13 April 2010

"The problem with Anacostia is no metro access."

See that quote above? Megan McArdle, who blogs for The Atlantic, wrote that as a comment on an article she wrote titled "Why Are There No Houses for Sale in DC?"

To start with, her premise is false. There are plenty of houses for sale in DC. Without knowing precisely her requirements, it's difficult to tell where she has been looking, but as a homeowner in Trinidad who pays close attention to when houses come on and go off the market, I know that there is a decent inventory of homes available in our neighborhood, and in many other neighborhoods in the city.

David Garber, who writes the blog And Now, Anacostia, commented and asked if she had looked in Historic Anacostia for a home. Her reply, quoted in the title for this article, shows unfamiliarity, if not downright ignorance, when it comes to this city. Look at the map below:

View Historic Anacostia in a larger map

The Anacostia metro station is highlighted in red, and the Anacostia neighborhood is highlighted in yellow. The green line along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue is approximately 1000 feet long. That's how far it is from the edge of the neighborhood to the Metro station.

If Ms. McArdle honestly believes that Anacostia has no Metro access, I'll gladly take her on a tour of the city to help familiarize her with its neighborhoods. Perhaps then she'll see there are homes for sale, and that maybe she needs a new real-estate agent who knows the city better than the one that hasn't been able to find her a home so far.


  1. Having just sold a house in DC, for probably $100,000 *less* than I could have sold it two years ago, and having walked up and down various blocks in my Columbia Heights neighborhood and seen a multitude of for-sale signs, I can attest first-hand to the fact that there are plenty of houses in DC for sale. Even (maybe especially) ones near Metro stops. Some are priced reasonably, some maybe not; all would probably welcome an offer. I second the offer above to give Ms. McArdle a walking tour of my neighborhood. Hell, I'll even introduce her to my real estate agent. She's obviously not being well served at the moment.

  2. According to Google Maps, Bloomingdale is over 2,000 feet from both the Shaw/Howard and New York Metro stops, which really does invalidate the argument that Anacostia is poorly served by the Metro and hints that her comment stems from the "oh, no! east of the river?" preconceived notions.

  3. I have been frustrated with my housing search as well. I have put in multiple offers in areas such Eckington, Trinidad, Petworth, and just of H St NE. In the entry level market there is a LOT of competition. There are other folks looking for their first homes, but more problematic is the investors with cash looking to flip or rent.

    I haven't looked in Anacostia either. It isn't near anything I know or wish to frequent. I haven't spent any time there as of yet because I have had no reason to do so.

    On one side, I understand folks like me not thinking about Anacostia as its an unknown with a bad rap and not much to draw folks in. On the other side, there is likely nothing inherently wrong with it either. I am guessing that the bad rap is largely undeserved. DC is changing a lot faster than people realize. In the two years I have lived in Bloomingdale the demographics have changed rapidly and it seems like another house is getting renovated everyday. But that area benefits from proximity to Howard U, U St, A central location in the city, and two relatively close metro stops on 3 lines, and the spill over benefits from the renewed Shaw, LeDroit, and U St areas.

    Rather than thumbing your nose at those who aren't interested in Anacostia or Trinidad or whatever neighborhood, wouldn't it be better to kindly point out the virtues of those areas? Tell me, other than a relatively close metro and some cheap housing, what does Anacostia have to offer a first time home owner?

  4. My wife and I looked for almost a year before successfully going under contract on a home in the District. I can sympathize with many of McArdle's points, particularly many of DC's tenant laws. The tenants in the house we are under contract to purchase were first given 30 days to determine if they wanted to purchase the house or assign their rights to a developer or other party. Then, they were given 15 days to match our offer, to which the seller can't even do a credit check or other due diligence to see if they can realistically finance the house. Then they were given 90 days to move out. All together, that gives them 4.5 months to find new living arrangements. Yet a flame war over tenant's rights is going on in the comments to Megan's blog?

    Before any one is accused of pushing someone out, our tenants are in a month to month lease. They are not being pushed out in the middle of a 12 month lease, etc. So even though their lease is up, they can't be given a 30 day notice to vacate.

    I've been a renter for years, and I think tenant's rights are important. No one should be thrown out in the street. However, as a renter, I've never thought of myself as the owner of that home and never believed I was owed any rights past the end of my lease to occupy the apartment, condo, or home that I was renting.

    Tenants are making it very difficult to see house that are listed for sale. On several occasions we had an appointment to see a place only to be denied entry to see it by the occupant. If I've learned anything, I'd be very hesitant to rent an English basement or other property in the District.

    There is also a cost involved. Since we'll end up waiting almost 6 months to close, interest rates have climbed, and most likely will continue to do so. I realize that was a risk we took when we went under contract on this property, but it's still rather frustrating to have to wait when the tenant's have been given every opportunity to move sooner.

  5. Very nice ultramodern home for sale directly across the street from me in Brookland, four blocks from Metro...not sure why so many think they know DC and actually don't know jack.

  6. I could take her on a tour of my neighborhood and show her the many, many houses that are on the market. Some of them on the Manor Park side are within reasonable walking distance to the Takoma Metro station, so she couldn't even use the it's-not-Metro-accessible argument! Seems like she could stand to broaden her horizons a bit.

  7. I think the main problem - and I say 'main' because like every McArdle article, there are numerous problems - is that when people say "Anacostia," they speak for ALL of the land East of the Anacostia River (NE, SE and SW). This was highlighted on local blogs the past few weeks. There ARE nice areas such as the neighborhood Anacostia, East of the Anacostia River, but people get scared off because of 'news' reports such as the one about the quadruple homicide in (drumroll please...) "Anacostia." In reality, that happened much further South and East than Anacostia around Washington Highlands and Bellvue.

  8. Looking at your map I'd still say most of Anacostia is not a short walk to metro. Just because the west edge is 1000 ft away doesn't mean most of Anacostia is close to metro.

    >> "The tenants in the house we are under contract to purchase were first given 30 days to determine if they wanted to purchase the house or assign their rights to a developer or other party."

    I'm flabbergasted by this. I can sort of understand giving the renter a chance to purchase... but assign their rights to a developer or another party!?! If that is is the law it is total B.S. and needs to change.

  9. How would you define "close to Metro" then, Anonymous? Because, by all accounts, the entire neighborhood is still close. The furthest corner is about one mile away, and there are many bus lines that run from that corner to the Metro station. Is the block immediately surrounding a station the only place that gets to claim proximity to the station?

  10. Having read McArdle's work at the Atlantic I say: you're right Megan, there's nothing worth buying in my neighborhood. You should look elsewhere.

  11. I'm with you, Don. Please look elsewhere, Megan McArdle. Half of her article seems to just be complaining for the sake of complaining.

  12. If Ms. McArdle honestly believes that Anacostia has no Metro access...

    Oh, come now. There are few topics Ms. McArdle isn't equally ignorant of, and willing to wade into. That's why she's a glibertarian, and the "economics and business editor" of the Atlantic.

  13. I'm with Ms McArdle. I'm looking for a $400,000 3-bedroom house west of Rock Creek, but I can't find any. Ergo, there aren't any houses for sale.

  14. If someone thinks a 17 minute walk (0.8mi) to metro is not near metro I'm not going to tell them they are wrong. That is on the fringe of being in the walkshed for most people. Add in the fact that Anacostia has relatively few amenities I can see why it doesn't appeal to some. However if you want to be closer to metro and amenities you have to be willing to pay for it. You can't just say my budget is X so everything over X is overpriced.

  15. Hmm, I read her blog posting...she should just focus on houses that don't have tenants. It seems like she is focused on distressed/foreclosure properties, meaning she's probably trying to score a great deal to buy in a neighborhood she really can't afford. As others have posted here, she could stand to broaden her horizons, and look at neighborhoods where she could afford the average house and go from there.

    The DC market can be frustrating but thousands of homes sell every year...she can be successful if her expectations are realistic.

  16. Chris in EckingtonApril 15, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    I used to work in Anacostia and spent a lot of time walking through the neighborhood (if you're trying to get to the Metro station and want to avoid the somewhat sketchy bit of MKL, you can always walk down Shannon Place instead).

    While I like the housing stock in the Historic District, my main complaint is that there are not a lot of goods and services within easy walking distance. There's no full service grocery store, there's not full service sit down restaurant, or even a bar. I realize this is slowly changing, that there's now Honfleur Gallery, Big Chair Coffee and Uniontown Bar and Grill is on it's way, but unless they plan on staying at home a lot, there's not a lot to entice the younger crowd there, compared to say U Street, Shaw, Logan, Brookland, Takoma, H Street or even Bloomingdale and Eckington.

    Maybe once the new 11th Street Bridge is complete Capitol Hill and it's amenities will feel closer, but right now it feels a world away.


You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?