10/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Changes in the D.C. Housing Market

As Washington's political machine gears up following the Democratic and Republican conventions, so does Washington's real estate community, where the top agents have already been networking with both camps -- the core individuals and various others who might be part of the new administration.

Washington used to be considered a sleepy southern town, with lovely neighborhoods, reasonable prices and pleasant living. Over the past five to eight years, the District of Columbia has experienced a renaissance. New areas have or are still undergoing significant changes with constant home renovations and new construction occurring. Once run down areas are re-flowering into vibrant and attractive urban environments in which buyers are setting down roots in this transient-based town. The shops and restaurants are more interesting and diverse. The quality of life is ever-rising and the hip factor increasing geometrically.

Even with the troublesome market and the secondary mortgage failures plaguing the country over the past year, this city has, remarkably, been weathering the storm of financial crisis. The cardinal rule of location, location, location has buffered the downtown D.C. real estate market relative to those of other U.S. cities. Even though we have an overabundance of condos like many other urban centers, single family houses and townhouses are still selling reasonably well from $1 million to over $10 million.

The city's luxury market centering on Georgetown, Kalorama, and the more in-town suburban areas of Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Wesley Heights and Spring Valley have continued to do reasonably well even in this less vibrant market.

Georgetown, the geographic goal of many newly arrived movers and shakers, will find that $1 million goes quickly in this day and age. Properties like the former Atherton House on O Street, a magnificent detached antebellum federal in Georgetown, was purchased for $7.5 million and has undergone a super speedy total renovation and interior decoration. A charming couple from Georgetown recently spent $11.5 million for new quarters on 28th Street, formerly two houses belonging to the Belin family on part of the historic Evermay estate in the heart of the east village. The two houses were joined together, quite successfully, and completely rebuilt to become one residence. Another property on N Street, after being in the same family for over 40 years, flew off the market at four million. It hadn't been touched in over 50 years, but the bones and location are perfect. The house with 4500 sq ft of gracious space will take well over $1 million to renovate. Worth every penny. Many people moving from overseas know Georgetown by reputation and are clearly focused on it when they come to buy here.

If you have a good house on a good street and priced correctly for the current market, it will sell and sell, perhaps, with more than one offer. Select properties will sell immediately or quietly (privately), no matter what the condition as it may historically be a highly coveted or very desirable property. There are many intangibles involved in this kind of sale.

More upper bracket properties have quickly gone off the market, helped by Europeans coming here with their strong Euro and purchasing very fine properties in the $2.5 to $8 million dollar range. Some have parking on the property some don't. Still, they are highly desirable properties. Almost all the purchasers are here to work in Washington or have strong interests, business or political, in this city.

It will take $1.5 to $3 million for a pleasant downtown house and can quickly jump higher for a little land downtown, a larger entertaining space or a coveted address on certain fashionable streets. Condominiums in the downtown areas of Georgetown, Kalorama, east and west Dupont Circle, and further east toward the Capitol, can range from $300,000 for a studio or small one bedroom, to an average of around $550,000 to $700,000 with parking, and up to $1.5 million to $2.5 million for luxury digs. This, more or less, breaks down to about $450 to $550 per square foot for pleasant starter and second apartments. It goes up to $1,000 to $1,400 per square foot for upper bracket condominiums.

Parking is a premium for all properties downtown. Only 20 percent of the houses in Georgetown and the Dupont Circle areas have parking on the properties. Street parking is ample enough and requires zone stickers. Although it may seem inconvenient, the desire for in-town living supersedes the periodic hunt. Proximity to work, friends, social life, and the dynamic proximity to the center of power all make it highly attractive. The initial fall and present stabilization of prices will continue into the fall. New buyers will be able to take advantage of the realignment of prices in the Washington DC market.

The coming months will see some exciting new changes and faces in the federal city. This feature will hopefully provide a helpful overview of the Washington market and focus on different areas of the city and close in suburbs. We are all taking a deep breath and preparing to enjoy the fall season.