Why We Bought a New House on Capitol Hill + Our Must-Haves

Well this post is overdue, isn’t it? I think I first promised a blog post about our new house perhaps when we bought it — which was July 2023. Somehow, we’re seven months later, yet it feels as if it’s gone by in a flash. Probably because we thought we’d be done with renovations by now and, here we are, barely having started. 

So while I wait to, hopefully, start writing about renovations, here’s a quick story about how we got here.

Why We Bought a New House on Capitol Hill

We bought our condo back in 2019 with the expectation we’d stay in it for three to five years and then rent it out. We were there for a little over four. Over those four years, I realized that, if we were to stay in DC, I had about a ten block radius around the condo where I would be willing to live. I love that area. We also had a good deal going with our condo. It’s a great space with two full bedrooms and bathrooms, outdoor space, and a kitchen that, while small, is super efficient with a big peninsula. The plan was to leave, but it had to be the right thing to leave.

And, full disclosure, but I did not want to stay in DC. Having the cottage made me realize that I really would prefer to be in a rural area long term. However, Adam’s job dictates that we’re stuck in DC. We did look at many, many houses in the areas surrounding DC, but it always felt as if the suburbs were quickly creeping in. We fell in love with a 1700s house in Berryville, but, out of the front bedroom window, you could see a tract home development. If I’m moving to the country, I want to be in the country. Plus, the idea of Adam having to commute in a couple of times a week was less than ideal. 

But throughout this search, we had a list of items that if we found them in DC at a specific price point, we’d make a move. 

bought a new house on capitol hill - buying a home on capitol hill dc

Our Must-Haves While We Were House Searching

We toured at least a dozen properties with our realtor (John Coleman — 100% recommend), but, mostly, we were just popping in open houses since this search went on casually for about ten years. This was generally the list we had each time we went in an open house. 

  • Location was key. I wanted to be between 4th Street SE and 10th Street SE, south of East Capitol and north of Pennsylvania SE.
  • Three bedrooms or more and two bathrooms or more. This is what kept tripping us up. We’d look at houses that were three bedrooms and one and a half baths, and there was absolutely no way I was going to buy a house with less bathrooms than we currently had.
  • I wanted ROOMS. I was so sick of going in houses where they removed all the walls on the first floor. 
  • A formal dining room was a forever home dream of mine, and I wasn’t going to settle for a home without one.
  • Original details were a must. If I’m going to live in an old house, I want original trim, wavy glass, the whole nine yards.
  • Closet space! We were spoiled with closet space at the condo, and I wasn’t going to go backwards.
  • NO original stained wood trim. This is a weird one, but I personally don’t like the look of wood trim for my style, however, if I moved into a house with wood trim, I’d feel obligated to preserve it. I did not want that pressure. 
  • An income-producing basement unit was Adam’s big must-have. .

What Sold Us On Our House

First, there was the location. You can’t beat it. And it doesn’t get much better than four bedrooms and four bathrooms total. We’d also been in many three story houses and this one had a better feel and layout than many of those we’d looked at. The rooms, first of all, are there and, second of all, are big. The kitchen is spacious. It just has a good (though quirky!) flow. 

Funny enough, we actually didn’t realize we had a Capitol view from our bedroom balcony at the open house. It wasn’t until I was looking at comps after putting in the offer that I noticed the house next door prominently featured the Capitol view in their listing photos from 2017. I figured if they have one, we must, too. And, at the inspection, I bolted upstairs to confirm. That balcony and view are definitely one of our favorite features of the house.

The basement unit is where we took a big chance because we couldn’t see the basement before putting in an offer and we were inheriting the tenant. Thankfully, it worked out, the unit is in better shape than the house itself, and the tenant is a delight. Plus, it has a totally separate entrance and its own utilities and laundry, which makes it so easy.

Lastly, the condition of the house…it was bad, but not scary. I think this is, in part, because the house has great natural light, which makes a rundown space look a little less terrifying. There didn’t appear to be any major cracks in the walls or anything too actively crumbling. It was in bad shape, absolutely. I still maintain it’s barely livable (I mean, we can’t use our third floor bathroom because the toilet and tub leak so badly and the hot water side of the faucet just doesn’t even work), but it wasn’t nearly as awful as many other places we saw. We looked at it as a place we could make our own — and hopefully we’ll get there sooner rather than later.

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2 Comments

  1. January 25, 2024 / 6:11 am

    I loved this post! I didn’t realize how much bigger the new house was than your former condo- that is great! I hope that things can pick up with the renovations soon, my fingers are crossed for y’all.

    • January 25, 2024 / 7:33 am

      Thank you!! It’s funny because, to anyone not in a city, the square footage still sounds small (2250 square feet total), but we looked at so many houses that were 700-1000 square feet — we could never have justified leaving out 850 sq ft condo for that!

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