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Spring D.C., Rehoboth real estate markets ‘booming’

Experts say COVID fueling unprecedented demand

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D.C. real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

Experts are seeing 10 offers for every listing in D.C. as the spring real estate market is described as ‘on steroids.’

Michael Moore is a senior vice president for Compass Real Estate in D.C. and has worked as a D.C.-based Realtor for 30 years. Lee Ann Wilkinson is CEO for the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group associated with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services-Gallo Realty in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. shores area for 38 years selling real estate.

Both have told the Washington Blade that beginning in the late spring of 2020 and continuing now in the spring of 2021, they have never seen such a booming real estate market, with the demand for houses and condominiums wildly exceeding the supply.

“Well, it’s been a spring market on steroids,” Moore said. “I’ve never seen a spring market like this. Everybody is fighting for properties,” he said. And it’s not just Chevy Chase, Bethesda, and Alexandria. It seems to hit everywhere.”

Wilkinson, who has real estate offices in Rehoboth and nearby Lewes, Del., agreed with Moore and other Realtors that the far greater demand for properties than the available supply in their respective areas has created a seller’s market, requiring buyers to pay far higher prices than they originally expected.

“I’ll characterize it this way,” Wilkinson said when asked how she views the spring real estate market in her area.

“It’s next to impossible. It is so, so lopsided. Inventory is so low that there are 10 buyers for every one property that come on the market,” she said. “So, yeah, it’s the lowest inventory we’ve ever seen. And the buyers are off the chart. So, it’s very difficult.”

The difficulty, both Wilkinson and Moore said, is helping their clients who want to buy a house, or a condo navigate an almost never-before-seen frenzy of competition for the relatively few properties that come on the market.

“Areas that never saw multiple offers are now seeing multiple offers,” said Moore. “I’m seeing escalations in excess of 30 percent” in the selling price over and above the original asking price, he said. “Some properties are going 130 percent over their listing price.”

Moore, Wilkinson and two other Realtors with whom the Blade spoke about the current market all agree that the record low interest rates on home mortgages during the past year or two has played a major role in the growing number of home buyers.

But they and other observers of the real estate market have said the COVID pandemic appears to also have triggered a greater demand for home buying in what some are calling an unexpected development.

Moore and Wilkinson said the near total business shutdowns in the first few months of the pandemic last year did cause a small slowdown in the real estate market in both the D.C. area and the Delaware beach areas. But the two and others have said the market quickly picked up in late spring and early summer and through the remainder of 2020, with home sales and the demand for homes surpassing that of the previous year before the pandemic surfaced.

The upsurge in the market has continued into the spring of 2021, according to Moore, Wilkinson and others.

Some observers have said the fact that the pandemic forced a larger than ever number of people to work at home appears to have prompted many homeowners to consider continuing to work at home after the pandemic. In thinking of doing that, many have decided they need a larger home or a home in a different location. That apparently has sparked a new demand for home buying in addition to the low interest rates.

Wilkinson said that while the large demand has clearly put sellers at an advantage over home buyers, some potential sellers are discovering that while they stand to reap a handsome profit for the sale of their home, they cannot find another home to move into within a price range they can afford.

“We have sellers who were with their home and say, oh my goodness, we’re going to get all this money,” Wilkinson said. “And they get a contract and all of a sudden, they can’t find a house for themselves and then they want to back out of the sale because they don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “It’s so unreal.”

Dual homeowners who decide to sell a second home at the beach or elsewhere and who choose to live full-time in their primary home are now in the best position to make a windfall profit on the sale of their second home, Realtors are saying.

Moore said the decision by the Internet sales giant Amazon to open its second national headquarters in the Crystal City and Pentagon City sections of Arlington, Va. appears to have had an immediate impact on the real estate market in that area two years ago when the announcement was made. He said the market could receive a boost in a few years, when the Amazon buildings now under construction are finished and hundreds more employees move to the area.

But according to Moore and other Realtors, the announcement two years ago that Amazon would move to the area prompted investors to “scoop up” large numbers of condo units and some smaller houses in that area as investment properties that they could sell for a profit in the next few years.

The Realtors with whom the Blade spoke said the prices now for a typical three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house in a desirable neighborhood convenient to nearby amenities or a Metro station in the recent past were available from $900,000 to $1.1 million. But now almost no similar houses can be found for under $1 million and most are in the range of $1.2 million to $1.4 million or higher.

Two-bedroom condos in most D.C. areas are now selling for about $700,000, with one-bedroom condos going for between $500,000 and $600,000. Realtors say condos and houses can be found in some areas considered “emerging neighborhoods” at lower prices.

Robert Sanders, senior vice president of TTR-Sotheby’s International Realty in D.C., and Chuck Burger, a longtime Realtor with D.C.’s Coldwell Banker Realty office on Capitol Hill, each said it has become much harder for first-time buyers to find a house or condo that’s within a price range they can afford.

“I’m watching some of my buyers backing off now because the sellers have been commanding so much money and getting it that the buyers are afraid,” Sanders told the Blade. “You know, how are they going to get that out in the next couple of years? Are they going to be under water because they paid so much for it?” he said.

“So, I’m starting to see buyer fatigue, which sort of makes me a little nervous about that,” Sanders said. “But you know, even a market correction is good for everybody.”

By market correction, Sanders was referring to the term used by Realtors and economists for when an overheated market “corrects” itself when prices come down due to various reasons, including a rise in home mortgage interest rates. Going “under water” refers to when the value of someone’s house falls below the balance of the mortgage on the house.

Moore points out, however, that the D.C. area within the Beltway has historically been immune from severe market corrections. He notes that at the time of the steep real estate market decline in 2008 and 2009, where the home and condo market in places like Florida and other states dropped sharply, the D.C. area saw a slowing of the market increase but no decline in home values occurred.

“It was like we were we were totally unaffected by the real estate debacle that happened in 2008 and 2009,” Moore said. “So, what I think is going to happen here is that it will probably plateau a little bit. But I think we will always have property appreciation,” he said. “We’ve never had a correction which meant negative numbers.”

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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