Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bubblicious Planter


The Bubblicious Planter located along the 1400 block of Church St NW
in Washington, DC

59 comments:

  1. LOL. These get better and better.

    A Redskins fan

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  2. Are people flipping planters now? My god, what is the world coming to?

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  3. waiting for godotJuly 05, 2006 12:40 PM

    "Come and see this one of a kind condo...in fact let's look at all of them, and then try to put the keys back in the right boxes."

    Think your average realtor is smart enough to keep from commingling the keys?

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  4. um, that's formally known as a "tree box", even if it doesn't have a tree in it. (but it looks like it may)

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  5. Imagine all the dogs that pee on those things all day. Kind of appropriate I suppose.

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  6. I hope a big Rottweiler takes a dump on those plants. Anything to deter would be buyers (suckers) from looking at those condos.

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  7. Even if I was a naive buyer, I'd get spooked from that.

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  8. Out at the peak said...
    "Even if I was a naive buyer, I'd get spooked from that."


    Wow ... we see the same thing but come to 180 degree different conclusions. I'd see that and I'd say "Great! I can do some bargaining and get that condo I want at a fantastic price!"

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  9. Query: if there are seven lock boxes outside of a recently opened building with 40 units, is that evidence that there is excess inventory?

    I noticed that you haven't posted a link to the Washington Post article today about the tightening rental market, which makes the point (that ought to be obvious to you all but apparently isn't) that one way the market is responding to the slow down and rising inventory is by converting planned condo buildings into full rental units. Here's to fair and balanced coverage of the bubble!

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  10. Lance said:

    Wow ... we see the same thing but come to 180 degree different conclusions. I'd see that and I'd say "Great! I can do some bargaining and get that condo I want at a fantastic price!"

    Are you planning on purchasing the best condo in this building?

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  11. The Economist asked:
    "Are you planning on purchasing the best condo in this building?"

    I would never purchase the best condo in any building ... or the best house in any neighborhood. You don't get good value for your money when you do. No matter how nice a unit/house, it's value will be limited by the building/neighborhood it is in. Like most purchases in life, you get your best value when going for the mid-range purchase.

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  12. lance said - " I'd see that and I'd say "Great! I can do some bargaining and get that condo I want at a fantastic price!" "

    Fantastic price? If you think today's prices are fantastic, what are you going to think about them three years from now when they are 25% less?

    I've always thought of realtors as being barely one step up the food chain from used car dealers. Statements like Lance's make me question the order of my ranking.

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  13. anon said - "I noticed that you haven't posted a link to the Washington Post article today"

    I think this is referring to the article about smart, affluent people selling their homes and renting because they realize homes are overpriced.

    David - don't you just love when people tell you what you should and shouldn't discuss on YOUR blog. Can someone remind these people what a blog is?

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  14. waiting for godotJuly 05, 2006 8:15 PM

    I don't like to settle for mid-range...I would rather live in a fantastic rental while prices are coming down, and then buy a fantastic house when prices are right to buy. I am newly a renter, and though I am chomping at the bit to buy something nice, I am glad that I took control, and I refuse to get myself on the hook and be a slave to the mortgage monster. In a couple years, many will wake up (not unlike waking up next to an ugly one night stand), and realize that they are stuck with the beast (mid to low range house) that they took home after getting a little carried away.

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  15. godat,

    That is the dumbest remark I have read in quite some time.

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  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  17. John Fontaine said:

    "Fantastic price? If you think today's prices are fantastic, what are you going to think about them three years from now when they are 25% less?"

    Keep dreaming. What do you think is going to happen when the rents really start climbing and the price on the condo you really want is resonably lowered? Do you really think all the other bubbleheads "chewing on the bit" will graciously say "Oh, you saw it first ... and I know you're just waiting for it to go down another 25% points ... I wouldn't DARE buy out from under you for the mere 10% points I can get it at now." ... yep keep dreaming.

    And quit saying I am a realtor, I am not. You're just making yourself look like a fool.

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  18. va_investor said...
    "godat,

    That is the dumbest remark I have read in quite some time."

    va_investor, actually I think his remark was very revealing. he's just told us he "rents" his dates .... probably by the hour, that way no debt is created ... unless of course, he uses his MasterCard ... priceless!

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  19. Lance said...
    “….. Do you really think all the other bubbleheads "chewing on the bit" will graciously say "Oh, you saw it first ... and I know you're just waiting for it to go down another 25% points ...”

    Delusional price war rant. Only one problem. Inventory is skyrocketing.

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  20. Lance said...
    “Like most purchases in life, you get your best value when going for the mid-range purchase.”

    Unless it’s a house, buy at the peak right?

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  21. lance said - "What do you think is going to happen when the rents really start climbing and the price on the condo you really want is resonably lowered?"

    Don't underestimate psychology. Its a powerful force that works on people when markets are heading up or down. Just like many got sucked into buying at the peak of the bubble because they "didn't want to be priced out forever," the reverse psychological effect will occur when prices begin dropping in earnest.

    When prices drop, people will look back at the bubble buyers as real estate serfs - forever indebted to the banks because they are "priced in" to their homes.

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  22. Lance said...
    va_investor, actually I think his remark was very revealing. he's just told us he "rents" his dates .... probably by the hour, that way no debt is created ... unless of course, he uses his MasterCard ... priceless!

    Sounds like some pent-up aggression you have there Lance? What, your realtor didn’t give you a reach around?

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  23. The article in the Post said vacancy rates for rentals are at 1.7% instead of 2.4% for last June. I want to buy in DC Metro area but this area is a beast that shows no signs of slowing. I'm worried that I'll be a lifelong renter. As the rental market tightens, the gap between buying and renting will remain slim and continue to sustain these prices. The picture is cool but I'm still depressed.

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  24. "the gap between buying and renting will remain slim"

    the gap ain't slim

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  25. robert said...
    "Lance said...
    “Like most purchases in life, you get your best value when going for the mid-range purchase.”

    Unless it’s a house, buy at the peak right?"

    Robert, Think how stupid you just sounded with that comment. You can choose where in the price range for a particular neighborhood you will buy, but you can't choose what that price range will be. I.e., You can go to a Chevy dealer and buy and Impala and not a Corvette, but you can't individually dictate what Chevy will be charging for its line of cars. If you don't see the difference there, then I don't know how to explain it. Heh ... weren't you the bubblehead who thought that his cash in his pocket was earning 4.5% interest?

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  26. Nice photo, David. Thanks.

    Lance said... "Robert, Think how stupid you just sounded with that comment."

    Low-brow insulting will not be tolerated here, Lance - only high-brow stuff. David's blog deserves better than what you serve up. Read a book or two and improve your vocabulary before trying to verbally assault any more contributors to this blog. Say, read something in Economics. Your writing betrays a stunning, though consistent, ignorance of the markets for a real estate agent - and watching CNBC and reading an occassional piece in the WSJ doesn't count.

    Besides, don't you have a day job? Why so much time on this blog, the lengthy contributions?

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  27. Lance,

    Robert has established himself on the blog as someone with knowledge and understanding. You, Lance, bought in 2005 - what will one day be known to be the peak. There is nothing you can do about that fact now. Blogging 24-7 won't change it.

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  28. What about all the articles in the news papers interviewing people saying, if they can't get their high price, they'll just rent it out. Think about the new supply of rentals coming on the market.

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  29. I am not a realtor. I live on the 1400 block of Church. The lockboxes pictured in this picture are for two large buildings on both sides of Church Street. 1400 Church Street has a lot of units (I'm not sure how many, but I think somewhere around 50), and 1401 Church Street probably has about the same number (maybe 10 less). Those buildings (both are new constructions) have actually sold their units quite well despite the fact that the area is saturated with condos. The lockboxes you see in this picture -- as far as I understand it from talking to people in my neighborhood -- are almost entirely lockboxes of places owned by agents who bought and are trying to flip. But given the level of occupancy in the buildings now, I don't see that as particularly alarming. In other words, the number of people trying to flip on the block is nothing compared to the number of people actually living on the block in the buildings where these units are for sale.

    Sales continue on this block at a stunning pace despite this "buyer's market." For instance, a unit went up for sale in one of the smaller buildings on the block about a month ago and received three offers in one day. Another unit went up in 1401 Church (the same building with all these lockboxes) that was a "hot" unit (i.e., one with a balcony) and sold in a week. The point is that even in this slowing market, with skyrocketing inventory and rising interest rates, and with news of the impending "bubble burst" everywhere in the mass media, there happen to be certain places that many people still really want to live in a city like DC. This block, in particular, happens to be a high demand block because it is around the corner from a Whole Foods (for whatever reason, this matters to people), next to a few great restaurants and theaters, a park, and strategically located between DuPont and Logan Circles, meaning that people who work downtown and want to live in the city will always have a strong incentive to live in a place like this (presuming, of course, there's not a regression to what the neighborhood was like in the 1980s, which I admit is a possibility, however unlikely).

    Does this mean that the condo units on this block will always be as valuable as they are today? Of course not. Prices go up and down, and they're likely to go down (in real dollars, perhaps considerably) over the next couple of years. But even if prices do stagnate or go down, on a block like this, most of the owners on this particular block will ride it out because (a) there are a lot of freaking rich people here; (b) for those of us who aren't that rich, many (if not most) of us love living here, and we bought with the intent of staying for a long time. Those who must sell will probably have a fairly easy time selling (even if they have to take a financial hit in the process). For those who cannot afford to take that hit (I calculated that I could, if necessary), I can tell you from experience that it is easy to rent in this area because the numer of for-rent properties is dwarfed by the number of owned units. And contrary to the calculations done on this blog, all those except those who put nothing down and took out risky ARMs will be able to cover most of their mortgage/tax costs with what you can charge for rent here. For instance, one individual recently rented out his 1200 sq ft (2 bdrm) place across the street from me for $4200/month.

    Most of the people who live on this street aren't really going to care if condo values plummet over the next five years. Most of us who bought here bought not because we wanted to invest in real estate, but because we were selecting a place to call home in Washington DC and we loved this neighborhood and in particular this block. If you were actually to walk around and talk to people here, rather than simply snapping misleading and decontextualized photos, you might understand that. In particular you might understand the unique demographic of this neighborhood that tends to make it a "safe bet" over the long run (for instance, most people who want to live in this area don't care about the shortcomings of DC - poor schools, etc). Sadly, you just use pictures like this devoid of context or explanation, whatever your motivations may be.

    Do I think that everything is a-ok in the real estate industry? Of course not. Do I think that everyone who bought will be just fine? No. A lot of people out there are going to get screwed. But context is everything, and you have to do a lot more digging than driving around and searching for pictures of piled up lockboxes to convince a smart person that a particular neighborhood is "bubblelicious."

    Finally, I acknowledge that everything I've written above is colored by my love of where I live. I fully admit that I'm more inclined to think that things will be fine here even as I recognize that inventories are rising just as interest rates are pushing up to potentially dangerous levels. On the same token, it'd be nice to hear some of you all admit that you're more inclined (for personal reasons, ideological reasons, or simply because we tend to view arguments through one prism or another) to think that each new piece of evidence you see is more fuel added to your bubble fire, even when it may not be. But go on and keep doing what you're doing. I'm sure that there will be a bunch of lockboxes to photograph outside of some other buildings soon enough.

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  30. Anon 7:35,

    You actually have the NERVE to present your point of view as someone who actually *lives on that block*?!?

    Come on, David rents a group house in Silver Spring, "loves DC", and posts only unbiased photos of the city he loves.

    He might even buy your place at a 75% discount from what you paid. Be nice or he'll do it.

    How dare you...

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  31. I accidentally sold high last year (No great insight, just had to move for work), and now I'm sitting on my equity here in DC, trying to figure out what to do.

    What gives me my daily migraine is the number of condo sellers trying to disguise crappy shoebox sized apartments as "homes." Technically, they're right, but it's getting worse and worse every day. You have to read the entire ad before there's even a hint that it's a condo. And Hilcrest is not my idea of Capitol Hill, either.

    I'm currently renting a "TOTALLY RENOVATED CAPITOL HILL TOWNHOUSE IN TRENDY EASTERN MARKET NEIGHBORHOOD!!!" Lousy workmanship, multiple leaks, the landlord never finished the backyard, which is a mud slurry, and the laminated floor panels are secured with finishing nails. Nothing is level (the soap slides off the lavs, and the refrigerator door won't open completely), and the water pressure is so low that the JACUZZI GARDEN TUB is a complete joke. The fellow in the ENGLISH GARDEN BASEMENT APARTMENT has been flooded out 6 times in 6 months.

    Yes, renting this place is my fault, but it's close to the Metro. I'm not going to jump into any purchase until it's absolutely necessary, and at this point, I'd rather find a house that's in good shape (roof, foundation, etc) than one that's been "renovated."

    Flame if you must. I'm just venting.

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  32. To anonymous 7:35,

    You seem to follow Church street awfully closely, for not really caring/being in it for the long haul/not being a realtor.

    A lot of what you said makes sense--but the question is, why do you care so much? This one blog isn't going to change anything. (And yes, some people here are deluded.)

    The market will be what the market will be.

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  33. "The market will be what the market will be"

    Wow! What amazing insight! Can I offer you 100K consulting job?

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  34. Anony at 7:35 gave David quite a smackdown.

    Maybe the guy/girl cares because he/she would like to correct David's implicit message via his photo.

    Or maybe he just wanted to give David a dose of STFU.

    I dunno. But it was quite refreshing to have a response to David's photos by someone who actually lives in that area and can provide actual context to the photo.

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  35. Anonymous 8:18 AM said...

    You seem to follow Church street awfully closely, for not really caring/being in it for the long haul/not being a realtor.


    I follow it closely because I live here and am intellectually interested in the housing market. I care about my neighborhood. Wouldn't you?

    When I say that I don't "care" if values decline, I don't meant that I don't care at all. I just mean that it doesn't matter to my overall financial well being. I'm staying, and if I have to go, I can rent the place to cover far beyond what my mortgage/tax/upkeep costs are.

    As for this blog, I've read this blog now for a while because it's interesting to me. I like to read opposing viewpoints. What I can't figure out is why "bubbleheads" need to read a blog to confirm what they believe is already gospel. It'd be like an evangelical logging in daily for more evidence that Christ is, in fact, King. I just don't get it.

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  36. Sure...I've got more where that came from.

    How about: "Markets go up, and markets go down." ?

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  37. Oh wait, I stole that from Anon 7:35.

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  38. Anonymous asked:
    "To anonymous 7:35,

    You seem to follow Church street awfully closely, for not really caring/being in it for the long haul/not being a realtor.

    A lot of what you said makes sense--but the question is, why do you care so much? This one blog isn't going to change anything. (And yes, some people here are deluded.)

    The market will be what the market will be."

    If you owned your home, you'd understand why the poster follows so closely where he lives and cares about what happens there. It's the old commitment issue ... one is more apt to care about something or someone once one has been formally committed to them/it. There's a reason why Congress offers so many tax advantages to owners. Owners are committed to their homes, neighborhoods and cities. They are frankly better citizens because their fortunes (monetarily and perhaps more importantly non-monetarily) are tied to what becomes of their homes and neighborhoods. They are also more stable. There's a transformation that an indivual/couple experience when the buy that isn't explainable to someone who hasn't known it. Renter tend to just lookt at everything in terms of dollars and "objectively" in that they feel they an always just shuffle along to somewhere else if the going gets tough where they're at. And what they're not understanding is that one gets what one gives. This poster obviously enjoys being part of a community that together are transforming a once barren decaying area into one this cities most happening areas. A place that will help make DC and equal to places like Manhattan in the long term. Imagine owning a condo right near Broadway? Well, that's what this guy has bought himself ... and it's all within a 10 min walk of DC "financial" heart, K Street. HE doesn't live in a box like many renters do. HE lives in a neighborhood! And the condo and the neighborhood are HIS ... he's not just rambling through as so many renters do.

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  39. I think the guy who posted that lives on Church street actually gave quite a legitimate response to the picture of the lockbox.

    I believe there are definitely bubblelicious buildings in DC (Quincy Court comes to mind big time, there's a realtor there who's actually trying to sell two units at once) but like the writer said context is everything.

    I actually walk through that part of Church street and think that that block has done a unique job in terms of creating a nice cozy one way street with condo buildings on either side and it is a good location.

    I think the initial "coolness" of that block has been eroded away with too many buildings that look the same (you can only have one or two modern buildings before overdoing it, which is what's happened), but still it doesn't change the fact that it's still one of the better condo blocks in the city.

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  40. anon 7:35 said - "Those who must sell will probably have a fairly easy time selling (even if they have to take a financial hit in the process)."

    and

    "Most of the people who live on this street aren't really going to care if condo values plummet over the next five years."

    Taking a financial hit is "easy?" Since when? People don't care if values plummet? Give me a break!

    You know we're heading for trouble when recent condo buyers have talked themselves into thinking things like this. This is a psychological defense mechanism called rationalization.

    Last time I checked, rationalization doesn't prevent bubbles from bursting.

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  41. John Fontain:

    You don't get it. Taking a financial hit is not pleasant, but it is "easy", in the sense that it is completely manageable, if you have assessed the risk of it and planned accordingly. In other words, there is a difference between mindless "rationalization" and rational economic planning, and you might do well to study the difference.

    And, needless to say, resorting to ad hominem attacks doesn't make the argument advanced by the picture in this post any stronger. The premise of the post was that the 1400 block of Church is bubblelicious. My contention is that the picture is devoid of context and that the particular block photographed is unlikely to see property values COLLAPSE, even if they do stagnate or decline some in real dollar terms, and that I don't particularly care about the latter scenario because I'm staying for the long haul and because I have calculated that risk into my purchase. My argument is based on personal knowledge of the kinds of people who buy and live here, my observation of the local market during the time that I searched for property and have lived here, and my belief (which I admitted is probably biased) in the future of the neighborhood.

    Contrarily, your beliefs are based on a sickeningly perverse dogmatic faith that the entire national housing market will collapse all at once (despite the fact that even in past historic housing downturns, certain areas have gone up in value, and EVEN PARTICULAR AREAS WITHIN BUBBLE ZONES have held value or appreciated for one reason or another). The simplistic decontextualized blandness of your argument is similar to the naivete of NAR promises that real estate values always go up. Just as that is false, so is it wrong to think that when the bubble "bursts," all prices will decline uniformly everywhere.

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  42. SMACK DOWN ALERT!

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  43. I have always admired church st. It has always been one of my favorite streets. If I had the wherewithal to live there, I would buy a condo there in a NY miunute. Count me as one investor/homeowner that will be ready to at least create a floor on the prices in that area if they fall. Any nice condo in that area that falls within my range, I am a buyer. I am sure there are many people in this area just like me. As such, we serve as a floor on the real estate prices falling too much.

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  44. Of course, the question is, what's the floor?

    I'm a buyer too, but for me, I'm looking for a large-ish two bedroom condo for $300k (with parking).

    (And yes, I'm not holding my breath.)

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  45. Nathan Boggs said...
    "I have always admired church st. It has always been one of my favorite streets. If I had the wherewithal to live there, I would buy a condo there in a NY miunute. Count me as one investor/homeowner that will be ready to at least create a floor on the prices in that area if they fall. Any nice condo in that area that falls within my range, I am a buyer. I am sure there are many people in this area just like me. As such, we serve as a floor on the real estate prices falling too much."

    Yours is a well reasoned post in response to Anon's well reasoned reply to J.F. May I suggest that you really might be able to afford that condo you want now? If I were in your shoes, I'd do some googling on what was out there for sale, and then using tax records contact some of these owners directly. You can find out what is out there by going on anyone a of number of realtor's sites linked to the MLS database (www dot tomwelch dot net is one --- replace the "dot" with a "." and leave out the spaces.) And of course for names and mailing addresses of property owners check out the property assessments in dc.gov . With all the talk of falling prices now, I would think that with a little homework and a lot of legwork you could find that place you want now and not have to wait.

    Best of luck

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  46. Yes the DC housing market will always go up because the federal government will keep spending money and the employment will always be there despite trillions of deficit. There is no bubble in DC whatsoever.

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  47. Anonymous said...
    "Yes the DC housing market will always go up because the federal government will keep spending money and the employment will always be there despite trillions of deficit. There is no bubble in DC whatsoever."

    Bill, Why are you still posting after David asked you not too. And you can't hide behind "anon" ... Your words/story lines give you away. They never change, never alternate. You have a fairly limited lexicon in the end, and that is your "signature"!

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  48. That's true Lance. But my goals are a little different right now. I mainly buy houses. But if a desperate condo buyer came my way, I'd listen. Houses are the way to go in my opinion.

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  49. david can see himself living on church street; what he doesn't know is that he never would be walking around there in the first place if people hadn't bought properties around there long ago and saw them appreciate by 400% in the last ten years. David, it was a ghetto, and eveyone knows that is the last place you'd call "nice". If you had vision you'd buy in a similar neighborhood that hasn't become a destination for white suburban group-home dwellers like yourself. But you lack vision, so enjoy your suburban group house.

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  50. Wasn't me that posted. I was busy at work today. What were you doing blogging away all day during normal work hours, Lance?

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  51. DC Housing News said...
    "Wasn't me that posted. I was busy at work today. What were you doing blogging away all day during normal work hours, Lance?"

    some of us can multitask ... and aren't being paid by the hour ...

    :)

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  52. Anonymous Church Street ResidentJuly 07, 2006 10:36 AM

    What, no response from John Fontain?

    Too bad.

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  53. I toured one of the Church Street units last fall, and came away very unimpressed. I believe it was in the 1401 building--1 BR "loft." The unit was situated on the back side of the building, directly across an alley from another condo building. The person in the condo across the alley was almost close enough to reach out and touch the Church Street condo. Of course, since it was a "loft", they could see all of the living room, bedroom, and even the bathroom.

    And on the other, Church Street side of the building, the two-level loft units on street level are completely open to whomever walks by. I guess you have to be an exhibitionist or someone who likes living behind closed blinds 24x7 to appreciate living in such a zero-privacy, overpriced, cramped shoebox.

    Or maybe you just have to convince yourself that you live on the second coming of Broadway (hilarious!) and that real estate in DC never goes down.

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  54. anon 11:14 said -
    "And on the other, Church Street side of the building, the two-level loft units on street level are completely open to whomever walks by. I guess you have to be an exhibitionist or someone who likes living behind closed blinds 24x7 to appreciate living in such a zero-privacy, overpriced, cramped shoebox."

    Sounds like you should be living in some cabin deep in the woods so no one will see you. You any relation to the UNABOMBER?

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  55. Ha, far from the Unabomber. If you've ever walked by the units, you'd know what I was talking about. I take it you always walk around your place fully clothed, looking presentable? When I'm home, I don't like feeling like I'm under a microscope--which is what living with a 20 foot glass wall would be like.

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  56. anon said-
    "When I'm home, I don't like feeling like I'm under a microscope--which is what living with a 20 foot glass wall would be like."

    you might make some interesting friends ... think how much money you'd save by not having to go out on a date before inviting someone home!

    though, me thinks it is usually those who have nothing to worry about that worry the most ... i have this really fat sister-in-law who is always going on and on about how she is afraid she is going to get raped, and how terrible that would be, and how she carries a spray ... i can tell you that spray will never get used ...

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  57. "some of us can multitask ... and aren't being paid by the hour ... "

    Blogginig and playing with yourself naked in front of the computer screen hardly counts for mulitasking, Lance.

    So what kind of job allows you to spend so much time in front of a computer blogging nowadays?...

    Let me answer it. No, please. Let me!

    The only job I can think of is real estate. It must pretty slow for agents these days, looking at the increasing inventory numbers for the area.

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  58. Sorry. If the message was in all caps, then maybe I would've understood it.

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