Updated on 07/13/2021
Apartment hunting in Washington DC is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s important to be flexible, but also know what you want at the same time.
The District of Colombia is a huge metropolitan area within the United States. This means competition is rife, but successful apartment hunting is possible with the right amount of preparation.
Check out this helpful blog on finding apartments in DC to suit you and your needs…
Finding Apartments in DC: Top Tips to Streamline the Process
A great way to prepare for your apartment search in DC is to establish the type of amenities you’re looking for.
Sure, there may be a dealbreaker on your list of criteria, such as budget, location or proximity to public transport, etc. If this is the case, look for these things first, and the rest will fall into place.
1. Set Aside Enough Time
The reality is that apartment hunting in large, metropolitan areas takes time. Washington DC is no exception. If you asked any DC local, they’d probably tell you to set aside at least two months for your apartment search.
This is especially important if you’re looking for a company managed apartment block, rather than an independent landlord. With this in mind, start looking two-three months before you want to move and try to have a general idea of the neighborhood you want to live in beforehand.
2. Establish Your Apartment Criteria
Before you begin your search, the first thing you’ll need to establish is your budget for rent and transport. Next, think of the amenities you’d like in an apartment. Do you need a fully furnished, partly furnished or unfurnished place?
If you have a pet, this has to be one of the foremost criteria of your search. Not all apartment blocks accept pets. Establish your absolute must-have criteria – things that are dealbreakers, as mentioned above. Then, list everything that is secondary and know what you’re willing to give up if needs be.
3. Research Local Neighborhoods
Washington DC is divided into four different quadrants: the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. Each quadrant is host to its own set of beautiful neighborhoods, suited to families, young couples, or singles. Some neighborhoods worth mentioning include:
Located near the university, Georgetown is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the DC area. The cost of rent also reflects this, averaging $2,600 – $3,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
It’s a neighborhood renowned for its old-world charm, a good mix of restaurants and walkable streets.
Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights
If you’re looking for a good mix of both city life and suburbia, these neighborhoods are ideal. They are considered some of the best in DC for families, aside from the Palisades. Average rental costs are $2,400 – $2,600 for a two-bedroom apartment.
The area also offers access to a plethora of good local schools.
H Street Corridor
This is an area that has seen much gentrification over the past few years and is now considered extremely hip. Characterized by its range of bars, coffee shops, and foodie spots, H Street Corridor is ideal for singles or young couples. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment also ranges from $2,400 – $2,600 per month.
Columbia Heights/14th Street
This yet another area that has seen much change and upliftment in DC – considered a haven for trendy young professionals. It’s also packed with ethnic restaurants, large retailers, and plenty of metro access. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranges from $2,500 – $2,800.
This is the ideal area for older, larger families, retirees or young professionals looking for a quieter, more suburban feel to their neighborhood. Cleveland Park is full of large, historic homes and plenty of open space. The housing market in this area is diverse, with apartments of several sizes on offer.
In this area, you can find two-bedroom apartments for as little as $1,800-$1,900. But prices vary and can reach up to $2,700-$3,000 too.
If living near the water and close to the city for work is your ideal location, then Foggy Bottom is for you. This area is known for its government offices and other major businesses and organizations. It’s an ideal neighborhood for young graduates. The only downside is the cost of rent, which is rather high when compared to other neighborhoods.
The average monthly rent will cost nothing less than $2,700 in this area.
4. Be Realistic About Price Expectation
The reality is that rental costs in Washington DC are higher than in many parts of America. Depending on the neighborhood, the average size apartment is approximately 744 square feet. Studio apartments are the smallest, but generally the most affordable. The plus side is that two-bedroom apartments tend to offer generous square footage.
As it stands, some of the most affordable neighborhoods in DC include Benning, Benning Heights, and Benning Ridge. The average monthly rent is $1,186. Otherwise, Burrville, Capitol View and Central Northeast are also affordable. The monthly rent average is below overall rent costs in DC at $2,236.
However, one of the most popular neighborhoods in Washington is Adams Morgan. The average rent here costs $2,394 per month. It’s important to be realistic about your expectations. Would you rather pay less rent and live in a less popular area, or vice versa?
5. Understand the Application Process
Once you’ve found your ideal apartment, it’s time to begin the application process. It’s not as complicated as you think. But, it can take time, so it’s best not to hesitate once you’ve found the right space.
Generally, the process includes these steps:
- Filling out the rental application which must include photo ID, employment, and income information, and other background information
- You’ll need to pay the apartment application fee
- Your credit background will then be verified as well as any other personal background checks
- You’ll need to prove you can pay rent
- Decide whether you need a co-signer for the lease
- Prove that you are an agreeable tenant
- Submit contactable personal references
Once all of the above has been checked and verified by the landlord, you’ll then be provided with the lease. Make sure to go over it carefully so that you know exactly what you’re signing into.
6. Consider Apartment Rental Programs
Washington DC offers numerous low-income housing programs, supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Local housing agencies (HAs) in Washington manage housing opportunities for low-income residents with rent that is 100% affordable. These housing opportunities vary, ranging from single-family houses to high-rise apartments.
So if you’re struggling to find an apartment in your price range, learn more about the HUD rental assistance program here.
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