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Bethesda’s Condo, Apartment Boom Shows Recovering Local Market

Construction is moving rapidly at the 4800 Auburn Avenue project, a 17-story, 235-unit tower seen here from Norfolk AvenueThere’s perhaps no greater sign of Bethesda’s recovering real estate market than the apartment and condominium boom underway downtown, and the numbers bear that out.

Donna Evers, who recently opened a Bethesda-Chevy Chase office of one of Washington’s largest boutique real estate agencies, says outside of downtown D.C., there is no hotter spot for real estate in the area right now.

“Montgomery County is the sector here that shows the biggest growth. It was lagging behind, but it’s jumping ahead now,” Evers said. “Bethesda drives that. What’s on the books in terms of development, there’s going to be big demand for it.”

There are 19 apartment or condominium projects planned, in the Planning Department pipeline or under construction in a three-square mile section of downtown Bethesda. The projects are projected to bring roughly 3,700 units. There’s also the steady takedown and rebuild market for single family homes in Bethesda neighborhoods off the Central Business District.

Evers said real estate inventory has been historically low despite recent increases in listings and sales region-wide. In close-in Metro marketplaces throughout the area, dollar volume of sales was up 21 percent in March compared to March of last year and 46 percent compared to February of this year, according to real estate information service MRIS.

“We need more product in the marketplace and we’re finally getting it,” Evers said. “Montgomery is coming forward now. I think it takes awhile for people to to gain a lot of confidence in the marketplace because moving a whole family is a bigger deal than individuals moving, like you’ll see more often in the District.”

The cost of the incoming condos and apartments, however, is unlikely to offer much in the way of affordability. Evers said the land in Bethesda is too valuable.

“The ground is pretty expensive, so you’ve got to start with the ground and go up from there,” Evers said. “But I think builders have to think who they are building for. If they think they’re going to have a viable marketplace with people in their 20s, 30s, who are looking for their first apartment, something between 500 square feet and 1,200 square feet and they can sell it at a reasonable price, they’ll do it.”


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