What To Know About Buying a Condo in Washington, DC

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Thanks to the pandemic, the DC real estate market is experiencing a major boom. And for the right buyer, it may just be the perfect time to jump into the market.

Of course, there’s an art and a science to buying a condo, especially in Washington DC. After all, DC is the fourth most expensive city in the U.S., and the market is white hot right now.

If you’re considering buying a condo in Washington DC, here’s a quick and easy guide to help you get acclimated to the real estate market.

The State of the DC Real Estate Market

The DC market is on an upswing right now in a continuation of trends from 2021—and that can be great news for investors.

Since many businesses have reopened from their 2020 dead period and consumers are looking to spend that hard-saved money (while forgetting about our third year in pandemic times), the area is predicted to make a significant economic recovery. And while the market is extremely competitive, those who have properties to offer will have no trouble finding interested buyers to snatch them up.

On the flipside, if you’re looking at buying a condo, you’re going to have to do some digging to find that perfect property. The market is decidedly thin and biased in favor of sellers right now. However, if you’re willing to think outside the box, you can still find a great condo.

Where to Buy

Before you shop around the DC market, it’s important to remember that you’re not just shopping in the District itself. The DC metropolitan area, colloquially known as the DMV (for DC, Maryland, and Virginia) includes the federal district and portions of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

It’s also a surprisingly diverse real estate market.

Within DC itself, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and Capitol Hill remain the best-known, but also the most expensive. Buyers on a budget would be better served by checking out up-and-coming areas like Georgia Avenue Petworth and Eckington. Petworth, for example, has a great collection of bars and restaurants, but it also has a low crime rate and a close-knit feel.

If you decide to venture out of the city, you’re looking at two sets of suburbs: Maryland and northern Virginia.

Residential Real Estate Northern Virginia vs. Residential Real Estate Maryland

If the word “suburb” conjures up a sleepy little town whose adults all drive to the big city to work every day, you’re in for a surprise in the DC suburbs. Many DC suburbs are urban capitols in their own right.

In fact, Arlington, Virginia (home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and an impressive collection of defense contractors) is both a major DC suburb and one of the most expensive counties in the U.S. It attracts ambitious, well-paid people (with the property values to prove it).  

Within NOVA, the most popular counties are Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church. Of these, the most popular are Old Town Alexandria and Del Ray, populated by charming brick buildings, cobblestone streets, young professionals, and a lot of dogs. For more of a big-city feel, many professionals opt for Clarendon or Rosslyn, especially commuters—Rosslyn is just across the Potomac River from downtown DC.

In Maryland, the affluent suburbs are Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Potomac. The joke about Bethesda is that all the doctors live there—after all, Bethesda is home to the National Institute of Health.

For a hippie vibe (and more affordable living), check out Takoma Park, which is a stone’s throw over the DC city line. It boasts a lovely historic district and a laid-back vibe. If you want a quieter suburb with a small town feel but plenty of condos in stock, check out Germantown, which is roughly a 45-minute drive from DC and offers a cute town center with lots of natural beauty.

What To Know About Buying a Condo in Washington, DC 3

Before Buying a Condo in Washington DC

Once you know what vicinity you’re looking in, you’re ready to start shopping around for a condo in DC. That said, all that glitters is not Georgetown. You can find a ton of great condos in DC, but you have to know what you’re shopping for. Otherwise, the market is overwhelming.

Here are a few ways you can narrow down your search after you’ve decided on your DMV area code.

Know Your Neighborhoods

First and foremost, make sure you know your neighborhoods—or rather, what you’re hoping to find in a neighborhood.

The DMV has a lot of neighborhoods, and each one is appealing based on a different set of priorities. Young professionals, for example, often flock to areas like Capitol Hill, while young families are more interested in areas like Cleveland Park. Similarly, if you’re shopping around for a rental property, you have to think about what type of renters you want to attract.

Part of considering neighborhoods is considering your price point. Areas like Shaw and Logan Circle are wildly popular, but they’re also some of the most expensive options on the market right now.

New Build vs. Fixer-Upper

On a related note, you have to decide whether you’re in the market for a new build or a fixer upper.

Basically, you have to consider your finances and the longevity of a property’s appeal. With a new construction, the price will start high, and you’ll lose a bit of value as soon as you purchase it, but if you buy it in the right neighborhood, it may pay back the investment. Conversely, a fixer upper is more budget-friendly, but you have to pay careful attention to neighborhood trends to ensure the money you sink will be rewarded later.

Your Partner in Residential Real Estate Washington DC

Whether you’re buying a condo for your own use or for use as a rental property, were the experts you need to make the most of your real estate dollars in the DC market. We offer expert property management services, as well as leasing and sales for all of your real estate needs. In short? If you’re looking for a fresh start in DC, we can help you find it.

Ready to get started? Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you find your dream property.

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Founded in 2005, Nomadic is the go-to full service real estate firm in the DMV. We've helped thousands of landlords, investors, and residents and we would love to connect with you next.

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Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

  • The Enhanced Rent Roll Report will show the rent amount, last payment date, move-in date, lease expiration date, and security deposit amount for each of your tenants. 
  • It will also show a portfolio summary with occupancy percentage, vacancy loss, and more!

Unit Comparison Report:

  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
  • This report enables you to quickly compare financial performance between your units at a glance without toggling between individual reports. 

Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

  • The Income Statement Detail – Monthly Report serves as a month-over-month record of portfolio performance. You’ll see itemized income and expense categories and can track monthly. This report will update with fresh data every time you view it. 

Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.