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Old 05-07-2009, 04:53 AM
 
211 posts, read 907,736 times
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Anyone out there have to relocate from the mid-west to work for the government in Arlington, VA?

Can you tell me where the best places are to look for decent housing (rent first, buy later)? The entire area confuses me.

If this was to work out (here's to hoping), it would be a commute for awhile (live there during the week, then come home on weekends) until I get established.

We have two kids (one almost out of high school, but the other is only in 4th grade). It's the youngest one I'm concerned about most. I need a safe area with decent schools. I'm also open to a Catholic Education for my youngest.

What am I looking at as far as pricing for a 4bdrm/2ba home (rent or own) - - - also open to condos.

If anyone has had to go through a similar situation, I'd appreciate your advice on how you handled the short and long term commute or move. I'm a little overwhelmed right now - - - especially since I don't know the area. And the cost of living - - - wow - - - don't get me started.

Thanks in advance everyone!
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Old 05-07-2009, 05:52 AM
 
734 posts, read 1,735,731 times
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Having moved here a year ago, I can sympathize with the feeling of being overwhelmed. It is quite a lot to handle. However, before people can help you, we need some more information.

First, do you need the 4bd/2ba home right away, since you will be going out of town on the weekends, or do you only need a 1-2bd until your family moves out here?

Second, what's your housing budget per month (for rentals)? That will dramatically affect the recommendations for housing. It is a smart idea to rent for a year or two before buying, as that will help you get to know the area.

Third, where in Arlington are you working. Most areas of Arlington would suggest living near the Orange Line Metro or off I-66 for the best commute; a few parts of eastern Arlington could lend itself to areas around I-95/395 for fastest commute.

As far as education goes, there are many very good Catholic elementary schools, but the public schools are also top-notch academically. The "bad" schools in Northern Virginia would generally give top schools in other parts of the nation a run for the money.

Good luck, and feel free to post other questions (I know you probably have a thousand of them).
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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All Arlington public schools are highly regarded, and the school facilities are generally better than those in neighboring jurisdictions as most have been rebuilt/renovated in the past decade. Those in North Arlington have higher test scores as the area is more affluent. You might consider Arlington Traditional School which is a public school with a more traditional pedagogy, not unlike that of the local Catholic schools. I'll also mention H-B Woodlawn, the county's "less traditional" yet academically rigorous secondary school (grades 6-12), where the students have a say in how the school is run, from hiring teachers to creating elective courses. Arlington has a very good, small school system without the politics and unions that corrupt those of other jurisdictions. (I'm thinking of Los Angeles Unified) I'd say save your money and strongly consider the public schools.

Most of Arlington's condos/apts are along the orange line corridor in North Arlington, and you could walk or take the subway for shopping, work, etc.

There are also established, attractive single family home neighborhoods along metro's orange line: Lyon Village, Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, Ballston, Cherrydale, East Falls Church to name a few. 4br houses in those areas would average around $900,000 and up--just a guess though. The county has many options for housing further away from the metro as well, everything from small capes and colonials to very large homes on wooded lots.

There are plenty of houses for rent throughout the county, as many owners are in the foreign service, but they would not be cheap.

good luck!

Last edited by irvine; 05-07-2009 at 11:49 PM..
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Old 05-08-2009, 05:58 AM
 
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You don't need $900K to buy a SFH in Arlington, but plan on at least $600K, which will get you the standard Arlington 40-50 year old cape/colonial/ranch with 3-4 BR, 1.5 or 2 BA, and a very small yard. Check out zip codes 22213, 22205, 22207 for representative neighborhoods. Coming from the midwest, you will be stunned at what a half-million dollar home looks like in northern Virginia.

Woodlawn is a great school for the right kids, but admission is by lottery, so you can't count on it. All of the elementary schools in north Arlington are well above average, and there are lots of Catholic parish grade schools if you want that option.

You don't need to live in Arlington, however. If you want more house for your money, you can look further out in Fairfax County in neighborhoods such as Springfield, Burke, Annandale, Vienna, and Falls Church. These communities will have newer construction on somewhat larger lots (but the houses will still be at least 30 years old). As the previous poster indicated, much depends upon where exactly your job will be located, and whether you are willing to drive or need public transportation.

The bottom line is that it's very expensive to live in northern Virginia, and there are no secret enclaves of affordable, attractive homes with top schools that are convenient for commuting. You will have to make tradeoffs, since many other homebuyers are looking for exactly the same things that you are.
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:39 AM
 
Location: Falls Church, VA
722 posts, read 1,757,838 times
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Exactly, tradeoffs are key. I definitely feel for your culture shock. My husband and I moved here from Nebraska a year ago, and though we had both grown up on the East Coast and lived in the DC area before - and even though we love it here - it was still a hard move. I mean, in Nebraska we had an 1800 sf, almost-new house in a lovely neighborhood with a 20 minute commute for my husband. Here we live in a very modest 2 bedroom apartment just so my husband can commute less than an hour, and we pay MORE than we did for our mortgage in Nebraska. At least we knew what to expect, though, having lived in the area before. I can't imagine what a shock it would be to the system if it was all brand new to you!

Some people who come here from the midwest make the tradeoff on commute. They feel really strongly about having the newer home more like what they were used to from "back home," so they move out to Ashburn or Centreville (for example) and commute 90 minutes plus each way. Other people can't stomach the thought of that kind of commute (myself inculded) so they end up in a less-nice home closer to work.

But the good news is that Northern Virginia is, overall, a very safe area with very good schools. Add to that all the attractions of being close to DC and it is a very nice place to live and raise a family. But you sure do pay for the privilege!

I think Arlington is an excellent choice. clairemarie has hit on the best zip codes. But areas that are a little further out (like, say, Oakton) might be a little more up your alley if you're used to all that open space in the midwest. I love Arlington, but it is a small county and packed to the gills. If you're coming here alone for a while, that will give you a good chance to get familiar with the area and what tradeoffs you can live with. It's hard to know from far away, because what looks like a reasonable commute on Google Maps can actually be a 90 minute ordeal in our lovely traffic.

The apartment we currently rent is in Fairfax City. You can rent a SFH here for a reasonable price (for the area) and the commute isn't too terrible, at least not to my husband's office in the Ballston part of Arlington. But if your work is in another part of Arlington, that might not apply.
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