What About D.C. Move with Kids? (i.e. schools)

I enjoyed reading the wonderful advice that was offered to bluekangaroo concerning her impending move to Washington, D.C. It was reassuring, but also disheartening, to find that the real estate prices I was seeing online are actually that high. Who can afford this?

My Hubby has his first interview this week with a wonderful company in D.C. - I so hope he gets this job! It would be his dream come true! Only problem is, we ain’t wealthy and ain’t gonna be. We’ve been to D.C. quite a few times and absolutely love the town and area. But I have no idea where the good and also affordable school districts would be. I see that Bethesda and Rockville have some of the best high schools in the state, but unless there’s some tiny house tucked away somewhere for sale, I can’t see us affording it.

Any suggestions?

Tell ya what, fessie, you buy the house and rent the basement to Mr. Kangaroo and I. :wink:

Seriously though, I have no advice as a D.C. “newbie”, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and your husband. Good Luck!

One of my dearest friends works for the Fairfax, Va public school system and a good friend works for Montgomery County MD school system and each claim to have a better school system than the other. They took the debate very seriously: digging up stats and arguing – “kidding” each other - but not really if you get me. This went on for months ccing all of us. I don’t think, truly, there was a HUGE difference between them, this is a couple years old now but as I recall (my biases: I was much closer personally to VA teacher, but I live in MoCo):

For most of the late 90’s Fairfax spent more per student than Montgomery and had (barely) more National Merit Scholars per capita. Montgomery County students had (slightly) higher average SAT scores. The amount of students receiving federal lunch aid wasn’t very telling and both agreed that factors outside of the school system affected that. Montgomery’s program for disabled students was better, but Fairfax;s ESL inclusion was better. The amount of students going on to post-secondary was identical in identical places – i.e. wealthier neighrhoods had higher rates – seemed a wash.

So there you go: completely biased stats that showed nothing – both agreed they wouldn’t hesitate to place their child in the other system, but both insisted theirs was the best.

Here is Montgomery County’s School Website, you can click on any school and see where it ranked, it’s demographic profile – a lot of stuff.

If you are looking to buy right waway: I think in MD "upcounty” in Damascus, Gaithersburg and Germantown – have nice areas and are getting Magnet schools in the next couple of years. I have heard good things about Howard County as affordable and for families just starting out.
At end of my knowledge now – If it were MY kids it depends on where hubby’s job is, then I’d do MontHoward/co in MD or Fairfax in Va – whichever was closer to his job.

What kind of price range are you looking in?

Just to give you an idea as to how crazy things have gotten around here, our smallish, 30 year old, 3 BR townhouse (Rockville/Gaithersburg area) has a market value of ~ $300,000. We paid $134,000 for it in 1999. :eek:

Decent single family homes, in good school districts, go for nothing less than $450,000 around here. Expect multiple contracts to laid down as soon as these puppies hit the market.

Good deals can be found in areas 75+ miles outside of D.C. however. :dubious:

Good luck!

Forgot to add something about your school question…

The quality of schools varies a lot, even within the same county. There are some really good schools in Montgomery county, and some really bad ones. Same goes for Howard, Fairfax, Arlington, etc. To find the good schools, you really have to do your homework. Unfortunately, for you, the housing prices for homes in good school districts is high, real high.

There is no easy answer.

O, and one last thing. What ever you do, stay away from Prince Georges county. Trust me, you do not want to be there.

Wow, thanks for the feedback, jimmmy and The_Seeker (hope you decide to join!). Sorry, BlueKangaroo, I think my Mom has dibs on the basement, should there be one ;). I hope you’re having fun getting to know D.C.! Last time we were there, we went to an Indian restaurant on O street, just south of the Capitol - best doggone Indian food ever!!! Man, that was good! And it wasn’t too expensive!

Re housing price range, even 300k would be a stretch for us, we’ve never owned a home & don’t have the big downpayment. Doesn’t that seem weird to say “even 300k”? My parents’ home in Cincinnati sold for $65k a few years ago and they thought that was pretty good - the first home they ever bought, in Indianapolis, in 1973, was $20k.

Our kids are still babies, so who knows where we’ll be by the time they’re in school. I just thought it would make sense to plan well. There were some $200k townhouses in Germantown. And I keep reading that the schools in Poolesville are top-notch, although I don’t know that I could live in a town of just 5,000 people.

So isn’t there a big turnover in D.C. , oh, every 4 years or so? I’d think the influx & outflow would help with prices, although apparently that’s not the case.

I’d second a recommendation for Howard County. It’s a bit of a haul to DC (but not as bad as the crush from Northern VA), but the schools are very good. My kids have gotten a great education there so far. Howard might be a bit cheaper than Montgomery Co for housing too.
Anne Arundel county is iffy school wise; there are some good ones but a lot of not so good ones.
Stay away from Prince Georges county. Far away.

Hi there! I live in Silver Spring, Maryland (montgomery county) and have a 16 month old. I’ve been here awhile so I can probably give you some good feedback. But my experience has only been in DC and Maryland. I’ve never lived in N. Virginia.

D.C., the actual city, has gone through a big resurgence in the past, oh, 5 years. People are actually moving back into the downtown area and the housing prices for say, a rowhouse in Capitol Hill, have quadrupled in the past 5 years. What were once crackhouses are now selling for half a million.

You could do the outer suburbs to find a less expensive townhouse but, imo, you should really talk to your husband about the quality of life issues that living that far out entails. It’s too much of a sacrifice, for me, to live that far away and deal with hellacious commute (DC traffic is some of the worst in the country). Personally, I would spend more $$ on a house (probably much smaller than what you could get for the same cost in a farther out suburb) closer in so as to not spend hours on the Beltway or I-270. You or your husband might leave your office at 5pm but you probably won’t be home until 7 or later.

Yes, most definitely, a starter house (think post WWII ranch, rambler or cape cod) with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths will start, at a minimum, $300K.

As they say in real estate, location, location, location…in Montgomery County, the Walt Whitman high school cluster is considered the best and hence, homes in that area go for a premium. Bethesda housing prices are v. much out of my league. Our house in Silver Spring would probable sell for $300K but if we moved it just a few miles over into Bethesda, it would probably sell for more like $500K.

So, you have a lot of options to consider. Should you spend more money for a “better” school system? Should you live father away from the city to get more house for your money but have a much longer commute? Should you buy in a less desirable school area where the houses might be more affordable and then you could send your kids to private school when the time comes?

Oh and as much as Montgomery County has one of the best school systems in the nation, DC’s is among the worst. The school system recently was under an emergency school board and they still cannot find someone to come on as superintendent. I would never send my kid to DC Public Schools. Never.

I live on Capitol Hill in DC, and I will affirm what trishka said about the DC school system. The houses in my neighborhood (small rowhouses) generally run $400-$500 thousand +, and the public schools are abysmal. I’m just glad we don’t have kids yet and we bought our house when we did.

The Washington Post has a School Guide tool on their website that allows you to look at school stats by name or district. They also have real estate listings , so maybe between the two you can match up an affordable area with a decent school. Best of luck.