Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Real Estate News
by Mary K. Mewborn   

When Washington Life first fired up its presses a dozen yearsago in the Summer of 1991, there was a Bush in the White Houseand America had just fought a war in the Gulf against Saddam Hussein. The recessionaryreal estate market was characterized as “volatile” and “full of vagaries”and agents such as Carol Netchvolodoff and the late Allison LaLand were advocating“realistic pricing” in what was considered a buyers’ market. Sale priceswere well below the original list price on most properties, and resale prices wereoften declining from the previous year.

A prime example of the state of affairs at the time was the saleof the historic Colby Mansion at 9 Chevy Chase Circle. In 1989 itlisted for $4,200,000 but sold for just $2,950,000. When the newowner died later that year, the two-acre estate went back on the marketwhere it remained for eighteen months before finally selling in July1991 for a mere $1,975,000.

1150 Chain Bridge Road
1150 Chain Bridge Road
The reduction in prices and the long periods of time properties saton the market were harbingers that would ultimately cost Bush “TheElder” his bid for reelection.

Since then of course, the Washington metropolitan area hasexperienced a real estate boom and the price of homes has soared. By1999, realtor Terri Robinson reported that the metropolitan area had brokena ten-year record with more than 40 houses selling for above a milliondollars. Moreover, a house which sold for $1 million one year was virtuallyguaranteed to sell for at least $1.2 million the next, and for a time double-digit appreciation was the norm. The market was so hot that by 2000,multiple offers resulting in sale prices being pushed well above the askingprice were a discernible trend.

Now, however, the tide seems to have begun to shift again. Today,multiple bids on houses in the million-plus price range are a rarity, andhomes priced above $1.7 million often languish on the market for ayear or more. In fact, according to Weichert’s Penny Yerks, the markethas topped out, making “an adjustment back to reality.” As she describesit, “there has been no inflation over the last couple of years,” and consequently,those who bought recently, currently cannot expect to sell at a profit.

Still, Ted Gossett of Washington Fine Properties, who has reported toWashington Life on real estate trends since its first issue, insists that themarket “continues to be very strong.” His further assurance that “this yearis on track to be another successful year,” is perhaps best underscored bythe fact that he offered his analysis while vacationing in Palm Beach.

So far the real estate industry in our area has clearly not declined tothe extent that it did in 1991, when, as Coldwell Banker/Pardoe realtorNancy Taylor Bubes put it, “the market crashed.” Still, she cautions thatmaybe “the only thing saving us” is the fact that the interest rate has beenthe lowest in 41 years.

In September of 1991 the average interest rate was 8.5 percent. In lateMay of this year, the average interest rate on a fixed-rate thirty-year mortgageis 5.34. With other sectors of the economy faltering and so many othercircumstances reminiscent of the state of affairs in 1991, will this one variablefactor truly insure a far different outcome than we saw in 1991?

The District

Now that world-renowned architect, Bruno Freschi and his wife VauneAinsworth have purchased a new Foggy Bottom residence to renovate, their previoushome at 1003 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. belongs to Tom andGloria Moss who are returning from Saudi Arabia. Tom, an executive withCitibank, paid $895,000 for the vintage Victorian townhouse located just twoblocks off Washington Circle.

Another home slated to be redesigned and renovated is 3018 O Street,N.W. in Georgetown. Eric Cedron paid just $865,000 for the circa 1900house but expects to put the place back on the market for considerably morelater this year once he has completely redone the interior, added a basementapartment, and created a parking place. Cedron was assisted in his purchase byWashington Fine Properties’ agent Ted Gossett who points out that the additionof the parking space alone will dramatically increase the property’s value,given that only 17% of Georgetown homes offer parking. Meanwhile, realtorNancy Taylor Bubes notes that one of the biggest changes she’s witnessed inthe market over the past dozen years is that people now expect to pay a milliondollars for a home in Georgetown, even without parking.

Twelve years ago, art patron Anne Abramson’s magazine, Museum &Arts Washington folded. Now she and her husband Ronald, an attorneyand chairman of the board of the Corcoran Gallery, have purchased a$1.4 million Federal-style row house in Georgetown from Winston &Strom attorney Robert Magnum. Further proof that the more thingschange the more they stay the same; the brick two-bedroom home withterraced garden went for almost $100,000 below the original askingprice of $1,495,000.


Another Abramson paid $15,000 above list price for 6914 Rannoch Road inBethesda. Nina Abramson, a board certified radiologist who works at SibleyMemorial Hospital, bought the estate of Ingrid Witt in Fairway Hills for$1,115,000. The seven-year old Colonial backs onto a shaded garden with a slatepatio and gazebo. Built by Sandy Spring Builders, the home features threelevels of graciously appointed living space. The sunken living roomhas crown-molding and gorgeous silk draperies. The equally elegantdining room has French doors leading to a spacious deck. The luxuriousmaster bedroom suite has two walk-in closets, a Jacuzzi tub, andvaulted ceilings with a skylight. The charming study is accentedwith hardwood floors, built-in shelves and cabinets, and plantationshutters. There is even a storage room that could serve as a winecellar. Long & Foster’s Zelda Heller was the listing agent. Roger Carp,also with Long & Foster, was the selling agent.


In McLean, the gated estate communityknown as The Reserve exemplifies muchof the new upscale development that hastaken place in our area since the early ‘90s.The high-end neighborhood with 24-hourconcierge service has just entered its fourthphase of development and among its recentnew residents are Dr. Anita Sikand andher husband Nalin.

Dr. Sikand is a graduate of GauhatiMedical College of India and an OB-GYNwho completed her residency atHarvard. The Sikands’ new stone homeat 857 Centrillion Drive cost $1,522,417.It was built and sold by Basheer &Edgemoore. Weichert’s Penny Yerks,who has been in the business over twodozen years, represented the buyers.

11540 Tralee Drive
11540 Tralee Drive

Would- be buyers may want to consider1150 Chain Bridge Road, (listed at$7.9 million), another newly constructedhouse situated across from yet anotherhouse where Jackie Kennedy lived, albeitfor a very short time in the early ‘50s.Built by OC Builders opposite EthelKennedy’s Hickory Hill home, 1150Chain Bridge Road is a 15,000 square-foot,six-bedroom manse with six fullbaths and three half baths. It is being co-listedby Weichert’s Penny Yerks and byreal estate speculator Barbara Fabiani.Already attracting quite a bit of interest,the house was featured on a recentChannel 7 News segment and may wellbe under contract by press time.

Weichert’s Sue Huckaby was theselling agent for 8609 Brook Road, inMcLean. The seller was Michael Kneeand the buyers were Thomas and JoanDonnelly. The five-bedroom brickFrench Colonial sold for $1,250,000on April 30 , having originally beenlisted for $1,499,000 in November oflast year. Thomas Donnelly is a residentfellow with the American EnterpriseInstitute and author of AEI’s “NationalSecurity Outlook.” He is also co-authorof “Operation Just Cause: The Stormingof Panama” and “Clash of Chariots:A History of Armored Warfare. ” AWashi ngton, D.C. native, he was educatedat Sidwell Friends School, IthacaCollege and Johns Hopkins UniversityNitze School of Advanced InternationalStudies. Their new home has a marblefoyer with a split staircase ascending to awraparound gallery, a two-story familyroom with a stone fireplace and a masterbedroom suite with twin baths and abidet. Beautifully situated in McLean’sWoodhaven subdivision, the propertyalso boasts a hot tub, swimming pool,terraces and a tennis court. Convenientupgrades include a trash compactor,humidifier, central vacuum system, anda wet bar.

201 Riverbend Road
201 Riverbend Road

Sue Huckaby was also the sellingagent for 6818 Wemberly Way inMcLean, which sold on April 30 forbelow the asking price after lingering onthe market since late last year. The sellerswere Joseph Schamber and his wifeElizabeth “Lib” Schamber. Joseph isthe sector manager and executive vicepresident of SAIC. Lib is vice presidentof Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest realestate corporation. The buyers Brianand Virginia Brooks paid $1,175,000,or $24,000 below the list price, for thefive-bedroom renovated Colonial builtin 1959. It has hardwood floors and fireplacesin the living and dining rooms,a marble bath in the master bedroomsuite, cathedral ceilings in the recreationroom, and an au pair suite.The island kitchen comes completewith a double oven, butler’s pantryand a bright sunny breakfast roomwith French doors leading to acharming patio.

Amanda and Reed Jacksonare the new owners of the spaciousColonial at 1588 Carlin Lane, inMcLean. The home had belongedto Souheil Hajjar and featureshigh ceilings with an open floorplan. Washington Fine Properties’Ted Gossett was instrumental inthe transfer of this property. Theprice tag was $1,201,000.

In Great Falls, the stone Colonialcustom-built in 2000 byBowa Builders at 201 RiverbendRoad has changed hands. The beautifullyconstructed three-story house sitson two acres within walking distanceof the Potomac. Highlights include ahome office and theater and a woodedbackyard. Weichert Realty’s Penny Yerkslisted the property for $1,480,000 for thesellers John and Stephanie Reilly, whohave reportedly moved to New Jerseyfollowing their May 23 settlement date.The new owners are Robert and TraceyShank from California.

Also in Great Falls, Penny Yerkshelped Suzanne and Tom Bright, theVP of products for Artesia Technologies,sell their three-year-old home at 11540Tralee Drive. The buyers of the red brickColonial in Tralee Estates are James andKaren Pallotta who paid $1,345,000,or $134,000 less than the list price. ThePallottas' new home has hardwood floorsand solid brass chandeliers throughoutits main formal rooms. Additional amenitiesinclude an exercise room, mediaroom, and a Florida room leading to ascreen porch and a fenced yard with acobblestone patio. There are also suchtime-saving devices as an undergroundautomatic sprinkler system, double oven,and a trash compactor. Visitors to thestately home will be impressed as soonas they round the circular drive past theinviting front fountain.

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