Excavation #LittleK

In thinking about excavation as it applies to home construction, I did a little bit of digging myself (research-wise only, no manual labor here just yet). Excavation in and of itself is the process of removing earth to form a cavity in the ground. There’s topsoil excavation, rock excavation, muck excavation, and even ‘unclassified’ excavation.

In the case of #2308, excavation work will allow for building a back addition foundation and a side addition that will be of legal basement height. The latter will allow placement of the home’s mechanical systems while the former will one day boast #2308’s dining / den area on the first floor and master suite on the second. The original basement, for anyone wondering, will function as a bonus storage space. The ceiling height as it is now would otherwise prove too low to allow for a legal, habitable space.

p.s. Fun fact, while the Roman engineer Vitruvius gave descriptions of heavy equipment in Ancient Rome, until the 20th century (more or less), hand tools were the primary earthmoving ‘machine’!

Enough writing. Here are today’s excavation shots!

Phase I Begins | #2308

Also dubbed #LittleK, this week marks Week 1 of #2308 lovin’ in the form of construction. Phase I will involve the following: excavation, foundation, masonry, underpinning, and waterproofing. The focus this week has been the excavation work needed to build the foundation for the property’s rear addition.


And, in the week prior, #2308 had some leaning trees removed. Power lines, severe wind, and overgrown branches do not mix.


Now, if only my professionally-landscaped yard with its brown grass looked as good as these weeds, trimmed. 🙂


p.s. For those still reading, Miss Utility is a thing. 811 as 311. Call before you dig!

Getting a Building Permit

When applying for a building permit with DCRA, as the homeowner in years past I have used the Homeowner’s Center (excellent resource!) or used the Postcard Permit online system. Not so for this next rehabilitation, my biggest to date. Review Cycle Three (3) begins. Fingers crossed this next round leads to a building permit so that work can finally begin! In the interim, the mowing season is upon us and the weeds and grass sure do grow … way too fast.

DC Market Trends

Pictures and the story behind my renovation’s yellow pine to come soon (proud I am!), but first … I just wanted to say, shout out to all of the buyers who are successfully purchasing homes in Washington.

Why, you ask? Because, in short, buying in D.C. is competitive — with plenty more losers than winners. Check out these stats prepared by Real Estate Business Intelligence (RBI):

  • Median sales price of homes in the District jumped 9.5 percent in August 2015 when compared to August 2014
  • The median sales price was $520,000!
  • Inventory: It is a tight sellers’ market (ping me if you want specifics, it all comes down to months’ supply)
  • Demand is high: Most properties are under contract in less than 13 days

Washington, DC, you are expensive. But, there’s no place else I’d rather call home. I’m lucky, and thankful, to be able to. #Anacostia.

Home Inspections – Comparing Notes

Picture showing existing ceiling
Picture showing existing ceiling
Shannon #2 Ceiling Joists Exposed
Ceiling Joists Exposed

Prior to purchasing real property (aka your home!), most buyers choose to hire a home inspector to perform a limited examination of their prospective home. I recently had the opportunity to see how home inspectors conduct an inspection … on two different homes in D.C. While the method and steps taken at each home did not vary widely, the inspection results certainly did. So, for today’s post, I’m going to share with you some random and not-so-random thoughts I had about the home inspection process and the quality (or lack thereof) of the home renovations subject to inspection. And, in case you are wondering, each home inspection averaged around $450.

Home #1 – Brentwood

Before beginning his inspection, an inspector may check to see what permits have been pulled on a particular property (e.g. building, mechanical, electric, plumbing, etc.). In this case, the owner renovated his home without pulling any permits. While the permit process can sometimes be time-consuming, permits and follow-on inspections serve a purpose: permits can be pulled by licensed professionals only (except for the building permit in cases where the homeowner is acting as his/her own general contractor) and inspectors verify the work being done is completed to code. So, what did the inspector find?! Most noteworthy – in a not so good way – were a PVC pipe used for the basement bathroom that just happened to have been routed outside the actual home (cold weather = freezing pipes) and a HVAC unit that was too large for the actual size of the home. You may think bigger is better, but in the case of HVAC systems, the inspector explained, if a unit is not sized correctly a smaller system is actually ‘less bad’. A unit that is too big heats and cools a home too quickly (short cycling), leading to moisture issues as well as other problems you can read about here

Home #2 – Petworth

Structural issues, generally speaking, are a huge red flag for homebuyers. Even when embarking on a renovation project, the budget needed to fix what lies below the home’s surface or within its walls, can be cost-prohibitive. In this property’s case, cracks in the sidewalk and a deep dip beginning at the property’s center led the inspector to believe that the home may have been subject to a water main leak. Broken water mains have been known to flood homes with mud and cause streets to crumble. Add to this an addition that had never been secured properly – neither to the ground nor the existing structure – and a joist (what’s that?) that had been cut into and therefore compromised, this house was not priced to take into account its many structural woes. 

p.s. Following these home inspections, I’ve decided to inspect my own home (Shannon #1). You see, when I purchased my first property — and even now my second – I purchased a blighted property. In this category of home-buying, (1) a home inspection would have made me a less competitive buyer (think: the more contingencies you have as a buyer to opt out of the home purchase when the seller wants to sell immediately, the less likely you are to be the successful home bidder) and (2) it was very clear that both properties were in dire need of rehabilitation. Now that Shannon #1 is mostly complete, it’s time to find out how my home renovation compares to those I’ve so far observed in D.C.

Daily Roundup – Properties for Sale in Anacostia 20020

So as to give you an idea of properties for sale in Anacostia as well as throughout the District, I plan to highlight 3-5 properties daily. Today I focus on the 20020 zip code (Anacostia) and one from 20019 (Parkside). I’m experimenting with home websites, with today’s picks being displayed using Homesnap. Send me a message or give me a call should you have any questions, want additional information, or would like to schedule a visit.

1. 1818 MINNESOTA AVE SE, WASHINGTON, DC 20020 | $189,000 – Pros: This is a 2 bed / 1.5 bath home that shows well (inside) and is reasonably priced. Cons: While accessible by both the Anacostia and Potomac Ave metro stations, both would be a far walk. The home’s exterior is in need of some lovin’, too.

1818 Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020 | Zillow.com

2. 1332 Talbert Terrace SE, Washington, DC 20020 | $120,000 – Pros: Investors’ delight (the home is currently under contract), and very conveniently located (just a short walk to the Anacostia metro). Cons: Home requires a full renovation, with mold remediation likely in the basement. Creative vision is a must.

3. 2223 NAYLOR RD SE, WASHINGTON, DC 20020 | $295,000 – Pros: Large property with three bedrooms, parking for 3 (yes, three!) cars, and there’s even a basement. Hardwood flooring is also awaiting your discovery beneath the home’s existing carpeting. Cons: Offers on the house are due today at 4pm. While the home has ‘great bones’, it still requires your creative vision and renovations.

4. Parkside | Pros: For those interested in new-build homes, Parkside is steps away from Anacostia Park and the Minnesota Ave metro station (orange line). 3-level townhomes will also each have a garage, 3 bedrooms, and 2.5 baths. Cons: While I can help you join the Interest List, actual homes and pricing are not yet available.

August 2010 | Metro Man: Are you Lost?

August 2010 | Metro Man: Are you Lost?

My first visit to Anacostia began with Metro delays [.surprise.], an “I can’t believe you convinced me to come with you” look on my friend’s face, and a concerned station manager. The end of this visit, as you may have already guessed, was markedly different. If one word could describe me then, it would be: challenged.

Challenged by a neighborhood, enduring. / Challenged to care, and contribute. / Challenged to defy stereotypes, on both sides of the river. / Challenged to renovate.

March 2011 I say, “Hello, Anacostia”

I am a new homeowner—today marks just under 2.5 months of homeownership. At the advanced age of ninety-five, my home is neither naïve in the ways of the world nor tireless in its efforts to foster community development. Instead, its run-down state illustrates exhaustion and neglect, and for too long the ability to find resonance in an area of the District many continue to associate with these same characteristics.

This is where my story begins.

I owe my first introduction to my new neighborhood to 1214 U Street, SE
 Washington, DC 20020. While MLS power-searching homes in the District that were within my modest means, I decided one day to allow www.trulia.com and www.redfin.com to show me all homes on the market, regardless of their price. As I browsed through my results, I saw a beautifully renovated home in Historic Anacostia. Located just across the river—like the Brooklyn of my once hometown of New York—it was only upon closer inspection that I learned of President Obama’s campaign stop here to assert his authority as an anti-poverty crusader and of the endemic poverty and high crime rates plaguing this D.C. suburb.

Not one to take my research lightly, I found another website that offered a different view of the East of the River neighborhood—David Garber’s And Now, Anacostia. In his very first post, he writes: “There’s a wind a’blowing in anacostia. a handful of new investments are coming that together make a lot of promises: beautiful streets, more jobs, better quality of life. / it’s coming as streetcars, stadiums (maybe), bridges, storefronts, and sidewalks, and it’s going to paint a fresh face on this full of life but oft-forgotten (and avoided) neighborhood. / this blog exists to document that change.”

I am of the belief that simple acts can effect change. If a blog could gently nudge me to venture out into that “oft-forgotten (and avoided) neighborhood,” just imagine what power we all have to effect change—to help communities grow, and prosper. As I document my first-time home buying and renovating tips, tricks, and fumbles, I invite past, present, and future homeowners to consider how their investments can change a community. I also invite those of a myopic viewpoint—on both sides of the Anacostia River—to do the same.

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