Finding an Apartment (Long Distance)

So it looks like I’m going to be moving in the late summer/early autumn, from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC area. I’ll be living with my girlfriend who works in DC, but lives up in Baltimore.

I can only go down for some limited house hunting maybe twice before the trip when we’ll have to settle on a place & sign a lease. Girlfriend is limited by a job that often keeps her late into the evening and her non-car ownership. (The Baltimore-DC commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays.)

So I’m trying to put together preliminary possibilities online, and I’m finding that, somehow, looking for apartments online is harder now than the last time I did this, a dozen years ago.

Other than apartments.com and move.com, does anyone have any good resources (including DC metro specific ones) for this? I’ve also been looking at Craigslist but we’re looking for professionally managed and probably larger properties with some amenities, and the places on CL tend to be landlord managed and smaller.

Any additional ideas would be greatly welcomed.

Wait - so are you getting a place in the DC metro area with your girlfriend, or are you planning to move to Baltimore with her? If you’re hitting up Baltimore, I can’t offer much in the way of advice, I’m afraid. But if you’re heading to DC, I can help - I’ve been living in and around the District for over four years now. There are also other DC-dopers, of course.

We’ll need more info in order to be helpful, though. What part of the city will you be working in? What’s your price range? Do you have pets? With a bit of luck, we might be able to point you towards specific buildings you should look at.

Also - don’t discount craigslist. There are larger properties that post there.

I wouldn’t discount the landlord managed properties, as the nicest apartment I ever had was a landlord managed property.

Here is the Washington Post’s apartment showcase.

Oops, sorry. We’re looking for inner MD suburbs, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Wheaton, that area. If we were moving to Baltimore things would be much easier, but this is a relocation for both of us.

I work from home, she works near Farragut North Metro stop. No pets. Ideal choice is a 2BD/2BA under $1600/mo.

That’s my girlfriend’s pet bugaboo, she’s had bad landlord experiences. Since she’s been in the apartment game longer than I have, I’m deferring to her there.

I never thought to look at the WaPo. I don’t think of it as a “local” paper. Thank you!

Use padmapper.com; it maps craigslist offerings onto Google maps.

I have had more bad experiences with privately owned rental units, and excellent experiences with commercial multiple apartment unit complexes that are not converted houses. [best way I can explain it.] so my rental policy is big complexes professionally managed only.

Sorry, I ran into more scams in converted houses, including one where the electricity for 4 water heaters was running off of MY meter, another where I was essentially paying for the fuel oil for the whole 3 flat building in Rochester NY … hard winters and all.

Another friend of mine got saddled with paying for cable to the ‘building manager’ and it turns out that he was illegally splitting off so that everybody in the building he collected from were getting illegal basic.

Yeah, GF has had issues with maintenance problems and an illegal cable situation. We’d also like a place that has the potential of community features like a fitness center and off-street parking. Nothing’s mandatory (except the parking, I guess) but if we can get them, all the better.

Padmapper looks promising, it’s much easier to strike things off when they’re more than just text.

Get a weekly furnished apartment of a one month sublet to begin with. That’ll give you enough breathing room to look for a place properly.

That’s actually excellent advice.

If you can afford the money for a month or two, there are places that specifically target relocators and corporate tenants e.g. Oakwood (a chain of apartment complexes that offer furnished apartments for short-term rental).

When we moved here, we did a 5 month sublet of a rather awful place near Dupont Circle. The tenant wanted to spend the winter in Florida (he was a retiree). We had a friend check it out for us then came up a couple of days later to see it ourselves. The apartment would have been fine (despite having appliances and plumbing older than the two of us combined, LOL) but the week we moved in, the landlord decided to do some major renovations without the necessary permits.

These renovations included removing the building-wide furnace. Oh, and it was November when we moved in. But it’s Ok, he brought in space heaters for everyone to use. :smack:

OTOH, the location was great.

I recently moved from Anchorage to a bedroom community near Seattle. To find an apartment I did use apartment finders or some equivalent (can’t remember now). And I also simply googled “apartments seattle” and “relocated to seattle” and the like. But before I selected this place, I also google-earthed the places I thought were likely prospects. Most places (and I can imagine that DC being so high in population would be one) have a lot of street level photos and such on Google Earth and Bing.

Once I found some likely places, I asked my future coworker (who did live in the Seattle area) if it was a good place. Looking at it on satellite view via Google Earth also allowed me to see how close it was to the light rail (one of my main requirements) and what the neighborhood looked like and so on. My coworker helped me steer clear of “cracktown”. :smiley:

Then, I simply wrote to the various apartment managers and asked more in-depth questions. IIRC, the apartment complex I now live in actually popped up during one of my google searches, and I contacted them directly. Once I’d selected the apartment, and contacted them, and found out the details, I sent the deposit.

A few things I didn’t realize though were, one, how the places would be heated, and two, what utilities were included in the rent. Having lived in Alaska for most of my life (40 years), it didn’t occur to me that apartment complexes here charge for garbage and water and sewer (it’s all rolled into the rent in most places in Anchorage). Nor did it occur to me to find out what sort of heat was in the apartments. Again, most apartments in Anchorage have either natural gas/forced air heat, or baseboard water heat (again, heated with natural gas).

These have electrical baseboard heat, which is EXPENSIVE! Thank goodness, being from a much colder climate, I don’t have to use them much. Other than a few other minor items, my research resulted in me finding a decent place. It’s cute (the apartment complex I chose had a website where I could view floorplans and such), and pretty convenient to shopping and stuff. A few of the adjacent neighborhoods could be a little nicer, but no problems so far.

I strongly agree with this. One of the things you really want to consider, about which your SO has probably already warned you, is your commute. Try to drive (walk, bus, train) your potential commute in advance at rush hour before you sign a contract and potentially lock yourself into a huge dose of misery twice a day for the next six months or year.

There are tons of decent apartments in this area. Order of preference is exactly how you’ve listed it. Downtown Silver Spring is extremely urbanized and non-car-owner friendly, however note that “Silver Spring” is technically almost anywhere in lower Montgomery County so make sure anyplace you target to look is near the downtown area (near the DC border), not miles up Georgia Ave. or Colesville Road. Takoma Park is a very nice little city directly adjacent to Silver Spring (you won’t even notice crossing into TP from SS), but the nice part is extremely expensive and the cheap (sorry, “affordable”) part you don’t want to live in. Trust me. Wheaton is a little further out but the public transportation is excellent and it’s a nice spot. There’s a shopping mall and a Best Buy. Very typical middle-class suburb.

That might be pushing it, unless you want to end up in Prince George’s County or Southeast DC, none of which you (generally) want to do. though there are some decent spots around PG County. More realistic in that price range for lower MoCo is going to be a 1BD 1BA with little to no amenities. Sorry. It’s pricey out here!

If you’re looking at Silver Spring, consider the Falkland Chase apartment complex. I believe it’s in your price range, it’s less than ten minutes walk to the metro station, and I’m friends with a couple that lives there and loves the place. It’s near downtown, but the complex itself is sort of wooded, with dirt trails and whatnot. I’ve also taken a tour of the place myself, back when I was considering moving to Silver Spring - I quite liked it. http://www.homeproperties.com/apartments/md/silver-spring/falkland-chase/tabid/90/cid/133/default.aspx

Ideally, you want to be on the red line for her commute. How far is her office from Farragut West on the Orange Line?

Is there any particular reason you want to be in the Maryland suburbs as opposed to DC or Northern VA?

$1,600.00 is kind of a rough price point for a 2br 2 bath place near the Metro.

I’ve actually found a number of 2/2 in that price range, including one that’s so close to the Silver Spring metro that you can see the station from the building. The question is how nice they are in non-website reality.

It’s 0.03 mi from Farragut North, 0.1 mi from Farragut West, so not that big a difference. (She’s a walker.) But red line is preferable.

Well, for one, we both refuse to live in the politically backwards hellhole which is Virginia (sorry, Virginians, but you keep electing neanderthals) or the no-representation/no-vote situation of DC. Secondly, we have friends and family all over Montgomery County and we want to be as close to them as practical. Third and most importantly, all of my girlfriend’s professional certifications are in Maryland and DC, and I’m shooting for in-state tuition to finish my degree at UMD. So MoCo it is.

hey, don’t lump us Northern Virginia residents in with the rest of the state, politically-speaking - we tend to vote VERY differently from the rest. Majority rules, however, which has led to some pretty distasteful things being passed like a lot of anti-gay legislation / amendments (which has cost us some neighbors, for example).

But ignoring that, you’ve got a lot of excellent reasons why MD is a better choice for you.

Which ones? There are a number of newer apartments right next to the metro and a few that have been here for a long time. I only work in Silver Spring, but I might be able to find out more about them.

There’s a whole new section of downtown Silver Spring that’s a 5-10 minute walk from the Metro.

I’m sad you’re joining the diaspora :(. No words of advice, just wishing you good luck!

Yeah, I know, but like you said, majority rules. And as an interracial same sex couple, I don’t think the majority really wants us there very much. I could be wrong but I get that impression. :cool:

The one that’s especially caught our eye is 1200 East West. Right now it’s at the top of the list. (Though the rent may end up spiking back up, we have the feeling that it’s within our budget right now only because of a special.)

Well, it may only be for a year, then we may move back here. Or we may move elsewhere. We’re only committing to the DC area for the term of a lease. And no matter where I go, this will always be home.

You’re almost boring in Pittsburgh :p. My parents (though not same sex) have always expressed their feelings that Pittsburghers never cared or stared at them like they have in other parts of the country.

:slight_smile: