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Old 05-29-2014, 12:26 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
4 posts, read 4,342 times
Reputation: 10

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My husband and I have been living in Crystal City since fall of 2013. We are both in our mid-20s. He left the Army last fall and I graduated from college last spring. Currently he works at a federal contracting agency and is able to walk to work. This week he received an offer from the Treasury Department, and will be earning a GS-9 salary once they get him on board. I had to quit my job in financial sales because of a disability, so we are surviving on his income while I try to set up a writing career. Right now we are paying $1400 a month in rent, plus utilities. When our lease comes due and he no longer has an active duty discount, it will increase to $1600 a month, which we don't think is reasonable for a studio apartment without a washer/dryer, balcony, etc. So we're planning to move once our lease comes due. Other than the high rent, the awful view, and the fact that they just jacked up the laundry prices, we don't have any problems with this complex or our specific unit.

I've been looking around at apartments in the Alexandria/Arlington area, and the only ones that we'd consider worth moving to in terms of price have horrible reviews claiming that the buildings are full of mice and cockroaches! One review even said that drug dealers live in his apartment building and sell product in the parking lot!

Our current apartment is 700sqft and we are not comfortable downsizing. My husband would prefer to take public transportation to work (his location will be near the White House). Schools are not an issue, since we hope to move back to WA once he can get a transfer (if we end up staying here, we'll send our children to parochial schools or homeschool them), but we don't want to live in a sketchy neighborhood. We want to stay in Virginia.

So my question is: How far away do we have to move to be able to afford rent and not deal with horrible conditions? Will the savings be completely offset by transportation costs? If you have any specific city/town recommendations, that would be great.

ETA: We don't need much nightlife at all. We live near a bunch of restaurants and bars, but barely ever go out because I am a very good cook. I'm adding this because people often comment on the "nightlife" and "culture" of an area, and that wouldn't really be a factor for us.

Last edited by AClaire11; 05-29-2014 at 01:06 PM..
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Old 05-29-2014, 02:54 PM
 
734 posts, read 1,728,572 times
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Well, what rent do you think is reasonable? Is $1400 okay, or do you need a lower amount? Do you want 1 or 2 BRs (in case you have kids before you move again)? Does your husband need to be able to walk to public transportation, or can he drive to a commuter lot? Finally, how long is he willing to commute each way?

The answers to these questions will help narrow some possibilities.
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Old 05-29-2014, 03:21 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
4 posts, read 4,342 times
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$1300 would be our upper limit, hopefully utilities included and a w/d in the apartment. 1BR would be fine. He'd prefer to be able to walk, but I'm willing to drop him off if it's less than half an hour away. I'd need the car for errands, unless the area was very walkable. I asked and he says his time limit is 30 minutes.......I'm guessing we're going to have to be very flexible on that.
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Old 05-29-2014, 04:19 PM
 
130 posts, read 262,840 times
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I lived for a few years until 2009 at EOS 21 Apartments in the Landmark area, Alexandria, VA. My rent then for a reasonably large 1 BR was $1200. It's an ok area, not trendy like Old Town Alexandria where I don't think you'll find the same space for the money. I had no problem with crime even when coming home late at night. My apartment had a bus stop (even a shuttle for residents) that takes you to the Van Dorn metro station (RED line). Buses to everywhere in the metro Washington area run frequently. I was astonished to get back my full security deposit when I left. I never had a problem with management -- they are professionals. There are other apartment buildings in the area. I didn't know about this neighborhood until my sister and I decided to just drive around. That's the best way to do it. You can make do with one car there and you're closer to Potomac Mills if you want heavy-duty shopping! There are a lot of ethnic shops and grocery stores walking distance to the apartment. If you want fine dining, Old Town is a hop and skip away. I also like the fact that I could walk to the Enterprise Rent-a-Car when I needed a rental. I gave my car to my daughter, so I lived there car-less. EOS is decent, not hip or uber trendy, but I suggest to drive around in that neighborhood for more options, which are many.
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Old 05-29-2014, 04:36 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
4 posts, read 4,342 times
Reputation: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by hazfora View Post
I lived for a few years until 2009 at EOS 21 Apartments in the Landmark area, Alexandria, VA. My rent then for a reasonably large 1 BR was $1200. It's an ok area, not trendy like Old Town Alexandria where I don't think you'll find the same space for the money. I had no problem with crime even when coming home late at night. My apartment had a bus stop (even a shuttle for residents) that takes you to the Van Dorn metro station (RED line). Buses to everywhere in the metro Washington area run frequently. I was astonished to get back my full security deposit when I left. I never had a problem with management -- they are professionals. There are other apartment buildings in the area. I didn't know about this neighborhood until my sister and I decided to just drive around. That's the best way to do it. You can make do with one car there and you're closer to Potomac Mills if you want heavy-duty shopping! There are a lot of ethnic shops and grocery stores walking distance to the apartment. If you want fine dining, Old Town is a hop and skip away. I also like the fact that I could walk to the Enterprise Rent-a-Car when I needed a rental. I gave my car to my daughter, so I lived there car-less. EOS is decent, not hip or uber trendy, but I suggest to drive around in that neighborhood for more options, which are many.
We did look at EOS 21, but a bunch of reviews mentioned mice and roaches, as well as frequent thefts. The area doesn't seem very safe, either...Are these reviews misleading?

DH and I talked when he got home, and he said our budget for staying in Arlington/Alexandria would be $1400 with all utilities paid. I thought it was a bit lower, so I'll keep looking in this area, too. So far, I've also seen some condos for rent in the Fairfax area for decent prices.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:16 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA and Washington, DC
23,565 posts, read 33,287,625 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AClaire11 View Post
We did look at EOS 21, but a bunch of reviews mentioned mice and roaches, as well as frequent thefts. The area doesn't seem very safe, either...Are these reviews misleading?

DH and I talked when he got home, and he said our budget for staying in Arlington/Alexandria would be $1400 with all utilities paid. I thought it was a bit lower, so I'll keep looking in this area, too. So far, I've also seen some condos for rent in the Fairfax area for decent prices.
I would say yes on account that people who are dissatisfied with their experience are more likely to post than satisfied people. EOS 21 is not in the best neighborhood in NoVA but Landmark is a decent neighborhood. I would also look at Southern Towers in Alexandria.

I would look along Columbia Pike in Arlington also. I live in a studio that rents for $1100 in a condo community. I know there are older 1br apartments that rent for $1100-1200 in the Penrose area. Fillmore Garden Apts is one that I've heard mostly good about,
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:20 PM
 
130 posts, read 262,840 times
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It was ok when I lived there; it may have deteriorated after I left. At least management was very responsive. About roaches and mice: if you live in an older building, any building, chances are they will be there. If you have ever lived in Manhattan, you'll excuse those lapses (unless your apartment is inundated by them, in which case it's time to move). Even in the decent but older highrises, they are there, but you learn to live with them by doing what's necessary. In metro Washington, DC, most decent apartment complexes have responsive management that deal with them upon request. That's all you can hope for unless you move into a brand new complex. Make sure to ask management how they respond to such requests before you sign a lease. I find that Manhattan renters are more tolerant about such things than Washington renters. You most likely will need to make compromises.

If you're looking in Fairfax, also try Reston and Falls Church, and don't fret about not being at your destination within 30 minutes. Anywhere you live in the metro area, as long as it's not walking distance, you should allow at least 45 minutes to 1 hr to get to anywhere, whether you drive, take the bus or metro. I lived within DC before moving to NY; McLean 4 yrs; Reston for many years; Falls Church 1 year; Alexandria 3 years, so I know about commuting. Forget Arlington or DC nowadays, you'll go overbudget if you want a decent place. You might want to downsize your hopes by looking farther from the metro area but is close to or walking distance to a metro stop for more breathing space.
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:25 PM
 
Location: Ormond Beach, FL
1,338 posts, read 1,383,033 times
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Not sure if it in your price range but there are large appt buildings near FFX circle and they are close to the Vienna metro.
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:42 AM
 
160 posts, read 175,674 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hazfora View Post
It was ok when I lived there; it may have deteriorated after I left. At least management was very responsive. About roaches and mice: if you live in an older building, any building, chances are they will be there. If you have ever lived in Manhattan, you'll excuse those lapses (unless your apartment is inundated by them, in which case it's time to move). Even in the decent but older highrises, they are there, but you learn to live with them by doing what's necessary. In metro Washington, DC, most decent apartment complexes have responsive management that deal with them upon request. That's all you can hope for unless you move into a brand new complex. Make sure to ask management how they respond to such requests before you sign a lease. I find that Manhattan renters are more tolerant about such things than Washington renters. You most likely will need to make compromises.

If you're looking in Fairfax, also try Reston and Falls Church, and don't fret about not being at your destination within 30 minutes. Anywhere you live in the metro area, as long as it's not walking distance, you should allow at least 45 minutes to 1 hr to get to anywhere, whether you drive, take the bus or metro. I lived within DC before moving to NY; McLean 4 yrs; Reston for many years; Falls Church 1 year; Alexandria 3 years, so I know about commuting. Forget Arlington or DC nowadays, you'll go overbudget if you want a decent place. You might want to downsize your hopes by looking farther from the metro area but is close to or walking distance to a metro stop for more breathing space.
Thanks for the voice of reason, Hazfora. There are a number of apartment communities in the Landmark/Van Dorn area worth consideration; I used to live in Willow Run, which isn't great, but is cost-effective and safe. Eos21 might not be the Ritz, but the area is safe--that's partially why there are so many families in the area.

OP, I strongly, strongly recommend that you look on Craigslist for private condo rentals in Crystal City and Arlington. Consider "The Brittany," a building on Four Mile Run Drive between Shirlington and Columbia Pike; it was renovated a few years ago, is very nice, and often has one-bedroom condos around your price range. The bus service from the area is pretty good, too.

But don't overlook renting from small-time landlords; often you'll find better prices, better properties, and better service. Just my two cents.
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:46 AM
 
7,966 posts, read 18,041,228 times
Reputation: 2588
Quote:
Originally Posted by AClaire11 View Post
$1300 would be our upper limit, hopefully utilities included and a w/d in the apartment. 1BR would be fine. He'd prefer to be able to walk, but I'm willing to drop him off if it's less than half an hour away. I'd need the car for errands, unless the area was very walkable. I asked and he says his time limit is 30 minutes.......I'm guessing we're going to have to be very flexible on that.
I would recommend Mount Vernon Square in the "unincorporated" area of Alexandria in Fairfax County. I believe rents currently start in the $1200 range and often include a W/D although I don't recall if utilities were included. There's also a outdoor pool and fitness center. Both the REX and Fairfax Connector have a stop near the entrance to the complex and would take your husband to and from the Huntington Metro. You'll be surrounded by numerous midscale retail and restaurant options at the various strip malls within yards to a few miles of you.

MVS is perhaps the "best" of a series of garden apartments on or near Route 1/Richmond Highway. For my wife and I, our experience with neighbors was hit or miss. But with your preferred budget and preferences, you will have to sacrifice *some*thing.


RE: Schools, if you get to the point where investing in parochial schools here becomes a consideration then you could likely afford to move to one of the more well-regarded school pyramids within Fairfax County. Fairfax County Public Schools as a whole are considered among the "best" in the country. Even the "bad" schools anecdotally outperform the national average on test scores and such. So if it's a quality education that makes private-/homeschooling an option then you can invest your funds in your home instead and go public.

Last edited by FindingZen; 05-31-2014 at 09:02 AM..
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