"Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm." (-John F. Kennedy). Read Guide >
The apartment market is fairly consistent in DC: there exists a set of criteria and stipulations that virtually every apartment manager and landlord will follow. Memorize these brief mnemonic tips to prevent an unhappy surprise.
Lease Me, Lease Me, Say That You’ll Lease Me: No landlord worth trusting will go for less than a six month lease and a deposit of two-thirds rent. That said, most of the more upscale units should be fully furnished, so you can count on cutting some costs in your move.
Utilitarianism: Most apartment contracts around the District don’t include utilities. If your college yearbook designated you “Frugal Freddy,” budget around $250/month for a 1BR/1BA. “Indulgent Ira” can expect to pay a bit more. Penny-pinch much? Consider a room in a house (or go in on a house with some friends)—there are lots of gems in DC that power-drunk Princeton grads don’t seek out because apartmenting is perceived as less stressful.
Car Talk: Parking in a secure garage or lot runs about $100-$200/month, if it’s an option at all. Street parking is slightly cheaper (you may obtain a Residential Parking Permit for only $15/year) if you’re a comfortable risk-taker. Though spaces are often hard to find: if you take this route, don’t plan on using your car much unless your favorite pastime is playing sardines amongst the library stacks… Also, if you have friends in Virginia or Maryland, you may want to register your car there: DC insurance is bound to be double what you’ll pay if you’re “parking” outside the Beltway.
OK Commuter: If you plan to commute anywhere else in the city, study the transit map and live within a 15 minute walk of the station. Car commuters find the DC metro freeways a major headache, and if you’re working in Virginia you can bet on 45 minutes and a protracted morning bridge-cross.
Milo & Otis: As a kid, I loved watching this squatty pug and his best friend (a yellow tabby; who else?) meander through the Ohio countryside. Unfortunately, it seems DC planners and landlords weren’t so keen. Dogs are hard to keep due to the scarcity of dog parks. Also, expect a flat fee (up to $300) and monthly pet rent (around $30/month). Be sure to ask your landlord or management company about size and breed restrictions—Otis usually passes; Butch, maybe not. Felines are obviously more practical, but these still incur the fees delineated above.
Laundry Service: Hunt down the apartment buildings that offer washer/dryer accessibility at either no extra charge or at no extra travel. If you’re not this lucky, budget around $10-15/month as well as the time needed to tote your dirties to the Laundromat.
Neighborhoods are like presidents. Some are old, some new—and some are known only by their flaws. Pay due notice to what you’ve heard, but also try to explore new areas with an open mind. After all, you may find the next “diamond in the rough” by stumbling into some hip forest no one else can see for the trees.
John F. Kennedy: Mr. Popularity. We all want to be his friend. No one can recount any of the great stuff he accomplished (some influential speeches concerning civil rights?), but dang!—that man carried himself well. Elegantly manicured, Northwest DC is best described this way. Apartment-seekers flock left, right, and cross-ways to get in on the action. (Doesn’t help that it’s the largest quadrant…) The reality is that you can find most of the same amenities in a less inflated market elsewhere. Nevertheless, here’s the skinny on some of the most popular spots:
• Downtown Washington, DC borders some less fashionable but historic and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. If you can stand Convention Center parking headaches, you might find a 1BD/1BA for as little as $2100/month in Chinatown.
• Outside of Downtown, Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom are where it’s at in NW. In Dupont, be prepared to pay an average of $2800-$3500/month for 2BD/2BA; you’ll be jumping for joy if you find a studio or 1BR/1BA for two-thirds of that figure. Foggy’s the choice for commuters to Downtown and Rosslyn, Va. Mind you, this is still an expensive area—studios under $1400 are unheard of. But you get what you pay for, that’s for sure.
• Everyone and their mom who can’t afford the above neighborhoods want to be in AdMo (insider slang for Adams Morgan). The upper range for studios is $2200/month; add $600/month for 1BR/1BA units in this area.
• Georgetown’s aesthetic is impeccable, but don’t get your hopes up for living in a quaint 2BD/1BA row house down a cobblestone lane unless you can drop $3150/month. Additionally, this area is fairly impractical: commuters to Virginia will need to walk across the Key Bridge to Rosslyn, and shopping around here may be described as exclusively boutique-y.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: FDR is like the inverse of JFK. Visually boring, he set the Union on a trajectory toward modernism few would question. Everything east of N Capitol St. and north of E Capitol St. encapsulates this spirit. Classic as well as diverse, Northeast DC boasts a few gems you simply must consider:
• Capitol Hill isn’t just for politicians and lobbyists. (For one thing, the historic homes are too small for these jokers!) $1600/month for a 1BD/1BA near Eastern Market.
• Atlas District and Trinidad name two grimy (but equally hip) areas. The range around H St. is $900-$1200/month for 1BD/1BA and $1000-$1500/month for 2BD/1BA. Trinidad is the cheaper—and grimier—of the two areas: just be careful where you land.
• Brookland/Catholic University of America is probably the most economical neighborhood in NE. You may feel marooned, but in all truth the Red Line in to Capitol Hill is 10 minutes max. One can usually find a 1BD/1BA for under $1000/month (under $1500/month for a second bedroom).
Grover Cleveland: Barely worth mention, the Southwest Waterfront is the smallest of DC’s quadrants. That’s not to say there aren’t some great apartments if you love that feeling of being stranded. (No Metro stops; but you could walk to Capitol Hill and Navy Yard if you absolutely had to.) Efficiency condos start at $1400/month and luxury 1BD/1BA average $1850/month. What, did you expect some fun facts about Cleveland’s tenure? There aren’t any.
James Polk: Plagued by controversy and overall messiness (need I mention the Trail of Tears?), Polk’s presidency was brief—but hugely influential. In other words, he’s the greatest president no one ever talks about. That’s Southeast DC. Folks who live here will regale its charms: Eastern Market, Anacostia Park, and on and on.
• Historically the industrial area, Navy Yard is currently enjoying revitalization along the lines of condos and high-rises. All this competition, though, doesn’t drive the price very low: look hard and you may find a 1BD for $1500/month or a 2BD for $2000/month.
• Anacostia is the Brooklyn of DC. It’s where those Navy Yard dockworkers went home to. $800/month is an average price for a 1BD/1BA; and it’s not unusual to find a 2BD unit for less than $1000/month. Be scrupulous, though—high crime rates plague certain pockets of SE.
Thanks for tuning in to this week’s segment of “Lives of the Presidents”… However, the best way to get a handle on these neighborhoods is to walk a mile in their shoes. Make a commitment to spending five consecutive hours in a few of these areas. Grab a meal, walk the streets (in daylight, please). Chances are, one of ‘em will charm you more than the others. Then simply choose your house and paint it white!
Washington, D.C. is many things to many people. Some people move here for the politics, other people for the nonprofit work, and yet others just because they want to live in a smaller East Coast city. While it's true that the population of D.C. proper is not as large as New York City or Philadelphia (it's closest in size to Boston), it is a cultural hub with many free museums and memorials. But there is plenty to do beyond the monuments, whether you are traveling to an established shopping district like Dupont Circle or are in search of an eclectic neighborhood like U St NW. The city is growing each year, too, as new developments are improving neighborhoods that were forgotten for many decades. The constant influx of new residents and an abundance of choices for shopping and food lends a fresh, active vibe to D.C. that many people -- young, old, single or families, will enjoy.
Pros •Tons of free museums •Second best subway system in the country behind NYC •Lots of distinct neighborhoods means something for everyone •The city is rich in history •Delaware and Maryland beaches about 130 miles away
Cons •The public school system needs work •Crime is a problem in many parts of the city •D.C. can be expensive, and so can its 'burbs
The People - Who Lives Here?
Washington, D.C. has a population of a little less than 600,000, which swells to more than 1,000,000 each day during the workweek -- and several million people reside in the city's suburbs. The city has a reputation for attracting aspiring politicians, but there is much more depth to D.C.'s pupulation. According to data from 2006, the ciy's racial composition is approximately 55 percent Black, 35 percent White, and 3 percent Asian, with Native Americans, Alaskans, Pacific Islanders and Alaskans making up the rest of the population. Due to the many embassies located in D.C., the city has a very strong population of international folk. A distinct quality of D.C.'s population is that it has a very large population of people from Ethiopia, and this is represented through the many Ethiopian restuarants throughout the D.C. area. A number of D.C. residents are employed by the federal government, but there are probably just as many people working for nonprofit organizations and trade associations. The city swells each summer as thousands of college interns come to D.C. to work on the Hill or at large employers like National Geographic.
Social Scene - Bars, clubs, restaurants
You could probably go out to eat and then have drinks at a different place each night of the year in D.C. Due in part to the many distinct neighborhoods in the city, each one has a different feel and social scene. Some of the most popular neighborhoods for hanging out are Georgetown, Dupont Circle, U St. NW, Adams Morgan, Gallery Place and the fast-growing Atlas District in Northeast D.C.
Georgetown has an overall sophisticated feel, as bars and restaurants mingle with high-end clothing stores and boutiques. The crowd that goes out here has a reputation for being wealthy and preppy, but you can find some more laid back spots. Dupont Circle has larger clubs and bars, and is a great place to go out to eat and meet new people. U St. NW has more of a bohemian feel, with dive bars, late night eats and music venues. Adams Morgan is a favorite for college students and out-of-towners who enjoy the neighborhoods many bustling bars. Gallery Place has a lot of large bars, and is close to the Verizon Center, making it ideal for before and after sporting events. The Atlas District is a newly developed neighborhood in Northeast that has unique bars, including a burlesque parlor and the Rock and Roll Hotel.
The Value - Rental prices vs. quality of living
Many people grumble about the high costs of living in D.C., but it is worth it if you want to be close to work, everyday ameneties and night life. D.C. is an extremely convenient city and it has a lot to offer -- so the quality of life is quite high. There are rental deals to be found, but unfortunately, you might have to dig around a bit for these deals.
Transportation & Traffic
t's no secret that traffic is terrible in the D.C. area. The city usually ranks in the top five for worst traffic in the country. If you're moving from the suburbs or from a rural area, it may shock you that in D.C., it will sometimes take a half hour to drive five miles. That's why it's great that Washington, D.C. has such a great subway system, with complimenting bus service. You can pretty much get anywhere you need by using Metrorail or Metrobus. The subway system is easy to use, and out-of-towners always enjoy the screens in each station that announce when the next train will arrive. If you plan carefully and live near ample public transportation, you won't need a car in D.C., which could save you a lot of money not only in gas but in parking garage fees. After living in D.C. a few months, you'll get the hang of its intense traffic. When you finally begin to understand Rock Creek Parkway, your life will become a whole lot easier. Especially if you remember to stay off Wisconsin Ave., Connecticut Ave. and 16th St NW during rush hour!
Rental Advice & Tips
As with most cities, the cost of living varies between neighborhoods and deals are available if you are willing to do your homework. If you would like the wealthy, bustling vibe of living in Georgetown but can't afford it, Glover Park is a good option. The houses and apartments in Glover Park are older, and you would be able to find a one bedroom for around $1,000 or less. Many people in Glover Park get together and share a house, so you might be living for $800 a month or less. The one downside of living in Glover Park is that it is not near a Metro, so everyone has a car and parking is tough. If you leave your parking spot past 8 pm, don't expect it to be there 30 seconds after you've gone. If you want to live near the action of Dupont Circle, but are discouraged by the prices, you should look further North on Connecticut Ave., near places like Kalorama. The same goes for Woodley Park and Cleveland Park -- the cheaper options for those would be Forest Hills (Van Ness) or North Cleveland Park. Tenleytown and Friendship Heights are a bit more removed from the central action of the city, but they are still sought because they are clean and safe neighborhoods, and both have a Metro stop. If you're interested in the bustling nightlight of Shaw's U St. NW, you should consider living just North of it on 16th St. NW, near Meridian Hill Park. There are a dozen or so apartment buildings here that are older, but less expensive than living directly on U St. Capitol Hill is a great choice for young people, and there are pockets -- especially in the Northeast part -- that are extremely affordable. The neighborhood near Eastern Market is also safe, nice and has its own Metro -- and its close to the many bars and restaurants that line Pennsylvania Ave. SE.
Entertainment & Recreation - Things to do
Washington D.C. has many parks, museums and monuments and there are also many live theaters and sports events. D.C. is one of the few cities in the U.S. to have professional teams in football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer. The biggest park in D.C. is Rock Creek Park, which is a popular spot for runners, dog walkers and people just hanging out. Some of the most popular museums in D.C. are free, including the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Air and Space Museum. Some museums in D.C. do charge an entrance fee, and these are mostly the novelty places like the Spy Museum, the Newseum and the Crime and Punishment Museum. D.C. also has a rich arts scene, with the National Opera, the Washington Ballet and many, many plays taking place at the Kennedy Center. Music lovers will also enjoy D.C. for its many popular venues like the Verizon Center and Constitution Hall that draw the most popular national acts. The 9:30 Club and the Black Cat also draw national acts, but are also a favorite for those who love lesser known bands.
Recommended Neighborhoods & Areas
Adams Morgan is known for its vibrant nightlife that includes some of D.C.'s most popular bars and restaurants. To live here is to be in the center of the action. Though Adams Morgan rivals neighborhoods like Dupont Circle and Georgetown in its popularity, the vibe here is completely different from those areas. The center of Adams Morgan is 18th St NW, where the brightly colored buildings and storefronts lend an air of constant activity to the bustling neighborhood. Yet Adams Morgan is also considered the heart of D.C.'s Hispanic community, and this can be seen in many of the signage, which is in Spanish as well as English. Shaw, which was home to Duke Ellington, is considered by many to be the heart of the city's African-American history. Shaw's U St. is home to the ever-popular Ben's Chili Bowl, as well as an extremely diverse nightlife scene that includes everything from fine dining to dive bars and pool halls. U St. an extremely sought-after place to hang out, and the lucky ones get to live there. The neighborhood was somewhat neglected after the riots of 1968, with businesses closing and residents moving. The addition of the U St/Cardozo Metro stop and the Shaw-Howard University Metro stop helped the area to experience a revilatization, and it is now a top destination for locals. Though crime is still common in the outskirts of the neighborhood, many hipsters, young professionals and families are happy to call it home. The epicenter of D.C.'s Gay community, Dupont Circle is a uniquely eccentric and charming neighborood. The well known traffic rotary (or circle or roundabout depending on where you're from) connects Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut Avenues from a beautiful little park complete with a large fountain in the center. Dupont Circle is also where you'll find Embassy Row, a beautiful part of Massachusetts Avenue that is lined with gorgeous mansions and historic, estate homes. For those who cannot afford a palatial residence on Embassy Row can be sure to find a smaller living space in one of the many rowhouses or high rise buildings. Many recent college graduates who may be interning on the Hill, young professionals and families also call Dupont Circle home. Although not as hip as it once was, historic Georgetown is still a popular neighboorhood in the DC area. Though apartment complexes are few and far beween and exist primarily at the edge of Georgetown or in areas that try to consider themselves Georgetown, the social options, the shopping, and the convenience and walkability of the neighborhood make it worthwhile to search high and low (literally - there are lots of English basements!) for a place to live in Georgetown. Living in Georgetown, you'll have wealthy neighbors; great shopping at boutiques, high end stores, and home furnishings establishments; and a few of the best restaurants in the District.
The Essentials - Groceries, gyms, banks
Washington, D.C. residents are serviced by a number of grocery store chains that are scattered throughout the city, including Safeway (which is probably the most prolific), Giant, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. There are also a large number of gyms in D.C., including chains like Washington Sports Club, Bally's and Gold's Gym, but also smaller, local chains like the growing Results and Sport & Health. Most neighborhoods are within a short walk or drive to a gym. The common bank branches in D.C. are Chevy Chase, Bank of America and Wachovia, but there are a few Sun Trust and PNC branches as well.
The largest employer in Washington, D.C. is the federal government, and accounts for about 27 percent of jobs in the city. Related businesses such as lobbying firms, law firms and government contractors also account for much of D.C.'s employment. There are thousands of nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area, including trade and membership organizations. Another large area of employment includes education and research, as D.C. is home to a number of colleges and hospitals. The unemployment rate is very low in D.C., when compared to other metro regions in the U.S.
The D.C. public school system has been on the decline for several decades, but the hiring of a new superintendent has residents hopeful. There are about 170 public schools and learning centers in D.C., with a total enrollment of about 48,000. An overhaul of the D.C. public school system is planned, as the city's schools have been criticized for low performance levels. In response to the problems with D.C.'s public schools, the city has a flourishing network of charter schools, which are independently operated and government funded. There are currently 56 charter schools operating in D.C., and enrollment for these alternative options increases each year. In addition, D.C. has a number of very prestigious private schools.
Real Estate in Washington, D.C. is notoriously expensive, and is pricier than larger East Coast cities like Philadelphia. You would be hard pressed to find a single family home in neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Woodley Park or Cleveland Park for less than $1 million. A one bedroom condo in these neighborhoods would run close to $400,000 and a two bedroom would be about $550,000. Typically, if you are living in Northwest D.C., near a Metro station, Real Estate will be more expensive. The further you are willing to travel from the Northwest core, the lower the prices will be. This situation was the catalyst for D.C.'s gentrification, which is controversial, but has helped revive many neighborhoods that were in disrepair. For instance, neighborhoods like Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights were considered undesirable during th mid-1990s, but are now among the most popular places to buy Real Estate. You can still find houses for under $1 million in these areas, but that will undoubtedly change as the areas become more developed. Neighborhoods like Bloomingdale and Eckington are still very up and coming, and residents who have recently invested here are helping to make these desirable as well.
Washington, D.C. typically experiences all four seasons in a distinct manner. The summers are hot and humid and the winters can get considerably cold. Spring is usually pretty short, and fall can get extremely windy here. The average low temperature in winter is about 30 degrees, and in summer it is usually 80 degrees or higher. It doesn't snow too much in the winter, but there is a huge storm every few years. People who move to D.C. from places on the West Coast often need some time to adjust to the city's humidity.
I love living in D.C., and I can't really imagine living anywhere else. It can feel like a small city or a big city, depending on where I go. I am hard pressed to think of things that are unavailable to me in the city -- it has so many shops, restaurants, bars, park and culture. The neighborhoods are so different that there's something for everyone. I've lived in three different neighborhoods, each drastically different from the other. So, a move to D.C. will be great if you are not expecting New York City and if you are good at making friends. - Lexi A.
bad apartment I from this Landlord worst move i ever made i was getting problems with the apartment the apartment floors and walls were paper thin in all the apartments were not sound proof that i could’nt get any peace nor quite from other tenants and harassing Landlord keeping me up he was a bothersome , complaints and disputes between tenants and the landlord went on the apartment was poorly structured it cant handle a family living in it and i was the only one living in the apartment i did nothing wrong to deserve this disrespect the landlord unfairly raised my rent,took me to court and billed me for court expenses for a cheap apartment, i couldnt take it anymore the apartment was a complete scam so i moved out the landlord kept my security deposit and had my wages garnished for increased rent and fees! there was no mention of garnishment from the landlord or in the rent lease about wage garnishment i didnt agree to anything so why did these terrible things happened i lost money and got ripped off -badrental
bad apartment I from this Landlord worst move i ever made i was getting problems with the apartment the apartment floors and walls were paper thin in all the apartments were not sound proof that i could’nt get any peace nor quite from other tenants and harassing Landlord keeping me up he was a bothersome , complaints and disputes between tenants and the landlord went on the apartment was poorly structured it cant handle a family living in it and i was the only one living in the apartment i did nothing wrong to deserve this disrespect the landlord unfairly raised my rent,took me to court and billed me for court expenses for a cheap apartment, i couldnt take it anymore the apartment was a complete scam so i moved out the landlord kept my security deposit and had my wages garnished for increased rent and fees! there was no mention of garnishment from the landlord or in the rent lease about wage garnishment i didnt agree to anything so why did these terrible things happened i lost money and got ripped off -Anonymous