Top 5 Things to Know about Apartment Hunting In DC

Stop Dreaming- Get Real! So the thought of living in a major city sounds so appealing. I’m sure you see the great high rise apartments, walking distance to a metro, shops nearby and in a safe neighborhood. Before you get in too deep in your Sex and the City (DC edition) dream allow me to wake you up. In DC luxury comes at a high price or with lots of restrictions. There will be some compromise before you find the perfect place to crash. Unless you have an endless flow of cash in your Cayman account please read on.

Make a list

What are you really looking for? Can you make do with a studio? Or do you need a one bedroom? Do you have a roommate(s) and need a two or three bedroom? First decided on exactly the size of you unit you want and think of something smaller you could possibly work with (and the compromise begins). For example if it’s just you, you may want a one bedroom but you can make it work with a studio. Now think of the neighborhood you want to live in, a price range you’re comfortable with, amenities you must have and the minimum lease term you can agree to (if you are a student you may want something shorter than 12 months if you plan on being away during the summer). IMPORTANT NOTE- make sure to list these items from most important to least. Price range and neighborhood are usually at the top.

The Compromise

Now that you have your list allow me to put something in perspective for you. Let’s tackle price range. Typically you want your rent to be no more than 40% of your pre-taxed income, as you are visiting properties remember that your rent won’t be your only bill. Consider utilities (if it’s not all included) food, transportation, entertainment, other debt and miscellaneous expenses. Living in DC you are likely to go above the 40% if you are living alone.


NW is the most expensive of the four quadrants to live in, but it also has some of the coolest hangout spots (Penn station, Chinatown, Adams Morgan, U. st. Corridor, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, I can go on). Expect to pay a little higher in these areas than in NE OR SE. Choose a location that is convenient to you work/family/friends.

The Extras

Some Apartments can add on some many extra fees you will feel like your renting two different units. For apartments that allow pets expect to pay a pet deposit and/or a pet rent. Other fees can include (but not limited to) amenities fees, security deposits, holding fees, parking fees, convenience fees for paying online and the list goes on.

Sigh of Re(lease)lief

You’ve visited several apartments, reorganized your list and finally you found a place1 time to sign a lease! Wait one second, did you read it? Reading is very FUNDamental. Not fully reading your lease can cost you big time in the end. Although most lease may appear to be standard properties have the right to add additional provisions where they see fit. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample lease from the properties you’re applying to, just so you can get enough time to read it. Once you sign time to plan an awesome housewarming!

The advise provided in this post is based on my personal and professional opinions. Every property is different, please seek the advise of a Housing Professional or Realtor of individualized assistance.