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Old 06-26-2009, 11:44 PM
Location: Bonita, CA
954 posts, read 1,271,443 times
Reputation: 1069


Help needed fast. I accepted a job in DC. I will be working at the Ronald Reagan building in the federal complex...if that means anything. I have never been to DC. I have studied a lot on the internet but still would like some advice/input.

My wife and I will be moving in September. We are originally from San Diego, CA. Our kids are grown and are not interested in coming along. My wife does not have a career so that is not an issue. This will not be a permanent move....I see us leaving in 3-5 years.

I can tolerate an hour commute as I am from southern CA and used to it. I would like to rent or buy something with two bedrooms and some sort of storage. DC, Maryland, or VA....I have no idea.

We are not high maintenance but at the same time I can't live in a crack house. Racial diversity is fine as my wife is Mexican and might appreciate some resemblance of San Diego.

Our budget is around $1500 to rent and 225K to buy. Still have a mortgage in So. Cal so need to stay in that range.

Anybody have any thoughts on the real estate market. Time to buy?

Do you think 3 years is a good turn around time for buying right now?

Should I play it safe and just rent?

Any neighborhood ideas?

A partner told me Rockville, Maryland is good, but I have no idea.
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Old 06-27-2009, 06:21 AM
1,054 posts, read 4,383,120 times
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225k will not buy you much of a house in DC or anywhere within an hour commute unless you are willing to live in a bit of a sketchy area. You might be able to get a condo for that price, but probably not in the core of city. It's also worth noting that there is a condo glut in DC right now so the resell of a condo later might not be a major financial windfall.

The Reagan building is at Federal Triangle Metro, which is basically in the heart of DC. It's on the Blue and Orange lines which run from Virginia across DC and then out into Maryland.

Are you looking for a 1br place?
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Old 06-27-2009, 06:59 AM
246 posts, read 474,099 times
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You can find a two bedroom for that if you go out very far, but you could get a nice one bedroom throughout the city or Arlington or Alexandria. You aren't going to find much in terms of buying in that range, and I would highly recommend against it given your short time. So many people are trapped in their houses/condos right now, and sure it will likely get better soon, but the risk is palpable, and it isn't 100% certain that we have hit the bottom.
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Old 06-27-2009, 11:51 AM
Location: Bonita, CA
954 posts, read 1,271,443 times
Reputation: 1069
I was definitely thinking condo....but if there is glut and it is not rock bottom, that doesn't sound good. Maybe just stick to renting.
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Old 06-27-2009, 04:49 PM
Location: DC/MD
51 posts, read 172,014 times
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At this time I'd stick to renting.

If you're fine w/a 1BR, focus on Arlington and Alexandria. You can find nice apts there for $1500 and there's a lot of stuff going on there, it'd be close to your work (~20 min via Orange line from Arlington.)
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Old 06-27-2009, 10:58 PM
Location: Orange, California
1,570 posts, read 5,271,312 times
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I think the current housing price statistics indicate that the DC metro area is now more expensive than San Diego metro (a reversal from four years ago, to be sure). As a result, you will not find a lot of bargains. And I would definitely not count on making any money in three years time if you do buy. Prices still seem to have some dropping to do here, so your better option would be to rent.

Regarding a commute, I think the traffic is worse in DC than San Diego. Since you don't have kids, you might want to consider getting the real DC experience and plan on commuting via metro and/or living in the District. The Ronald Reagan building is right downtown near metro center. It is a nice location that is only a couple of blocks from the Washington Monument, the White House and most of the Smithsonian museums. DC is very different from San Diego, but if you have the right attitude, you will enjoy your couple of years here.
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Old 06-28-2009, 02:02 PM
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Welcome to DC - I have a friend who will be renting his home with option to own. DC Market is a an expensive area. Your doing the right thing by asking but getting your feet wet with those whom live in DC is best. With children, your going to have to gage the area. If you are planning to come into town, I can provide his email and you can contact him - he been in the area for over 20 years and has a number of properties ...he wants to load off one or two properties all near metro and parking pads. Your situation may match what he is trying to do. I rented from him, he's a good guy he's contiplating right now. Good Luck, it's a little challenging coming into a new place...especially when your use to West Coast...East is different. I originally from the North -
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Old 06-28-2009, 05:22 PM
Location: Washington, DC
605 posts, read 1,852,439 times
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Where you will be working, the shortest commuting times are from Arlington, Fairfax, and Montgomery counties or from Northwest DC. Unfortunately, these are also the most desirable places to live, so the prices tend to be higher. In Northern VA, the highways (66 and 395) are getting super crowded, and commute times within 20 miles of central DC can still take over an hour. If you look out there, stick to locations that are Orange or Blue line Metro accessible.

Your price range definitely puts you into a one-bedroom apartment most places. In DC, you'd be looking at 600 to 750 sq. ft. most likely, with storage varying by building. As with the above posters, I would argue against buying. Prices are definitely still coming down here. Not only will you possibly lose on the investment, but condo fees can be really high.

Rockville is in Montgomery County and has a couple of Metro stops. The construction there is slightly older, particularly on condos/apartments. This actually is a plus, as the unit sizes run larger and the costs tend to be lower than in some of the new trendy buildings. You'd just be somewhat less likely to encounter a doorman, a gym, a community room, or other such amenities. Some people may recommend King Farm to you. It's relatively nice and has all of the new construction amenities, but is pricey unless you can get a deal from a desperate home or condo owner. Gaithersburg is another MD suburb that's inexpensive, but there just isn't as much to do that far out of the city. Bethesda is very popular Mont. Co. suburb, but likely to be quite pricey.

On the VA side, there are plenty of high-rise apartments in Alexandria. Pop onto Craiglist and you'll see what I mean. You'd just want to check out the commuting routes closely. If you must get onto 395 in a car and then pay for downtown parking rates, this will seriously drive up your cost of living and diminish your quality of life.

I mention high-rise apt. buildings, b/c the older ones seem to be lower priced in this area from my cursory research. (Though someone may be able to prove me wrong.) On the low-cost end, you may also see some English basement apartments in DC. These can have a homier feel and often put you just one floor away from your landlord. Do be cautious if you look into one of those, though. In the summers it's very humid here, and if the basements are not well-ventilated mold and air quality can be a nightmare. It's also been a wet year, and basement flooding is a huge problem city-wide.

My overall recommendation would be to do a search on Craiglist and see what comes up in your price range. If you notice a lot of things that you are interested in are falling into certain neighborhoods, come back here and ask specifics about those areas. Otherwise, there's just too much that can be said about DC's myriad neighborhoods and their respective amenities and drawbacks.
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Old 06-28-2009, 09:33 PM
Location: Bonita, CA
954 posts, read 1,271,443 times
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thanks everybody this has been very helpful. I think renting is the best bet right now.
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