From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Living in Borderstan, near some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, often means sacrificing quality for location.
Leaky faucets, linoleum flooring and window AC units are the trade-offs for living within walking distance of bars, coffeeshops, a farmer’s market and DC’s only high heel race. Renters, by nature, need temporary housing, but that doesn’t mean we should all be counting down until the day our lease is up and we have another chance to find that elusive perfect apartment.
Renting can feel like a constant struggle in this high-demand market. Amy Rose Dobson, editor of DC real estate blog Curbed D.C., explained in an email.”It is still hard to find an affordable apartment in a desirable neighborhood because there is so much competition and not enough spaces,” she says.
It might not take an expert to figure that out, but it does help to have one say that rental prices might be easing up in the not-so-distant future.”Right now there are over 2,000 apartment units under construction to deliver in 2013 so the tight rental market should see some easing by the end of this year,” Dobson added. But, be warned that she doesn’t “see a reversal in the current supply-demand trend anytime soon.”
DC real estate trends confirm Dobson’s view. An August 2012 artilce in The Washington Post promised a “renter’s respite” as thousands of new apartments whose construction had been put on hold during the recession were to be completed by the beginning of this year. A recent post on DC Urbanturf noted: “The ever-growing supply of new apartments in the DC area seems to finally be catching up with demand. After years of increasing, rents are now dropping in many parts of the region.”
But, relief may still be a year or two away for some. The same post goes on to say, “rents did not fall everywhere, however. Capitol Riverfront (3.9 percent) and the sub-market that includes Penn Quarter, Logan Circle and Dupont Circle [a.k.a. much of Borderstan] (2.5 percent) showed rent increases.”
Since apartments are still in scarce supply, renters need to be savvy in their pursuits. After the endless hours spent scouring Craigslist and Padmapper, the countless open houses, the application forms and fees, most renters are desperate to finally move in somewhere — anywhere — before their current lease expires. We have all, wittingly or unwittingly, overlooked a fatal flaw in the apartment itself or with building management that has left us wondering how we ever thought we could live there.
The truth is, you never really know a place until you live in it. But, there are proactive steps renter’s can take to avoid some of the most common pitfalls of renting. Dobson recommends getting a copy of your credit report before the showing or open house and bringing it with you.”It shows you’re motivated to move in, speeds up the process, and slightly cuts down on the likelihood of your social security number being stolen,” she explained in an email.
Another tip from Dobson: When you first enter the unit, take notice of any overwhelming air freshener scent. It’s probably being used to mask something much more unpleasant. Once you decide you like the building, be on the lookout for unexpected fees when you talk to the landlord or leasing office. It might seem obvious to ask about parking space fees, but Dobson mentioned that less obvious costs, like bike fees and storage, often surprise tenants.
Other useful resources on renters’ legal rights include The Washington Post classifieds’ F.A.Q. page and the District of Columbia’s Office of the Tenant Advocate website. There may be no such thing as a “perfect” apartment (although I’m personally holding out hope). Still, knowing what to look for in an apartment and building management make it much easier to find a place you want to call home.
It’s the end of September already. How did that happen? For me in my day job, it means end of the month invoicing. So let’s check in on the state of the District for their monthly ‘activity report’. If you disagree with the grade, rationale or the final invoice, feel free to tell me in the comments. All agreements are considered paid in full, anything else may be subject to an upcharge.
DC Economic Health, By the Numbers
Grade: Above Average. Rationale: While every Gallup poll will show that people think the country is on the wrong path and the economy is in the toilet, recent numbers on the state of DC may indicate our little bubble is intact. The Washington Business Journal has found that some real estate is returning to pre-recession levels. Median housing prices in some parts of the area (DC, and parts of Arlington and Alexandria) are back up to the boomtime, eye-popping listing and closing figures of 2005. And our unemployment number is holding steady at 6.1% for the area and dropped .4% in DC proper. I know that’s not great news, or a surge, especially since DC’s number is one of the higher percentages in the nation (also the WBJ). But in a time of so little optimism, I’m going with no news is good news.
DC Economic Health, By the Businesses
Grade: Needs Improvement. Rationale: While the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats (see: Reaganomics), it seems the 14th Street NW corridor is a case study in what a higher tide of rent means to established at sea level businesses. The evidence is in the shuttering of businesses that helped create the growing community — 1409 Playbill Cafe (from us), PULP (DCist), go mama go (14th and You). While not all of the closures (and there are more beyond that short list) are rent-related, the majority of them are, according to their owners. If you get motivated to do something about it (at least about the building edifices), check out this awesome read on the DC Preservation League and what to expect with gentrification, growth and changes from the Washington City Paper.
DC Food and Beverage on 14th Street
Grade: Delicious. Rationale: Estadio has been open a year now to mostly rave reviews on 14th Street NW. We Love DC went back to check things out and found some yummy scallops, shrimp and wine. The success of small plates continues on the strip of street, with Cork Wine Bar as one of the original purveyors of tiny bites. But fans should be aware that Washington Post is reporting their head chef is departing. Cork has new chefs in contention already, so the bites and sips should continue with little disruption.
DC Interaction with Businesses
Grade: Needs Improvement. Rationale: Exhibit A is unfortunately the Lincoln Theatre. DCist reports that without a $500,000 infusion of cash from the city government, the Lincoln may close this year. Apparently, it costs $60,000 to run a month and they have $50,000 cash on hand. Mayor Gray has said the model is not sustainable and has, according to theatre supporters, been less than available to discuss the state of the Theatre. There are not a lot of scheduled shows there, which seems to be a cause of the cash shortage as well (at least to our untrained in theatre economics eye).
Services and Start Ups in DC
Grade: Kicking some serious butt. Rationale: Regardless of how you feel about bicyclists on your daily commute, it is difficult to argue the success of Capital Bikeshare. In one year, they have expanded service, had over one million rides and have over 1,110 bikes on hand in various areas. This is a great public/private partnership example and we hope to see more of these models emerge and thrive in the future. To celebrate or to check out the ‘hood while this current iteration still exists, check out their Vintage Shopping itinerary on The Washington Post.
From Matty Rhoades
Borderstan would love to hear from you on the subject of development and other subjects related to the Dupont-Logan-U Street area. Got an idea for a column? Email us at [email protected]
The battle lines over local development and new businesses close to residential areas often elicit a vehement yes or no. What you don’t always get is a yes, but or no, and here’s why.
When we found out that Doug Johnson was part of a new local blog, U Street Dirt, we wanted to find out more about the site and the reasons behind it. Was this a “no more development around 14th and U” gauntlet being thrown down, or something else? Johnson says he wants good development (a subjective term to be sure) and that he is not against density. Decide for yourself; we used a Q&A format.
Johnson and his partner, Craig Brownstein, are among the founders-editors of the site, Who Murdered Robert Wone? and and are also the creators of Puck Buddys. They live on Wallach Place NW, a block of row houses and back gardens that runs from 13th to 14th — just one street south of bustling U Street NW and right off the 14th Street corridor.
Johnson on a vision for the neighborhood: “NOT Ballston [an area of Arlington]. It seems that some people — a few I think, and mostly not residents — want to turn what is a genuine neighborhood into a phony one. One that’s more about chain restaurants rather than a dingy but useful Post Office…”
Borderstan: Can you define for us the mission of your new site? Is the focus on business and development?
DC9 Death Ruled a Homicide
The D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has completed and released the autopsy results for Ali Ahmed Mohammed, confirming it was a homicide, TBD reports. Cause of death was explained as ‘Excited Delirium Associated With Arrhythmogenic Cardiac Anomalies, Alcohol Intoxication and Physical Exertion With Restraint’.