Blueprint: How to Buy and Sell A Virginia Winery

4289 Leeds Manor Road, Markham, Virginia presented by Roy Melloni of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.

In the Washington Metropolitan Area, only TTR Sotheby's International Realty's team of trusted real estate advisors provides personalized service and local expertise to help clients achieve their dreams, including those exploring the wine and vineyard lifestyle.

For those with a vision, we invite you to explore the art and science Virginia's wine and vineyard properties with  Roy Melloni, Real Estate Associate at TTR Sotheby's International Realty and resident expert this unique area of real estate.

Explore Wine and Vineyard Real Estate Listings For Sale in Virginia »

Roy, thank you for your time today. We are thrilled to learn more about the process of buying and selling Virginia wineries. Before we dive in, can you tell us how you started working in this niche? 

Quite by accident.  It all started when the owner of a winery saw a photograph from one of my lakefront residential listings.  It was a lifestyle photo which captured the essence of what it’s like living on the lake. At that time, his winery had been on the market getting little to no traffic.  He went on to tell me that a winery is a lifestyle and the story needed to be told. Well, I enjoy telling stories through photographs. That’s when it all began.

According to, Virginia has over 300 wineries. What is it about Virginia that makes it so conducive to wine and viticulture? 

Winemaking in Virginia certainly is not new, it dates to 1609 when the settlers of Jamestown planted the first vines. 

Thomas Jefferson, America’s first wine connoisseur some say, knew Virginia was conducive to producing quality wines. Finding a particular vine that would thrive in Virginia’s climate and resist the various North American pests was the greatest challenge and the source of many failures.

When Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1801  he made available a reported sum of $10,000 that was poured into the wine industry.  Even today — regardless of which party governs Virginia — the wine industry is held in high regard as it is a great source of income to the state.

While the wine industry gained momentum under Jefferson, other factors have stifled growth, such as the Civil War, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.

Going back to the beginning, it was all about finding the proper varietals for this region’s terroir.  Virginia has attracted a lot of talent who understand what it takes to produce not just an excellent Virginia wine, but a world class wine.  We are on our way.

423 Ben Venue Road, Flint Hill, Virginia presented by Roy Melloni of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.

When bringing a winery to market, what are the key selling points? And is the process any different than listing a traditional single family home?

There are so many factors to consider when bringing a winery to market: quality of the wines, health and size of the vineyard, varietals, residential structure, income stream, inventory, price point, views, and location just to name a few.  It is very different than selling a residential property.

First, the sellers must make a different level of commitment because it can be a lengthy process. Second, the market is significantly smaller with a lot of barrel kickers out there.  Additionally, there are times when the owners prefer to sell privately which limits our ability to market the property to an already small audience.

Another common challenge I find is that the typical buyer of a winery may be a wine connoisseur but has little to no experience in running a winery and may very quickly become overwhelmed. It’s my job to break it down for them and to compartmentalize the process.  I make them aware that there is as much or as little help in the industry as needed. In fact, the staff at most of the wineries I have sold wanted to stay in place. New buyers are coming with energy, vision and passion and it’s my job to help them with the resources they need to be successful.

Let's pretend I’m an aspiring Virginia vintner: What do I look for in a property? Am I trying to purchase an entire working operation, or would it be better to start from scratch on raw farmland?

There is no one answer to that question.  Some of my clients prefer to purchase an established operation and to continue what the original owners have created.  Others bring their vision and marketing skills and want to take an established operation to the next level. Then there are some who want to start with raw land.  For those folks, I help them understand costs.

For example, buyers have learned it costs around $15,000 to plant an acre of vines. True, however, it takes four years before you have a quality grape you can use for winemaking and it costs around $3,500 per acre, per year, to care for the new vineyard. So, the actual cost from plantings to grapes may be around $30,000 per acre, or double their original estimates.

In addition to understanding the hard costs, you also must ask the buyers what their goals are relative to running the business.  Do they prefer to run the business as a lifestyle with little regard for the revenue stream or run the business as their primary source of income? It’s my job to help bring clarity and perhaps a roadmap to help them obtain their goals.

Otium Cellars presented by Roy Melloni of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.

What are some of the unique benefits to owning and operating a winery?

The benefits of owning and operating a winery are endless, particularly if you have a passion for the wine industry.

I have some clients who get their energy from working in the tasting room, interacting with customers, and who also enjoy managing various events from weddings to corporate charities. On the other hand, I have other clients who stay far away from the tasting room but love being in the field tending to their vines.

As different as those two clients are, they both strive towards producing and sharing great wines. Virginia wines date back 410 years. To be a part of such a rich American history is quite extraordinary. 

You recently sold the esteemed Delaplane Cellars winery in Delaplane, Virginia. Can you tell us how the deal came together?

Delaplane Cellars is a beautiful Winery and Vineyard which overlooks the Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley. While I cannot speak to the details of the sale, I can say it was the “Edwin Moses of sales” —  Moses was the greatest Olympic hurdler of all time and this deal had several hurdles, but all were cleared very quickly.

About Roy Melloni

With over 25 years of real estate experience, Roy Melloni is a master of pricing and selling complex properties, from historic homes to vineyards and wineries. 

A member of the National Association of REALTORS®, the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, and a Certified Residential Appraiser, Roy founded and led a McLean, Virginia based appraisal firm that valued many of the extraordinary and unique properties in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Prior to his venture into real estate, Roy began his career with NASA, where he did cost analysis for various components used on the Space Shuttle. 

While TTR Sotheby's International Realty is a brand known for luxury, Roy's focus is providing an exceptional customer experience at all price points.

A motorsports enthusiast, Roy has competed both locally and internationally and remains an avid follower of Formula One racing.

TTR Sotheby's International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia

How The Best Real Estate Agents Use Social Media

For the majority of United States adults, social media is a daily resource.

But aside from connecting with friends and family, how does social media deliver value to real estate professionals? 

To help understand the social media landscape and its role as a marketing channel for real estate professionals, we asked TTR Sotheby's International Realty's Homaira Karimi to share her perspective.

Do you find social media to be influential throughout the buying/selling lifecycle?

Social media is an excellent way to gain new clients. I have found that it has the most influence on buyers and sellers when used as a personal marketing tool to help them pick an agent. However, I don’t think social media has much influence in their actual buying or selling decisions after that point.

As a real estate professional, what advantages do you see in having a social media presence?

Social media is a great tool for sharing your market knowledge as an agent, which helps you grow your sphere. In general, social media is an excellent outlet that can be used to help educate buyers and sellers, promote yourself as an agent, market your listings, connect with potential new clients and referrals, and stay up to date in current home trends as well as neighborhood happenings. Another benefit that I have loved is being able to connect with other professionals in related fields (designers, architects, etc.) who I can then refer to my clients. But the biggest direct advantage is that I have personally gained multiple clients through my social media pages.

As a real estate professional, do you have a specific strategy in place when using social media? 

Provide value and know your audience. No one likes show offs; you can’t just post about your accomplishments without providing some sort of value to those reading about it. That would be my first rule of thumb. It is also very important to know your audience so that your posts are relevant to them. There are a ton of analytics available which help you better understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the content and timing of your posts. I think it’s critical to use that information as your guide when trying to grow your presence.  

As a real estate professional, do you have any “pro tips” for buyers and sellers looking to use social media to help navigate the real estate buying/selling process?

Start with your own network! Take a look through who you follow to see if any of them are agents and go from there. Already having a level of trust that was built over time between you and your agent is priceless and immediately puts you at ease.

How are you using social media to market yourself as a real estate professional?

I personally have three social media accounts: two work and one personal. I try to post consistently on each account with relevant information for that network of people. Consistency is key. I not only post about my listings, closings, etc., but also market updates, community events, home trends, and so on. In order to make it feel like people are connecting with me on a human level, I also post personal things from time to time as well (about my own home, etc.). Anything that I feel may be of true interest to others and give them an opportunity to engage with me. Being active with other accounts and engaging with them is also very important. I make sure that people are seeing me and I am staying top of mind for them. Everyone has at least five friends who are real estate agents, so you need to give them a reason to want to reach out and work with you. I use social media to come at them from multiple angles which keeps me ahead of my competition by already providing value before we’ve even begun working together.

Are your clients — both buyers and sellers — using social media at any point during the real estate journey?

I have found that typically my clients are already on social media before beginning their purchase or sale in order to find an agent, and then again for inspiration when it comes to home trends and design choices, but not really much beyond that.

Do you find that consumers expect real estate agents to have an active social media presence? 

Yes. I think clients expect agents to stay on top of the newest technology, and with that comes social media. It can make a huge impact on your client’s experience with you, and you would be selling them (and yourself) short if you did not take advantage of a free tool that can really provide results. For example, you can use social media for marketing your listings and open houses, as well as finding off-market homes for your buyers.

As a real estate professional, what are some of your favorite social media accounts?

I follow all of the local competitors at a company level as well as other agents and team. I also follow prominent agents in large cities around the world, Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate offices, local real estate developers and lenders, and various accounts that I feel provide value to myself as an agent such as Inman, Tom Ferry, Curbed, Urban Turf, etc.

As a real estate professional in the Washington Metropolitan Area, are you connecting with consumers outside of the United States via social media?

Yes. I follow our Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate offices and regularly interact with them so their followers are then seeing my account. Since Washington, D.C. is such a diverse city with a constant rotation of international figures moving in and out of the city, I also follow and connect with various embassies as well in order to potentially grow a relationship with them.

As a real estate professional, what is your favorite social media platform?

Instagram and Facebook.

Can you tell us a social media success story? Has social media helped you win new business as a real estate professional? 

Social media has helped me win new business numerous times. Most often, when I post a success story of a competitive buying situation, I post certain details of how we went about winning (while still keeping sensitive aspects of it private) in order to show consumers that it’s not as scary and impossible as it seems. This is often eye-opening for my followers who don’t know much about our world. Providing key details and making myself relatable has resulted in numerous new clients. I have also found myself interacting with people I haven’t spoken to in ages  — but follow and keep up with — only for them to turn around and let me know they’re in the market and would like to talk. That conversation may not have occurred had I not engaged with one of their posts.

What advice would you give a real estate professional who is interested in using social media to grow their business?

Dive in! I have found it to be an integral part of my marketing with direct results that I can measure. Get to know the various platforms a little bit, plan out your content, curate your feed, provide value, make it relatable, be consistent, and take advantage of the analytics they offer you. You really can’t go wrong unless you’re not putting any effort in. If it’s too overwhelming for you, don’t be afraid to hire a virtual assistant (which is very cheap to do), as it’s well worth the new business you will potentially be gaining from it.

About Homaira Karimi

A native to the Washington Metropolitan Area, Homaira has always shown a keen interest in real estate, architecture, and design.

Upon graduation, Homaira began her career in real estate development, exposing her to all of the elements of what makes a firm successful, from build outs and design to the financing and leasing of the property.

Now, a licensed real estate agent in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, and a member of The Garrison Breck Group of TTR Sotheby's International Realty, Homaira delivers to her clients a breadth of extensive local knowledge, creative negotiation skills, and a focus on client satisfaction.

A leader in her community, Homaira holds memberships and leadership positions with the Junior League of Washington D.C. and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and received the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year award.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

The Transformative Power of Virtual Staging

Virtual staging courtesy of Barion Design.

Home staging is one of the most important considerations when bringing a property to market.

Yet, despite its important role, traditional home staging practices can present challenges for owners and agents alike, as the cost to stage a home can either become cost prohibitive or disruptive to the owner as new furniture, paint, and overall aesthetics are updated. 

However, thanks to innovations in mobile technology, home staging has never been easier.

Learn more about 6008 Kennedy Drive, Chevy Chase, Maryland »

Virtual staging courtesy of Barion Design.

Enter virtual staging. A relatively new innovation, virtual staging offers agents the ability to virtually "stage" a home without disrupting any of the existing physical attributes of the property.

Lindsay Lucas, Vice President at TTR Sotheby's International Realty, has successfully leveraged virtual staging for her clients. 

"Virtual staging provided my clients the ability to stay in their home with current paint colors and furnishings while allowing prospective buyers the vision and appeal of another, more modern, design for the home."

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Virtual staging courtesy of Barion Design.

In June 2018, Sotheby's International Realty, the world's leading luxury real estate brand, introduced Curate, a mobile application that enables virtual home staging with the click of a button. 

Offering a variety of home styles and decorative concepts, Curate enables real estate professionals to work collaboratively with their clients to help visualize the home of their dreams in a personalized manner.

In a recent article published by Digital Trends, Sotheby's International Realty's John Passerini offers insight into the power of virtual staging.

“Buying a house is not only a significant financial decision, but is also deeply personal and emotional... Introducing an augmented reality component to the homebuying experience takes the consumer on a personal journey that allows them to see a house transformed into a home, their home, through the magic of technology.”

As the efficacy of augmented reality technology grows, the promise of virtual staging creates significant opportunities for the savvy real estate agent and delivers real value to buyers and sellers alike.

About Lindsay Lucas

A native of Potomac, Maryland and a life-long resident of the Washington Metropolitan Area, Lindsay Lucas

A graduate of the University of Richmond in Virginia, Lindsay joined TTR Sotheby's International Realty in 2013 after a successful career in private equity and insurance.

Devoted to professionalism and delivering unsurpassed service, Lindsay has helped clients with real estate investments and home purchases in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Lindsay currently lives in Bethesda with her husband Steve, and two sons, Tildon Chase and Matthew.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

The Art of the Comparative Market Analysis

Of the many tools and techniques a successful real estate agent must possess, the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) remains key.

An examination of “comparable” properties — typically those that have sold — CMAs are used by real estate agents to determine the price to list a home (or the price to offer for a home that may be on the market).

To understand CMAs and their role in the real estate marketing lifecycle, we sat down with Maxwell Rabin, Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.

First, what is a CMA?

A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a process that helps determine the valuation of a property by comparing it to similar properties in the same area that have recently sold. An effective CMA will consider similar properties to your subject property and then normalize the comparable properties based on specific criteria and data points, adding consideration for unique attributes of the property that either add or detract from its value.

How do you prepare CMAs?

First, you have to have a reliable source of data from which to reference. I almost always use the MLS, which, for real estate professionals, offers comprehensive data on properties both on and off the market. 

Next, you need to determine your primary data point. For me, it’s price per square foot. While most properties include bedrooms and bathrooms and list prices and sales prices, normalizing your CMA around one data point is helpful.

Then, you have to look at the type of property you are analyzing. Is this a condo in the middle of city center or a sprawling estate in the countryside? Typically, the more comparable properties you have (meaning, the more types of properties that have sold that are of similar makeup of your subject property) the more parity there will be in pricing. 

In the case of a condo in city center, chances are that there are many sales and comparable listings to analyze, so pricing becomes more focused on location, the floors, amenities, etc. 

For a sprawling country estate, on the other hand — where the price point is higher and there are fewer sales to compare to on a relative basis — it can be more difficult. 

In every case, I have a boilerplate template that gets customized based on the nuances of the subject property and the market. 

Townhouse for Sale at Georgetown 1659 34th St NW Washington, District Of Columbia 20007 United States
1659 34th Street NW Washington, D.C. presented by Michael Brennan Jr. of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.

What is the most important metric or data point in a CMA? 

Personally, I use Price per Square Foot with the advertised square footage that the agent provides in the listing. If advertised square footage is not available, I will then defer to the tax records. As an example, if I the subject property is a tear down or a new build, you won’t have tax records so you will have to defer to the advertised square footage.

When do you present a CMA to a client?

There’s no better time to present a CMA than during your listing presentation. Ideally, going into this conversation with your prospective client, you will have already done your homework on the subject property and can use the CMA to help seal the deal. In many ways, the preparation of a CMA is table stakes for having a productive conversation with a potential client, and presents an opportunity to deliver value from the start.

Can you give us an example of how you would prepare a CMA for a condo? 

Sure, so as I mentioned I have a boilerplate template which has certain criteria and data points mapped out. The first process is to enter the basic information of your subject property, including beds, baths, and price..

Next, I’ll add in specific unique qualities of the subject property, such as HOA fees, parking, and location (corner, basement, etc.).

Finally, I’ll add in my own curated knowledge of the area or neighborhood as well as the comparable sold listings from the past year or so.

For example, I may know that one comparable property has amazing views, so there is a bit of an edge there – or, I know that even though the subject property and the comparable properties are in the same condo building, the subject property on floor 2 has a better layout than floor 6 (even though each has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the same square footage).

Once we have everything mapped out, we will focus on one or two properties as the primary comparables to the subject property. 

Single Family Home for Sale at 2169 Logans Mill Rd 2169 Logans Mill Rd The Plains, Virginia 20198 United States
2169 Logans Mill Road, The Plains, Virginia presented by Gloria Rose Ott of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.

In the case of a price adjustment, how would you approach the conversation? Can you use a CMA to help inform a new price?

Absolutely. Just recently in Capitol Hill, I had a listing that was simply not selling despite a very healthy market where a lot of inventory was moving fast. When I took over the listing, I knew upfront the listing was likely over-priced, but I had to prove this to my seller client before putting it back on the market.

To help sell the price adjustment, I put together a CMA including all sold listings from the past year as well as all new comparable listings that were coming on the market. The baseline was to look at sold properties, all of which were indeed coming in lower than our original list price. Then, we looked at what’s coming on the market and provided updates weekly so we understood the velocity of new sales and the price point that buyers were gravitating towards.  

In the case of this property, the listing was in a fantastic location in a hot neighborhood, but had no parking and no basement — despite being priced almost identically to properties which had both of these key features. In this case, lowering the price turned out to be the right move and we ultimately sold the property, but this wouldn’t have happened if I was not able to present data in an easy and digestible manner. 

In what other cases would a CMA be helpful?

In Washington, D.C., we work with real estate developers who purchase row homes, subdivide and renovate them to be sold as condos. In this case, we often prepare CMAs so the property developer — in this case, our client — can understand in-out costs and so they can manage expectations on how lucrative the project may be.

For a real estate developer, in the context, it’s helpful to know of similar projects in the neighborhood and the acquisition costs for the original properties, as well as the list and sale price for the new renovated units that will eventually hit the market.

If you as the real estate developer know you have to hit a certain profit margin for the project, but have an ambitious renovation ahead of you that may not make you whole, it’s better to know that before you start the project rather than after. A CMA helps.

Single Family Home for Sale at 3911 Bradley Ln 3911 Bradley Ln Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815 United States
3911 Bradley Lane, Chevy Chase, Maryland presented by Jonathan Taylor of TTR Sotheby's International Realty

How do you discuss Zestimates when introducing your CMA?

This is something we’ve dealt with many times.

In the case of a seller wanting to list her house at the Zestimate price — in which case, the Zestimate was high, in our opinion — we simply go back to the CMA.

In this case, we will take the subject property and compare it to the Zestimates of comparable sold listings as well as their actual sales price on a cost per square foot basis.

 In this case, we are trying to educate our client — not necessarily that a Zestimate is bad, but that it may not reflect the reality of the marketplace.

In this case, the Zestimates of the sold comparable properties were around 10% higher than the actual sold data. In an alternate reality, you can imagine acquiescing to the owner’s wishes and listing at the Zestimate price, but then — because it was priced too high — having to make concessions via price improvements.

About Maxwell Rabin

Maxwell Rabin began his real estate career in 2000 working as a sales associate at TTR Sotheby's International Realty. Now an associate broker, Maxwell has grown his business alongside the founder of the firm, Jonathan Taylor — their team is perennially ranked among the highest producing in Washington, D.C..

Maxwell has facilitated hundreds of transactions, covering every type of residential property, including: large single-family homes, historic properties, condominiums and cooperatives, multi-family buildings, new construction, as well as several commercial real estate transactions.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Rabin grew up in Chevy Chase and was a member of the Adams Morgan community for 11 years. Currently, Maxwell resides in Georgetown.

A graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and later of the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Maxwell is also an accomplished guitarist and music instructor with a specialization in jazz performance and composition.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

The Essential Guide to Modern Architecture

The Marden House of McLean, Virginia designed in 1959 by Frank Lloyd Wright.

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s majestic Falling Water to Philip Johnson's legendary Glass House, modern architecture has captured the world's imagination.

But what is modernism and how is modern architecture represented in the Washington Metropolitan Area?

To help answer these questions, we turn to Ron Mangas Jr., Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty and one of Washington Metropolitan Area's leading experts in modern architecture.

How does modern architecture differ from contemporary architecture? 

To understand modern architecture, it's important to first differentiate it from contemporary architecture.

Take, for example, a colonial style home built in Virginia during the 1800s; during its construction, this home may have been considered contemporary given the materials available, the functional needs of the owner, and the social and cultural tastes of the time.  Put another way, a contemporary home can be referenced in context with the present.

Explore Modern and Contemporary Homes For Sale in the Washington Metropolitan Area »

Modern architecture, however, adheres to the underlying principals and philosophies established by legendary architects in the early 1900s, such as, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.

Introduced at a time of significant economic, cultural, and technological change, the modernist movement was a reaction to a new industrial reality and the radical possibilities it presented not only for architecture, but for society as a whole.

The Glass House of New Canaan, Connecticut designed in 1949 by Philip Johnson. Image courtesy of Architect Magazine.

Through the 1940s, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was pioneering his idea of organic architecture, a philosophy which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. In practice, organic architecture manifests itself in the choice of building materials and its overt consideration for the topology, climate, and atmosphere of the building site.

Though elements such as concrete, glass, and steel are traditionally associated with the early modern homes, such as those designed by Le Corbusier, stone and wood inspire modern masterpieces such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Talisien West.

Who are the most famous modern architects?

Le Corbusier is considered a leading pioneer of the modern movement.

With the construction of La Maison Blanche in 1912, Le Corbusier explored technical principals that were later applied with deliberate, abstract, aesthetic expressions that we now associate with modern design around the world.

With Villa Savoye, built in 1931, Le Corbusier demonstrates a fully developed modernist aesthetic that is a pinnacle example of the early modernist movement.

Who are the best modern architects in the Washington Metropolitan Area?

The Washington Metropolitan Area is home to some of the most revered modern architects in the United States, including: Travis Price, Mark McInturff, Robert M. Gurney, David Jameson, Salo Levinas, Hugh & Simon Jacobsen, and Jim Burton.

Robert M. Gurney, a master of modern design, is renowned for his ability to reinterpret existing structures with modern design principles (even through renovation).

Travis Price could be considered the Washington Metropolitan Area’s most prominent organic architect. A master of integrating structures into their natural landscape, Price is able to apply near spiritual connections to the site through materials and natural exposures.

A master of organic architecture, this Travis Price home in Washington, D.C. offers bold views of Rock Creek Park.

Jim Burton, another purveyor of organic architecture, is best known for his work in rural Virginia.

Yet, of all modern architects in the Washington Metropolitan Area, Hugh Newell Jacobson is perhaps the most iconic. A pupil of Philip Johnson and mentor to local architects such as Robert Gurney and Mark McInturff, Jacobson is considered one of the Washington Metropolitan Area's most influential modern architects.

What is the market for modern homes in the Washington Metropolitan Area?

At the moment, there is a very narrow market for true modern architecture in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

For those seeking a modern home, there are a few ground rules.

First, it’s not uncommon to find modern homes that are in less than desirable condition. While modern homes are often regarded for their unique aesthetic, some have fallen into disrepair and may require significant renovations to restore to their original form. 

With the exception of Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Virginia and Lake Barcroft in Falls Church, Virginia, there are only a few clusters of modern homes in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Rather, many of the region’s modern homes were built as standalone projects catered to the original owner’s specifications. As a result, committed buyers should be more flexible in location.

The Greene Residence of Easton, Maryland designed in 1992 by Hugh Newell Jacobsen.

For owners of a modern home, it’s wise to consult with specialists before bringing your home to market.

While it's always wise to consult with a neighborhood expert when selling your home, it's common for truly unique homes to be co-listed with another agent who can articulate the nuances of modern design principals, architecture, and materials — a critical role when trying to find the right buyer and managing expectations for the property’s continued use.

As the owner of a modern home, it's critical to partner with architects and other design specialists who can provide insights about pricing for renovations and future needs for home maintenance.

As we move away from true “modern” homes and into more contemporary homes with modern elements,  your agent's ability to help  envision and execute a modern renovation is critical.

About Ron Mangas Jr.

Ron Mangas, Jr. is known for his significant knowledge of modern architecture and the artistic and cultural movements that gave rise to new forms of domestic styles in the United States.

Throughout the course of his real estate practice, Mr. Mangas has worked to educate his clients regarding the historical antecedents of the styles of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Mr. Mangas focused his practice on the listing and sale of modern and contemporary residential architecture in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. He has also had the honor of working with some of the best-known architects including Travis Price, FAIA., Jim Burton, AIA., Mark McInturff, FAIA., David Cooper, FAIA., and Robert Gurney, FAIA.

TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

The Definitive Guide to Buying and Selling Washington, D.C. Co-Op Apartments

To many, Washington, D.C’s residential landscape is best known for the charming row homes lining neighborhoods like Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill.

However, much of the city’s charm, style, and old world aesthetic are exemplified in its many co-operative apartment buildings.

From the historic Beaux Arts structures of Kalorama to the mid-century modern Watergate, co-ops comprise some of the city’s most beautiful, historic, and desirable real estate.

An expert in the Washington D.C. co-op landscape, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty Broker Associate Sammy Dweck offers some practical advice for those considering buying or selling a co-op in Washington D.C.

What is a co-op?

1901 Wyoming Avenue NW #3, Washington, D.C. presented by Sammy Dweck of TTR Sotheby's International Realty

A co-op is short for cooperative housing project.

Though occupying a smaller share of Washington, D.C.’s total housing market than condominiums or apartments, co-ops are distinct in both ownership and financing.

While more predominant in other major cities, such as New York, co-ops make up a relatively small proportion of the residential real estate landscape in Washington, D.C., but comprise an outsized share of its most historic, charming, and valuable real estate inventory.

How are co-ops different from condos?

The ownership structure is the fundamental difference between co-ops and condos.

Condos are considered real estate in the traditional sense, and co-ops are technically shares in a corporation that come with the use of a particular apartment.

This distinct difference in asset classification introduces nuances that can be confusing for the uninitiated, but advantageous for the savvy buyer or seller.

When did co-ops enter the Washington marketplace?

2500 Virginia Ave Nw #1008-S, Washington, D.C. presented by Stan Kelly of TTR Sotheby's International Realty

Co-ops, which originated in New York in the late 1800s, are typically converted from rental buildings through a process called conversion, whereby the tenants take on collective debt in the form of an underlying mortgage to buy the property from the landlord or owner.

In Washington, D.C., we saw co-ops enter the market in the early 1900s. Although many of the buildings that comprise historic co-ops were built prior to World War I and World War II, these buildings were not necessarily converted to co-ops until years or even decades after their initial construction.

What should you know about buying a co-op?

The path to purchasing a co-op residence is ultimately directed by the co-op board, a group of owners who vet potential residents based on specific set of communal criteria which is only allowed to include financial wherewithal and willingness to follow the building’s rules.

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While certain co-ops are more stringent than others, ultimately, success in a board interview comes down to a shared understanding of the rules and values of the community and the potential owner's ability to adequately finance the purchase of the property (as well as the various underlying debts and assessments that come with shared ownership).

Finally, buyers should know that co-ops are intended for owner occupants. Real estate investors are often dismissed as they are only seeking a rental commodity rather than a place to call home. While renting is allowed in most co-ops under specific circumstances, the board ultimately sets the parameters.  

What are some advantages to owning a co-op in Washington, D.C.?

2700 Virginia Avenue NW #502 Washington, D.C. presented by Ron Mangas Jr. of TTR Sotheby's International Realty

Co-ops offer many advantages to residents and owners.

First, co-ops generally have a lower property tax burden due to the fact that the building assessed as an entity is worth less than the sum of the individual apartments combined. In addition, the D.C. Homestead Exemption, a tax benefit available to homeowners domiciled in the District, may limit the building’s total tax obligation by capping the annual increase.

Second, most co-ops in Washington, D.C. maintain at least an 80% owner to subtenant ratio. For those who value closely controlled and stable communities, this helps ensure temporary residents are few and far between.

Finally, many co-ops in Washington, D.C. often contain exceptional provenance, aesthetic beauty, and cultural significance. While this may not be important to some owners or potential buyers, we are finding these more qualitative features factor in to the larger experience and charm of living in the nation’s capital.

What are some of the financial and technical considerations when buying or selling a co-op?

There are a few important financial and technical considerations for those interested in purchasing a Washington, D.C. co-op.

First, ownership in a co-op is designated as corporate stock, not as real estate. Practically, this means your ownership stake is in the form of corporate shares of an entity which usually owns the building and the land upon which the building rests; not as a deed, as with most real estate.

Ownership shares are determined by the corporation’s governing documents. Typically, there is a nexus between the size of the apartment, and sometimes level location and view, that determine the percentage of the shares assigned to each apartment. These ownership shares are not always necessarily equal to voting shares, but they can be in some buildings.

Next, it’s key to understand fees and corporate debt, including acquisition debt, renovation debt, and underlying mortgages.

As a result of the collective purchasing power former residents levied on ownership to purchase the building, many co-ops engineered underlying mortgages via commercial loans, sometimes with a balloon payment.

Underlying mortgages can vary widely, but typically the lion’s share of a co-op fee is maintenance, operations, and taxes, not the remaining acquisition or renovation debt. As a real estate professional, you should ensure your buyer is aware of the terms of an underlying mortgage, including rate, payment, and whether a balloon payment will come due during your client’s tenure.

A fiscal advantage of co-ops is that owners can often take out 30 year loans to lower the impact of a substantial assessment for capital improvements, rather than making large payments over a shorter 2-3 year window, as is common with condos. You can also write off the interest payments on co-op assessments.

Tax records do not exist for individual co-op apartment units, so important metrics like advertised square footage may be unreliable depending on the source of the information. Where possible, use any official records maintained by the co-op with regard to square footage for developing comparable pricing, and don’t rely heavily on price-per-foot calculations based on potentially unreliable MLS data.

Finally, if you own a co-op you are allowed to leave your shares to an heir, as you would with any asset; however, beneficiaries are often obligated to pass the same board interview as other tenants.

About Sammy Dweck

Sammy Dweck is a Broker Associate with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. A member of a longtime Washington, D.C. real estate family and a graduate of New York University, Dweck is a specialist in pre-war condominiums and cooperatives. Recently named to REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list, Dweck served on the DCAR Public Policy Committee and is an Ambassador for Safe Shores, a Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Advocacy group.


TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.