How to Find an Apartment in Washington, D.C.

DC rowhouses
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Finding the right apartment to call home can be challenging in Washington, D.C. The capital region is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation and many areas of the city are changing rapidly. A wide variety of rental properties are available ranging from single room studios to 3-bedroom luxury apartments or penthouses. Following is a guide to the key things to consider and some resources to help you with your search.

Things to Know Before You Choose an Apartment in Washington, D.C.

  • DC passed a Rent Control Act in 1975 (amended in 1985). The law states that for most rental properties, the landlord may raise the rent once a year by the same percentage as the increase in the Consumer Price Index, calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Apartments near Metro stations are more expensive (on average about 15 percent higher) than properties located farther away. Among the most expensive areas are apartments in Downtown DC including Foggy Bottom, Farragut North, and Gallery Place. More affordable apartments are available in the suburbs of Maryland and Northern Virginia.
  • Getting around Washington, D.C. is easy from some areas and more difficult from others. Learn about public transportation in the area and determine your transportation needs. Consider the costs involved and add that to your monthly expenses.
  • A Residential Parking Permit is required to park without restriction in the permit area of a residential address. Parking without a permit is restricted to two hours in most areas. A permit costs $35 per year. See how to obtain a parking permit. Some apartments have garage parking available for an extra fee. Be sure to check out the parking situation when evaluating a place to live.
  • Washington, D.C. is going through a period of rapid redevelopment. Many older neighborhoods are being transformed into vibrant communities and will continue to change over the next decade.
  • New construction of micro-units is on the rise to provide more affordable housing and meet the needs of millennials.
  • DC Utilities: PEPCO, Washington Gas, and DC Water and Sewer Authority. Learn about the average utility costs before you sign a lease.

Steps to Follow When Planning Your Apartment Search

  1. Calculate your monthly expenses. Determine what you can afford (establish a maximum rental amount)
  2. Decide how many bedrooms you need. Will you live alone or find a roommate? (see roommate resources below)
  3. Make a list of desired apartment features. Prioritize them and decide which factors are most important to you. Consider the following:
    1. Affordability
    2. Space requirements
    3. Amenities (swimming pool, concierge service, fitness center, handicap accessibility, laundry facilities, etc.)
    4. Proximity to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues
    5. Transportation availability
    6. Parking (street parking or garage?)
    7. Style of architecture (older neighborhood or a newer development?)
    8. Crime and safety
    9. Noise level (traffic, nightlife?)
    10. Community involvement
    11. Schools
    12. Pet-friendliness
  4. Learn about Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. Walk around the areas of town that you are considering. Take note of the condition of the property, including the streets and sidewalks. Note the type of individuals living in the area and decide if you would feel comfortable living there. Try doing this at different times of the day to get a sense of the area. Talk to friends and acquaintances about the neighborhood. Check crime statistics online.
    Popular Neighborhoods for Apartment Rentals: Adams Morgan, Chinatown, Mount Vernon Square, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights, Foggy Bottom, Van Ness, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Glover Park, Logan Circle, Shaw, Tenleytown, U Street, Woodley Park, NoMa, Capitol Riverfront, Navy Yard.
  5. Search online for available apartments. (See Resources Below). Make an appointment and ask lots of questions. Take your time and enjoy the process!

Washington, D.C. Apartment Resources

  • Washington Post
  • Apartment Showcase
  • For Rent
  • DC Urban Turf
  • Zillow
  • Urban Igloo
  • 4 Walls in DC
  • Trulia DC Rentals

Roommate Match Services

  • Roommate Express
  • Easy┬áRoommate
  • Metro Roommates
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