Is a Wave of Trump Staffers Moving to DC?

As Donald Trump replaces Barack Obama in the White House, will a huge wave of Trump staffers move to the Washington, D.C. area?

The experts don't think so.

Presidential transition experts and local real estate brokers say they do not expect the start of the Trump administration to cause large numbers of Republicans to move to the area or large numbers of Democrats to leave; rather, change will be gradual as politicos get their footing.

Donna Evers, the president of Evers & Co. Real Estate, has seen the past six presidents take office. She said she has never seen elections make a substantial impact on the real estate market or local population shifts.

"It's one of the great myths," she said. "This is a city full of serious professional politicians. [Elections] just don't seem to change the marketplace."

David DeSantis, a partner at TTR Sotheby's International Realty, said that because politics are not the only draw of D.C., the election's impact will be more muted than it perhaps once was.

"Washington is a very different city than it was 20, 30 years ago. We're no longer a company town," he said.

Trump's transition team will nominate roughly 4,000 presidential appointees. Data shows that since the 1980s, about 70 percent of the top nominees who require Senate approval come from outside the D.C. area. About 30 percent previously lived in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. 

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Anne Joseph O'Connell of University of California Berkeley School of Law assembled the data as part of her research on political appointees.

Despite Trump's comments about hiring outsiders, O'Connell said she believes many of the more junior members of the administration will be people who already live in the D.C. and work in government.

"Careerists are more likely to be tapped for such posts," she said.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the size of the federal workforce in the D.C. area shrunk when former President Bill Clinton took office but grew when former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama came into power.

After shrinking 2.3 percent in Clinton's first year in office, the size of the federal workforce in the D.C. area grew 2 percent in Bush's first year, to about 331,000. In Obama's first year, the size of the federal workforce in the D.C. area grew 5 percent, to about 371,900. Hiring related to the Census boosted the size of the federal workforce in Obama's first year, BLS statistician Kirk Mueller said.

Trump has said he will freeze federal hiring within his first 100 days of taking office, and -- despite the patterns of the past -- he says he will shake up the system by introducing outsiders.

The president-elect's preference for staffers new to government is unprecedented, said Darrell West, the director of Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution.

"No other president has emphasized so many outsiders. Most recognize they need some people who have government experience even if they want to change Washington," West said.

"What we're seeing here is a little deeper push to reach beyond the D.C. orbit," David Eagles, director of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service said. The nonpartisan nonprofit works with presidential transition teams.

Still, hiring by Trump's transition team will be gradual, O'Connell said.

In the meantime, real estate agents said they are waiting to see if many residents will come or go.

Trever Faden, the founder of the D.C. property management company Atlas Lane, and Tim Burr of Yarmouth Management said they expect a slight uptick in rental activity as more Trump appointees are hired. Some property owners are holding off on listing their homes until then.

"Owners are looking to wait until that uptick happens, so they can get better rental prices," Faden said.

Lee Murphy of Washington Fine Properties said some Democrats who planned to work for Hillary Clinton are backing off from real estate deals now. She said she recently got a phone call from a man who had been buying a house.

"The day after the election, he called and said his plans had changed. He's no longer going to buy," Murphy said. "Everyone just assumed that Hillary was going to win."

Nadia Evangelou, a research economist with the National Association of Realtors, analyzed single-family home sales and found a boost in D.C. in the year of an election and the following year. She said she expected the pattern to follow in 2017.

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"Based on the data, I think it's going to be a little busier," she said.

O'Connell, the University of California law professor, said the next phase of her research will show where presidential appointees go when their bosses are no longer in office.

"There seem to be an increasing number of people who stay" in the area, she said.

Evers, the veteran real estate broker, said she expects members of Obama's administration to remain in the D.C. area come Jan. 20.

"People hate to leave Washington once they're here," she said.

And Eagles, of the Center for Presidential Transition, said he believes newcomers to D.C. will improve the political process and the area. 

"It's part of the healthy process that makes D.C. great," he said.

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