the condition of each item, and recommending repairs. You should always be there when the home inspection takes place. It usually takes a few hours and you’ll learn not only about the condition of the house but how everything works. Ask questions as you go along. If there are problems, the seller may adjust the purchase price of the home or simply repair the problems. There’s always the possibility that the home is in such bad shape or has some monumentally costly problem that it’s no longer the home you want. If that’s the case, get your deposit back and resume your house hunting. These are the cases when you’ll be most happy you got an inspection.
A thorough inspection includes:

  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Structural integrity of walls, floors, ceilings, foundation, roof
  • Condition of gutters, spouts, insulation and ventilation, major appliances, garage, etc.

Do You Need Homeowner’s Insurance? Yes, you’ll need a valid homeowner’s insurance policy before you close on your home. You can’t get a mortgage without it.

What Are Closing Costs? This is probably the top asked question by first-time home buyers. All mortgage lenders are required by law to disclose in writing your estimated closing costs and fees, so you’ll know ahead of time. If you don’t get this from your mortgage lender, you know something is wrong. Back out before you waste any money. This estimate is commonly called a “good faith estimate.” Keep in mind, various additional costs might apply depending on your state, mortgage type, and down payment amount. For instance, title companies handle most closings, but there are some states that require an attorney to conduct the closing. In those states, borrowers are not required to pay a title company closing fee.

Before your closing, you’ll receive a document that outlines the actual costs you’ll pay at closing. You’ll be asked to bring a valid picture ID, a certified check (if applicable) for any down payment due (or you may have to wire the money to the title company) and any other additional documents that your circumstances may require.

Be sure to ask for and to take a final walk through of the property shortly before the closing to make sure the home is in the condition you expect it to be.

Any number of people may attend the closing—you, your lender, the seller, the seller’s mortgage holder, respective attorneys, the real estate agent, the transfer agent (if it’s a co-op), the managing agent (if it’s a condo) and the title company representative. Once everyone signs the appropriate documents and the checks are exchanged, you’ll be given the keys to your home and that’s it!

So there you are! As a first-time home buyer, you’re on your way to being better prepared for getting a mortgage and buying your first home. Don’t take chances. Do your research and ask lots of questions – a great resource is the Zing Home Buying 101 Guide!

Neighborhood of the Day, Day 25 Eckington

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Colorful row houses near 2nd and U Street NE

As one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods, it is a little bit ironic that Eckington has a much lower profile than the neighborhoods surrounding it. However, as the city undergoes a “mixed use” renaissance, the neighborhood to the east of North Capitol Street, with its turn-of-the-century row homes and older industrial buildings, is seeing its landscape change as new residential developments break ground.

Location and History

Eckington is bounded by North Capitol Street to the west, Rhode Island Avenue to the north, the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the east, and Florida Avenue to the south. In the center of it all, the campus of McKinley Technology High School looms large over the neighborhood.

 

The land was originally home to the summer estate of Joseph Gales, Jr., a newspaper editor and mayor of Washington in the late 1820s. Named for the village in England where Gales was born, the Eckington estate was eventually crisscrossed by the B&O Railroad, bringing with it industrial buildings that still define the neighborhood’s eastern edge. The property was bought in 1887 by George Truesdell, who began developing it into square blocks that were an extension of the grid laid down in the L’Enfant plan. Truesdell also established a streetcar line that went from T and 4th Streets NE to New York Avenue and 7th Streets NW, and he would oversee construction of the area’s first row houses and apartment buildings. In the 20th century, the construction of Union Station and its converging railroad tracks coincided with more industrial development in Eckington, including a biscuit factory and a Schlitz beer brewing plant on Randolph Place. Today, the industrial landscape includes an air compressor rental company, a US Postal Service vehicle maintenance facility, and wholesale flower retailers.

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Victorian row houses near 1st and T Street NE

Between Bloomingdale and NoMa

Across North Capitol Street in Bloomingdale, the neighborhood that people often confuse for Eckington. “You will find exactly the same properties on the east side of North Capitol that you will on the Bloomingdale side, they are often just less expensive,” Suzanne Des Marais, a real estate agent with Urban Pace, told UrbanTurf. “You’re starting to see a lot of competition among home buyers on the Eckington side, as a result.” Bloomingdale’s retail stretch of restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores along 1st Street NW aren’t that far from Eckington, but Des Marais said that the North Capitol Street boundary creates a geographical divide, since there are very few spots you can cross safely. On the Eckington side, there are small corner markets scattered around, as well as a few carry out spots, but not much else in the way of commercial options.

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Rendering of NoMa West

To the south of Eckington is NoMa, one of DC’s newest neighborhoods, which offers Eckington residents transportation (the New York Avenue/Florida Avenue Metro Station) and grocery options (a new Harris Teeter at First and M Streets NE). As for the new development of its own, on the vague edge of the neighborhood at Eckington Place and Harry Thomas Way, a new mixed-use development known as NoMa West has broken ground. It will include 603 residential units and 1,500 feet of retail, according to Sam Simone of Mill Creek Residential Trust, the developer behind the project. On the other side of Eckington, at 329 Rhode Island Avenue, the 21-unit Mint Condominium, which also includes a street-level retail element, is expected to deliver soon. With these projects will likely come to some home appreciation (incremental, not huge jumps). But for now, housing prices in the neighborhood are pretty reasonable: the average single-family home price this year has been around $336,000, and the average condo price was $233,000.

The Best Neighborhood We Could Afford

When Katrina Lee bought a home in Eckington a decade ago, she didn’t know anything about it. “I don’t think you’ll find many people [that bought back then] who say ‘I drove through Eckington and found it thoroughly charming,'” she said. Still, it was the best neighborhood that she could afford at the time. Now, she says that instead of people coming in and buying row houses, newer residents are looking at the condos that have sprung up. Before 2005, there was only one building with condo ownership sales in Eckington. “Since 2006, the number of condo projects has increased to nearly twenty,” Des Marais explained.

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Metropolitan Branch Trail

Signs of gentrification aren’t necessarily obvious walking around Eckington, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a divide between older and newer residents. Lee thinks that the home buyers in the early 2000s were able to adapt to the culture of the neighborhood more easily by settling down and realizing that there were valuable things about its character. “When you park in front of somebody’s house, and they’re standing in the front yard, you say hello,” Lee said. “Newer residents aren’t as quick to do that. They see themselves as moving into a city and not into a neighborhood.” Her notion of a split between the two sets of buyers is echoed in the comments of Rossen Tsanov, who moved into a condo conversion at 3rd Street and Seaton Place NE in March 2010. Like Lee, Tsanov was attracted to the area because of the low home prices and convenient geography. But in terms of neighborhood involvement, he is not very charged up. “I am sort of indifferent to the locals, its problems, and its rapid development,” he said.

Not Without Its Problems

Despite what Lee describes as a “back fence culture” (neighbors who look out for each other in their alleys), police department statistics show that violent crime in the area has been steady, around 50 instances a year since 2008 within 1,500 feet of the heart of the neighborhood. Theft has also increased: in 2009, there were 114 instances of theft; in 2010 there were 133, and this year-to-date there have been 94. And the Metropolitan Branch Trail along Eckington’s eastern border, which is never very crowded, has come under the spotlight this year because of a spike in crime against bike commuters and pedestrians. Subsequently, Guardian Angel started regularly patrolling the trail this summer.

The Bottom Line

Eckington will likely continue to be defined by division: between older and newer residents, between its residential and industrial elements, and by major roads cutting it off from retail amenities. But for some, like Lee, Eckington’s residents and traditional character give it what it needs. “It’s remarkably convenient, people are still friends and talk to one another, and there are still some streets that have big trees, and look old and kind of unspoiled.”

Eckington Rankings

Niche ranks thousands of neighborhoods based on key statistics from the U.S. Census and expert insights.
  • Most Diverse Neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. Area
    25 of 118
  • Best Neighborhoods for Millennials in Washington, D.C. Area
    38 of 118
  • Best Places for Millennials in Washington, D.C. Area
    41 of 335
Population
7,173
Neighborhood inWashington DC
Median Home Value
$411,617

National

$184,700

Median Rent
$1,404

National

$949

Rent vs. Own
  • Rent
    61%
  • Own
    39%