Despite the limited housing options in Washington DC, people are constantly moving into the city to take advantage of the job and internship opportunities offered by the government. The good news is that the city has plenty of good, clean studio apartments. The bad news is that the keys to apartment finding are patience and legwork. As you search for apartments in the area, you will notice that the good rooms go fast, and itís tough to get a full feel for a place just on the basis of a classified ad.
There are so many individual variables involved in picking an apartment that providing a general advice wouldn't be accurate - Are you willing to trade off space for location, or a big kitchen for a decent bathroom? It's your particular taste and needs that will dictate where itís best for you to live. For that reason, it is advised that you start off with a short-term sublet. Subletting could be a good way to find out whether you like a neighborhood. Yes, you will have to move twice and you may be up tired by then, but better to take the time to find an apartment that makes you happy than risk the kind of frustration that only Washington DC housing can cause.
Finding a Cheap Apartment
As any other big city, apartment rents vary dramatically by neighborhood. Areas like Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan will always be expensive because of their proximity to popular restaurants, bars, and shopping. So you may have better luck findng a cheap apartment in up-and-coming neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights, H Street, Capitol Riverfront, or NoMa NW (North of Massachusetts Avenue). Due to the high cost of living in Washington DC, many people also prefer living in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. They make the decision based upon what their income can buy them versus the time it will take them to commute to work.
When searching for apartments, keep in mind that the closer you are to the Metro, the more expensive you will find your rent. So choosing an apartment a little further from the Metro could save you quite a bit in rent each month. Another thing that can jack up the price of any apartment in Washington DC is the view. Even a crappy apartment that overlooks the monuments or the Potomac River is going to cost you an arm and a leg.
The same goes for apartments on higher floors. The rents rise as the apartment does. Why? A better view for one. If you are in the market for a cheap apartment, look at the high-rises and then select an apartment on the second or third floor.
Also, do you need parking? Like any major city, parking is an expensive commodity in Washington DC. Generally, parking is not part the rent. So, make sure to ask the landlord how much it costs.
Once you know where you want to live, do some research on the average apartment rents in your targeted neighborhood. It will give you an idea of what is acceptable. Do this at the beginning of your search, so you can recognize what a cheap apartment in Washington DC actually costs. Get a copy of the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post. They have a special homebuyer section that lists available apartments by area. Craigslist.org is also a must-search database for cheap apartments and roommate situations.
Before signing your apartment lease, walk around the neighborhood that you are interested in moving to. Often one block can make a big difference in Washington DC. Remember that cheaper is not always better. You want to find a cheap apartment, but you don't want to be afraid to leave your home. Some cheap apartments are just that... cheap. Take a look at how the neighborhood is maintained. Is there trash on the streets? Is the walk to the Metro station safe? Is there a lot of crime activity? Try to take a look at a vacant apartment, not just a model, to make sure the quality you will be moving into is the same as the model.
Another thing to consider when looking for a cheap apartment is whether you want a long-term or a short-term contract. Generally, renting an apartment for a long-term is cheaper because the landlord won't have to find a new renter to rent the apartment in a few short months. So, look for a six or twelve month lease. Many landlords will offer their apartments at one price for a short-term lease and at another for a long-term. Ask the landlord if he or she can lower the rent if you sign on for a longer period of time. Good luck finding a cheap apartment in Washington DC!