Great Historical Lecture coming up.

Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods in the Nation’s Capital
Edited By Kathryn Schneider Smith

Using maps and contemporary and historical images, Kathy Smith will discuss the common threads in the history of the city that run through the stories of the twenty six unique Washington neighborhoods featured in this revised and updated, eagerly awaited, second edition of Washington at Home. Lavishly illustrated with more than 300 images, this edition adds new neighborhoods from across the city to the original text, first published in 1988. The book brings together the work of thirty authors—historians, museum professionals, librarians, a folklorist, a journalist and others who know Washington intimately and together have taken a fresh look at the social and physical history of the city. New chapters include Barry Farm/Hillsdale, Columbia Heights, Congress Heights, Kenilworth, the Palisades, Wesley Heights and Spring Valley, and an area once called East Washington Heights that includes Dupont Park, Hillcrest, Penn Branch, and Randle Highlands.

Kathryn Schneider Smith, a historian, author, and editor, is the founding executive director of Cultural Tourism DC, a past president of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the founding editor of its journal, Washington History. (Ages 16 to Adults) No RSVP required. FREE.


DC Metro Market Conditions Report

This report gives an overview of the DC Metro region. If you are interested in the full report, I can send it to you via email. The entire report is too lengthy to reproduce here.

Just let me know at darrell@lnf.com


Georgetown Stats- week of May 17 - 23

According to the MRIS (Multiple regional information Service), the following real estate transactions have taken place in Georgetown real estate during the week 5/17 - 5/23:

3 new listings: 2 Single Family (SF) ($950,000- $1,895,000) and 1 Condo/Co-op (C/C) ($539,000)

5 properties came under contract: 2 SF ($995,000 - $1,995,000) and 3 C/C ($475,000 - $869,000)

1 property went to closing during this time frame: 1 Condo ($379,000)

Graduation as a means to hope.

I just got back from graduation at Hamilton College, where I heard Jeffrey R. Immelt, the CEO of GE, give the commencement address. It was reassuring to watch 500 students receive their degrees, to hear their leaders speak with optimism, and to listen to Mr. Immelt talk about the world as though it was a place he expects to continue to exist and improve...despite oil spills, war, economic trouble, etc.

Even better was to feel the energy of the students who are passionate and full of energy. All of that renews my faith in the future of our world; more specifically the Georgetown real estate world.

Here are a number of real estate related headlines which I ran across today, from which we can draw hope.

Fed researchers predict speedy economic recovery
Housing starts rise 5.8 percent in April
Home prices up for March
Homeowner confidence rises nationally
Optimistic outlook for housing, but challenges remain
Builder confidence continues to strengthen in May
Moody's home price outlook: distressed sales key to speed of recovery
Housing demand reflects job growth

Let me know if you would like to read the stories attached to these headlines. darrell@lnf.com


More about the housing numbers...

I sift through statistics from several different sources, and as I have mentioned before, I try to make a distinction between national and regional stats, and local stats. The latter are the most difficult to track, because while there are plenty of sources tracking the real estate market nationally and regionally, there is next to nothing when it comes to smaller local areas. The Georgetown real estate market is very different from the national one...and, even within what qualifies as "Georgetown", the market varies a fair amount.

I look at statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR), the regional multiple listing system (MRIS), and various independent housing reports. I'm happy to tell you how to reach these reports. Just send me an email if interested.

The value of the NAR and GCAAR statistics, with regard to Georgetown, is that it gives us the big picture of price and sales trends. These trends reflect the Georgetown market in a general sense, and these trends have an impact on our market because this is the info nearly everyone reads and hears about in the news. However when our averages are lumped in with Las Vegas, for instance, it isn't an accurate reflection of Georgetown. In this case, our market never tanked the way it did in Las Vegas...in numbers of sales, price drops, foreclosure rates, etc. While we have suffered, we have been fortunate compared to almost every other city in the US.

Here is a long article from the NAR which, if you like this sort of thing, you will find interesting.

Using Housing and Economic Data
by Jed Smith, Managing Director, Quantitative Research

Disjointed factoids from the evening news frequently substitute for economic information. When making important decisions, such as buying a home, consumers may not always have all the facts; after all, economics is not first on everybody’s list. In last month’s Real Estate Insights, we looked at key economic variables that can shed light on where the housing market is headed: employment, interest rates, consumer mood, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A brief discussion of the actual data for the state of the economy can provide the facts—in contrast to the opinions available on talk shows.

In our monthly data (tracking sales and prices for Existing Home Sales - EHS), the monthly data fluctuate a bit from month-to-month and show where the housing market is based on the annualization of the current month’s sales. The monthly data can also be summed over a 12 month period to obtain a “12 month roll,” as discussed below.

Given the current media focus on housing – especially as it relates to the economy in general – it is not surprising that the news has been filled with information on home sales and trends. An examination of the national data indicates the market is recovering. Sales fluctuate from month to month, but total sales measured on a 12 month rolling basis show a housing market in recovery mode. A “12 month roll” is the summation of total sales over the previous month; each month there is a new “12 month roll” as an additional month is added to the calculation and a month a year ago is dropped. Looking at these rolls over a time period shows the overall trend of the market. This information can be used in conjunction with NAR’s monthly annualized figures to get a feeling for where the market has been, where the market currently is, and where the market is trending. Home sales data at the national level can be used in conjunction with local data to discuss comparisons of national and local trends.

Home prices are also a matter of concern to potential home buyers and home sellers, as well as their real estate agents., investors and policy makers. The current data on home price trends appear to indicate that housing prices are leveling out. This information is consistent with what we have been hearing from a variety of experts around the country. While we hear a lot about home prices on the news, a comparison of the national trends and those in local markets could provide potential home purchasers with useful information.

Finally, whether a household can actually afford to purchase a home is certainly a crucial factor in the home buying decision. NAR’s measure of affordability – the NAR Housing Affordability Index (HAI) is based on interest rates and prices. The HAI shows that affordability is at a ten-year historical high in terms of affordability. Again, the comparison of national trends and local experience can provide a benchmark of the current market and serve as the basis for the discussion of the outlook. What may be most helpful to home buyers and their REALTORS® is to look at the trends relating to percent of household income spent on principal and interest payments.

In conclusion, a few readily available pieces of economic and housing market data – rather than sometimes wild assertions found in blogs -- can provide some insight both about the course of the economy as well as housing. A few charts of data can portray housing trends. The information at the national level can be combined with local data for specific markets and should give an improved overview of the housing markets.


The Poetry of Real Estate.

Can we learn anything specifically about the real estate market or business from a poem?

I couldn't think of any poems I had read about real estate...aside from the limerick-like doggerel I have written myself, or heard from other real estate practitioners. So I did a little research. And to my surprise found many poems about houses and their inhabitants. I especially liked this one from 1898 by Rudyard Kipling because in the 2nd stanza it expresses a reality we still face in the current real estate market.

The Houses
1898 -- A Song of the Dominions

'Twixt my house and thy house the pathway is broad,
In thy house or my house is half the world's hoard;
By my house and thy house hangs all the world's fate,
On thy house and my house lies half the world's hate.

For my house and thy house no help shall we find
Save thy house and my house -- kin cleaving to kind;
If my house be taken, thine tumbleth anon.
If thy house be forfeit, mine followeth soon.

'Twixt my house and thy house what talk can there be
Of headship or lordship, or service or fee?
Since my house to thy house no greater can send
Than thy house to my house -- friend comforting friend;
And thy house to my house no meaner can bring
Than my house to thy house -- King counselling King.

Rudyard Kipling

Georgetown Stats- week of May 10 - 16

According to the MRIS (Multiple regional information Service), the following real estate transactions have taken place in Georgetown real estate during the week 5/10 - 5/16:

7 new listings: 4 Single Family (SF) ($1,350,000- $3,495,000) and 3 Condo/Co-op (C/C) ($475,000 - $1,750,000)

6 properties came under contract: 2 SF ($685,000 - $1,349,000) and 4 C/C ($499,000 - $1,895,000)

6 properties went to closing during this time frame: 2 SF ($1,290,000 - $1,335,000) and 4 C/C ($540,000 - $4,500,000)


Those pesky numbers!

They say numbers don't lie, and I suppose if numbers could speak for themselves that might be the case. The problem though begins to arise when we subjective humans begin talking about the numbers.That's why I'd like to be clear as to the intended meaning of the statistices I generate weekly with respect to the Georgetown real estate market.

The source of the statistics is the MRIS (Multiple Regional Information System). This is a "Multiple Listing System" used by Realtors to keep track of active and sold properties. The definition of Georgetown in my stats is the area designated by MRIS as the "Advertised Subdivision" of Georgetown. All of Georgetown falls within the borders of zip code 20007, but this zip code also encompasses other advertised subdivisions, e.g. Glover Park.

I choose this narrow snapshot in order to give the best possible picture of our immediate, local listings and sales. If one compares these reports from one week to the next, one can begin to see some trends in numbers of sales, prices, etc.

I have chosen to provide the numbers without comment most of the time. Hopefully the raw data is useful for those who like drawing their own conclusions.


Georgetown Stats- week of May 3 - 9

According to the MRIS (Multiple regional information Service), the following real estate transactions have taken place in Georgetown real estate during the week 5/3 - 5/9:

8 new listings: 8 Single Family (SF) ($599,000- $9,950,000) and 0 Condo/Co-op (C/C)

6 properties came under contract: 5 SF ($629,000 - $4,250,000) and 1 C/C ($639,000)

2 properties went to closing during this time frame: 1 SF ($1,425,000) and 1 C/C ($1,099,000)


Have you done any renovations lately? You may have issues with drywall made in China

Not to be an alarmist, but if you have had any renovation work done in the past few years, you may want to at least investigate what kind of drywall was used in your project. You may have heard the news reports about defective drywall which was imported from China and used in construction projects in the U.S. Reports vary, but it seems that the first of the defective drywall was imported in 2001 and none has been imported since 2008. Although the dates of import are relatively well established, the dates of installation are not. Homes built or renovated since 2008 may be affected as well.

While most of the problems so far seem to be in southern States, it is my understanding that the “tainted” drywall has shown up in 32 states as well as in DC. Heat and humidity serve to exacerbate and accelerate the manifestation of the problems associated with this drywall. It is likely that many homes located in areas that are not exposed to high heat or humidity have not begun to experience issues. Because the symptoms have not yet become evident, the issue hasn't surfaced. This assumption is supported by several studies that are being conducted on problematic drywall.

Here is a good website from HUD: HUD Drywall Info

Georgetown Stats- week of April 26 - May 2

According to the MRIS (Multiple regional information Service), the following real estate transactions have taken place in Georgetown real estate during the week 4/26 - 5/2:

2 new listings: 2 Single Family ($829,000- $1,295,000) and 0 condo/co-op (C/C)

14 properties came under contract: 10 SF ($649,000 - $2,375,000) and 4 C/C ($799,000 -$5,750,000)

3 properties went to closing during this time frame: 1 C/C ($575,000) and 2 SF ($1,295,000 - 1,575,000)