Can't Afford Your Dream Home? Check Out the "Improving" Neighborhoods

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

dream home lise howe Keller Williams Capital Properties 2404015577Everyone approaches their search for a new home with a list of must haves and secret desires. Sometimes, reality intrudes and you find your list changing from must haves like four bedrooms to a studio apartment!  After the studio apartment there is no way to pare your list further and then what do you do?

If you’ve been looking for a new home and found that many were out of your price range, you may have to broaden your search. You might be able to find a property at a much better price in an up-and-coming neighborhood close to the neighborhoods you had targetted originally.

I am a big believer in focusing on those neighborhoods where development has begun and people are beginning to move in.  I think this is a less risky approach than targetting a neighborhood that hasn't started to change - and hoping that the gods of real estate evolution smile on your choice and increase its value.

Those up and coming areas aren’t always easy to spot, but there are some clues that may be able to help you identify them.

Look for Coffee Shops, Small Restaurants and Artists and Young People

If you hear about a new art gallery or a restaurant or coffee shop frequented by local artists and musicians, those could indicate that the neighborhood has started on the path to revitalization.  Artists and musicians often move into a struggling neighborhood because of the cheap rents and then revitalize it through their creativity. They open galleries and put on performances that draw other people to the area, sometimes first as customers and later as residents or business owners.

Young people are another demographic who tend to breathe new life into troubled neighborhoods. They often move into those areas for the same reasons that artists do–because of low rents–and lead their neighborhoods down the road to a renaissance. Businesses open to cater to young crowds, and the entire area benefits.

I consider businesses like coffee shops and art galleries to be grace notes of commerce.  You don't really need them - but they make life nice.  A community that is sustaining coffee shops, stationery stores and ice cream shops have disposible income.  That is a good sign! 

Find the New Dog Parks and Community Gardens

Lots of people love their dogs but the neighborhoods with dog parks are the ones you want to target.  A neighborhood that is getting a new dog park is one that is improving.  Community gardens are another improvement to monitor.  Lots of people grow the odd pot of patio tomatoes in the back yard, but communities that have land to give to a garden are ones with stable populations that plan to stay and improve. 

Find Areas Where Money Is Being Invested

City governments that spend large sums of money to construct a tall building or park or to fund a cleanup project do so because they’re committed to revitalizing rundown neighborhoods. Homeowners’ property values will likely rise as a result. Buying a house in that area early in its resurgence could be a good long-term investment.

Look at Trends

If a neighborhood on an upswing is bordered by one that has been neglected, the rundown neighborhood may be next in line for a revitalization. As home values rise in the thriving neighborhood, people will look for homes with lower rents and the resurgence will spread outward.

The improving reputation of a neighborhood will be reflected in prices at local businesses. When you visit an area, ask merchants and restaurant workers if prices have been going up. If they have, that points to a neighborhood that’s changing for the better.

Think About the Pros and Cons

Buying a home in an up-and-coming neighborhood can be a good investment and very exciting to get in on the ground floor of an emerging neighborhood.  On the other hand, you have to be prepared for the neighborhood to take several years, or even more than a decade, to become that go to hot neighborhod that you are hoping it will be. It can take a long time for a neighborhood’s character and reputation to change significantly, and there are no guarantees. Changes in laws, demographics or economic conditions could prevent a neighborhood that seems promising now from realizing its full potential.  

Even as the neighborhood improves, you should plan on dealimg with the remnants of a few rundown buildings, litter and other problems along side the new gelatto cafe and Thai noodle stores. Think carefully about the risks, especially if you have or plan to have children. Schools track neighborhoods and can take a little more time to improve.  

Discuss with your real estate agent the current conditions in a neighborhood and how things have changed and might change in the future so you can make an informed decision.

Up and Coming Neighborhoods in DC

As a Washington almost native, I love how the city is growing and expanding.  Neighborhoods like Shaw and Logan Circle were not where you found million dollar condos when I was growing up, but you certainly do now - along with Trader Joes, Whole Foods, crafted ice cream shops and designer clothing.  Shaw, Logan Circle, and Dupont Circle are too pricey now for many people - so where do  you go to get a good deal? 

I love showing buyers vintage bungalows in Woodridge, because it is right next to Brookland - but not as expensive.  Eckington is finally up and running after years of almost ran!  Eckington is close to Bloomingdale - but again, not nearly as expensive! Head out Branch Avenue and there are wonderful homes to be found in Hill Crest - and with large lots, gracious facades and lower price tags.  There are lots of great opportunities in DC and surrounding areas that are still close in - like some of Prince Georges County, which deserve a closer look! 

If you want to start your home search in the DC metro area just give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at 


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Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Lise Howe - I love your suggestion about neighborhoods the are changing for the better.  Incidentally,  there is lots of comradely when you are one of the "pioneers."

Sep 11, 2019 10:18 AM #1
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

Hi Lise... I had just this conversation with a client yesterday... you have to decide if the ultimate payoff is worth being a bit of a "pioneer."

Sep 11, 2019 10:32 AM #2
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

I like your thinking and the clues that a client should look for to help spot those up and coming neighborhoods.  Art Galleries and Coffee Shops definitely should be considered a move in the right direction.

Sep 11, 2019 06:48 PM #3
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Morning Lise.

I know our local downtown area has been revitalized, homes that were selling for 100,000-200,000.00 are now going for over 500K.  It is the happening place. 

Sep 12, 2019 01:59 AM #4
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I think that it is wise to shop in the neighborhoods that are improving, as that entails that the market value will also be rising in those areas, thus providing buyers with instant equity!

Sep 12, 2019 11:06 AM #5
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Lise this is an option I think would be wise for Realtors to offer their clients.

Sep 13, 2019 02:03 PM #6
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Lise- excellent ideas!  We've seen that happen in Houston where young people want to be closer to work or downtown Houston. All of the points you made about coffee shops etc makes a lot of sense. 

Sep 14, 2019 12:28 PM #7
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


Sep 14, 2019 07:10 PM #8
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Excellent advice...and big dividends reaped later !

Sep 15, 2019 04:10 AM #9
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Lise. This is just wonderful, on target and so well expressed.

Sep 15, 2019 04:59 AM #10
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Excellent information here! Surprised this post isn't featured.

Sep 15, 2019 06:41 AM #11
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Lise, this was a great compendium of things to consider when moving into a new area and are considering established vs. up and coming neighborhoods.  Great info based on years of experience!

Sep 15, 2019 08:59 AM #12
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Lise:

This makes so much sense for buyers to consider, especially given how much seems to be changing these days with the improved economy. You might not be able to afford your dream neighborhood, but you could live nearby and still enjoy the amenities.


Sep 15, 2019 12:30 PM #13
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good evening Lise Howe ,

What an enlightening post. It makes so much sense considering the escalating prices of homes. What a plethora of information from someone with a great deal of experience in dealing with real estate.

Sep 15, 2019 03:44 PM #14
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Oh my gosh, you are a gal after my own heart, Lise! I am a BIG believer in this and a huge proponent of advancing these communities. Most of them are in areas with very old homes and the improvements they are doing (and have done) are right up my 'this-old-house' alley. It's such a wonderful thing to be a part of and the organizations here are run by citizens who truly enjoy fostering the relationships of those moving to these areas. It's a win-win for all involved, including the cities!

Sep 15, 2019 10:53 PM #15
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Lise,  Neighborhoods are so important when looking for your dream home.  You came up with a great list.


Sep 18, 2019 06:25 AM #16
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Lise Howe

Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,
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