A $2.1 million home just outside of Washington, D.C., has been sitting on the market since May. For its new real estate agent, therein lies an opportunity.
In any other year, broker Allison Goodhart DuShuttle would have “rested” the listing during the holidays and brought it back, fresher, for the spring selling season. But President-elect Donald Trump is moving to town next month and bringing with him an administration of millionaires and billionaires who are going to need places to live. Many are looking right now.
“We decided to keep it on just in case,” DuShuttle, an agent with McEnearney Associates Inc., said of the six-bedroom colonial on 1.3 acres in Alexandria, Virginia. “If you want to make sure you catch that administration change, you would not want to take it off and rest it at this time."
The wealthiest presidential administration in modern history has Washington’s high-end real estate brokers busy courting prospective clients and readying homes for a new audience of buyers. Advance teams for Trump cabinet nominees and senior officials are already fanning out across the region, doing the legwork for their bosses, surveying kitchens, bathrooms and possible security configurations for new residences.
And in a city known for its political divides, partisan boundaries are cast aside.
“Hey, I was a Hillary person,” said Tom Daley, associate broker at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Georgetown. “But from a real estate perspective: Thank you very much. Come in folks. Let’s get you a nice new house.”
Daley, who raised more than $100,000 for losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, earning him the title of "Hillblazer," says he is working with a few people being vetted for jobs in the new administration. He has friends on the transition team who have started directing people his way.
“If Secretary Clinton had won, it would be less of a transition,” Daley said. “A lot of her people were already here. With the Trump administration, we’re getting a whole new breed of people coming in.”
Trump, the first billionaire U.S. president, has appointed two billionaires and at least nine millionaires, with a combined net worth of about $5.6 billion, to run government departments. Several are D.C. outsiders who likely will need luxury living spaces.
Connecticut’s Linda McMahon, who’s slated to lead the Small Business Administration, shares a net worth of at least $1.35 billion with her husband, Vince, as the co-founders of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, a Texan who was picked for secretary of state, has a net worth of $365 million, according to a Bloomberg wealth analysis. Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner and hedge fund manager, has wealth estimated at $655 million.
Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, the New York private equity titan with a $2.9 billion net worth, has already settled on a place, the Washington Post reported Dec. 13. He bought a 10,000-square-foot estate in Massachusetts Heights that was listed for $12 million, the newspaper said. Ivanka Trump and her husband, real estate developer and Trump adviser Jared Kushner, also are looking in the area, according to the New York Post.
“We would all love to have the distinct privilege of selling our listings to any of the folks coming in to town,” said David Howell, executive vice president of McEnearney Associates, which has eight offices in the region. “We’re all clamoring for that business and dusting off our contacts.”
Still, Howell cautions against too much excitement. The number of wealthy cabinet members is finite. And the 4,000 executive appointments that typically come with a new administration tend to happen gradually over the course of 18 months, he said. Some of the new arrivals take time renting before they commit to a purchase.
“It’s not like come Jan. 20, a switch gets turned and 4,000 bodies arrive in Washington and they’re all ready to buy a house,” said Howell, who himself relocated to Washington in 1976 to work for Gerald Ford’s campaign.
When they do come, the real estate market feels it. In the five months after a presidential election, home sales in the Washington metropolitan area typically increase about 12 percent from the same period the year before, according to an analysis by the National Association of Realtors, which measured the average from the past six elections. Home prices climb about 6.5 percent during those same five months.
Those who are buying high-end houses are entering a tepid market. In the third quarter, the average sale price of a Washington luxury home, defined as the priciest 5 percent of sales, fell 0.9 percent from a year earlier to $2.38 million, according to brokerage Redfin. Prices in the rest of the market were up 5.1 percent to an average of $582,000.
Trump appointees who are sending teams now are the higher-level officials whose staff come to town for a day, look at homes and then narrow the list down to a final three or so for their boss to visit, said Nancy Itteilag, a broker with Washington Fine Properties, who has shown them her listings.
One of the properties they looked at was an 11,242-square-foot home at 2509 Foxhall Road in the Northwest area that is listed for $15.5 million. The seven-bedroom house, previously rented by the French ambassador, also is available for lease at $42,000 per month, she said. It has an infinity pool and a wine cellar, according to the listing.
DuShuttle’s listing in Alexandria, which she took over from a previous broker last month, highlights the kind of amenities that a high-placed official who enjoys entertaining might want in a home. The kitchen includes four ovens, and the circular driveway "provides ample parking for many guests,” according to the listing, which notes that previous occupants of the 5,400-square-foot house held several dinner parties there, some with “notable VIPs.”
More than 100 varieties of birds, including bald eagles, have been spotted in the garden outside, and the grounds include what is possibly the town’s oldest magnolia tree, according to the listing.
“We thought this might appeal to someone, especially someone coming in from the Pence side,” DuShuttle said of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is the governor of Indiana. "They’re used to a little bit more land but don’t want a long commute.”