Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Condos in U Street Corridor in DC

The Flats at Union Row being constructed on the left (condos). On the right is a completed condo building.

61 comments:

  1. PN Hoffman buildings used to sell out before the first shovel of dirt was moved. I wonder if that's still the case.

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  2. Nope fritz, not even close. Their bulding @ Carlyle has been open for sale for a LONG time. (At least more than a year ++). There are still plenty (~30%) that are not sold.

    It's werid, actually, that building is about half way complete, but they mysteriously stopped working on it. There is about one construction guy left there that sweeps the empty and open concrete floors.

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  3. can someone tell me about Thomas Circle area of DC? Fennessy Lofts is over that way, they look hip but are still too expensive even w/ a 60k buyer's incentive per their latest email.

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  4. I would rather be at Thomas Circle than Logan. The Alta there is a PN Hoffman building, and they are offering some incentives as well.

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  5. Proposition JoeJune 27, 2006 7:22 PM

    I hope the homedebtors are not having uninsured flood losses on their "investments". Renters don't have to worry about such things. Renters have freedom and serenity. Homedebtors have lifelong servitude to their debt.

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  6. "rather be at Thomas Circle than Logan?"

    They're only a few blocks apart. Logan is less commercial, but that is a value judgement, I guess.

    Bacon, wait for prices to at least approach rental cost parity before buying any condo in NW DC.

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  7. proposition joe - I was scolded earlier over a typo. Fair is fair, "uninsured flood losses" is redundant. No homedebters insurance policy covers flood.

    I'd an inch or so of rainwater in my rented basement yesterday - cleaned it up, no big deal. I do have several home-owning coworkers with serious and expensive problems, though. I feel bad for them.

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  8. "Countless studies show home prices increasing with land use controls. In other words there is a direct correlation between the level of control and the cost of housing."

    I wanted to respond to this point on another thread, but it is locked.

    Yes, you are of course right that some land contols lead to higher prices-- and they should. I would be willing to pay more to live next to a property that I know can not be a business or have 14 people with 25 cars living in it.

    BUT, what I dispute is that land use regulations have been the explanation for rising prices the last 5 years. Land use regulations have been around for a long time. Prices have risen the last few years because of easier credit standards- a classic bubble.

    A Redskins fan

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  9. "Bacon, wait for prices to at least approach rental cost parity before buying any condo in NW DC."

    Yeah, prices in NW are just going to plummet ... hahaha, you're gonna be waiting a long time, Bacon.

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  10. Who cares how long it takes? I don't. I currently rent and am very happy to do so. It remains a lot cheaper to do so, and I can save a lot. If people want to charge ridiculous amounts for condos, let them. I'll keep renting.

    A Redskins fan

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  11. You will care if interest rates continue their upward march.

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  12. "Is six months too long..."

    Yeah, keep dreaming, poor boy.

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  13. OK, how about seven months then?

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  14. "OK, how about seven months then?"

    Yeah, maybe demand for NW DC will dry up by then. Are you planning on setting off a dirty bomb at the Nat'l Zoo or something? Hahaha.

    Look, all the "flippers" have bailed, interest rates are up, the market has taken all the shocks it's going to take, and no matter what's happened in Loudon County or got know where nobody wants to live, prices in NW have kept rising. This isn't a gentrifying neighborhood, and housing stock has never close to met demand. I wouldn't be buying a townhouse in cameron station right now either, but a 2 br by the Dupont/Woodley/Clev Park metros? Market's as healthy as ever.

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  15. "You will care if interest rates continue their upward march."

    Actually, I will benefit. As a saver, higher interest rates are good for me. So you're right- I do care.

    If you mean higher interest rates will make me less likely to buy a house, again, so what? But having said that, given a certain monthly payment, I would rather buy with a low price and a high interest rate than a high price and a low interest rate.

    A Redskins fan

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  16. Redskins fan, you'll care as your rent skyrockets.

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  17. reasonably resilientJune 27, 2006 10:45 PM

    Redskins Fan,

    You're not disputing me. I only said there was a correlation. The recent rise in prices is due to many factors, land use controls being only one.

    Heading closer to the topic of the post, a good question to ponder would be, Is there an oversupply of overpriced condos? (Like the building pictured) ((Back on topic, David))

    Sure there is.

    But thats not the same as an oversupply of condos.

    And that's also not the same as a bubble.

    I could easily see no price appreciation for $500/sf condos for 10 years.

    But I think if you could offer a downtown DC condo in the $300/sf range you would have buyers, end user buyers, lining up out the door.

    Demographic research says people are returning to the cities and simple math identifies what is affordable.

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  18. "
    But I think if you could offer a downtown DC condo in the $300/sf range you would have buyers, end user buyers, lining up out the door.

    Demographic research says people are returning to the cities and simple math identifies what is affordable."

    This actually makes a lot of sense - there's quite a drastic difference in price between Penn Quarter/Gallery Place and, say, Dupont or Kalorama. There's really no good reason this should be.

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  19. "This actually makes a lot of sense "

    The principle does, the numbers do not. And I think you overlooked it. At 300/square foot, you're getting $210k for a typicall 1-bedroom. Never happen.

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  20. For those hoping for prices to plummet in NW DC, please read today's article in the Post on real estate prices.

    The article says that while prices are stagnating in the more established neighborhoods, they are jumping in poorer neighborhoods and east of the Anacostia.

    If the bubble had burst, you would think that the area that would see the first plummet in prices would be the area that had most recently gentrified. Instead, the exact opposite is happening.

    Now, I'm sure the Bubblehead Creed will be quickly amended to state that this is exactly the sign of a bubble and that it continues to show how absolutely right the Bubbleheaders are in their faith.

    Here's something to consider: What if prices do stagnate or drop 5-10% in some areas of the DC metro area? And what if at the same time, prices continue to rise in other parts of the area? According to the Bubblehead Creed, such things can't possibly happen because the recently gentrified areas were bought into by ARM-loving investors who will get trounced in a higher interest rate environment and those who live in more established areas will also get trounced because, well, it's not clear why, but take a leap of faith and believe that they will. But what if that doesn't happen? What if prices drop a bit, as they do in every other normal business cycle, but then remain relatively stable for several years? Wouldn't that disprove the dogma of the Bubblehead faithful?

    I guess what I'm getting at is how long do you wait for the Great Pumpkin to rise? If after 6, 7, or 12 months, the great price plummet still has not occurred, does that prove that the Bubblehead faith was misplaced? Or does it redouble Bubbleheaders' faith - like that of Charlie Brown - waiting, hoping, wishing, praying that the Great Bubbleburst will finally rise out of the pumpkin field?

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  21. fritz-

    My prediction: in five years, the median REAL price of homes in the DC area will be 30-40% lower, or more.

    I won't make a prediction about nominal prices, since I don't doubt that Boozin' Ben will keep the monetary spigots open.

    I think you make a fair point that at some point you need to see some empirical evidence. However, it is still VERY early as housing traditionally flattens before falling. Also, the important thing about these types of predictions is not to get too hung up on specific predictions. I remember in the late 90s people like Bill Fleckenstein (a rare stock bear back then) would get laughed at because his "predictions" weren't coming true about NASDAQ stocks-- and then, oh boy they did and he was totally vindicated. I'd rather be off by a year or two in timing then be a housing bull who buys now, is right about prices in 1 year, and is dead wrong in 2 years and for the next 10.

    A Redskins fan

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  22. va investor said "You will care if interest rates continue their upward march."

    Ah, come on va investor, you know better than that right? Rates change. Principal doesn't.

    And to all the other folks who say we'll never see one bedroom condos for $200,000 because "that would be crazy" - have you lived in DC for more than the last two years? Prices for one bedrooms were at these levels just a few years ago and nobody considered them crazy at the time.

    You have fallen into a common psychological trap by placing more weight on recent "evidence" than older "evidence". In this case, you focus on recent prices at the exclusion of prices for the previous 50 years (which were, for the most part, in alignment with fundamentals like rents and incomes). This is a common human misjudgment than may prove very costly.

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  23. reasonably resilientJune 28, 2006 9:31 AM

    Anonymous said my numbers would never work at $300/sf.

    Lets take a look.

    20% down on that $210,000 1 br unit would leave a mortgage of about $170,000.

    A 30 yr loan at 7% would cost $1131.00 per month.

    To limit P%I to 28% of gross monthly income (recommended) you would need and uncome of $48,500.00

    This is not a pie-in-the-sky scenario.

    Can't come up with a $42,000 down payment? Try an "exotic" loan.

    If you are a young, first time buyer, an exotic makes sense because you can reasonably expect your earnings to increase relatively rapidly.

    Older buyers should have some savings, or equity from a previous purchase (out in the hinterlands).

    And of course the biggest factor in increasing purchasing power is to be part of a two-income household.

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  24. http://www.salary.com/advice/layoutscripts/advl_display.asp?tab=adv&cat=nocat&ser=Ser359&part=Par531

    Lance - median salary in DC is around $43K (more on my blog) - not the $60K starting salary for a secretary you declared within the past few weeks.

    One of many things you've said on this blog that can only be classified as being in the realm of "truthiness"..

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  25. "how long do you wait for the Great Pumpkin to rise? If after 6, 7, or 12 months, the great price plummet still has not occurred, does that prove that the Bubblehead faith was misplaced?"

    As most Bubbleheads' arguments prove, their actions are primarily fueled by emotions, and as a result I think they will wait and wait and wait. Let me give you an example (since bubbleheads love a unique example as proof of broader, general trends).

    I have a friend who bought an Eastern Market rowhouse in mid-1990s for 250k. She sold in in 2000 for 495k.

    The property had doubled in value in five years. (I know lots of bubbleheads think that the so called "crazy appreciation" began in 2001, but it's been going on for longer in DC, but that's a different subject).

    Now the owner is a nervous bubblehead-type. By 2000 she thought everything would cause a crash in the price of her row house. She was always saying that prices had to return to historic norm, what goes up must come down, etc., and all of the other bubblehead creeds. She was a bubblehead through and through.

    Her plan was to sell in 2000, rent a small apartment and wait for the crash, and then buy another row house. This is a common bubblehead plan, and I suppose it might work if well executed, which, of course, would require good luck since nobody can predict a market with 100% success.

    Well, her plan didn't work out, since the crash has yet to happen. She's still renting, and by now I'd guess she's spent her downpayment money on rent.

    To make matters worse, the row house she sold in 2000 for 495k resold in 2004 for about 800k.

    Why has she continued to rent, bubblehead emotions. She is convinced that she's right, that prices will crash. Well, she's waited for six years, and missed out fantastic real estate appreciation, but she still believes. Sure, there's cherry-picked data that could support a bubblehead theory, which she cites (and there's just as much evidence that contradicts these theories as well).

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  26. she sold too early.

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  27. Redskins fan said:

    "My prediction: in five years, the median REAL price of homes in the DC area will be 30-40% lower, or more.

    I won't make a prediction about nominal prices, since I don't doubt that Boozin' Ben will keep the monetary spigots open."

    As I believe that we are at the start of a great inflationary period akin to what we experienced after the Vietnam War, I agree with you that "real" prices (vs. "nominal" prices) for homes may indeed be much lower than they are today. (For those not understand the difference between "real" and "nominal", it simply means that a dollar today will buy you far less than it would 10 years ago. So, you could own a $500,000 house today that in terms of what it costs you to "earn" this house is really LESS than if that house had been valued at $250,000 10 years ago.)

    However, Redskins fan, what you are forgetting is that my mortgage payment is in nominal dollars. So, when I go to make my payment in 5 years and my salary has doubled simply because of inflation, then it is 1/2 as easy to make my payment then as it is now. THAT is the crux of homeownership and what us housingheads have been trying to get across to you bubbleheads. We are "locked in" ... i.e., protected from the effects of inflation. (yeah, I know SOME folks took out ARMs ... but even those are capped at a certain level.)
    Someone also pointed out that my earlier post about how the person selling a 2 bedroom condo to buy a house was illustrating the "pyramid scheme" that the housing market is. I don't disagree with that person. I might add that it is an "inter-generational" pyramid scheme using inflation to pass the costs of living from one generation onto a (hopefully) larger population generation. It is akin to what is being done with Social Security and just about every other aspect of life. And THAT is my point here. This has been going on since the caveman first came about ... and will continue as we move into the stars. That is how the race survives ... The young work hard, the middle age "invest" for their old age, and the old live off the earnings of the young via the investments they made in middle age. And all the hoping and whining in the world isn't going to change this.

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  28. PN Hoffman has the Alta at Thomas Circle.

    You have to remember there are two other factors at work in Washington DC. First, you have height restrictions. New buildings cannot exceed the height of the Washington Monument. This will keep Washington, DC from being like Northern Virginia or the Maryland suburbs.

    Second, if you have not lived (or is it owned?) a house or condo in Washington, DC for the last 12 months, you get a $5,000 Federal TAX CREDIT. That is a nice chunk of change

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  29. DC Bubble Meter, (a) I don't go on you blog (b) I never said the secretary was median income. If you'd been understanding my postings, you'd understand that I realize that there are lots of folks who can't easily (if at all) afford to buy. In the economy we have created, NO ONE is at the "median" level. People are either way higher than the median level or way lower than the median level. The secretary I was talking about was not the one at your front desk at your association. I know, association folks are way underpaid, (except for the big cheeses there that are way OVERpaid.) I was talking about the secretary in one of the IT firms that are prevelent here ... or in one of the law offices, etc. What you can't seem to grasp is that while half the area may be in your dire circumstances of not being able to easily afford housing in this area, the other half are in the position of being able to more-than-easily afford housing here. The haves and the have-nots. And don't blame us housing heads for creating the situation, we didn't ... BUT I can tell you from personal experience that one thing that has helped me be on the "better than median side" is having scrambled real hard 10 years ago to buy that first condo, giving up just about everything else in life just to make the mortgage payments on it, and THEN finding that once I was "in the game" so to speak, life got a lot easier. Your whining won't get you "in the game" ... and it also won't change the way things are. The rules of the game are as old as man/woman him/herself.

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  30. lance,

    A bunch of people who I know who are young (mid to upper 20's) proffessionals who earn between 45K - 75K a year are NOT buying a condo because they would be stretching to afford a 1br condo in downtown Silver Spring (where they currently rent) which go from between 290K to 350K. Don't forget the condo fees.

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  31. lance wrote,

    "In the economy we have created, NO ONE is at the "median" level. People are either way higher than the median level or way lower than the median level."

    THIS IS COMPLETE BS.

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  32. Calm down, Lance. You're starting to use all CAPS again - usually it means you're hot under the collar. (Perhaps a potential buyer pulled out of a contract you were working on, Mr. Real Estate agent?)

    Since you're obviously too busy to read other sources of information, given the amount of text you output, here's the link to the story below.

    And do us all a favor and educate yourself about what "median" means in economic terms - and spare us your same, tired spin.

    http://www.salary.com/advice/layoutscripts/advl_display.asp?tab=adv&cat=nocat&ser=Ser359&part=Par531

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  33. "
    Lance - median salary in DC is around $43K (more on my blog) - not the $60K starting salary for a secretary you declared within the past few weeks."

    I'm still waiting for somebody to address the point that median salaries in DC are not enlightening because of the huge poor and huge rich populations in this city. Tick, tick, tick.

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  34. Yes you are rare. Many people in DC are on the GS pay scale and don't see your salary until they're in their 50s (if what you say about yourself is true.)

    By the way, why are you blogging right now and not busily working to justify your big-time salary?...

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  35. David,

    What happened to the post where the guy who was 29 said he was earning $160K? Did you delete it?

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  36. " I'm 29 and make $160k. I am not rare"

    Yes I did. It was clearly false to say that 'a 29 year old making 160K is rare'. See the blog rules about making clearly false statements.

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  37. "lance wrote,

    "In the economy we have created, NO ONE is at the "median" level. People are either way higher than the median level or way lower than the median level."

    David wrote,

    THIS IS COMPLETE BS."

    Have either of you ever been to DC??? There is a huge divide between rich and poor. The income of the top 20% is more than 30 times higher than the income of the bottom 20%. How can you possibly conclude that this disparity does not make median data suspect?

    According to DC Fiscal Policy Institute, "the gap between high-income and low-income households in the District of Columbia is wider than in any other major U.S. city, according to a new analysis of Census data by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. The study found that the average income of the top fifth of DC’s households equaled $186,830 in 1999. This was 31 times higher than the average income of the bottom fifth of households — $6,126."

    http://www.dcfpi.org/?p=56

    Also, according to last census data, more than 20% of DC residents have income below poverty line.


    This is a 2004 study based on 1999 data. But I think the disparity has only grown in the past few years.

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  38. "David said...
    " I'm 29 and make $160k. I am not rare"

    Yes I did. It was clearly false to say that 'a 29 year old making 160K is rare'. See the blog rules about making clearly false statements."

    Again, another statement completely detached from reality. 160k salaries (even for 29 year olds) are not rare. Within four square blocks of my office there are 2,000 plus attorneys, and almost all of them earn more than 160k, even if 29 years old. There is alot of wealth in DC (look at my above post--in 1999 median household income almost 190k for top 20%, and undoubtedly its more today).

    The statement is not false, and I can't think of any reason why it would be deleted except unreasonable censorship.

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  39. Some of you live in a 'wealth bubble' and think that 160K is NOT rare for 29 year olds. For every 29 yr old making at least 160K, there are most probaly 300 that are not. That is RARE.

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  40. Haha, 160K, even for a 29 year old lawyer in DC, is rare. Some of you people are living in a fantasyland.

    Let's take a glance at the truth...

    Don't tell me about all the lawyers in the bottom 20% making 30K a year ;)

    http://www.payscale.com/research/vid-29471/fid-6886

    http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos053.htm

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  41. d in dc
    "Within four square blocks of my office there are 2,000 plus attorneys, and almost all of them earn more than 160k, even if 29 years old."

    This "gold collar" four square blocks does represent the entire DC.

    "There is alot of wealth in DC "

    I agree! There is also poverty in DC and people just getting by. There are also alot of people who earn close to the median income. DC is diverse in many ways including incomes.

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  42. "Yes I did. It was clearly false to say that 'a 29 year old making 160K is rare'. See the blog rules about making clearly false statements."

    David, you may be wrong assuming that a 29 year old can not make that type of money. I dated an M&A lawyer with Latham & Watkins a few years back. She was around 29 at the time. I know for sure that she made in the upper 100's. And this was 4-5 years ago. While it is hard to believe, there are some people in this area that make ungodly sums of money. And there are also some people here that come from families with even more money. A good example is a friend of mine. She has a friend that is the great great granddaughter of the Quaker Oats man on the box. They are loaded! Another friend of mine has a friend that he dates. Her family is RICH. Old money. I could go on and on about my small circle of friends that make above average salaries. My better friend here was making 75K at Booz Allen. A gov't contractor came along and offered him 110K. Just because he has a security clearance. These stories are not out of the ordinary.

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  43. It appears the oft-mentioned 20 something lawyer in the District has a median salary of $115K/year, as reported by those who hire them.

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  44. HAudidoody said...
    "It appears the oft-mentioned 20 something lawyer in the District has a median salary of $115K/year, as reported by those who hire them."

    What's the source? The entry level starting salary at most DC law firms exceeds 115k, and annual raises are large.

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  45. "" I'm 29 and make $160k. I am not rare"

    Yes I did. It was clearly false to say that 'a 29 year old making 160K is rare'. See the blog rules about making clearly false statements. "

    Oh my god. Look:

    http://www.infirmation.com/shared/insider/payscale.tcl?state=DC

    It's a true statement. now post it back up.

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  46. Nathan Boggs
    Yes you know several 29 year old people that make six figures. I know several people that can run the marathon. I don't go around saying that is not rare to find people who can run the marathon. I'm with David, a small percentage of 29 year-olds earn 160K or above.
    If 1% of 29 earns this amount, than that's several hundred. Out of all 29 year-olds that's rare.

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  47. "Some of you live in a 'wealth bubble' and think that 160K is NOT rare for 29 year olds. For every 29 yr old making at least 160K, there are most probaly 300 that are not. That is RARE. "

    I posted my evidence. Where's yours, David?

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  48. "If 1% of 29 earns this amount, than that's several hundred."

    It's thousands.

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  49. Anon 9:34
    "If 1% of 29 earns this amount, than that's several hundred."

    "It's thousands."

    Ooops! I meant in the DC area.

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  50. http://www.infirmation.com/shared/insider/payscale.tcl?state=DC

    It's a true statement. now post it back up.

    My point exactly. This is a list of about 150 employers in DC which pay fourth year lawyers (i.e. someone about 29 years old) 160k plus per year. And this doesn't include bonuses.

    Let me put it another way. Many, many lawyers earn over 160 per year at age 29.

    Are lawyers in DC rare? Apparently David thinks so.

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  51. Again, look at the link I posted. Thousands of Twentysomethings and Thirtysomethings in DC earn this kind of money.

    http://www.infirmation.com/shared/insider/payscale.tcl?state=DC

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  52. wvu_84 said...
    This "gold collar" four square blocks does represent the entire DC.
    I agree! There is also poverty in DC and people just getting by. There are also alot of people who earn close to the median income. DC is diverse in many ways including incomes.

    But wvu_84, you must agree that these highly paid people push up the cost of living for the rest of us. And that causes the rents and the land costs to increase. When is the last time you saw some affordable housing being built? A friend of mine is a developer. Not some johnny come lately either. Here is his explanation on the rising prices. He told me that the cost of land precludes him from offering affordable housing in this area. His explanation was that once he buys the land, the price he must sell the properties or rent them for is out of reach for people of lower income. Favor in the height rstrictions and this creates an upward dynamic on prices. I'm a small potatoes investor. I buy mostly in cheaper neighborhoods in the District (Congress Heights, Petworth). I can tell you first hand that the prices in these poor neighborhoods are steadily rising as well. Here is my explanation as to why. I rent almost exclusively to Sec 8 tenants. I recently had one prospective tenant tell me she has been on the waiting list for 6 years counting. Why? Lack of available afforable housing. In turn, HUD has raised the payments to landlords for rental properties to ~2300 for a 4BR home and ~1800 for a 3BR. That equates to a mortgage of 250K or more with little to no cash down. That serves to prop up the home values. Now what do you think the rational investor is going to do if property values fall to say 200K? I can tell you what I do and will do. I will be buying as many as possible and putting on Sec 8. I have been doing this for 15 years. And I have NEVER seen Sec 8 payments decrease.

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  53. "This is a list of about 150 employers in DC which pay fourth year lawyers "

    It should be pointed out, as can be gleaned from the site, a large majority of those firms employ between 100 and 500 lawyers in DC.

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  54. 29 Year Old LawyerJune 28, 2006 12:46 PM

    By the way, my wife and I can buy almost any apartment in DC that we want.

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  55. But the word "rare" is more commonly taken to be a description of relative frequency and not absoloute number. People refer to four leaved clovers as rare despite the fact that in absoloute terms there are gazillions of them. However people don't say that Solar planets are rare, despite the fact that there are only 9 (or eight) of them.

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  56. "But the word "rare" is more commonly taken to be a description of relative frequency and not absoloute number. People refer to four leaved clovers as rare despite the fact that in absoloute terms there are gazillions of them. However people don't say that Solar planets are rare, despite the fact that there are only 9 (or eight) of them."

    Under no reasonable definition of the word are Twentysomething or Thirtysomething big firm lawyers rare in Washington, DC.

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  57. Thank you Nathan Boggs for the info re section 8.

    That's why I read this blog, hoping to find something re how low prices may drop, and for how long.

    Of course, such useful info on this blog is rare. Rare indeed.

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  58. Anonymous said (9:49)...
    Under no reasonable definition of the word are Twentysomething or Thirtysomething big firm lawyers rare in Washington, DC.

    And let's not forget about the contract attorneys. My current girlfriend is a contract lawyer. She quit a high paying law firm here in the District. The contract lawyers make 35-50 dollars an hour. And they work 40-90 hours a week doing doc review. I don't know what annual salary that equates too. But I know that 35-50 per hour is a lot of money. She is working on a project now. There are ~100 contract lawyers doing on that contract alone.

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  59. Some of you are truly living in a wealth bubble if you think that a 29yr old making 160K+ a year is not rare.

    Check out BLS statistics.

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