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Old 02-03-2011, 08:02 AM
 
19 posts, read 87,716 times
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Mods: Can this be stickied?

Every other post on this board is usually someone looking to move to DC and always the posts are similar "looking for cheap apartment in safe area, metro accessible" or some derivative thereof. So, I thought it would be useful to everyone to post this general guide for the benefit of everyone on the board. If this doesn't answer your question, then please ask away, using the guidelines at the bottom to help ensure your question gets answered without the usual snark.

"Cheap" in DC is not "Cheap" anywhere else, other than NYC

The housing market in DC (and the surrounding area) is much like that in NYC, only perhaps a bit less expensive (but not much!). Assuming you are looking for an apartment (and not a room share, we'll get to that), you need to budget, at minimum $1100 for a studio if you want to be in a safe, close-in area (1 bedrooms will run you at least $1300 - 1400). Be aware when searching through apartments you will find some that look to have lower rents...make sure to note if these are income restricted, which means that you have to be below a certain income level to qualify for those apartments. These apartments may be just fine and if you qualify, go for it, but it all depends on your idea of "safe."

Okay, where are the "unsafe" areas of DC?

That all depends on your perspective on things and who you are. I am not trying to start a debate here, but as a single white woman this is my perception and my perception only. You may feel perfectly safe and even prefer somewhere I would not, which is why asking about "safety" is a dangerous proposition on the boards. Then again, simply relying on crime statistics (for instance through Washington Post Crystal City Overview: Photos, Stats, Crime, Home Sales and Schools on washingtonpost.com Neighborhoods) is also misleading. Point is, take everything with a grain of salt.

In any case...it's generally acknowledged that the Southeast quadrant of DC and parts of Southwest are more "up and coming." These are growing in popularity and gentrifying to some degree (for instance near Waterfront and Navy Yard) but still not areas I would want to walk around alone at night. The same goes for areas of Columbia Heights (but I have friends who absolutely love it down there, especially given nightlife around U street, again my perception).

Virginia -- Parts of Alexandria have a lot of income restricted housing and are less safe -- I lived in Del Ray for a summer and while a cozy town, we had someone break into our apartment building 3 times during the 3 month period we lived there.

Maryland -- I have never lived in Maryland so I can't speak from personal experience, but its generally regarded that Montgomery County is generally safer than Prince George's county HOWEVER parts within each may be safer or less safe than others

But I want to be safe and I can't afford to live in those areas

There are several options here that you need to consider. It is all about YOUR priorities. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself and rank -- it is entirely personal. THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS WE ALSO NEED TO ANSWER YOUR INQUIRIES

1. Do I need to be by a metro rail? Would I be okay if I were on a bus line?
2. How long of a commute to work am I willing to have? Would I be okay driving? Taking the commuter rail? (where will I be working?)
3. Would I be willing to live with a roommate or multiple roommates?
4. What amenities do I absolutely need in an apartment -- pets? gym? a/c? washer/dryer?
5. What is the absolute maximum, with utilities and any fees, I can afford?
6. What is my definition of safe?
7. How important is nightlife? family community? schools?

Question 1: If you don't need to be near a metro you will pay SIGNIFICANTLY less. Areas like Shirlington in Arlington offer more affordable living but you will have to have a car or be heavily dependent on infrequent buses.

Question 2: If you are willing to live further out, you can find less expensive options for housing. Be aware that VRE and MARC are notorious for delays, however, so you will need to make sure you are willing to have long commutes. Also be aware this limits your ability to access nightlife in DC, if that is important to you.

Question 3: The vast majority of young professionals in DC (in their 20s) live with at least one roommate. It's a fact of living that if you are only making ~$40,000 you cannot afford your own place. 2 bedroom apartments are marginally more expensive than 1 bedrooms, so this is an economical decision. Many younger DCers also find it useful to live in group houses and rent a room -- this is also nice because it means an instant group of peers with whom to form friendships, which can be hard in DC.

Question 4: The more amenities you desire the more expensive and the fewer options you have. Pet friendly buildings are few and far between in the DC Metro Area and tend to be more expensive even before the inevitable non-refundable deposit and pet rent. Be prepared that many buildings have amenity fees on top of rent (see, for instance the Archstone buildings) which you need to factor in as you're figuring out what you can afford.

Question 5: Be aware that many buildings in the area have shared utilities. This means that even if you are the best at conserving energy, you pay for the idiot who leaves all the lights on in his apartment. You need to ask how much average utilities are in the building and factor this in. Don't have a washer/dryer in your apartment? You need to factor in the cost of laundry, too.

Question 6: See above.

Question 7: There are definitely areas that 20- and 30-something singles live and others where families live. How important is this to you? I know more about being in the former, so I can say that 20s and 30s singles tend to live in Arlington (either the orange Rosslyn-Claredon-Ballston area -- which tends to be pricey -- or the blue Pentagon City/Crystal City area), U Street or Capitol Hill. Families seem to prefer places like Bethesda, Rockville, Alexandria, Friendship Heights, or Chevy Chase.

Where can I find information/apartments/etc.
Craigslist is an invaluable resource. Many apartments will advertise directly on craigslist in addition to other sites. Washington Post Apartment Showcase is also a great tool.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:14 AM
 
1,592 posts, read 2,997,737 times
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Maybe you should also provide a list of "conservative" v. "liberal" neighborhoods in the DC area since many of the people moving here have certain ideological bents as well.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:22 AM
 
Location: Standing outside of heaven, wating for God to come and get me.
1,382 posts, read 3,209,478 times
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Lol @ Conservative neighborhoods in DC. Technically, some of the most dangerous, are the most the conservative when you really break it down.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:27 AM
 
2,135 posts, read 3,416,351 times
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Regarding Maryland, yes MoCo is generally safer but there's some parts of Silver Spring which are downright shady. I'd say anything beyond Downtown Silver Spring is hit and miss. I didn't know Wheaton was now incorporated into Silver Spring. It can be confusing.

I think if you make at least $50K w/no debt, you would be able to afford a 1 bedroom. Are studios still popular? Wouldn't it be awkward if you wanted a small get together at your crib and as soon as you walk in, you're in my bedroom area? How does this work?

Also something to keep in mind with the expensive apartments/condos, you're paying for location, not the actual apartment. Notice how the first things these website mention is Metro, shopping, restaurants. The apartment features are usually mentioned last. Can't ever see myself paying $2K for a 1 bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights (which is what Highland Park is charging).
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Standing outside of heaven, wating for God to come and get me.
1,382 posts, read 3,209,478 times
Reputation: 501
I do agree with making this a sticky.
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:25 PM
 
Location: Springfield VA
4,037 posts, read 7,852,498 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DomRep View Post
I think if you make at least $50K w/no debt, you would be able to afford a 1 bedroom. Are studios still popular? Wouldn't it be awkward if you wanted a small get together at your crib and as soon as you walk in, you're in my bedroom area? How does this work?

Also something to keep in mind with the expensive apartments/condos, you're paying for location, not the actual apartment. Notice how the first things these website mention is Metro, shopping, restaurants. The apartment features are usually mentioned last. Can't ever see myself paying $2K for a 1 bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights (which is what Highland Park is charging).
I went to a party once in a studio in Columbia Heights. It was like hanging out in a friend's bedroom in middle school. Everyone sat on the host's bed or love seat and chatted. But at 28 (at the time) I was the oldest one there so I don't think anyone thought anything of it. Studios in that building are like $900 but I'd personally would rather have roommates versus a studio so to each his own I suppose.
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:35 PM
 
248 posts, read 595,822 times
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One suggestion I do have for anyone moving here is to ask for more money on the job offer before accepting. I did that successfully by talking about the cost of living difference and reiterating that I'll do a great job, etc....

This can be done by either a reply e-mail to the job offer or by phone to the HR person.

One other thing I will mention is that my manager actually FOUGHT with HR for my salary increase when I asked for it.

The worst that can happen is that they say no.
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Old 02-03-2011, 01:09 PM
(-)
 
690 posts, read 1,587,090 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsuric View Post
One suggestion I do have for anyone moving here is to ask for more money on the job offer before accepting. I did that successfully by talking about the cost of living difference and reiterating that I'll do a great job, etc....

This can be done by either a reply e-mail to the job offer or by phone to the HR person.

One other thing I will mention is that my manager actually FOUGHT with HR for my salary increase when I asked for it.

The worst that can happen is that they say no.
depends. if it's within reason. if i'm offering 40 and you counter with 60, chances are i'm moving on to the next candidate. especially in this job market. too much talent out here willing to take far less. i know it's sad, but it's reality right now.
obviously you have a great manager. there aren't many of those left. also, if you're taking a lower end government position, it can be like negotiating with a brick wall.
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Old 02-03-2011, 01:27 PM
 
248 posts, read 595,822 times
Reputation: 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by (-) View Post
depends. if it's within reason. if i'm offering 40 and you counter with 60, chances are i'm moving on to the next candidate. especially in this job market. too much talent out here willing to take far less. i know it's sad, but it's reality right now.
obviously you have a great manager. there aren't many of those left. also, if you're taking a lower end government position, it can be like negotiating with a brick wall.
This was for a software engineer job so results may vary. But asking for too much would risk rescinding the offer although I don't know of a case of this happening. It's safer to ask for maybe at most 8% more instead unless its a seriously lowballed offer. That is not going to risk rescinding an offer. Check the market first and what others are getting offered. Reference that when asking. That's what I did; I referenced research and mentioned that most make more.

At a company I used to work at in a cheaper area, one of my friends was also able to get a slight salary increase despite how cheap the area was.

Oh yeah both cases are for level 1 jobs in the private sector. But they are software engineer jobs so results may vary.

Maybe people who've dealt with hiring can chime in? I can only speak from first hand experience and advice from a close friend who is a manager.

Last edited by tsuric; 02-03-2011 at 01:56 PM..
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:46 PM
 
Location: Rockville, MD
3,548 posts, read 7,385,581 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahales View Post
Lol @ Conservative neighborhoods in DC. Technically, some of the most dangerous, are the most the conservative when you really break it down.
Very true. The other thing worth noting is that DC is basically a one party town--Democratic. The Republicans didn't even put forth a candidate in the last mayoral election. The older, traditionally A-A neighborhoods in NE and SE tend to be more socially conservative, but are still heavily Democratic.

Overall though, the DC region isn't a bastion of conservatism. It's generally a moderate-to -liberal area, with certain neighborhoods (i.e. Dupont) veering into very liberal territory. You really have to get to Loudon and Prince William counties before the political climate noticeably shifts, and even there it's a pretty even split.
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