An Obama Effect in DC Homes Sales?

Obama's New DigsCal Carter, my friend and Gulf Shore AL homes guru asked me a great question a couple weeks ago. It’s the 64 dollar question for every DC Metro area real estate agent every 4 or 8 years :- ) I have my opinions but they closely resemble those of Gretchen Koitz, (Mother/Partner/Boss). Since she has a little more experience in this department, I thought many would appreciate her insights…

I have a bet with one of our clients. He has had his downtown Bethesda townhouse on and off the market for over a year. He’s not worried, though. Instead, he’s convinced that someone coming to town to work for the Obama administration is sure to buy his home. I have bet him that the Obama phenomenon will not be the thing that sells his townhouse.

The perception is always that a new administration – especially with the kind of political turnover that we’re seeing this year – will impact our housing market. I argue that this is not true. Sure, there are going to be people moving to the D.C. area who will choose to purchase homes – but that number is fairly limited and really won’t put a dent in our market.

I “grew up” on Capitol Hill. My family moved to Maryland from Montana when my dad came to work for a newly elected Member of Congress. Back in those days (I hate to give away my age, but suffice it to say that we’re talking more than fifty years ago), virtually every Senator and Congressman owned a home in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Families moved with the Members (in those days, we’re talking about wives and children) and a second home was maintained in the Members’ home district.

I don’t know when that all changed, but it’s been within the past 20 years. Now, most Congressmen/women and Senators do not own DC Homes and very few move their families here. I’m sure some of it is an affordability factor. Our House and Senate members aren’t paid enough to maintain two homes. In addition, most spouses have their own careers in their home states; and both the House and the Senate are better about allowing Members to spend more time at home with family and constituents.

So, that’s my theory about Congressmen/women and Senators…but what about the “worker bees” and other members of the administration? You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that I have a theory about these people, too….and that is that most of these government employees are career D.C. people. They’re not moving in from out of state…they are simply changing jobs, offices, and/or employers. Of course there are some new staffers coming in, but most of them won’t buy. Instead, they will rent until they become familiar with the area and decide if they want to remain here.

If the Bethesda townhome that is owned by my client sells to someone moving in to be a part of the new administration, I owe my client a dinner. I don’t think I’m going to have to pay up…

3 replies on “An Obama Effect in DC Homes Sales?”

  1. Gretchen I had been curious about the effect on the DC market when I saw Cal’s post. I think your observations are correct – I work a state capitol market (Sacramento) and the same issues happen here – Most of the workers (even if they are affiliated with a party) are career employees. It would be nice if you had to buy your client a dinner – even nicer yet if his condo sells.

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