They had seen home after home in Bethesda, Md., torn down, replaced by behemoths boasting high ceilings, multiple gables and soaring porticoes. So when a small 1940s Cape Colonial on Oldchester Road was about to go on the market last year — and already attracting the attention of a well-known McMansion developer — three neighbors designed a custom-built approach to save it.
They pooled $2 million to buy, modernize and resell the old house. They hope the updated brick Colonial, which they expanded from three to six bedrooms, will preserve the charm of their neighborhood and maybe even make them a modest profit.
But the group’s attempt to flip the house — on a street where a 1999 Harrison Ford movie was filmed — has yet to pay off. The now-renovated home at 7812 Oldchester Road in the Bradley Woods neighborhood of Bethesda has been on the market since late August, its price having dropped from nearly $2.4 million to $2.175 million…
But the Bradley Woods triumvirate — a senior Justice Department official, a real estate lawyer and a high-end home designer — remain confident they made the right decision, despite the property lingering on the market for 3 1/2 months, longer than the two-month average for a Bethesda home.
What is missing in this story is the amount of money and wealth that is needed to even make this move: most Americans opposed to McMansions or other changes to their neighborhood or community could not simply buy the property and then try to make some money off of it. Instead, they have to either convince their neighbors that this isn’t in their best interest (and this is a tough case to make when so much money is on the line on what typically is most people’s biggest single investment in life) or go through the regulatory and legal process to attempt to block the teardown. All of this might lead to negative interactions as it pits property rights versus what the neighbors or community feel might be in their own best interests (and it often is about collective property values). But, if you have resources, you can just take care of the problem yourself.