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What Is Thy Bidding?

Housing insanity returns to D.C.

8:43 AM, Dec 22, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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From yesterday's Washington Post:

Several walls inside the gray townhouse with blue trim were streaked with water stains. The first floor was noticeably uneven. And termites had dined in front.

The big pluses: It was 2,850 square feet, had off-street parking, and was in walking distance of Union Station and the bars and restaurants along H Street NE. Then there was the list price: $337,000. Similar houses in the neighborhood were going for closer to $500,000.

Two weeks and 168 bids later, the house — in the 800 block of Fourth Street NE — was sold this month for $760,951 to an unidentified buyer.

Seriously? It's back already? It's like the T-1000 robot from Terminator 2 that reformulates from its liquid metal state back into lethal form. Post reporter Annys Shin mentions waitlists, open houses crammed with prospective buyers, various fees being waived, even a promise to care for a seller's dog. (And of course there are the real estate agents insisting there is no bubble talk this time.) With median home sale prices in D.C. rising 14 percent from a year ago, the market is forcing buyers further out in the District, into edgier neighborhoods like Trinidad (perhaps this is good news for my colleague Ethan Epstein).

As Shin notes, many of the hip and critically acclaimed restaurants and bars can now be found away from downtown (including Hogo, Three Little Pigs, Bistro Bohem, and Granville Moore's). These establishments draw a crowd, bolster the neighborhood, make gentrification possible. In a way, it's not that different from when Jaleo first opened in the Penn Quarter in 1993. Its owner, celebrity chef Jose Andres, once told me how grim that neighborhood was. "Nothing was there," he said, shaking his head. He remembers how dangerous it was just getting to his car. Other patrons remember seeing the streetwalkers on the corner. The only difference is no property asking for $337,000 got sold for more than double that amount.

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