Rent vs. Buy: Capitol Hill

Decisions, decisions

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    NEWSLETTERS

     

    Plenty of rent-versus-own calculators are available online to do a purely numbers-driven evaluation of whether you should buy a home or rent one. (The New York Times has a particularly good one.) But, as most buyers in search of a new home know, the decision to buy a home is not purely financial. It requires a long-term commitment to a property and a neighborhood. UrbanTurf will work its way through the neighborhoods of the city to gather estimates of rent and home prices as well as the distinctive characteristics of each community. This week, we visit Capitol Hill.

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    The Market Lunch at Eastern Market. Photo by Josh Howell

    The Neighborhood

    Roughly bordered by the Capitol, G Street, 14th Street and the Southeast Freeway, Capitol Hill is an area that has evolved from a zip code favored by federal government employees to a neighborhood that is filled with families, couples and young professionals. Thanks to a re-invigorated bar and restaurant scene along 8th Street S.E. and the new Eastern Market, Capitol Hill has become one of the more popular areas in the city for both home buyers and renters. Keller Williams’ Jason Holt describes Capitol Hill as a "small-town neighborhood which also offers the sought-after amenities and conveniences associated with an urban setting."

    To Buy…

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    801 Independence Avenue SE

    Housing on Capitol Hill is primarily made up of attached, century-old townhouses that either remain single-family homes or have been split up into condominiums. Homes in need of a full gut-job renovation can start in the $500,000s, but Holt notes that renovated homes are not cheap, and can range from close to $1 million to well over $2 million. Condos are more reasonably priced with one-bedroom units averaging $330,000 and two-bedrooms around $465,000. Here are two properties that will give you an idea of what to expect if you are looking to buy.

    There is a six-bedroom home that just recently hit the market at 801 Independence Ave. N.E. for $1.49 million. The home has more than 3,700 square feet of interior space, 33 windows, an enormous kitchen and a two-bedroom English basement that has its certificate of occupancy if the eventual owners are interested in renting it out.

    On the other end of the spectrum, there is a two-bedroom condo at 1116 C St. N.E., a few blocks east of Stanton Park, that's on the market for $449,900. The unit has a small patio, a decent-sized master bedroom and a parking space that conveys, which makes it seem like a good starter home for a young congressional staffer.

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    East Capitol Street. Photo by Joseph A

    …Or To Rent?

    Rents on Capitol Hill can vary pretty widely. Monthly rates for one-bedroom apartments range from $1,100 to about $2,000. Every once in a while, a two-bedroom apartment can be found for under $1,500, but rates for this size unit can go up as high as $3,300 a month. Finding a three-bedroom rental for anything lower than $2,700 in the neighborhood is fairly difficult.

    The Verdict

    The rent-versus-own decision is not a simple one on Capitol Hill, since there are such a variety of home types, sizes and styles available. If you're in the market for a fully renovated townhouse, you should expect to pay close to $1 million. If you are not prepared financially for that price point, but still want to live on Capitol Hill, renting is probably the better option. However, if you are searching for a one or two-bedroom condo, the buy argument is much stronger as units in the neighborhood are comparably priced to the rest of the city.

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