September 18, 2013 | by Valerie Blake
Urban is the new suburban
D.C., District of Columbia, real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

The D.C. market is hot and buyers are looking for proximity to entertainment and smaller, more energy-efficient spaces. (Photo public domain)

Whether we’ve worn Coco Chanel’s little black dress or an impeccably tailored Ralph Lauren tuxedo, it’s clear that black evening attire has long been associated with elegance, both understated and timeless. In 1983, however, the late Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré gave us the freedom to try something new by proclaiming that grey was the new black.

The assertion that X is the new Y is something we now hear frequently. As we age we’re told that 30 is the new 20 or that 50 is the new 30. The Netflix television series tells us that orange, not grey, is now the new black.

With respect to hair, the grey of 1983 is now the new blonde. Don’t believe me?  Check out Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” and Anderson Cooper in anything at all.

So how does this translate to the D.C. real estate market?

First, urban is the new suburban.

Today’s urban environment has transcended from concrete office buildings and streets that roll up after 5 p.m. to vibrant city centers catering to life before, during and after work. The value ascribed to a high walking score is evidence that the suburban strip mall is an outmoded concept and that high-density living is here to stay.

At the same time Ferré was encouraging us to make the bold transition from black to grey I was working in a gritty area of D.C. known chiefly for prostitutes and panhandlers.  (I was neither.)

When the workday ended, we all scurried home to our respective corners of Virginia and Maryland, looking forward to dinner at Applebee’s or, for that special occasion, at Red Lobster.  Once we were ensconced in our suburban communities, prying us out to return to the city or even the neighboring state was next to impossible.

Now urban dwellers reap the benefits of eliminating a long commute. They pop home from work to change then leave their dry cleaning with the concierge as they round the corner to the gym or the local watering hole. Later they may attend the theater or a sporting event, or just hang out by the rooftop pool.

So much to do and, well, so much time.

Second, $750,000 is the new $500,000.

When I moved into D.C. in 1997, a quarter of a million dollars still bought you a 3-bedroom, detached home in Chevy Chase or a large row house with English basement on the southeast side of Capitol Hill. Ten years later, those same homes sold for an average of $890,000 and $683,000, respectively.

Last month, the Greater Capitol Area Association of Realtors reported that the average price for a single-family home in D.C. was nearly $720,000. Our Chevy Chase colonial can now fetch $1.2 million and our Capitol Hill row house upwards of $900,000.

Third, Small & Efficient is the new Big & Showy.

The D.C. version of the mini-mansion is a dying breed and the condominium market is once again on the upswing. Even without formal dining areas, huge closets, or multiple rooms designed for single purposes, condos attract first-time buyers, move-up buyers and downsizers alike.

The smaller footprint of today’s upscale condominiums allows developers to focus less on size and more on other items that have become important to the buyers of today.

Energy efficiency is high on the list, with a proliferation of LEED certified projects, triple-pane windows, high SEER heating systems and concrete used between floors to prevent you from hearing your neighbors go bump in the night.

Style is paramount. Upscale materials and bold architectural features may be added to a smaller space at a lower cost. Bulky stereo systems and televisions have been replaced by iPod docks and flat screens. Furniture has been scaled to fit and the days of the double reclining, console sofa (I hope) are gone.

So I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, where else can you travel a short distance to pay more than three times the national average for a small, elegant place to live? Perhaps D.C. is becoming the new Manhattan.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Prudential PenFed Realty is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential.

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