Moving to DC area. Where should I live?

So I have a new job in Washington DC, and will be moving there late next month. Because the logistics of timing the sale of one home while buying another are a nightmare, we’ll be living in an apartment for the first six months to a year.

Checking apartment prices in the DC area, I seem to find that in DC itself, housing is prohibitively expensive. So that means either Maryland or Virgina. The rental prices in the cities around DC in those two states seems to be about the same, so it comes down to where the best place to live for someone commuting to DC daily would be.

Any help would be much appreciated.

I have only been here a little over a year, so I’m sure there will be more experienced DC dopers along shortly with sage advice. However, let me offer this: If you’re going to work in DC and live in the MarVa suburbs, it’s all about the commute. The highways around here seem, to me, poorly designed and unbelievably congested during rush hours, and I survived 4 years in Chicago, so I know a little something about roads/traffic. If you can, try to avoid driving into the District alltogether, and use the Metro. Of course, apartments within walking distance of the Metro stations fetch a higher price, but it may be worth it when you consider the hassle/cost ($3.25/day) of driving to and parking at the station.

A couple of books I found helpful: Newcomers Handbook for moving to Washington, D.C. (Mike Livingston) and Relocating to Washington D.C. and Surrounding Areas (McFadden). Good luck.

20 year veteran (now ex-pat) of DC here.

If you ARE working down in the business district/capitol hill area and you want to live in the suburbs then live near one of the metro lines and take the train into work. Commuting to downtown by car is a bitch and a half and DC does have a kickin’ underground.

Not to say it’ll be cheap wherever you go. The DC suburbs in Northern VA can cost quite a bit for an apartment.

I lived in Silver Spring, MD for two years, just one block from the Metro station. The rent was expensive ($1600/mo for 2bd/2bt the first year, $900 for a studio the second), but the area was pretty nice, and being able to walk to the Metro stop was wonderful.

Before that I lived in Greenbelt, MD, which wasn’t all that great a location, though the rent was much more affordable ($800/mo for 2bd/2bt). The Greenbelt Metro station has a huge parking lot that you might find useful.

(I second what Jonathan Chance said: avoid driving to work within DC proper at all costs.)

How much of a commute do you mind? A lot of DC professionals are buying houses in Baltimore. The Balto to DC commuter train takes about 40 minutes, plus whatever time it takes you to Metro from Union Station to your work. You can EASILY spend that mch time bumper to bumper on 495 at rush hour. Real estate is much, much cheeper in Baltimore, and IMHO the city is a lot nicer than DC, with plenty to do, excluding of course the government run things like The Smithsonian with which DC abounds.

I’ll leave it at that so Wendel Wagner doesn’t yell at me. :slight_smile:

It would be very helpful if you’d give some sort of description of what you expect by way of housing.

What’s your maximum budget? Do you want to live alone or with people? Do you prefer the city or the suburbs, all things being equal? Where will you be working? Do you want to live in a house, or will a high-rise condo be alright?

Any specifics would be helpful, otherwise I’ll just tell you I like my neighboorhood and you should live here, too.

Up to an hour is fine with me, if it’s possible to find reasonably priced housing within that distance. I once had to put up with a 1:50 commute each way, so an hour is a cake walk.

Our absolute maximum is $1200 a month, but we’d be much more comfortable with $1000. The online apartment listings I’ve found seem to have a good variety in the $900 to $1000 range, often with utilities included.

Right now it’s me and Mrs. Six. We may or may not be expecting a child in the next year. We’re looking for something with two bedrooms.

Either would be fine with me, but Mrs. Six would prefer the burbs. Whichever is more affordable is better for us. I’d be willing to trade a longer commute for a lower rent if it came to that.

I’ll be teaching elementary school in one of the DC schools, but I don’t know which one yet. I could be working in virtually any residential area of the city that has a city school.

We’ll likely be looking into buying a house somewhere in the area next year, preferably through the Teacher Next Door program. Right now we’re looking just for an apartment, preferably a two or three bedroom.

I do have another question. What’s this Metro everyone’s referring to? I assume it’s a commuter train, but how does it work? I’ve never lived anywhere that had a mass transit system for commuters other than buses.

Weirddave writes:

> I’ll leave it at that so Wendel Wagner doesn’t yell at me.

I’m still going to yell at you, Dave, since you misspelled my name.

I live in a two-bedroom apartment that costs $893 per month. That includes gas but not electricity. Some of the apartments in this complex are within a couple hundred yards of the Metro stop. It would still be a good idea to have a car even if you commute to work by Metro. I work about 12 to 15 miles north of here halfway to Baltimore, so for me this is a nice place to live because I can easily get to both work and into downtown D.C. Is living within walking distance of every place you want to get to that important? There’s a lot to do in the D.C. area (and, yes, Dave, there’s a lot to do in the Baltimore area too), but if you want to enjoy all the things you can do in the Baltimore-Washington area you’re going to have to drive to them anyway. I figure I might as well live in a neighborhood with fairly cheap rent, since I would have to do a fair amount of driving anyway.

Metro is DC’s rail system. In DC, it’s mostly underground; in the suburbs, about half of it is above ground. You absolutely want to live near a metro station and work near another.

Metro is also Metrobus, which I really dislike.

I’ve lived all around the DC area. I’m in Alexandria right now, which is okay (Moving to a new Duke St. apartment next week, walking distance from King St. Metro), but my favorite places to live have been Takoma Park and Adams-Morgan (which is in DC, kind of NE of Dupont Circle).

The Metro is the subway system.

I lived in Dupont Circle for 3-4 years and loved it. Easy access to the Metro, you can walk to Adams Morgan and the Mall…what more could you want? :slight_smile:

$1000 for a two-bedroom apartment? Hmm. I think you’re going to have a tough time finding a place in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria for that price range, but you can get lucky. The biggest problem is that rents tend to be higher around Metro stations, because that’s where everyone wants to live!

I would suggest looking around the Silver Spring-Wheaton area, or maybe College Park. They are in Maryland, just to the north and northeast of DC, respectively. There should be decent access to Metro around there. You might also check out the Falls Church to Vienna area, which is a ways west of Arlington and DC. Commutes to various parts of DC will take a while and cost roughly $2.50 to $3.50 each way, but the rental properties out there are probably what you’re looking for.

I’m afraid I live smack in the middle of DC, so I’m not aware of any realtors that might help you in those areas with rental properties. Having searched for apartments around here numerous times, I’ve found and the like to be absolutely worthless.

Call around to a few realtors in the yellow pages and you’re sure to find one that can help you out, and a few have websites, also, so you can keep up to date on new apartments.