By Amy Moeller | December 7, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
In honor of Capitol File’s 10th anniversary, industry experts look back on a decade of change in DC real estate, and forecast the next.
From left: Lindsay Reishman, Donna Evers, and Marty Stanton together have more than seven decades of experience in real estate.
Over a sushi lunch in a private room at the Donovan Hotel’s Zentan, we gathered three real estate professionals to talk about the transformation of the market and the home-buying process, with an eye to changes on the horizon.
Comparing the state of the market today to 10 years ago, what changes have surprised you, and which could you have predicted?
Lindsay Reishman: One of the trends you could start to see 10 years ago was the move into the city. Everyone wanted to be closer—shorter commutes, smaller properties. [Buyers] increasingly wanted move-in-ready properties, which seemed logical given that people were getting busier.
Marty Stanton: Technology has changed the way people shop for a home in many ways. And that has changed the way brokerages are serving up things to customers—investing in websites, things like that—and [the way] agents get leads. All those things have changed.
Donna Evers: People have said [that this new technology] is going to make agents irrelevant, but I don’t feel that way. [Real estate] is a big investment, and people need guidance and objectivity—the kinds of things an agent can offer them.
LR: More is expected of an agent today than a decade ago. I think it’s been a positive movement. The role of the agent has evolved from a gatekeeper with access to the information to a trusted service provider. That’s good for the industry and the agents who do it well. I think that will continue over the next decade. There will be greater transparency, and what will differentiate agents will be the ability to help sift through all the information and be a great advisor during that process.
The restaurant served our industry experts a lunch of fresh sushi.
What new changes do you predict regarding the home-buying process?
LR: As a company, we’re really excited about the ability to use technology to allow clients to make smarter real estate decisions. This past wave has been about just getting the information out there. We anticipate that the next wave is actually to decipher trends—to put the data and analytical information into easily digestible and meaningful pieces of information for consumers.
DE: The visual aspect of our business, how much can be transferred online, what the neighborhood looks like, what the property looks like inside and out, plus all the data, is pretty spectacular.
MS: I don’t think people used to talk about [real estate] as much as, or in the way they do, now. It was your one really solid investment, and if you made it, you bought that house at the beach or the shore or in the mountains. Now people talk about it all the time. They rely on it as an investment, to put their kids through college, to start a business, to do lots of different things.
Let’s talk about real estate as an investment.
MS: I think back in ’05—[leading up] to ’08 and the meltdown—[it had] appeared that nothing could happen to real estate; it could never go down.
DE: Except that it has, so many times. I’ve been through a lot of recessions and there’s no pattern—[one] can creep up on you when you least expect it. But when prices go up, it doesn’t mean they have to come plummeting down.
LR: One of the great things about [the market in] Washington is that there’s stability. We have always weathered the storm better than other markets.
DE: I’m surprised that we don’t have even more foreign investment than we have. We deserve it, not just because I’m a cheerleader for the District, but also because we have everything. When I go to Europe and [say I’m] from Washington, they’ll say, “Oh, what is it like there?” and I say, “It’s the most European city in the United States.”
LR: We went through a phase when we were ranked as a great opportunity for foreign investment, but it seems that perhaps there is not as much wealth in Washington as there is in New York or even Miami.
DE: But it’s prosperous and stable and all those good things—not as expensive to buy into.
LR: And there is less downturn during the downturns.
Established neighborhoods such as Dupont, where the boutique development 1617 Riggs Place NW opens in 2016, are “a pretty safe investment,” says Reishman.
What is your advice for people who want to approach real estate as an investment?
MS: Unless you are in the business of real estate where you understand the market, it’s a long-term investment. A short-term investment can be very risky unless you are really knowledgeable, and even [then, if] you don’t time the market right, it can be a problem. One thing we’ve learned in the city is to buy from a good developer. There are some bad ones out there. That comes back to having a really good agent.
LR: I always encourage somebody looking to invest in real estate to think about their objective and work backwards. Ideally they would know their time frame and their tolerance for risk. When you invest in a more established neighborhood, there is less risk and probably less reward than in a neighborhood that might be up-and-coming. Dupont Circle is an example of a pretty safe real-estate investment in an established neighborhood. It has been a highly sought-after neighborhood for years, and even if the market softens, values should hold up—but there are fewer opportunities for major initiatives that will really change the growth curve. Trinidad is my favorite pick for a higher-risk investment. The H Street Corridor has a tremendous amount of retail and density already committed, but that’s not as true for Trinidad. The zoning allows for density, so I could see the neighborhood really taking off. If you have a long-term vision and you are willing and able to tolerate that risk, you might be able to ride that out.
photography by DoMINIQUE FIErro
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