Meet Valerie: Jewish Real Estate Agent of the Week

Get to know Valerie Bluestein, and then meet her – and other Jewish People of the Week – in person at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I’m one of the very few DC natives! I was born at Georgetown Hospital, spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, and then went to college at University of Maryland. I’m pretty convinced that my parents brainwashed me into never moving more than 30 minutes away. Although, DC is a great place to live. So, if I’m going to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad it’s here.

Allie: What is it like to be married to the Pickle Eating Champion of DC (AKA: Max Bluestein)?

Valerie: My grocery bill has tripled, and I’ve learned to eat fast. Max is the eating champion of everything, not just pickles. I remember we had just started dating when he participated in one of the pickle eating competitions –and I was simultaneously impressed, revolted, and intrigued. But being married to Max is wonderful. We really have the best time together.

Allie: How did you meet Mr. Bluestein?

We have differing perspectives on whether our first date was a date. As someone who was taught to be courted, I didn’t count “lets meet up after my friend’s birthdayday dinner at 11pm” as a date. I thought that was just a friendly get-together. So, when I texted him before that “get-together” that I couldn’t make it, he thought I stood him up (I thought we could just reschedule)…so we didn’t talk for 3 years. Luckily, we reconnected at a Jewish event and were able to explain each of our sides of the story, confess that we both had crushes on each other, and seal it with a kiss. Good thing he’s already had his Jewish Person of the Week interview, so I’ll get the final say on this :).

Allie: Why – did you become a real estate agent?

Valerie: I’ve always been fascinated by real estate, and HGTV was always in the background at home. I’m not sure why I never considered it as a career before now. But, I decided it was time to change gears after being at my job for 8 years. After having lots of informational interviews, I decided to dive into real estate sales since it incorporates all of the skill-sets I’ve developed, and I would be doing what i love most.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: Enjoying a dinner with close friends.

Allie: What is your number one piece of house-hunting advice?

Valerie: You’re going to have to think with both your head and your heart. There’s so much that goes into the process – financial, emotional. It’s exciting and scary, and really important that you find  a real estate agent who understands what you want and need, and gets your personality.

Allie: What is your favorite show to binge watch?

Valerie: I’ve already watched “Veronica Mars” 3 times, and I would be down to watch it again anytime.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Valerie: A combination of exercise, reading, or napping.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Valerie: Being married to Max has increased my travel 1,000%. I’d love to go to Hawaii next.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: There’s a lot of food and a lot of fun.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

At Home with Valerie: Dating vs. Home Buying

After what seemed like an endless search, you met the one. It’s most definitely love. Your heart goes pitter-patter when you’re nearby. You’re ready to stop the hunt and make a big commitment. Although you don’t admit it to many people since it’s still early, you’ve been daydreaming about your future together. Celebrating milestones. Starting a family. Growing old together. Sure, there are flaws, but they’re overshadowed by all the amazing qualities and the way you feel when you’re with each other.

But is it reciprocal? It’s almost too perfect and you’d be utterly devastated if this one doesn’t work out. So, what do you do?

Leave it to your real estate agent.

Buying a home is just like dating.

Thinking short term vs long term: Buying a home is a long-term commitment. Relationships can be, too. Are you ready to move on from your former apartment… or ex? If you’re not sure you can stay in one place for the next five or more years, you’re probably better off renting.

It’s a numbers game: Be patient. Most people don’t buy the first house they see, or marry the first person they date. According to the National Association of Realtors®, home buyers typically look at 10 homes before purchasing. With that comes the same heartbreak of the dating world, like when you submit an offer and get rejected or someone else (maybe someone with more money) swoops in. You may go on 1,000 dates before you find your match, but you learn and grow from each one and you never settle until you find your perfect partner.

First impressions matter, but don’t be superficial: We’ve all gone on an online date with someone who looks nothing like his or her photos. I once had to leave the table to double check a JDate profile to make sure there wasn’t a mix-up. Well, the same thing can be true with real estate. Staging and camera angles can make a home look much better online than in person, and there can be a lot more shingles on the roof if the picture was taken five years ago. However, this person or home may possess all of the other qualities you’re looking for, so don’t get too caught up with appearances.

Everything changes when you meet face to face: Tinder, Jswipe, Bumble,, eHarmony. Zillow,, Padmapper, HotPads. You can swipe through single men and women as well as single family homes all from the comfort of your couch. The internet is an incredible tool that can bring a world of options narrowed down to your exact specifications with the click of a button. But, just like you wouldn’t begin a relationship with someone without meeting in person, you shouldn’t fall in love with a home sight unseen. Once you’ve narrowed down the pool, get off the internet and go in person! It’s the best way to see if you’ve found your true match.

Talk to your friends: Friends are invaluable while you’re dating. They’re your wingmen, your confidants, and your shoulder to cry on. Think of your real estate agent as your trusted friend during the home-buying process. Real estate agents will get to know you, set you up with prospects that match, listen to you, and be there for you through the highs and lows of the experience.

Some people like fixer-uppers, but there’s only so much you can change: You can make small fixes to both a home and a significant other relatively easily. A coat of paint here. A new sweater there. New blinds here. A stern lecture there. If you put in enough time and effort, you may even be able to tear down walls, both metaphorically in relationships, and literally in home remodeling. However, if you find an issue in the foundation, it’s best to walk away before getting too emotionally invested.

Perfection doesn’t exist: Everyone has a list of qualities they desire in a partner, as well as in a home. Some are non-negotiable, like being okay with dogs. Some should be negotiable, like being walkable to work. These qualities may take a gentle nudge from a friend or real estate agent: Maybe you should actually consider crossing the Potomac at some point, for a date or a dream house.

It’s a never-ending project: Both relationships and homes require upkeep throughout the years. Both can be improved every day, every month, and every year. You’ll no doubt face unexpected challenges, but will also find stability, joy, and fulfillment with many wonderful memories together.

P.S. I know this might seem like a LOT to remember. That’s why I’ve created this handy-dandy infographic that you can take with you on your next first, second, or third date with your potential home-to-be. Good luck on your home “dating” journey ahead!


About the Author: Valerie Hillman Bluestein is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is a Washington, D.C. native, and knows the area inside and out. She was born in Georgetown, grew up in Bethesda, received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and currently resides in Dupont Circle. Valerie spent a decade marketing and event planning for communities in the metropolitan area, before translating those skills into real estate. As a realtor, Valerie makes the home buying process as smooth as possible through her attention to detail, perseverance and ability to communicate efficiently. She also has a passion and eye for design, which helps her clients envision the greatest aesthetic potential for their homes.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The Future of DC Real Estate is Single & Small- Featuring Design Tips for Living Large in Smaller Spaces

You may have noticed from my recent blog posts that I love to examine societal trends- both nationwide and those specific to the District- to see how they have affected and will continue to affect DC real estate.  My hope is that by understanding the “Why,” GTJ’ers will look at DC real estate differently and make more informed choices about the “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “How Much” when making  their real estate choices.  Today’s post tackles another trend that is reshaping the real estate market in DC and is largely driven by young professionals*: the rise of the single person household.

In 1950, 10% of all American households were one-person households.  Today that figure is 28% nationally, around 45% in DC, and continuing to rise*!  While there are a multitude of factors that contribute to this long term trend- people marrying later in life, divorce rates increasing, the rise of the economic power and independence of women, urbanization, etc.- what I find most interesting is how this trend affects what we buy and where and how we live.  DC is looking more and more like Europe every day (Stockholm is over 50% single person households) with little Fiats, Mini Coopers, and Smart Cars zipping around the streets (don’t even get me started on the Vespas and bicyclists!).  While a lot of these changes can be ascribed to our society going “greener,” I believe that sheer pragmatism is just as significant of a factor in more people “going small.”  More single-person households means less need for 4 doors (if you’re single, how often do you really use the rear doors of your car?) and a huge trunk to make Costco runs (if you live alone do you really need to buy toilet paper by the pallet?).  Put simply, the trade-off of space for cost and efficiency is simply easier to make in smaller households.

Outside of auto manufacturers, we are also seeing real estate developers and urban planners responding to these trends with denser developments and ever smaller condo units.  With 1,100 new residents entering the District each month (70% of them under the age of 35!)**, DC city planners have entertained a host of ideas to increase density, including a recent proposal to increase the maximum allowable building height above its current 160 ft threshold (By comparison Tulsa, OK has 17 buildings over 200 ft…even Fargo, N.D. has two!) and introducing the Fiat of real estate development, the micro studio, to our housing mix.


At sizes ranging from 220 – 375 square feet, the “micro studio” is now being introduced to the DC market by some intrepid developers who feel that DC’s changing demographics will create an increasing demand for smaller living.  To make these smaller spaces more attractive, developers are not only using architecture and design to make spaces feel bigger and function better, but they are also creating community amenities and bringing in businesses that provide residents “living” space outside of their micro-units in an effort to foster connective living.  From a design standpoint, this translates to higher ceilings, larger windows that are angled to pick up viewing area and capture more light, smaller appliances, and incorporating multi-functional furniture (think Murphy bed units that transform into couches, entertainment centers, desk space, and storage….check out this video!)

From a community standpoint, having business centers or coffee shops that are accessible to residents reduces the need for a home office or secondary living space in the unit.  Having local grocery stores or encouraging farmers’ markets where residents can get easy access to fresh food reduces the need to have large kitchens to store food.  By building self-sustaining environments that foster connectivity while creating interior spaces that maximize functionality, developers and city planners hope to attract DC’s growing single person households into denser and denser communities at price points they can afford (think below $250,000).


Will micro-studios catch on?  We may get our first glimpse at the answer to this question when PN Hoffman-Madison Waterfront delivers its $1.5 billion, 35 acre redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, which will feature units ranging from 330-380 square feet (see rendering above).  Even if micro-studios are not the ultimate answer to the need for denser living, the demographic trends are hard to ignore.  With a growing population of single person households streaming into the District, smaller and smaller condos will become a greater percentage of our housing mix.


If the future of DC real estate really is small, how can we deal with it?  For that answer, I reached out to Wendy Danziger (, a prominent interior designer in the DC Metropolitan area whose work was recently featured in Home and Design Magazine and in the DC Design House, for some simple tips for living large in small spaces.

1. Use Color to Make Spaces Look Larger.
If the ceilings are over 9ft, paint them a fabulous color and leave the walls light and the wood floors pale.

2. Conserve Visual Space with Minimalist Interior Design Choices.
Keep window treatments minimal.  Check out these Matchstick Blinds:

Consider furniture that “disappears” like the Victoria Ghost Chair, which takes up less visual space than wood or upholstered chairs:

3. Maximize Storage and Space with Multi-Functional Furniture.
Invest in a bed that has a high profile mattress and boxspring to create greater storage space underneath your bed or consider beds with drawers underneath.  Check out the Stratton Bed from Pottery Barn:

If you don’t have room for a bed, consider Murphy Beds or Sleep Sofas:

Use banquette seating with storage in a kitchen nook:

If your kitchen cabinets do not extend to the ceiling  use this area to store rarely used items:

Surfaces should double as storage pieces.  Need a coffee table? Check out the Hunter II Trunk from Crate & Barrel:

Consider storage ottomans for seating and storage.  Check out the Vanguard Storage Ottoman from Vanguard Furniture:

4. Shelves Everywhere!
Some space that is often underutilized is over the bed, over the toilet, and even in the corners of rooms:

Danziger Design is a full service Interior Design Firm serving Maryland, Virginia and DC.  Wendy listens to her clients and works with them to design beautiful and livable spaces.  Visit Danziger Design on the web at or contact them at 301-365-3300.

* Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo: The surprising benefits, to oneself and to society, of living alone Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012.
**Statistics from the DC Office of Planning

David Abrams, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He received his M.B.A. from Emory University in 2009 and currently works as a realtor specializing in DC’s emerging neighborhoods with the BergerSandler+ team ( at Evers & Company Real Estate.  David is licensed in DC, MD, & VA. For more on DC Real Estate, check out David’s real estate blog at











The Green Line is the New Red Line

Last month, I discussed the dramatic effect that the influx of young professionals into the District has had on our local real estate market.  This month, let’s shift our focus to the equally remarkable effects of the migration of young professionals and development dollars within the district on the property values and the lifestyle amenities available in many reemerging Washington neighborhoods.

It doesn’t require forty years of wandering (or wondering!) to understand the exodus of young professionals from upper NW DC to neighborhoods farther east.  When I was shopping for a condo in 2003, I looked at a unit in Logan Circle but decided that the area was “not ready for prime time” and was therefore too risky of an investment.  Since 2003, home values in Logan Circle have soared 60% and Logan has become one of the city’s most desirable locales.  A few more investment decisions like that and I might be joining Big Bird in the unemployment line!  What I failed to realize at that time was that the waves of young professionals that were continuing to stream into DC had to live somewhere and housing in Upper NW was simply becoming too expensive.  Just like air flowing from an area of high pressure to one of low pressure, over the past ten years young professionals and development dollars have increasingly flowed east within the city seeking to find and profit from more affordable housing options.  This infusion of youth and capital has brought with it a renewed focus on modern urban design – emphasizing transit-oriented development, sustainable building, and increased access to retail , nightlife, and community resources – to some of DC’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods*.


With 32% of all new 18-to-34-year-old households in the District since 2000** concentrated within ¼ mile of its stations, the tremendous growth around the Green Line is representative of the eastward migration of young professionals and development dollars as well as the District’s efforts to foster the growth of “Live, Play, Work” communities throughout the city.  Here are three Green Line neighborhoods that have seen and will continue to see dramatic changes to their look, feel, and property values:


Petworth (20011)
• Between 2009 and 2011, four major residential and commercial developments delivered near the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metrorail station.  Park Place (161 apartments and 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space), Residences at Georgia Avenue (72 apartments and a 11,500 square foot Yes! Organic Market), The Griffin (49 apartments), and 3Tree Flats (130 apartments) have created a new neighborhood center.  Furthermore, Safeway is planning to replace its current 21,000 square foot store with 220 residential units above a modern 62,000 square foot grocery store.***

Shaw (20001)
• Home to the 2.3 million sq. ft. Washington Convention Center that hosted 204 events and more than one million people in 2011.  The historic Howard Theater recently reopened after a $24 million renovation.  Cultural investment has also been made with the opening of the new, award-winning, Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library and new public art throughout the neighborhood.  CityMarket at O Street, a $260 million development, promises to be the neighborhood’s new epicenter in 2013 and will be anchored by a 72,000 square foot flagship Giant Food supermarket, a 182-room Cambria Suites Hotel, 626 residential units and 560 parking spaces.  The 1,167-room Marriott Marquis convention center hotel is under construction and scheduled to open in 2014.***

Southwest Waterfront (20024)
• The openings of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the newly expanded Arena Stage and the new 55,000 square foot Safeway are just part of the cultural, hospitality, and retail offerings that enhance the urban vitality of this rapidly developing neighborhood.  The master plan for The Wharf ( includes 1,200 residential units, 400,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail space, 625 hotel rooms, 100,000 square feet of cultural space, a 400?–?500 slip marina, 12 acres of open space and 1,900?–?3,050 parking spaces.  The project will be a part of the USGBC’s LEED Neighborhood Development program and the first LEED-Gold certified mixed-use project in DC.  Phase I is expected to start in late 2012.***

*While this has resulted in tremendous property value increases and investment returns for early movers, it is important to note that the changes that have already occurred and those that are planned in the near future have had and will continue to have very real and not always positive repercussions for long-time residents of these areas. A recent study examining housing trends found that the ZIP codes covering Shaw, Ledroit Park, Bloomingdale, Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant, and Logan Circle are three of the top twenty fastest gentrifying ZIP codes in the entire country.
**GreenPrint of Growth, January 12, 2012 by RCLCO.
*** Source: Washington DC Economic Partnership (


David Abrams, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He received his M.B.A. from Emory University in 2009 and currently works as a realtor specializing in DC’s emerging neighborhoods with the BergerSandler+ team ( at Evers & Company Real Estate.  David is licensed in DC, MD, & VA.