DC area Dopers: could you share your knoweldge with me please?

Yae, me: I have a tentative job offer, contingent on the usual background/security check. However, the job offer is in DC, and I’m currently in Memphis. This means, obviously enough, that I’ll be relocating in the not-so-distant future.

However, I have yet to set foot in the DC area, and I know that even if I get a chance to look around before accepting the formal offer, I simply will not be able to pick up enough critical knowledge in time to do me any good. And there’s only so much real estate shows on HGTV can tell me, eh? :wink:

So DC area Dopers, can you help me fill in the massive gaps in my knowledge and give me some tips on the good, the bad, and the ugly in the area? I do know that the Blue line will get me closest to my potential work place, but I’ve been hampered in my on-line searching by not really knowing which areas have easy access to it and which do not.

Thanks ever so much!

<< Standards are crucial. And the best thing about standards is: there are so many to choose from! >>

Anything which is both walking distance to the Metro, and in a safe neighborhood, is likely to be pricey, living-wise.

There are lots of places along the Orange line in Virginia which have walking-distance apartments etc. but they’re pricey. However, many, many people either drive to Metro and park, or take a bus.

I don’t know if kids / spouse are factors; if not, that gives you more flexibility in living places. Lots of fun, funky places in the District. In general avoid Southeast for living. I would not live in the District with kids, on average, unless I could afford private schools. Not to say there are no decent public schools - thinking Northwest - but on average the public schools aren’t great.

I know the Virginia side of things better than Maryland but you’ll find similar costs, I would think.

Virginia (state-wise) tends to be more conservative politically. Northern Virginia (especially Fairfax County) bucks that trend. A lot of gay couples moved out of the state when laws were passed a few years ago limiting their rights (even if spelled out in contracts), e.g. hospital visitation.

Grocery shopping, from when we lived in the District nearly 20 years ago, was pretty grim. We tended to drive out to the suburbs for better prices and selection.

What station is the job near? Someone here will recognize it and be able to comment on that immediate area, I’m sure.

You might want to see about a short-term rental when you first get here. Oakwood is one apartment chain that has corporate apartments; that can be a way to get a little acclimated before committing to anything, housing-wise (purchase or long-term lease).

Housing prices for purchase are still a bit nutso but have dropped a bit in the last year or so. I don’t know about rentals.

Traffic can be horrid. Metro is crowded but can be more relaxing especially if you snag a seat.

I predict an overabundance of condos in midtown DC in the very near future resulting in the normalization of their prices. At the moment they are outrageously expensive (600 sq. foot 1 BR from the low $500’s!) but developers continue to build and build and the economy continues to wither. However that probably doesn’t help you now.

Are you asking what neighborhoods are along the blue line? Eastern Market or Potomac Ave is probablty your best bet. Most everything else is too close to a business or shopping district and will be too expensive. I rarely ever get out of the city so I can’t comment on housing in the 'burbs.

Tell us more about where your job is. “Near the Blue Line” covers a lot of territory. We’re going to have to know more than that.

I’ve lived the last 6-7 years in the Manassas area and am closing on a house next week a little further out, in Gainesville. I commute into the city on VRE. That’s the commuter train; like Amtrak. It takes about an hour on the train each way, but that’s time you can spend reading, napping, working on your laptop, doing a crossword, whatever. The VRE makes several stops that are only a 5 minute walk from the Metro (and on the Blue line).

Living out this far is good if you want the typical suburban lifestyle. You know, Home Depot, Best Buy, lots of shopping centers and grocery stores. A 20-30 minute drive (off peak) takes you into Fairfax or Annandale where there is a TON of Korean retail, grocery, cafe, and restaurants.

And with home prices the way they are now, it’s a great time to buy. The house we are closing on was built in 2005. Sold then for $700,000 and we are getting it for $387,000. Lots of similar deals out this way.

And of course you can still hit DC on the weekends. Drive or Metro. Other nice places to check out (not in DC) are Old Town Alexandria and Occaquan.

Feel free to ask specifics about the Manassas / PWC experience. I’m somewhat familiar with DC, but mainly for things related to the commute and touristy things. Not so much the out-of-the-way places.

Well, the closest station to where I’d be would be the Farragut West station: on the map that looks like it’s pretty much smack in the middle of the route.

It’d be just me, myself, and I: and for the first year or so I’d just be looking to rent, I know it’s going to take quite some time before I’d be in a solid enough financial situation to even think about buying something in the area.

My main two criteria are that I have a safe, preferably covered, place to park my car and have easy access to the bus line/metro so I can avoid driving to work. I have no compelling need to live in DC proper, but on the flip side I would prefer not to have to spend half of my day commuting.

Good info on the grocery shopping, Mama Zappa: I suspect that I’ll be trundling to one of the Costcos that are in the area to get some of the non-perishable staples. Too bad it looks like only one of them has a gas station, unless I missed it on their website.

On the other hand, if you’ve got reasonably smart kids, School Without Walls is a “magnet” public school that accepts students from all over the city. Good teachers, engaged students, and a policy of encouraging teachers to take their kids out of the building during class to take mini-field-trips around the city. The building’s not in great shape, but I’d send my kids there without hesitation. If, Ford Forbid, I had kids.

This isn’t really true any more. We’ve got two Whole Foods - one at the Tenleytown stop, right on the Red Line - assorted Giants/Safeways, a Harris Teeter, and so on.

If you’re living by yourself, I’d strongly suggest looking into a group house - it’s a lot cheaper than getting your own place, most of the time. Check “shared housing” on Craigslist.

If the place you’re working at is near Farragut West, it’s probably also near Farragut North, on the Red Line - the two stations are pretty close together. You can check this on www.wmata.com. If your work is walkable from the Farragut North station, then it might make sense for you to look into places near the Red Line as well as the Blue - that’ll give you a lot more options.

Another option I’d recommend is Alexandria, Virginia - a bit of a longer metro ride, but it’s on the Blue Line, and a bit cheaper than DC. It’s also a fun little city in its own right.

I own a house in DC, but am currently living abroad. Traffic will be a real issue, consider living near where you work, it will really have an impact on the quality of your life. I find the traffic in the suburbs just unbearable, even a little ways outside of city limits.

With all due respect to Mama Zappa, what she said about southeast is not really accurate anymore, large parts of southeast is still some of the hottest real estate in the country and very safe. Schools remain a problem in the city, but it is improving.

I really like living in the city and as Patty said, there is a glut of condos on the
market which could mean apatments are becoming more affordable. I think DC really offers the best of small town and city life. A lot of the neighborhoods really have a close-knit and friendly feel, but with easy access to everything you want from a city.

Also browse the rooms for rent section in the Washington City Paper classifieds. Sharing a home is a great way to get to know the area before you start looking for your own place.

Nightsong, if all you’re worried about is finding a place that’s within commuting distance by Metro of your workplace, you don’t have to limit yourself to the Blue Line or the Red Line. The Metro lines are connected. You can live pretty much anywhere in the Washington area if transportation is all that’s relevant. What’s the maximum amount of time you’re willing to spend on the Metro going one-way each day? How soon does your job start? Can you come to D.C. for a visit beforehand? Perhaps we can have a Dopefest for your visit here and advise you.

I second the recommendation to look along the red line. If living in the city is too $$$, you could look in Takoma Park or Silver Spring. There are lots of apt buildings in Silver Spring that might fit the bill.

But, if you can afford to live in the city and schools are not an issue, look into Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan. (Dupont is within walking distance of Farragut Square.) What do you think you might want to spend on rent?

Have you thought about the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax county? It’s within driving distance to the Yellow and Blue lines (or even walking distance if you get an apartment/condo close enough to the Huntington Metro), there’s a lot of retail stores on Route 1 (there’s a Walmart, a Giant, a Shoppers Food Warehouse, etc.), and even though the area had a bad reputation in the past, it’s really cleaned up.

I used to work right above the Farragut West station. I lived in DC and walked to work. It was about a 20 minute walk, but outside of a few rainy days a year that was fine. You can find apartments within the Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and George Washington University areas that are close to Farragut West. I was lucky when I moved to DC ten years ago that there were still plenty of crummy areas that finding cheap rent wasn’t as much of a problem as it is today. Your best bet, honestly, is to print out a listing of apartment buildings in these areas and just start calling them up, asking their prices. That’s what I did. It is, of course, advisable to visit them before you agree on a price. It takes some work, but you might luck out. When I found a place in 1999 I was able to snag a roomy studio apartment in a building with a nice pool on the roof for $475 a month, all utilities included.

I’m going to replying a bit randomly here, so there’s a chance I may miss anything that was asked of me. If so, I’m not ignoring you, just that my eyes are crossing from looking at apartments.com for most of the day! :slight_smile: I’m also taking notes on the areas suggested, so I have some sort of framework to narrow my searches with.

Well, I don’t want to have large chunks of my day chewed up by my commute, especially since I’ve been spoiled by living withing 15-30 minutes of almost everywhere I want/need to go. I’d prefer closer to 30 minutes, but my absolute max is an hour if that means I get a place that is otherwise perfect. Time frame for job start is at this point about two months: 30 to 45 days for the security/background check, plus the turn around time needed for me to get me and my stuff from point A to point B.

And actually, I do have one other major criteria for a place that I forgot to mention: either a washer/dryer in unit, or the hookups for it. (Washer only is acceptable.) Lugging laundry about is not my idea of fun.

I’m trying to see about arranging a day or two there (possibly not consecutively), but the chances are I won’t know exactly when until just before it happens. Worst case, I’d be up for a Dopefest once I get there: it’ll be a good way for me to figure out my way around!

Actually no, since I don’t know enough about to area to realize that that area could be an option. I’ll have to jot that down while I do my searching.

Lute Skywatcher: good link for the classifieds, although I think I’m going to shoot for my own place instead of shared. I’ve spent way too long living under the same roof as others and I am quite willing to pay the premium for my own place. Although as has been mentioned in this thread, I may do some of the temp/short term housing as an interim thing, a lot may depend on the logistics of getting my stuff there.

BetsQ: I’m looking to spend preferably no more than $1500/month, including any parking fees but excluding utilities.

Ooo! It’s been ages since I’ve been in an area with a decent Korean presense, it’d be nice to have more than two or three choices for Korean food again.

Again, thanks everyone for your help so far: I know I don’t know much about the area,

Is a laundry room in the building an acceptable alternative? I don’t know how common in-unit washers are in apartments; my take is “not very”, especially in an apartment tailored to a single person.

While I love having my own washer/dryer, when I lived in New York in the early 90s the laundry room downstairs was fine - the advantage of course was that I could do 3-4 loads simultaneously. When we first moved to DC, by contrast, there was not only no facility in the building, the only nearby one was on a scary-looking block. As a result, we would load all our laundry into the car… and drive out to the suburbs. Or take it with us when we visited family out of town and do it there :stuck_out_tongue:

Interesting to hear - I don’t pay that much attention to it (even though I drive across and down Route 1 fairly often). Route 1 itself is pretty much strip-development hell, but go a block or two off of it and yes, there’s a lot more residential stuff. There are sure to be lots of buses that run along that way also, which will feed into the Huntington Metro. There is also a lot of parking available at the Metro (though I don’t know how early in the morning that fills up).

For completeness, Farragut West is also on the Orange Line, which goes west into Clarendon, Ballston, Falls Church, and Vienna. The Clarendon-Ballston corridor has been undergoing major redevelopment for several years, and has several shiney new / recent condo high-rises.

I think you can most likely find something in your price range, although in the city it will probably be a studio or small one bedroom. Good luck with your search! If you find something that sounds good but want a second opinion on location, let us know.