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“When I started selling homes 22 years ago, I would read these remarks that start off by saying, ‘This three-bedroom has a stove,’ ” Faison says. “I’ve always hated that. I feel like it’s describing the Mona Lisa as a woman with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth.”

Hill Now

"If someone is committed to working with my team then we are going to give them 100 percent of our effort regardless of how much money they are spending or how long they may take to accomplish their real estate goals."

Washington Post

"These days, buyers are having to come up with more and more creative ways to win the bidding wars that are breaking out again in the Washington area real estate market."

NBC 4 Washington DC

“I think this is one of the top three most sought-after residential neighborhoods in the city,” said Tim Barley, of ReMax Allegiance. “It's really one of the last remaining close in neighborhoods that is still affordable to folks.”

DC Curbed

"Most real estate listings are pretty straightforward recaps of the homes in question. They'll list the number of bedrooms, the style of appliances in the kitchen and the presence of a walk-in closet but not much more. That's why when a listing hits the market that sounds more like a slam poem than a police report, it's probably courtesy of Tom Faison of Real Estate in D.C. Sometimes the writeups are ridiculous and occasionally he goes overboard, but as he reveals, that's all a part of the plan."


"Real Estate agents often take poetic license with listings: light-filled patio unit means basement apartment. Tom Faison got bored writing the usual listings, and now his are mini works of art."

US News & World Report

"With so many individual jurisdictions making up the District of Columbia metro area, it's important to choose a real estate agent with an inside track on your neighborhood, says Tom Faison."

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"Living there: Kingman Park, Ward 7 and Zip code 20002, is bordered by Benning Road NE on the north, Oklahoma Avenue NE on the east, C Street NE on the south and 15th Street NE on the west.

Justin Tanner, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance, said four properties are for sale, ranging from a three-bedroom, one-bathroom single-family house for $535,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family house for $700,000.

Four properties are under contract, ranging from a one-bedroom, one- bathroom condo for $199,000 to a three-bedroom, four-bathroom single-family house for $599,000.

In the past year, 45 single-family houses sold, ranging from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $155,000 to a three-bedroom, four-bathroom house for $800,000."







by Justin Tanner. Buyer Agent Specialist. Real Estate in DC.

1) Despite rising interest rates, houses will continue to fly off the shelves.

If you take a look at Capitol Hill market over the past 8 years, an average of 684 homes were sold per year. In 2016 what was that number? Exactly 684. So, we are entering 2017 right in line with where we have been over the past 8 years in terms of the volume of houses sold.

But that volume doesn’t tell the whole story. We also want to look at DOM (days on market). The DOM has been ticking up a little over the past few years – for instance, in 2014 a house that was listed as active took 23 days on average to go under contract, that number in 2016 crept up to 27. Does that indicate things slowing down a little? Yes. Reason for panic? No.          

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2) A change of Administration won't affect the market. 


Historically speaking, the influx of new politicos and cabinet members is just a blip in the overall housing market – not enough for us to see any real change. Sure, there will be a few stories about a few billionaires buying multi-million dollar homes, but is our memory so short that we forget about Paulson, Pritzker and many others? This ain’t new news.

When we look back to the last time the Administration changed (2009), its hard to draw any overall market conclusions and comparisons though. At that time America was in a recession that was absolutely killing the housing market nationally. Locally, Capitol Hill wasn’t totally immune from its effects, (DOM jumped up to 83 that year) but our average number of homes sold was 676, only 8 off of our average. So despite the headwinds we faced, houses continued to be sold, just a little slower than normal. Unless something drastic happens, we will see much of the same this next year.


3) The capitol Hill "starter home" goes the way of the dodo bird.

As of today, here is the housing inventory for homes with at least 3 bedrooms priced under half a million dollars:

3 bedroom.jpg

Looks pretty bleak if you are a buyer looking for something affordable out there.  If you are looking to live south of Florida Ave or Benning Road, it looks like $700,000 is the new $500,000…

Which brings us to prediction #4…


4) East of the river is hot - and will continue to heat up even further.

Sometimes people refer to “East of the River” (EOTR) and Anacostia as the same thing, but if you have ever spent much time in that area of the city, you start to realize that each neighborhood has its own unique flavor (think Capitol Hill vs. Brookland – geographically not that far apart, but experientially very different).

Different areas EOTR have seen different real estate “bumps” over the past few years, but don’t be shocked to see Historic Anacostia, Fairlawn, Penn Branch & Randle Highlands see 8-15% price increases over the course of this coming year.


 With Busboys and Poets slated to open this year, and more buildings in the Department of Homeland Security to be opened (not to mention the Department of Labor possibly moving EOTR), more and more people will be working EOTR, and will ultimately decide to live there as well.  

Stay tuned for more thoughts, opinions, and cold hard facts at





Kathy Orton December 14, 2015 at 7:00 AM - WASHINGTON POST

This week’s expected rate increase by the Federal Reserve should not cause home buyers to panic, if history is any indication.
Back in the early 2000s, after the tech bubble burst, the Fed dropped its benchmark rate to 1 percent. Then in the summer of 2004, it began raising it by a quarter percent. At the time of the central bank’s first increase, the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was around 6.3 percent. During the next four months, it dropped to 5.7 percent.As the Fed continued to raise the benchmark rate, the rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined, falling to 5.58 percent in June 2005. By the time of its last increase in the summer 2006, the rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was at 6.68 percent. It had gone up less than half a percentage point even though the benchmark rate had climbed from 1.25 percent to 5.25 percent.

Could mortgage rates follow the same course this time around? Possibly. But keep in mind the Fed hasn’t raised its benchmark rate in nearly a decade. It’s hard to predict how the market will react to such a momentous change.“You’ve got 33-year-old bond traders who’ve never in their career seen” the Fed raise its benchmark rate, said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans, the largest non-bank mortgage originator. “You’ll clearly have some reaction in the market, even though [the rate increase is] expected. Just the reality of it plopping in their laps is going to create some volatility, not only in the bond markets but also the equity markets as people try to sort this out. People should expect prices of bonds and equities to start to gyrate.” John Wake, a self-described “geek-in-chief” at Real Estate Decoded and a real estate agent in Arizona, believes that in 2004 when the Fed increased the benchmark rate it caused an already frenzied housing market to become more manic. Home buyers, worried that rising rates would prevent them for affording a house, became desperate to buy right away.

“The real estate economy is more sensitive to interest rates than most of the economy,” Wake said. “An interest rate low enough to move the needle on the national economy may cause the real estate economy to overheat. We may have seen a bit of that the last couple of years. And because real estate is more sensitive to interest rates, expectations of higher rates have a bigger impact on real estate than most of the economy.” Wake points out that often what people expect determines what they do. If home buyers expect mortgage rates to increase, they will act as if rates are increasing even if they don’t.

“That could get people to buy sooner rather than later, which could drive prices up even more next year, which is what I am worried about,” he said. Walters doubts a slight mortgage rate increase will have much impact on the housing market. “I don’t think most people are going to run out and make a life decision for a quarter of a point interest rate,” he said. “Long-term rates are determined by the marketplace every day, by traders buying and selling bonds,” Walters said. Traders are “thinking about the returns they are going to get over time. Primarily what they are thinking about, especially on longer term bonds, which a 30-year mortgage goes into, they’re thinking about inflation.” Inflation has been hovering below the Fed’s 2 percent target. The U.S. economy has been doing fairly well lately, despite turmoil in the global economy, its effect on the dollar and low oil prices. “You’re seeing a complete decimation of commodity prices right now,” Walters said. “That will influence inflation a great deal. It makes pricing power for wages almost impossible. And if you can’t get wage increases, it’s tough to have inflation. If you don’t have inflation, it’s tough to see rates go higher. That’s the world we’ve been in for [nearly] a decade. That’s not going away anytime soon. We’ve essentially been at zero percent short-term interest rates for seven or eight years. There’s not even a whisper of inflation. That’ll tell you really how challenging it is for price increases to take hold. And as long as that’s the case, long-term interest rates will stay down.”

No matter what the Fed does this week, it is likely that uncertainty in the global economy will continue to put downward pressure on long-term rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting the interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will be around 4.8 percent at the end of 2016, that’s an increase of less than one percent. “We have a fairly weak global economy right now,” said Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “You have many global investors parking their money in U.S. Treasury securities or other safe assets and that is keeping our longer term rates lower than they otherwise would be.” What Fratantoni wonders about is what will happen after the Fed raises the benchmark rate, what its plan will be going forward. “It really is not just when the Fed is going to make their first move,” he said. “It’s how that first move translates into market expectations about the future path of rates. It gets very complicated because it’s not just what they do, but how they talk about it and how investors anticipate how the Fed might act going forward.” Fratantoni is especially curious about what the Fed will do with its balance sheet. The central bank pumped trillions of dollars in stimulus into the market in the wake of the financial crisis, buying mortgage-backed securities. Pre-crisis, the central bank’s balance sheet was about $800 billion, primarily in short-term Treasury bills. Now it’s $4.2 trillion, and the Fed is the largest single investor in mortgage-backed securities in the world, holding $1.7 trillion in MBS“The Fed has said at some point after they increase short-term rates they are going to begin to allow that portfolio to shrink, and they may more actively sell some of those securities,” Fratantoni said. There is “a lot of uncertainty about how the Fed is going to allow their balance sheet to wind down and when or if they might sell some of those MBS. There is not at this point a lot of clarity about who’s going to step in and try to dampen some of that volatility. There’s no investor of comparable size waiting on the sidelines ready to jump in.” Despite those concerns, Fratantoni is optimistic about next year’s real estate market. “At some point, you could get to a level of rates, 6 to 6½ percent, that would really begin to crimp affordability and then that would be a real negative,” he said. “But at this point, it’s going to be just a very modest headwind. Most of the other fundamentals are suggesting a very strong housing market in the year ahead.” Waters agrees. Although he demurred when asked what he thought the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage would be at the end of the year, he didn’t think it would be significantly higher. “I tend to think from a 30-year fixed mortgage standpoint there’s not going to be an extraordinary change,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll go up or down more than a quarter percent, at least not initially. It’s not going to five [percent] and it’s not going to three [percent]. We’re going to stay in a tight band.”

Whether you are moving for a job, more space, a nicer place, across town or cross-country, it’s stressful. I’m not saying it “can be” stressful, I’ve been through it over 2,000 times just as facilitator, and the only “can be” is that it can be brutal for me and, therefore, must be excruciating for some. Fortunately for realtors, folks soon forget pain, families get bigger and the grass keeps getting greener, so agents aren’t going to starve any time in the foreseeable future because people stop moving. And there will always be people who need to shop for their new home while they’re trying to sell their current one.

One of the key elements of a simultaneous sale/purchase is a “home sale contingency.” A non-starter for most D.C. deals, the home sale contingency allows a buyer to put a contract on a home with the condition that they need not perform on the contract unless their current home sells within an agreed upon time frame. This scenario is not typically desirable for any seller unless they are unable to attract other ready, willing, able and house-free buyers.

The reverse of this contingency is called a “home of choice contingency,” which allows a seller to accept an offer under the condition that they need not perform if they are unable to secure a home of their choice within an agreed upon time frame. While this is a little more palatable to buyers than the home sale contingency is to sellers, it can create hesitancy in any market.

But depending on your circumstances, your options vary:

• Moving cross country? No problem. All you have to do is act as if you are moving immediately, even if your actual move is weeks or months away. If it’s spring, throw out all of your winter clothing and vice-versa. In fact, and this goes for anyone selling a house, throw out anything you’re not taking with you and store everything else that your agents would like out of the home. With luck the market where you’re moving is more buyer-friendly and home sale contingencies more acceptable. Since your agent will want you out of your house to market it anyway, the more house-hunting trips you take the better.

• Staying on the Hill? Here’s where it gets tricky. I haven’t seen a home sale contingency on one of my own listings in ages, but again, it’s all about acting as if. Once you determine that the size, type, and location of the home you desire is attainable as soon as the funds in your current home are available, you simply start preparing and set the calendar for your listing, all the while keeping an eye on your purchase market. In most cases, if all fails, the worst result is a quick trip to Target to replace all the toys you threw out.

• Buyer flexibility is the key. If your home is priced right and presented well, particularly in a seller’s market, lease-backs (sellers remaining in the home following settlement) are common. Some lenders have restrictions on the amount of time before a buyer must move in, but 60 days is by no means out of the question. This 60 days, when added to a 30- to 45-day settlement, gives a seller three months or more to contract on a new home so long as a “coinciding settlements” contingency is included for safety in the event your contract to sell falls through near the end. Not bullet-proof, but still much more palatable to a seller than if your home hadn’t even been listed.

Of course everything you just read assumes that the majority of the funds you’ll need to buy your new house are tied up as equity in your existing home. But it’s unlikely you would start the process of buying a home without speaking to a lender, so why would you do the same without acting as if you are going to market?

The worst that could happen is a ridiculously clean house…

by Sponsor — April 22, 2015 at 1:15 pm 

What a year for Capitol Hill real estate. 2014 was as exuberant as any Hill market I’ve seen, and it ended with telltale signs that a high watermark may have been reached in some segments of our market.

However, there were two possible exceptions. The first was single-family homes in excess of 3,000 square feet of living space, with 3 to 4 bedrooms, a basement and parking, priced between $1.2 million and $2 million. The second was 2- to 3-bedroom homes, with or without basements or parking, priced between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Both of these examples assume a close-in location.

There were 261 fee-simple home sales within the Capitol Hill Historic District this year, according to the Metropolitan Regional Information Service. Some of the more noteworthy, (and pricey), were:

The first Capitol Hill residential purchase at or above $3 million occurred last year on Stanton Park: 515 C St., NE.

The greatest escalation as a dollar amount, and percentage of above-list price was for a completely unrestored home at 326 A St. SE. It was listed at $1 million and sold for $1.25 million.

The most expensive 2-bedroom home in 2014 was 111 4th St. SE. It’s not your typical “starter” house, with over 2,000 square feet of living space, but 2-bedrooms nonetheless. Listed for $1.05 million, sold at $1.201 million.

908 Independence Ave. SE fetched the highest 3-bedroom price. Around the corner from Eastern Market. 1970s construction with all the components most require. Listed for $1.565 million. Sold at $1.595 million.

The highest sale for a 4-bedroom Capitol Hill home occurred at 23 D St. SE. In the shadow of the Capitol Dome, listed for $2.995 million, sold at $2.85 million.

2015 inventory will soon start rolling out, and obviously if supply becomes high as the weather warms, then sellers will have to adjust expectations. I believe the heights reached in 2014, relative to previous years, will not be duplicated in 2015, but that the market will remain very strong for those sellers who take nothing for granted.

How to Price Your Home on the Hill

by Sponsor — November 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm 0

Ask Tom Column Banner

This regularly scheduled, sponsored Q&A column is written by Tom Faison of ReMax Allegiance at Eastern Market. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. Sadly, after six years on The Hill, we are going to be selling our home near Union Station in early 2015. We are having a hard time figuring out a value based on recent sales. Our first home in Seattle was a six-year-old townhouse, extremely similar to neighboring homes, and very easy to price. In our current neighborhood, values range from $600,000 to well over $1 million, and all but a few seem to sell very quickly, though lately we’re seeing more places still available after the first open house than we did earlier this year. Where should our focus be as we look at recent sales?

A. Oh no, science and logic meet art and emotion … The scientifically logical part of my answer is pretty elementary, but for better or worse, residential real estate is not a logical business.

Typically, I can generalize the conditions of a market based on a steady plateau, incline or decline. This year, home sales on the Hill have been more up than down, almost hyperactively in certain neighborhoods and price categories. I suggest a diligent, real-time approach to your study of value, paying close attention to how quickly and how well nearby listings perform. If at all possible, view new listings as a buyer would, and try to be objective.

Most homeowners and agents look at the past six or even 12 months of home sales to determine value. In this market, I have tightened that threshold to home sales within the past three months due to the abundance of activity. In fact, when looking at a listing’s potential value, I pay more attention to current, active, or under-contract listing than to those in the past. The data benefit from the former is that you are seeing what the market was willing to bear for comparable properties, exactly how many days it took to go under contract and the ultimate selling price. Photos and description will also provide clues to comparability, but nothing beats an in-person visit.

The more scientific process I follow in order to establish my initial baseline price involves an initially broader scope of the time and location of comparable sales. I then fine tune with current and under-contract listings. I evaluate my baseline number against those homes currently for sale in the area, looking at active listings $50,000 above my number and $50,000 below my number. I then begin to adjust up or down based on features and location — appraisal 101. Lastly, and most logically, it’s important to take into consideration what I am experiencing with my own nearby listings, gauging in real time, based on my listing activity, the pulse of the market, the buyers, and yes, the agents, particularly at contract presentation time. This is where it becomes crucial to work with a local expert.

The second part of my answer, the non-scientific part? That’s a horse of a different color. Selling Hill homes is like selling art: often the frame is worth more than the piece. In my experience, while value is the first question on a potential seller’s mind, a nearly fail-safe path to success puts pricing further down in the order of business:

Shop for and choose your agent, no matter how far in advance of your sale. Establish together a logical but broad list price and sale price range. Commissions are a big expense, so why not put your agent to work early?

Frame the product, the timing and strategy. I’ve listed homes well in advance of our listing launch date, without an established list price, but with the goal of creating or enhancing the envelope that will be presented to the public.

Once complete, and only then, do you know what you’ll be selling in relation to what else is for sale.

Revisit the value ranges you established earlier. I’ve found more often than not, depending on the market climate, that potential list and sale numbers rise.

Finally, keeping strategy in mind, choose your list price, cast a broad exposure net and the rest will take care of itself.

We are so fortunate on the Hill, an architect’s candy store, but this doesn’t help the appraiser. The solution is easy though: if you’ve prepared the product properly, and price with your head, the hearts of your buyers will follow.

In real estate, having a historical perspective on the market can help you make smart decisions. So here’s a CliffsNotes-like version of the past 24 years of Capitol Hill real estate — which should help shed light on where the market is headed.

In the 24 years I’ve worked as a realtor in DC, I’ve witnessed a few five-year real estate cycles. These cycles have had a far greater impact on Capitol Hill home values than any administration change or mid-term election. By my calculation, we are now near the end of another cycle, one that has had a real upward trend. And if population forecasts hold true, and commutes become slower than Congress, we’ll peak to a plateau, with no cliff to fall over. Many experts speculate that our home values will continue trending upwards, albeit at a slower pace.

The first, and only, dramatic downturn I’ve experienced as an agent was in 1991, my first year as a licensed realtor. No one saw it coming, but it was tough and was going to get tougher as the market headed south. Crack cocaine was wreaking havoc in urban areas across the country. Until law-enforcement got a handle on how to deal with crack, crimes against quality-of-life ran rampant. D.C. wasn’t just the murder capital of the world; we became the snatch and grab anything worth 15 bucks capital of the world. Fear of crime and plummeting values had home sellers in D.C. leaving more money on the table than I’ve seen since.

Looking back, Capitol Hill as a whole fared pretty well, with its long-time diversity and village feeling, where neighbors recognize and talk to one another (or at least to one another’s dogs). These characteristics have helped retain long-time residents and attract new ones. Nevertheless, from a real estate perspective, it took a long time for Capitol Hill to rebound from the tough years, starting in 1996. But we are activists by nature, a bit type A some might say, with a rolled-up sleeves, get-it-done attitude that began to repair our community while other metropolitan areas couldn’t recover. Some have not recovered yet.

The next shift in real estate values was caused by another tragedy. Following the 9/11 attacks, the real estate market on the Hill and elsewhere in the city geared up. The irony of a boom in real estate following a tragedy is extreme, unless you look at past times of war when the capital city’s population jumped because of an influx in war effort military and civilian support personnel. The rule of real estate — supply and demand — always holds true. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security and increased defense spending and civilian support have had a massively positive impact on real estate values in D.C. and on Capitol Hill in particular, due to the second, third and fourth rules of real estate: location, location, location.

From 2001 to 2005, real estate values on the Hill climbed at an astonishing rate. Escalation clauses, one feature of competitive bidding, became commonplace and resulted in what many term “bidding wars,” although bidding “skirmishes” would more often be the appropriate term.

In late 2005 and early 2006, we hit another high-water mark, caused more by unsustainable increases in real estate values than by the looming financial crisis. The plateau that followed fit a typical D.C. pattern. The great recession, although it gripped the rest of America tightly from 2006 to 2011, barely had an impact on real estate prices within the extended boundaries of Capitol Hill, and had almost no impact within the Capitol Hill historic district. Again, jobs, supply, demand and location ruled. Sure, there were signs of hard times. Can you imagine a home staying on the market for more than two weeks or selling below list?  It happened, right on Capitol Hill.

In 2010, I felt the market coming back but can’t put my finger on a specific cause other than the basic principles of supply and demand. National news was still negative, but we continued to be basically at war, as we are today, and recall what wartime conditions do for the District …

So, here we are again. Will the market keep climbing? If the train loses steam, will it stop to stoke its engines or simply switch to a lower gear? No one knows for sure, but you can bet that just like politics on Capitol Hill, D.C. real estate cycles will follow their own pattern.


Real Estate agents often take poetic license with listings: light-filled patio unit means basement apartment. Tom Faison got bored writing the usual listings, and now his are mini works of art.