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I’ve written quite a bit about the D.C. vacant property auction. But I believe I failed to mention a crucial little detail in there. People that purchased properties not only have to contend with general dilapidation—-total guess: crumbling walls, faltering plumbing, rat kingdoms, bubbled paint, broken floors, glass, cabinets…broken everything—-they have to make their fixes in a very limited period of time. A press release sent out today by the Department of Housing and Community Development outlined the regulations:

Winning bidders must fulfill the requirements outlined in the property disposition agreement, which includes the District’s certified business entity requirements. Additionally, they are required to have their property in fully operable condition with 18 months or face the prospect of ownership reverting back to the District. The winning bidders were mostly individuals, although four bidders have already stated they intend to purchase their properties using corporate entities.

This timetable seems short. Very short. I asked Erik Wemple, City Paper’s resident D.C. townhouse owner, what he believed. His response: Slightly more optimistic. “If you do a complete gut and redesign, that can take years. But 18 months, I’m sure that if they go in and inspect, and you’re 80 percent of the way there, they’re not going to screw you.” Of course, questions still linger. “I’ve never bought a shell…If you’re going to tear down every wall and completely redo the house, then it’s going to be dicey,” says Wemple, who has watched two transformative renovations on his Logan Circle block—-neither of which seem to be completely done.

DHCD seems to think they’ve hit the right timeline. I conjecture: You need to be mighty organized to turn a total dump into a livable place in a year and a half. People with renovation/construction experience would know better. So feel free to chime in.