Anacostia River Realty Works to Change Perceptions
March 4, 2011 1 Comment
A few years ago, Marlon Ray couldn’t imagine buying a home in southeast Washington D.C. after hearing about the crime and poverty associated with the section of the city. This changed on Feb. 21 when Ray moved into a house in Congress Heights that he discovered and purchased through a Ward 8 real estate company.
Feb. 25 marked the second year anniversary of Anacostia River Realty, the real estate firm that has been working towards the goal of changing people’s negative perceptions of Anacostia and the other Ward 8 neighborhoods.
Like many people, Ray based his initial perceptions of southeast on what the news reported and the conversations he heard about the high crime rate in the area. For the past three years up to his move into Congress Heights, Ray had been commuting an hour and a half from his Fredericksburg, Va. home to his job at Orr Elementary School on Minnesota Avenue SE. Although he worked in southeast, he had never thought about what the area had to offer until he met Darrin Davis.
“Even though I was working in Ward 8 for the last few years, I had not considered residing here,” Ray said.
Before Davis became what Ray referred to as a “real estate mogul,” Davis was a substitute teacher at Orr where Ray is currently an administrator. After getting to know Davis and his expertise in real estate, he began showing Ray properties, and Ray started to search for real estate in the area.
“He [Davis] just gave me more insight of Anacostia and the area,” Ray said. “Darrin kind of convinced me that the neighborhood is changing.”
The changes occurring are the opening of new businesses like the Uniontown Bar and Grill which Ray visited three nights in a row. The new and renovated homes built and marketed through Anacostia River Realty is bringing publicity along with change to the area east of the Anacostia River.
On Jan. 9 an Anacostia home was featured in HDTV’s “My First Sale.” The reality show tells the story of a home’s first sale from the seller’s perspective. The Anacostia episode featured Davis as the seller’s realtor, and it was viewed during the real estate agency’s Feb. 25 anniversary party at the Big Chair Coffee and Grill.
“The whole world got to see the Anacostia community,” Davis said.
As a result of episode, Davis said people have been searching Anacostia and Davis’ name on Google as well as asking about events happening in the area.
ARR also uses online media to market Ward 8. With websites and social media outlets, Davis says, “We have a heavy internet presence.”
Anacostiariverrealty.com is the company’s main website. There is also an online store, a YouTube channel, homebuyer’s club and a Twitter account. Davis boasts his personal Facebook page of having 5,000 friends, his fan page with 600 “likes” and the company’s homebuyer’s page with 1,100 fans.
Through these marketing tactics, Davis teaches his employees to look beyond merely selling homes.
“As the owner, I tell my agents, my team that ‘we’re not just selling houses, we’re selling a lifestyle,”’ Davis says. “We’re showcasing the best things about this area. There are a lot of great things about this neighborhood.”
Davis, who is originally from Dallas, Texas moved to Washington 20 years ago and attended Howard University during the 1990s. In 2002, he moved to Anacostia while working at Prudential Realtors on Capitol Hill. After becoming familiar with the area and people, Davis started ARR in January 2009 with the purpose of changing “the perception of east of the river neighborhoods.”
So far Davis is satisfied with his company’s progress.
“Even though we’ve only been in business for two years, we’ve made a small dent in changing the perception,” Davis said.
The individuals who celebrated the second year anniversary with ARR attended to show their support and appreciation for the company’s work.
Anthony Anderson, an Anacostia native, grew up on Chicago Street, several blocks from where the viewing party was held. He spoke passionately about the negativity overtaking people’s perceptions.
“You find that in most urban areas that the news will generally report on the negative of that area instead of the very positive things people are doing with outreach and mentoring groups and after school programs,” Anderson said.
Anderson is a good friend of Davis and appreciates him marketing the positive aspects of the neighborhood and taking steps to help renovate east of the river.
“I just love what he’s [Davis] doing as far as bringing the awareness and positivity back to Anacostia and making the dream of home ownership real to people who are trying to buy their first home,” Anderson said.
Anderson is also displaying the positive attributes of the Anacostia people through his web soap opera “Anacostia: The Series,” which he says Davis supports.
For the future of Anacostia, Davis foresees some changes in the neighborhood. He predicts that the property value will increase in 2013. After the Department of Homeland Security relocates to Ward 8, he explained that the area will attract those employees. Specifically, the man who bought the house featured in “My First Sale” works for DHS.
“What he got now for $230,000, in 2-3 years, he would’ve been paying $330,000 or more,” Davis said.
Marlon Ray recognizes the potential of southeast D.C. as he calls it “up and coming.” Purchasing a house there is his way of helping to improve the area, and he’s looking forward to getting involved in his new community.
“It starts with one person. One person can make a difference,” Ray said. “I’m quite happy to be a part of Ward 8.”