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Old 11-06-2009, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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One other thought: Since so many people are moving here, the good rentals go quickly. It seems to me the places you find online are a little overpriced, that's why they have to advertise them more.
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Old 11-06-2009, 10:35 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by novahousehunter View Post
You are moving from Chicago, right?

I don't think the cost of living is substantially more. The nice yuppie condos do rent for like 2K/month, as they do in Lincoln Park. In Arlington there are big group houses of 20-somethings paying 500/month in shabby houses, sort of like Wrigleyville. If you want location AND to live alone, not cheap.

One DIFFERENCE between the 2, though, is that DC is probably 1/4 the size (geographically) as Chicago. You can live inside Chicago and still be a haul from downtown. DC is much smaller, fewer neighborhoods. Many places that are actually outside DC (Arlington, Bethesda MD, etc.) feel like a continuation of DC. So the close-in burbs here are a lot closer in than they are in Chicago.
Great point about the geography of Chicago and DC. +1

In Chicago, if you're 10 miles outside of the city, you're at least 20-25 miles away from downtown. In Nothern Virginia, 10 miles outside of DC is 10 miles from downtown DC. Distance-wise, I would consider the beltway in VA to be equivalent to Chicago's city limits, and Clarendon area would be equivalent to Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville (both distance and price-wise).

Now, I can understand about not wanting to be the sole bachelor in the land of suburbia, but I don't think you have to worry about that. There was a thread here a week or so ago about how large a percent of households in the area are singles. The linked article might be interesting to you.
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Old 11-06-2009, 10:57 AM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (formerly Vienna, VA)
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I'm about 10 years ahead of you (I'm 42), and I've managed to save quite a bit of money in this area. But I didn't have college debt or credit card debt to start. Since graduating college, I always put the maximum into my 401(K) and put a couple hundred toward a mutual fund and other savings vehicles each month. After 10 years, I had saved about $70K for a downpayment on a home. I never made more than $60K up to that point so I wasn't doing it on a high income. I lived in a shared apartment or townhouse until I was 30 and then on my own until I got married (age 32). When we were ready to buy a home a year later, we qualified for much more than we bought based on our combined income and large downpayment. We opted for an older (1950's), smaller home in Vienna for about $300K back in 2000. At the time, we thought that was a lot! I imagine between the appreciation on our home plus our 401(k) savings, we are probably a lot better off than many people in less expensive areas. It can be done. It just takes discipline - not buying every new thing on the market, making do with regular brands for cars, watches, clothes, wines, etc., taking advantage of all of the free entertainment this area offers, and being moderate in eating out/going out. Good luck!
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Old 11-06-2009, 10:59 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike From NIU View Post
Now, I can understand about not wanting to be the sole bachelor in the land of suburbia, but I don't think you have to worry about that. There was a thread here a week or so ago about how large a percent of households in the area are singles. The linked article might be interesting to you.
And the percentage is growing larger, IMO, as more and more young singles like you are moving to the area and coming to the same conclusion.
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Old 11-06-2009, 11:05 AM
 
Location: Expatriate Philadelphian in Northern Virginia
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Your concern is a popular topic here. Supply and demand rules in what is arguably "the best" job market in the country.

If building equity is a primary goal, perhaps you would be willing to start out in a condo. There are tons of them here and people of all ages live in them.

You should be able to find a TH under $600K, even inside the Beltway. It may be that you're looking at newer homes in the most popular communities. $400-500K would get you a decent place across inside the Beltway. If you have faith in a transitional area - or the elbow grease for a fixer-upper - then you could find one for even less.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DennyCrane View Post
As someone who's seriously considering moving to DC, the one thing that scares me the most is the cost of living. I'm not married and don't have kids, nor am I carrying a lot of debt. I also work in IT and, based on my research, I think I'll make a decent income in DC, at least enough to pay the high rents there. But I'm also looking ahead to the future. Someday, I'd want to buy a place of my own, not be a perpetual renter. Because I'm single without kids, I wouldn't need a huge place. A townhouse would be ideal. But I've seen the prices out there. 600K for a townhouse that's not even inside the Beltway? I'm not a big spender, I don't live a luxury lifestyle, and I already have a good amount of money saved up. But I worry that it'll take me forever to save up enough to put a decent down payment. My question to the folks who live in NOVA is how do people there manage to save up enough to buy such expensive homes? Do you just never go out or spend your money on anything else? Do you settle for something really small and/or old? Do you buy a home that's more affordable even if it's out in the middle of nowhere? I'm sure there are people in DC who make big money that can afford expensive homes. But what about the rest of the people there?
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Old 11-06-2009, 11:21 AM
 
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I've never been a big spender and I do try to stick to a budget. Every now and then, I might indulge. But for the most part, I'm pretty conservative when it comes to spending. If I buy something, it's because I know I need it and will use it regularly.

One thing I did during my visit to DC was look at some apartments. Here in Chicago, there's a suburb called Lisle. There was a nice apartment complex there near the train station. A 2-bedroom apartment ran $1500. In Vienna, I saw an equivalent apartment also near the train station. A 2-bedroom there was $1800. So an extra $300 times 12 months. That's about an extra $4000 per year just on rent. All else being equal, that would mean I'd need an extra $6000 a year in salary to maintain the same standard of living. So that's why I'm not too worried about being able to pay the rents there. They may be high, but I think my salary would increase enough to offset that. The real issue is being able to save enough to buy a home someday. In Chicago, you can get a decent 2-bedroom townhouse 25 miles out from the city in the high 300s. But in DC, what I keep seeing is that a similar townhouse would cost me upwards of 500K, unless you wanna live all the way out by Sterling or Chantilly.

I agree that Chicago makes certain distances feel bigger than they are. I stopped measuring terms of miles a long time ago. Now it's "how long does it take to get there."
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Old 11-06-2009, 11:39 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DennyCrane View Post

One thing I did during my visit to DC was look at some apartments. Here in Chicago, there's a suburb called Lisle. There was a nice apartment complex there near the train station. A 2-bedroom apartment ran $1500. In Vienna, I saw an equivalent apartment also near the train station. A 2-bedroom there was $1800. So an extra $300 times 12 months. That's about an extra $4000 per year just on rent. All else being equal, that would mean I'd need an extra $6000 a year in salary to maintain the same standard of living. So that's why I'm not too worried about being able to pay the rents there. They may be high, but I think my salary would increase enough to offset that. The real issue is being able to save enough to buy a home someday. In Chicago, you can get a decent 2-bedroom townhouse 25 miles out from the city in the high 300s. But in DC, what I keep seeing is that a similar townhouse would cost me upwards of 500K, unless you wanna live all the way out by Sterling or Chantilly.

I agree that Chicago makes certain distances feel bigger than they are. I stopped measuring terms of miles a long time ago. Now it's "how long does it take to get there."
You're close in the comparison, Denny, but I would suggest the better comparison would be more like this: Vienna has the Metro, which is the equivalent of the CTA. Lisle has Metra for the commuter rail; the Virginia equivalent is the VRE. A place like Lorton, ~20 miles SW of SC, is equivalent to Lisle. It has a VRE stop, rents (including for THs) are around $1500, and you can definitely get a nice townhome there in the upper 300s. A better Chicago-area equivalent for Vienna would be Oak Park/Forest Park near the Blue and Green Line terminals.

And you're definitely right- mileage alone is not the best way to determine how far out you are, in either Chicago or NoVA.
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Old 11-06-2009, 12:02 PM
 
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Denny, yours are valid concerns, because even though there are many singles here, many are highly paid, and they are competing with dual income married couples for the limited supply of close-in housing. So I agree with those who have said that if your job is actually near Dulles, for example, rather than in DC, you will find a much more affordable place near your work than if the reverse were true. Not cheap, but less expensive than close-in.

I would encourage you to push hard for as high a salary as you can negotiate based on the higher cost of living here. What I've found is that there is a small geographic premium but it doesn't come close to matching the true extra cost of living here, relative to many other places. You may not be able to get as big a salary bump as you'd like but do try after doing your research. If you can't get that bump, maybe you can negotiate some one-time bonus or moving expenses, that would at least help.

Other things I've found here vs. midwest:

Utilities costs are a little bit lower because the weather is milder. Compared to where you are, it is much milder in the winter and only a little hotter in the summer.

Shopping at places like Target and Costco is something everyone does here and is considered "smart." In some places in the midwest, some people considered you to be incapable of affording better if you had to stoop to shopping there.

There are a zillion things to do here that are free. Museums are excellent and there are so many of them. There are a lot of parks and places to go to enjoy nature. Public tennis courts in many areas are well-maintained and can be used 7-9 months out of the year.

Property tax rates in many communities are lower than they are in some parts of the midwest. For example, I lived in a midwestern house that cost less than half as much as my current house (and was twice as big) but paid 40% higher taxes there, and that was more than 10 years ago.

Some people here find a way not to own a car. Of course, the housing costs to enable that (have to live near a metro and pay a huge premium for that housing) more than offset that, IMHO. And people here are not universally impressed by luxury cars the way they are in some communities. No one you'd care about would turn up their nose at your Toyota or VW.

People here are not fashion-crazy. In some places, you spend a lot of money buying the latest fashions, jewelry, watches, shoes, purses, etc. While there are the hip here, especially if you are young and possibly if you are female, a lot of people dress conservatively, so you can wear clothes for years, and save the money.

So, basically, people find lots of little ways to ease the pain a bit rather than try to find a complete offset. But even with that, you still will have to cut back on your luxuries unless you can negotiate a much larger salary or marry someone who also earns a good salary.

Last edited by ACWhite; 11-06-2009 at 12:11 PM..
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Old 11-06-2009, 01:27 PM
 
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Obviously, wherever I end up, I'll push for the highest salary I can get. But in this market and being an out-of-stater, there's only so much I can push. When I moved to Chicago, I had to settle for something that was slightly less than the equivalent of what I was making before. Negotiating based on the higher cost of living doesn't always work cause many employers have the attitude that says "it's your fault for deciding to move to an expensive city like ours." One thing I'm definitely not looking for or expecting is relo. Luckily, I don't have a lot of stuff to move and I've been saving up to cover those expenses.

I was looking at a website that lets you compare cities. They had cost indexes for various categories including housing, utilities, groceries, etc. So I did a comparison of Fairfax, VA and Lisle, IL. Groceries were slightly higher in Fairfax, but everything else was the same except for housing and utilities. The latter was cheaper in Fairfax, probably because of lower winter heating costs. It's housing that gets you. Lisle was 133 (100 is U.S. average). Fairfax was 207. Yikes! I also compared taxes. Lisle had a higher sales tax (6.75% vs. 5%), but a lower income tax (3% vs. 9.5%). Property tax was higher in Lisle ($18.50/$1000 of home value vs. $10.67/$1000). The obscene property taxes here is one reason why so many people are forced to buy homes farther out. Even a modest home becomes too expensive to own. A home valued at $500,000 in Fairfax would have the same property tax as a home valued at $288,000 in Lisle. Put another way, a $300,000 home in Fairfax would mean paying $3200 in property taxes. In Lisle, you'd have to pay $5550 in property taxes for a house valued at $300,000. That's just insane. Then again, you'll get more house for your money in Chicago. Too bad what you save gets eaten up by the taxes and heating bills.

I guess if I move to DC, my first order of business will be to get married so I can have an extra income coming on. Are their any good looking single female lobbyists around?
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Old 11-06-2009, 01:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DennyCrane View Post

I was looking at a website that lets you compare cities. <snip> I also compared taxes. Lisle had a higher sales tax (6.75% vs. 5%), but a lower income tax (3% vs. 9.5%).
Unless there's a local income tax in Fairfax City that I'm not aware of, the top income tax rate in Virginia is 5.75%, not 9.5%. Still higher than Illinois (until IL raises taxes to plug their $12 billion deficit), but a lot lower than 9.5%.
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