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Old 06-08-2011, 10:42 PM
 
Location: NoVA bound!
56 posts, read 152,336 times
Reputation: 30

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Hi everyone,

I'll be relocating to the DC area this summer and not surprisingly I'm looking for some advice on where to live. This will also be my first time living in the US so undoubtedly I'll have many more questions... employer health insurance for example!

I've already done a lot of research and visited DC proper twice so rather than ask for specific advice about where to live, I'm hoping I can get some feedback on whether or not you agree that
Old Town or Del Ray, Alexandria is the best place for me!

The key factors in my decision-making process were: -

1. Accommodation.
My budget is approximately $1,750 excl. utilities, which I hope will afford me a small 2-bedroom townhome/row house with a small yard within 1-2 miles of King St. or Braddock St. Metro. However, I'll be working from home 2-3 days per week so I don't mind a longer walk or bus ride to the Metro station (on a side note, I'll be commuting to McPherson Square and in fact, more important than access to public transport is access to local amenities).

2. All things dog.
I have a 3.5 year old Ridgeback (large dog) whose needs take a prominent role i.e. dog friendly society, access to dog parks, hiking trails, dog care, "out of town" day trips, etc.

3. Airport access.
I anticipate 25-30% travel so having Reagan on my doorstep would be a real bonus.

4. General cost of living.
I'm not convinced salary tax makes a huge difference for a single person at the end of the day but it's worth noting it's less in VA than DC. Does anyone know if PayCheckCity is a reliable calculator for estimating net pay?

5. Walkability
I plan on going car free (zip or rental if needed) for at least the first six months but otherwise really enjoy walking or if need be taking the bus pretty much everywhere I go and don't mind walking a few miles at a time.

Other than that, I really like the European feel of Old Town with it's historical buildings, cobbled streets, small row houses and amenities on your doorstep but I also really like the simple neighborhood vibe of Del Ray (I should add, I've only ever visited these neighborhoods virtually so far!).

Lastly, my needs are fairly basic... a spot at a well-loved coffee house, a laid-back pub, a local food market, balanced people, and access to a few international eateries and I'll be very happy.

I plan on traveling down in a few weeks to look for accommodation and would be very grateful for your feedback in the meantime!
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:34 AM
 
2,612 posts, read 5,330,892 times
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Well...Old Town might be good, but I see two problems. 1 - Your rent will get you a small or medium-size 1 bedroom apartment. It won't get you a whole house anywhere. A lot of people have dogs, so as long as you only have the one, it should be OK. Hopefully it's not a large dog. 2 - You need a car to live here, including Old Town. You can probably find a place from which you can walk to metro, but it's unlikely you'll be able to also walk to a grocery store. There are only three in Old Town, and they are at opposite ends of the town (not walking distance to each other). Also, to be honest, you really need a car, period. This is not Europe, and one of the defining differences is our reliance on cars.

Del Ray is not walking distance to metro, at least not most parts of it.

If it were me, and it has been when I was younger, I'd probably live in DC if I didn't have a car (I did live in DC without a car). It was not easy - even there you need a car - but it was easier than living in VA without a car. There are more buses at least. I know the cost of living appears to be a bit higher in DC, but I didn't really experience that when I lived there. I found there were a lot of apartments for younger people with rent that was actually a bit lower than in VA, maybe to compensate for the higher city tax. Anyway, it's certainly not so much more expensive that it would be worth living in VA without a car. You can get a small one-bedroom or a studio in your price range. I would try that if I were you. I have lived in Old Town and I just can't imagine not having a car there - the shops are small and quaint, but unless you can live on antiques you won't be able to get everything you need there. It's not that kind of city.

I should also mention about prices - if you end up having to walk to a grocery store, it will probably be the OT Whole Foods, which will instantly wipe out any savings you will get by living in VA over DC.
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:42 AM
 
Location: among the clustered spires
2,380 posts, read 4,302,009 times
Reputation: 889
Columbia Pike in South Arlington might (key word might) be an option as it has pretty reliable bus transit. I'd also look into Falls Church City and into Blue Line Arlington (Crystal City, Pentagon City, Shirlington.)

You may be able to get a 2BR place with another dog lover, try using Craigslist.

Alexandria is probably the most dog-friendly place.

Living in DC would be an extra $30-40 a month in taxes at least and that opens up a number of options.
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Old 06-09-2011, 07:41 AM
 
Location: NoVA bound!
56 posts, read 152,336 times
Reputation: 30
This is great! Thanks for your initial comments!

I don't intend on going car free permanently, so don't want car ownership to be a determining factor.

What I mean by walkability is a neighborhood where I can walk to the corner store to buy the newspaper, walk to a coffee house, walk to a decent pub, maybe even a restaurant every now and then, and hopefully, a nearby trail for the dog. I guess walkability is relative. I'm currently outside Toronto (Canada) in a small town and walk a mile each way to the grocery store. Isn't Old Town only 2 miles end to end?

@Marie5v: do you think my budget is too low for a rowhouse? I can increase it to $2,000, but I've been tracking rentals on real estate websites for about a month (Coldwell Banker, Long & Foster, etc.) and have seen numerous row houses in the $1,600 - $1,800 that accept pets. I even saw a few bungalows in Del Ray for under $2,000. Am I being completely fooled? A studio or 1-bedroom apartment really won't meet my needs for a home office and outdoor space and I'm well past my sharing years.

I briefly considered Arlington but have been told it's very city-like, full of highrises, chains and big box stores, which really isn't my thing.
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Old 06-09-2011, 08:05 AM
 
Location: Northern Virginia
4,489 posts, read 10,466,422 times
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I'm not sure "corner stores" really exist around here. You might be able to find a CVS or 7-11 to walk to for a newspaper, but it's not going to be quaint or charming.

$1700 is low for Old Town. Really low. If you're finding whole rowhouses for that price, I'd be concerned about the neighborhood. (Really, $1700 for a townhouse ANYWHERE inside the beltway is really low!) There are areas that are probably marketed as "Del Ray" that really aren't--they're more the Arlandria area, which isn't the nicest place to live. It's not exactly dangerous, but you should actually visit the specific addresses and look up crime statistics to make sure you're comfortable with those neighborhoods.

What about Shirlington? It's got a small grocery store and a couple coffee shops and lots of restaurants (very dog friendly) in that little community. There's a great dog park across the street. You could possibly find a 1 br + den for your budget, though the yard will still be tricky. You'd want a car though. You'd be stranded without one, save for buses (and I don't know how often they run outside of rush hour)

Honestly, for what you want, $3500 is a more realistic monthly rental fee, as insane as that sounds.
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Old 06-09-2011, 08:24 AM
 
4,526 posts, read 4,897,569 times
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You will be hard pressed to find a town home rental in your budget. I would suggest looking at the areas near the end of the orange line (Dunn Loring,Vienna) or blue line. (Springfield)

Personally I would suggest a apartment near the Vienna metro. I lived in these apartments years ago and loved the area. Providence Hall Apartments : 9140 Barrick Street #202 Fairfax, VA 22031 703-280-4050 - Fairfax Apartments They're right behind a shopping center and a short walk to the metro. Pet friendly and the place is very quiet. You could conceivably live there without a car if you don't mind taking a taxi from time to time.
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Old 06-09-2011, 08:28 AM
 
430 posts, read 1,017,296 times
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When i did a quick search on Craigslist, I am seeing a lot of listings that are liberally using the term townhouse. They are actually condos and apartments.
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Old 06-09-2011, 08:59 AM
 
Location: NoVA bound!
56 posts, read 152,336 times
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This is all great information!

It sounds like my lack of local geography is creating confusion. I referred to Old Town and Del Ray as they seem to be the most prominent neighborhoods in the area (I actually prefer the sound of Del Ray to Old Town), but I'm willing to consider any of the neighborhoods bound roughly by King St. to the west, the 495 to the south, the River to the East and the tributary/ South Glebe Rd. to the north.

I also strongly prefer a small townhome/row house/bungalow, but I would consider a 2-bedroom ground floor apartment with a patio/walk-out... the only problem is, at 100lbs., my dog exceeds most weight restrictions (which I think is a completely ridiculous basis for pet restrictions).

Does this make a difference to my affordability?

And if not, what other areas should I consider? Are their similar places in DC I should look at?

@CaliTerp07: I've heard great things about Shirlington so I will definitely look into that neighborhood! Thanks for the tip!
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Old 06-09-2011, 09:01 AM
 
Location: among the clustered spires
2,380 posts, read 4,302,009 times
Reputation: 889
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alegria2 View Post
This is great! Thanks for your initial comments!

I don't intend on going car free permanently, so don't want car ownership to be a determining factor.

What I mean by walkability is a neighborhood where I can walk to the corner store to buy the newspaper, walk to a coffee house, walk to a decent pub, maybe even a restaurant every now and then, and hopefully, a nearby trail for the dog. I guess walkability is relative. I'm currently outside Toronto (Canada) in a small town and walk a mile each way to the grocery store. Isn't Old Town only 2 miles end to end?

@Marie5v: do you think my budget is too low for a rowhouse? I can increase it to $2,000, but I've been tracking rentals on real estate websites for about a month (Coldwell Banker, Long & Foster, etc.) and have seen numerous row houses in the $1,600 - $1,800 that accept pets. I even saw a few bungalows in Del Ray for under $2,000. Am I being completely fooled? A studio or 1-bedroom apartment really won't meet my needs for a home office and outdoor space and I'm well past my sharing years.

I briefly considered Arlington but have been told it's very city-like, full of highrises, chains and big box stores, which really isn't my thing.
I'd visit Columbia Pike, Orange Line Arlington, and Blue Line Arlington before ruling it out.

What you want -- small-town, close-in, very walkable -- is very desirable.
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Old 06-09-2011, 09:18 AM
 
Location: NoVA bound!
56 posts, read 152,336 times
Reputation: 30
@ghett61: I am also using the world townhome very liberally - I essentially mean anything that's not an apartment... so townhome, rowhouse, duplex, bungalow, etc. but I don't find Craigslist very reliable so have been using real estate websites instead, which seem to be a "little" more accurate.
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