LET THE HUNTING BEGIN
BY MICHAEL STRANGE
These days when I walk my babies, my King Charles Spaniels "Diana" and "Camilla," there's always a fresh "for sale" sign on the street. Home sales may be down elsewhere, but in this town's leafiest zip codes, especially Georgetown, the trend is damn the interest rate, buy and buy well. And while buying may be a rich man's game, selling is minting more than a few very rich brokers. Having your picture on a supermarket cart has become, well, fashionable. No longer is real estate the bastion of old queens and witchy crones with big hair and an empty bed. The agents are younger, blonder, hotter. Sex sells. When the generous Mr. Strange gave me carte blanche to select our current love nest, I chose the broker who offered the most attractive package. He bagged me the best house on the block; on several blocks, actually.
But can't a girl want more? I e-Bayed some vintage YSL safari threads and am actively hunting big game. There are secrets, though, to getting an early advantage in the house hunt. This is what I, and all the best brokers, listen for: who's getting divorced, who's got the IRS on their backs, who's to be indicted, who's got two or three children in college at the same time, who has a newly empty nest, and, evil though it may be, who's in failing health and either about to enter the nursing home or the grave. (This is precisely how I found my legendary cook and houseman.) Also, don't pounce until summer, when seller's panic sets in.
At this particular time, hunting is lively. Herbie Haft's house got picked off at a ripe $15 million, also the Evangeline Bruce house (sold by Clara Bingham and David Michaelis for about $6 million), but there is still Mark Ein's place on R Street, which the dwindling cave dweller class still calls the "Katharine Graham House." Mark bought it for $8 million, didn't do much to it, and wants $14 million. The appeal here is location, size and history, but it needs renovating. Also on R is the Oatsie Charles house. Talk about venerable grandes dames. If those walls could dish! We tried for the Al Friendly manse on 31st, but got beat by a developer who not only plans to fold it into a mini sub-division, but who also "made an offer they couldn't refuse" to the adorable Stettiniuses for their nearby Avon Place house. Neighbors gnaw on their knuckles as they gossip about this man, worrying what he plans to do next. Secretly I think some of them hope he'll knock on their doors with an offer they can't refuse.
There's the Sen. John Edwards house on P Street (formerly owned by the late Polly Fritchey at $7 million) but it has the problem Georgetown realtors dare not speak: it's on the "other" side of Wisconsin, the less favorable west side. Not a problem for the Charleston-style Ambassador Richard Fisher house on O, offered at a dewy $9 million. One house I craved, but lost, is sort of odd looking, some say ugly, but it has a pedigree like no other. On Dumbarton, it once was home to Georgetown royalty, Joe and Susan Mary Alsop, and is where "le tout" Camelot drank gin martinis and danced the twist during the Kennedy White House years. JFK famously partied there to the wee hours after his inauguration and hooked up with groupies when opportunity allowed. I love that. I want to sleep everywhere Jack Kennedy shacked up. I have no choice then but to set my sights on the mother of all Georgetown mansions, the Q Street Bowie-Sevier house, beautifully renovated by Herb and Patrice Miller. It is the house on the hill, and at $28 million, the lucky woman who becomes its mistress won't need a title to pull rank.
In bed yesterday morning, in my best poutypretty way, I teased my already rich husband, suggesting he give up lobbying, politics and managing his portfolio, to instead take a whack at real estate. "With your charm and smarts you'd be the king of all brokers," I cooed in his ear. He didn't disagree, but put me off. "Sweetie, we've got the mid-terms coming up. I'd be a damned fool to miss that gravy train."
Readers wishing to get in touch with Michael can email her at: MichaelStrangeDC@aol.com