Finding an apartment in Washington, DC is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. That’s just one of the drawbacks of living in a major city. The other drawback, it ain’t cheap.
There are nearly 715,000 people living in the city and according to Urban Turf, which bills itself as “the authority on real estate in the nation’s capital,” 57.6 percent of DC households are renters. I happen to be one of them.
I recently hit the market for a new apartment and was pretty clear about what I wanted: a one-bedroom with hardwood floors, ample natural light, washer and dryer and a modern kitchen and I didn’t want to spend more than $1,300. I also wanted to live in a great area. Not much to ask, right? Wrong. I quickly realised that unless I’m willing to spend top dollar or spend a lot of time looking, I won’t get everything on my list.
I’ll admit, I’m a little spoiled after living in Atlanta. At the time, I was renting a sprawling two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a new community, complete with pool, tennis court, gym and ample parking. The cost: $850. To be honest, I can’t even find a studio in DC with that price tag. DC is one of the top places to live and work in the country. There’s tons to do and see here, so it goes without saying that people want to live here.
With that being said, here are six tips to find the apartment of your dreams in Washington, DC.
1. Set Aside Real Time To Search For Your New Place
Apartment hunting is not for the faint of heart, I repeat, it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of time to find your new home. I was searching for two months online and offline when I found my new apartment.
I spent hundreds of dollars in gasoline zipping around DC and Virginia. It was gas consuming, time consuming and very exhausting. Do not, under any circumstances, think you can find a place in one week, unless of course, you’re already familiar with the apartment or just don’t care where you live.
Not all areas and apartments are created equal. Some look really good online but are real nightmares in real life.
It takes time, so prepare for that.
2. Be Flexible When Searching For An Apartment
This is very important. You may say you want this, this and that on your list, but if you lock yourself in to your desires, you may miss out on other great things. Case and point: before my search, I was adamant that I did not want a studio apartment. I’m the type of girl who likes to feel closed in (I know, I’m a weirdo), so the idea of me living in open spaces with no doors except the front door scares me. What if a burglar breaks in? Yikes!
However, when I stumbled across a spot with a junior bedroom, my whole attitude changed. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice many things, but I didn’t mind giving up a door and a bit of privacy because the place was that gorgeous.
DC is also pretty small compared to surrounding states like Maryland and Virginia. So, even if you think you want to live there, you may find that Virginia or Maryland offer the types of apartments you are looking for at the price point you’re looking for. At one point, I wanted to live in Alexandria, Virginia because I spend so much time there shopping or going to restaurants. But, in the end, DC won.
3. Check Out Online Reviews Before Deciding On An Apartment
I cannot and I mean, cannot stress this enough. I refused to rent an apartment without reading the reviews on Apartment Ratings’ website, first. This website was given to us by the great renter gods. It saved me big time from renting roach and rat infested apartments.
Real renters muse about their experiences at various properties and to be honest, it’s so refreshing to read everyone’s honesty. There were several places that I was considering renting and stopped dead in my tracks once I read about their infestation problem, complete with proof (pictures of dead rats in traps). Jesus, take the wheel.
The leasing agents are not always forthcoming. Their job is to get you locked into a lease and sadly many of them will ignore you after they have you committed. So, it’s best to check out the place before moving.
4. Search For An Apartment In The Winter
My experience has shown me that you are likely to get better deals in the winter than the summer. I believe that’s because most renters are not interested in moving during the colder months, they’re nesting and will wait for it to warm up outside before moving. That’s good news for me and you. Apartment complexes don’t want empty units. They don’t make money when a unit is not rented, so they are more likely to offer sweet deals to entice renters.
5. Don’t Fall In Love Too Easily
Treat apartment hunting like dating. I don’t care how good the guy looks, I want to know what he looks like in the light of day, what others have to say about him and if there is someone else better out there who is more suited to my personality. The first apartment you’ll see may blow you away, but once you see it a second time, you may notice some cracks you didn’t notice before. You might hear some noises that are disturbing or it may come with a lot of baggage (aka fees).
During my apartment search, I came across an absolute stunner. But, once the leasing agent started telling me about the many fees I would have to pay, the apartment started looking really ugly to me. I immediately envisioned getting my salary and seeing my money take wings and flying away to the leasing office. #NoBueno
Act cool while viewing the property and look at it objectively. Make sure there is enough space for your clothes and other items. Make sure the bathroom is big enough for you. And if you have full-size furniture, but the room struggles to accommodate even a queen bed, keep looking. It’s not worth it.
6. Ask To See The Actual Unit
Do not, I repeat, do not rent an apartment without seeing the actual unit you will be renting. Many apartment complexes love to show you the model unit. It’s all spiffy and bright with gorgeous furniture you probably can’t even afford. So, you fall in love and sign the lease. Then, when you move in, you find that it looks nothing like that model you saw.
A leasing specialist tried to get me to commit to an apartment sight unseen. I must look like I just fell off the turnip truck. She then told me that the property was hot and that other people would have no issue renting sight unseen. Good for them. They’ll have to live with their decision. Not me. I passed on that apartment. The funny thing is, several weeks after I had already signed the lease on my new apartment, that same woman reached out to tell me the unit was still available and if I wanted to rent it. I guess that hot property wasn’t so hot after all.
I don’t want you to regret your decision, kiddies. So, please do not commit unless you see what you’re getting.
I recently vlogged about my apartment search on my YouTube channel, This Bahamian Gyal. Be sure to check it out down below. Oh, and while you’re at it, join my growing online family and subscribe to my channel! You won’t regret it.
Happy apartment hunting!
This Bahamian Gyal