Moving to a new city is always daunting – believe me, I’ve done it three times! I’ve also moved four times in as many years living in Washington, D.C. and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to find the perfect apartment. In order to find the perfect place in D.C., there are a few things you ought to know…
Where to Live
One of my favorite parts of DC is that each and every neighborhood has its own unique personality and flare. Here is a mini-guide to a few of my favorite neighborhoods in the nation’s capital:
This is probably what everyone imagines when they think of Washington, DC: living just steps from the Capitol building, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Capitol Hill exudes charm – brick sidewalks, colorful rowhouses and young families fill the streets. There aren’t many large apartment buildings, instead, there are plenty of historic row homes nestled together for blocks.
Another great thing about Capitol Hill is that it is very safe. While DC can definitely be dangerous depending on where you go, Capitol Hill is always relatively safe considering there are incredible Capitol Hill police officers patrolling around the Capitol and surrounding areas at all hours.
Where I currently call home, Dupont Circle is one of the best neighborhoods in DC. Dupont is home to some of DC’s priciest areas, like Kalorama where the Obamas and Kushners reside. Most of the embassies are in Dupont also, making the neighborhood very international – you always hear folks speaking different languages running around town.
Dupont is also home to some of my favorite restaurants in DC and has the best farmer’s market every weekend. I love Dupont Circle for its charm and balance between apartment complexes and rowhouses.
Navy Yard a new, up and coming neighborhood in DC that has only recently been developed. Navy Yard used to be a shipyard for, you guessed it, the U.S. Navy. Now it’s home to the Marine Barracks and the Washington Nationals’ stadium.
Navy Yard may lack a lot of the historical charm that is present everywhere else in DC, but, in my experience, it’s a great place to find a home. There are a lot of bigger apartment complexes in Navy Yard that are pretty much all under ten years old. Just a quick 15-minute walk to the Capitol, I found Navy Yard a perfect place to live while I worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate.
14th & U St.
Probably my favorite area of DC, and the opposite of the relatively new Navy Yard neighborhood, the 14th and U St. corridor is one of the most historic neighborhoods in DC. You can learn more about the corridor’s rich history in this Washingtonian article.
14th and U is also home to some of my favorite bars and restaurants in the city and was the first neighborhood I lived in when I arrived in DC. This neighborhood has plenty of lively street art and things to do.
Where to Search for Places
When I first moved to D.C. I was (understandably) skeptical of using Craigslist to find an apartment. But, plenty of people do it – especially for their first place. Though I never found a place to live via Craigslist, I found a great person to fill my room in a row house through the website. Craigslist is a really good option to find short-term leases too. If you just want to find a place to get familiar with DC and not get stuck in a yearlong lease, Craigslist is the perfect place to search.
Everything happens pretty quickly in DC and rooms/apartments are always turning over. There are plenty of row houses and apartments that aren’t owned by giant leasing groups – Craigslist is the perfect place to find an apartment with charm at a good price.
I’ve always looked for apartments on Apartments.com or Craigslist. But, I found my current apartment through Trulia. In my opinion, this website had the best catalog of choices and easy filters. I found places I hadn’t seen on other websites for great price points. Also, since it’s a well-regarded website, I always felt safe viewing apartments I found through Trulia.
As you read above, Capitol Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in DC. But it can be one of the trickier to find a place in because it is mostly homes/rowhouses and fewer apartment complexes. Yarmouth Management is a great place to find those charming Capitol Hill rooms/apartments. Whether it be a whole unit or an English basement, Yarmouth is a great place to start.
The Old Fashioned Way
There are quite literally apartments or townhouses on nearly every block in the district. So it is TOTALLY worth it to just pop into locations you like and ask if anything is available or going to become available soon. That’s how I found an ideal apartment for me and two roommates.
You don’t live in DC or can’t come visit? No worries! Take a virtual tour on Google Maps – seriously! Pop around neighborhoods you like on the map and cold call apartments. Often management companies own a couple of apartment complexes and will be more than happy to keep you updated on potential openings that can coincide with your timing on moving.
Find Your Price Point
Washington, D.C. is a notoriously a pricey town to call home. While it’s no San Francisco, I think it’s relatively on par with other big metropolitan hubs like New York City. That being said, a good portion of your income will probably go towards housing if you move to D.C., especially if you’re fresh out of college or working in politics or on Capitol Hill. Speaking from personal experience, my portion of rent has spanned anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400 per month. If you’re looking to live alone though, you’d probably be in more of the $2k range.
Final Thoughts + Tips
One thing I always recommend to folks trying to move to DC is to try to visit for a weekend or a week when you are searching for a place. When I moved to DC I came up for a week to house (and job) hunt and to meet the people I would eventually be living with. While not everyone can swing the extra travel, it is very helpful to see a perspective place in person and to look around and get a feel for the neighborhoods and potential roommates.
As I mentioned above, things tend to move pretty quickly in this town, so planning a trip a month or two weeks before your big move to DC would be great timing.
Wishing you the best on your apartment search! Anything else I can help with or any questions I could answer? Or do you have any helpful hints for finding a new apartment in a new city? Let me know in the comments below.