January 18, 2007
That giant dripping sound…
Posted by: Chris
I remember being excited and worried at the same time when a whole slew of condo buildings replaced dilapidated storefronts and the like along 14th Street, N.W., between my office at 14th & U and my home just a few blocks up the hill. Excited because the neighborhood was changing so rapidly — already a complete makeover since my arrival in 2001. Worried because I'd seen something like this in Midtown Atlanta — the queens moved in, renovated home by home, then came the developers, then came the condo buildings, then came the glut and the condo market crash.
Last week, my condo hit three months on the market — not unheard of these days but not so great, either. I found some solace from this New York Times article from Tuesday that I'm not the only one caught in the glut. The story reports how even a savvy businessman like David Franco, the respected founder and owner of Universal Gear clothing stores, has been forced by the market to convert a planned condo building a couple of blocks from me from condo to rental apartments:
Since the middle of 2006, the frenzied condominium market here and in several other big cities like Las Vegas, Miami and Boston has collapsed. Once roaring sales have slowed to a trickle, sparse inventory has mushroomed into a glut and soaring prices have flattened out and started falling.
In hopes of salvaging something from their costly plans, hundreds of developers like Mr. Franco are looking to the strong market for apartments, planning to rent their units for at least a couple of years while waiting for today’s condo surplus to shrink. …
Industry analysts also point out that rents may start sagging if too many condos are converted into apartments too quickly. While rents were rising at a robust 6.1 percent annual pace in the Washington area late last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some buildings in the suburbs have recently started promoting move-in specials and other incentives to lure renters.
My place is in The Maxwell, a Wardman building from 1909 that was largely gutted and redone — preserving a beautiful staircase inside and parquet floors — in 2004. The timing was right for me, when I was ready to quit my 30-minute commute to/from my home in Falls Church, Va. That's what I get, I suppose, from being one of those gays who doesn't start trends but tries to be among the first to follow.
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