Wenstrup shells out $1 million for new digs in D.C.

A lock to win re-election, the junior Congressman from Cincinnati buys a home three blocks from his House office.

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup

With a third term looking like a shoo-in, Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup has decided to make his stay in Washington, D.C., a little more comfortable.

In his latest personal financial disclosure statement filed with the U.S. House of Representatives, Wenstrup lists a new asset: a home in the District of Columbia. Wenstrup, a Republican, still has a home in Mount Lookout that he shares with his wife and son.

Documents filed with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds office show that the Wenstrups bought the two-story townhouse on 13th Street Southeast from a Leslie Tullio for $1.01 million last Dec. 15, taking out a $783,168 mortgage loan. Although the house built in 1924 was advertised a single-family home, Wenstrup’s disclosure statement for 2015 shows it as generating $1,001 to $2,500 in rental income.

A foot surgeon and combat veteran, Wenstrup was first elected in 2012 and easily won re-election in 2014. He faces a challenge from Democratic nominee William “Butch” Smith, his 2012 opponent, whom the Cincinnati Enquirer described as a “nearly retired truck driver” from Waverly. Pollsters call Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District seat “safe” or “solid” for Republicans.

Wenstrup spokeswoman Meghan Waters said the Congressman stays in Washington about three weeks a month when the House is in session and occasionally on weekends if the need arises. 

"Hotels and apartment rentals in Washington are among the most expensive in America," she said in an email. "By purchasing an investment property in Washington, Congressman Wenstrup can save money by renting one unit out to tenants and keeping one unit as a place where he can stay overnight on those nights when he must remain in D.C. The congressman and his wife continue to make their home and raise their family in Ohio."

Most members of Congress can’t afford D.C.’s pricy real estate. Many sleep in their offices, as Ohio’s 1st District Rep. Steve Chabot has done the last five years.

"Congressman Chabot had an apartment on the Hill from 1995 until he lost in 2008," said Chabot spokesman Brian Griffith by email. "When he returned to Congress in 2011, the housing market was pretty tight, and he had a hard time finding an appropriate apartment. At the same time, he heard from several other members that they were sleeping in their offices. So he decided to try that as experiment while he continued to look for an apartment. But he found staying in the office to be a more efficient and productive situation, so he has continued to do it."

Others crash in colleagues’ apartments or rent modest places of their own. Wenstrup, whose estimated $2.4 million net worth makes him the 113th wealthiest member of Congress in Roll Call's annual ranking, doesn't come off as a couch crasher.

Wenstrup’s new townhome puts him 13 blocks from his office in the Longworth House Office Building. He lives about 16 blocks from Capitol Hill, two blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue and only one block from the Safeway supermarket. The home is in the “Old City” neighborhood, once a working-class enclave for railroad and lumberyard workers.

Times have changed, and property values have soared in the nation’s capital. Just seven years ago, Wenstrup’s townhome sold for $635,000 out of a foreclosure. It sold for $350,000 in 2005 and $100,000 in 1997. The Wenstrups paid $40,000 over the home’s asking price of $968,500.

According to the original listing on Zillow, the townhome has four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms and 1,800 square feet. With a description like this, how could the Wenstrups’ resist:

“Whale of a home, big gentle Grey, but dressed like a Killer, think Moby-big, but slick with muscle, gliding by, dividing formal with social, equally focal spaces in one big blue ocean, its motion, dollars floating…”

Having successfully navigated the world of verbose housing listings, now Wenstrup just needs to focus on defeating a nearly retired truck driver for re-election.

The 2nd Congressional District runs from Springfield Township and Mt. Healthy to Portsmouth, a span of eight counties.