Every place has its cyclical population trends: Could be the whaling season, or a perfect snow year. In D.C., the cycle is elections, with a biannual shift in who works on the Hill. Some years have a bigger swing than others, though, and this year was a doozy: The Post‘s Al Kamen estimated that about 2,000 Democratic staffers will be replaced by Republicans in House, Senate, and Committee offices. Counting the 28 or so retiring Representatives on top of the 63 seats that turned over, we can safely bump the number up to about 2,500. Then think of the effect on private sector jobs, with K Street hiring more Republicans to fit the balance of power in Congress.
With all that job churn, and people moving into and around the District, there must be some effect on the real estate market, right? I asked around, and the answer is: Sort of. A tiny bit. Enough for real estate agents to notice, but not enough to matter.
“You hear this all the time, and my experience is that yes there is an impact, but it’s always grossly exaggerated,” says realtor Eldad Moraru, who’s written a book on D.C. real estate. Even in 2009, when appointees and their staffs in the executive branch turned over, Moraru says there was little effect. And usually, he says, it’s impossible to separate from concurrent factors: In another big swing, back in 1994, the market was on the way up anyway.
Plus, as Hounshell Real Estate’s Mark Washburn points out, most people at the staff level are probably renters anyway. So property management companies might see more turnover, but that’s not something that matters quite as much to the District economy, which benefits from the sales and recordation taxes when property changes hands. Washburn, who runs dccondboutique.com, says elections haven’t had more of an impact than things like the $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit, the growth of agencies like Homeland Security, or even the expansion of a major law firm into the District.
So, there you have it. Even electoral tidal waves don’t have much of an impact on the local real estate market—D.C.’s sometimes a bigger town than it seems.