Author Topic: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area  (Read 1839 times)

Mazzinator

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Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« on: February 01, 2017, 07:04:43 AM »
Hello all,

We're a military family getting ready to move to Ft. Belvior and are considering buying vs renting. We're looking at West Springfield, Burke and parts of sw Alexandria. We'll have 2 kids in elem school and would like to be in a decent school. Family of 5 total.

The problem is, is we could be there 2yrs, 4yrs, or forever (if we love it there)
Most calculators said it was breakeven vs renting in about 3.5yrs. My hubs will retire from active duty with 20yrs in 4yrs.

Any advice or any other info is welcome. I tried to use the search function in here and it won't work for me, so sorry if this has been discussed already. Also, i have done a ton of research about the areas but most of it isn't mmm related, so i just want your perspective. TIA!!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 10:01:12 AM by Mazzinator »

AnotherFI_IT_Guy

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2017, 08:52:27 PM »
Hi Mazzinator,

I'm nearby the areas you are looking in, but not directly familiar with them.

Buying would only make sense if you were sure you'd found your forever home.  I think 3.5 years is very optimistic for break even.  It is really expensive to sell a house around here.

With the uncertainty about how long you'll be here, I'd really suggest renting for at least one year.  That would give you time to look over the local neighborhoods and school systems (and the traffic), before committing.  The character of the neighborhoods AND schools changes drastically over very short distances here.

It looks like you have lots of practice moving to new areas, but if it were me, I'd want lots of time to get to know the area and options before choosing my forever house.

And, there are many single family homes available for rent around the area.  And many are owned by other service members who hope to come back to the area one day.

Good luck!

slb59

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2017, 05:37:03 AM »
Quote
That would give you time to look over the local neighborhoods and school systems (and the traffic), before committing.

This.

We lived in the opposite side of the DC suburbs (Rockville/Gaithersburg), and I rather regret not taking time to look around and figure out the right neighborhood. We confined our search to a small area of Maryland based on where the friends we stayed with when we first moved there lived, and I think we'd have done a lot better elsewhere. We just never really systematically looked, and didn't even see those neighborhoods until our friends moved there 2 years after we bought a place. There is a HUGE range in the DC area in terms of traffic, access to public transportation, walk-ability, and gross displays of wealth.

If you can swing it, taking the time to explore each of those neighborhoods will be really helpful. With our most recent move, we took two advance trips to drive through the areas we were looking at, and very quickly found what looked perfect online/in theory came with a lot more traffic than we wanted to deal with.

BlueHouse

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2017, 06:00:34 AM »
Will there be any housing on base available?  I would do that for a year or two if possible to see which areas you fall in love with. The northern end of ft Belvoir is at Mt Vernon and is gorgeous. Lots of trails, marinas, water views, etc. wonderful established  neighborhoods that are expensive to get into.

The good news is that because of the nature of this area, there is always high turnover. You can expect home availability at reasonable levels as long as the federal government keeps its home in DC.

aAlexandria neighborhoods like Del ray, belle haven, etc might be avoid place to look for forever homes if your kids are out of school.

Mazzinator

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2017, 08:14:10 AM »
Thanks for your replies.

I would love to move there a year and then decide, but we moved the summer of 2015, 2016, and now 2017. I'm not sure i would voluntarily move again 2018. Only way is if we find out we are def staying through summer 2021. Before 2015, we moved every other year. 2013-2015 was our big Hawaii move.

I'm kinda against living on post. I know i can def "make" money by living off post. If you live on post you don't get your bah (housing allowance). I know i can rent + utilities for under bah. (Thanks MMM!!)

I'm mostly worried to ruin our financial life!!! We just got out of a big ass hole of debt and bad spending and I really want to grow our wealth. I do love real estate, and am an architect (when i used to work). But I don't want to take any steps back.

Do you think it's worth a visit or two to the area now to help decide? Or do the numbers def say, one way or the other, to buy or rent?

I had planned to go this month to buy a house, then started worrying and got cold feet and now undecided!

Thanks again!!

John0872

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2017, 09:07:09 AM »
I grew up in Springfield, VA in a military family, so I'm very familiar with Ft. Belvoir and that entire region.  My dad was in the Marines and worked at Marine Corp headquarters, but Ft. Belvoir was the closest commissary and military hospital, so we went there often. 

First off, Ft. Belvoir is in Fairfax County, which is good, but this is the worst part of the county (southern Fairfax).  The whole Route 1 corridor is just an ugly area in comparison to the better parts of the county.  Hybla Valley is especially bad.  I wouldn't call it dangerous, but I certainly wouldn't want to live there. 

You mentioned West Springfield and that is the better part of Springfield.  Springfield has changed a LOT since I grew up there in the 80's.  The worst part of Springfield is the central part near the mall. I personally wouldn't live in central Springfield today. While Fairfax County has some of the best schools in the nation, they are not found in Central Springfield.  The place is completely overrun with ESOL students.  West Springfield has fared better and West Springfield High School is much better than some of the other Springfield area high schools (stay away from Robert E. Lee, Edison, Hayfield).

Burke is safe and has decent demographics.  I would say Lake Braddock is a better high school too.  The only issue is it's densely packed with townhouses and there is really nothing else there. 

The better parts of Fairfax County are found mostly in the western areas (Chantilly, Reston, Oak Hill, Vienna, Oakton, etc.).   

You should definitely visit before buying a house here.  Personally, I wouldn't want to stay longer than necessary.  I dream of moving almost daily, but my wife and I are heavily tied to the area. Without those ties, I would be out of here. 

P.S.- Stay away from even crappier areas south of Ft. Belvoir. Lorton, Woodbridge, Dale City (yuck!), basically all of Prince William County is off limits.  And don't even think for one second looking across the Woodrow Wilson into PG county. 

John

   
« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 09:11:39 AM by John0872 »

mozar

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2017, 10:01:21 AM »
Wow, that's the most rascist review of this area I have ever seen. "Overrun with ESOL learners," really? For the OP, living as far away from recent immigrants from central america or black people  (I live in pg county, in a town that is actually mostly white ), may be your number one priority. If that's the case you shouldn't buy, so you can leave as soon as possible.

If your mustachian values are more important, really look around before you buy. The thing about the this area is that it really varies by neighborhood. Figure out what your priorities are. Most elementary schools are fine, but middle school and high schools vary a lot, and some poor performing high schools have magnet schools in them.

MsPeacock

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2017, 10:09:57 AM »
I was in the military myself and then married spouse of AD for a total of 14 years. I hear you on not wanting to move again so soon. I move 7 times in less than 14 years. All but 2 of those moves were cross-country or OCONUS.

I live in the DC area. I'd suggest renting until you know you if you are going to stay in the area. House prices in this area of the country are super high and it is so expensive to buy and sell a house that it is not worth doing unless you plan to stay for the long term. Plan to rent for 3-4 years until you decide about staying. If your husband retires and takes a another job in the DC area you may want to move closer to his new job anyhow (because commutes are horrible here - 2 hours each way is not uncommon). If you were to live in Springfield and he took a civilian job at Ft. Meade it would easily be a 2 hour commute during rush hour, for instance.

Commutes are also hell here - so bad. I'd suggest talking extensively with other people at Ft. Belvoir to get the low-down on the area schools, commutes, rentals, etc and then give yourself the "house hunting trip" and do as much as you can to physically visit the area and find a good rental. 

GrumpyPenguin

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2017, 11:02:47 AM »
I say rent for at least a year in the NoVa area to learn neighborhoods, refine your rent vs buy calculations etc...  As someone else mentioned, the neighborhoods can differ substantially, and it's really hard to really learn all that stuff beforehand.

As someone in the DC/NoVA area, I've been happy with renting for a number of years, and likely will only buy when I move out of this area (if I ever do choose to buy).

BTH7117

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2017, 11:25:51 AM »
With the uncertainty about how long you'll be here, I'd really suggest renting for at least one year.  That would give you time to look over the local neighborhoods and school systems (and the traffic), before committing.  The character of the neighborhoods AND schools changes drastically over very short distances here.

I concur with this wholeheartedly.  When we moved to the DC area, we rented for a year in "North Bethesda" near the 270-495 split.  We hated it.  Hated our commutes, hated the strip mall feel of it, hated the lack of community.  We are so glad we tried it out before buying.  We ended up buying in DC after a year in North Bethesda, and we hope to stay in our DC house semi-permanently.

The good news is there are a wealth of different neighborhoods in the DC metro area.  There will be something perfect for you, but I cannot stress enough how thankful we are we did not buy right away.

John0872

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2017, 12:42:08 PM »
Wow, that's the most rascist review of this area I have ever seen. "Overrun with ESOL learners," really? For the OP, living as far away from recent immigrants from central america or black people  (I live in pg county, in a town that is actually mostly white ), may be your number one priority. If that's the case you shouldn't buy, so you can leave as soon as possible.

If your mustachian values are more important, really look around before you buy. The thing about the this area is that it really varies by neighborhood. Figure out what your priorities are. Most elementary schools are fine, but middle school and high schools vary a lot, and some poor performing high schools have magnet schools in them.

First post and I get called a racist (you misspelled it BTW). Oh well.

["Overrun with English as a Second Language students" sounds pretty bigoted, if not specifically racist]
 
Anyways, Mozar, the social justice warrior that he/she is, failed to mention that other areas that I said to avoid are predominantly white (Prince William County).  So you see, it really had nothing to do with race, it was about the school systems in those areas. Sure, I said "overrun by ESOL students".  Them fighting words for SJW’s, but it is the truth and I don’t do PC baby talk for precious little snowflakes.

[Mod note: Okay, I'm not banning you for your bigotry then, but your use of an apostrophe to indicate a plural.  That shit kills kittens.]

Case in point, one central Springfield elementary is ranked 1011th out of 1095 for the entire state!  90% ESOL by the way.  Just friendly advice from one parent to another, nothing sinister as mozar has suggested.

Mozar, you can come out of your safe space now.  The bad man has left.

[Yeah, really.]

John   
« Last Edit: February 03, 2017, 01:16:08 PM by FrugalToque »

AMandM

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2017, 02:30:55 PM »
And don't even think for one second looking across the Woodrow Wilson into PG county. 

I don't know NoVa, but if the rest of that post is as well-informed as this snippet, you can disregard the whole thing.  I've lived in PG county for 16 years, and my husband grew up here.  It is probably the least snobby part of the DC suburbs.

Having said that, I would not live in PG county if I worked in Va. because commuting across the river is horrible.

BTH7117

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2017, 03:50:53 PM »
And don't even think for one second looking across the Woodrow Wilson into PG county. 

I don't know NoVa, but if the rest of that post is as well-informed as this snippet, you can disregard the whole thing.  I've lived in PG county for 16 years, and my husband grew up here.  It is probably the least snobby part of the DC suburbs.

Having said that, I would not live in PG county if I worked in Va. because commuting across the river is horrible.

Yep. PG County is actually the wealthiest majority black county in America.

cluelesswithcash

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Re: Buying vs renting DC/NoVa area
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2017, 01:04:22 PM »
Used to live in Arlington and Alexandria from 2007-2011.  I say rent at first since you're not sure how long you will be there plus you should live in the area a bit before deciding to buy somewhere.  Traffic can be a nightmare in NOVA and you may realize the best place to live after living in the area and taking commuting times into consideration once you understand how commuting works up there.  NOVA is expensive too - buying or renting.  Great area though, really enjoyed living there minus the commuting.  I rented the whole time I lived there so have no experience buying a house there.  You are also going to have to pay for things like parking when you are renting (usually) and understand you're going to pay a personal property tax on any vehicles you have which can be expensive too (just trying to give you an idea of additional expenses to keep in mind living there).