Author Topic: Housing in DC Area  (Read 917 times)

magniv

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Housing in DC Area
« on: March 28, 2019, 09:00:40 PM »
How do you make housing work here? I'm renting with a roommate in Alexandra and I don't think I can do it anymore, but I pay less than $800 a month.

Should I go house or condo? I can't afford a house in the neighborhood where I live; I only make $90k (median home sale price is $800k according to trulia). I feel forced into a studio or 1 bed condo in Arlington or Alexandria.

I reverse commute 11 miles south. I chose Alexandria because it's between work and DC, and a lot nicer neighborhood as opposed to the shabby area where I work.

What am I missing and where should I look to find something affordable in a decent area?

Thanks
« Last Edit: March 28, 2019, 09:02:20 PM by magniv »

Apple_Tango

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2019, 09:10:44 PM »
Hi neighbor! Thereís a lot to unpack here.

1) ďonlyĒ 90k? I make $40k and feel ok. Tighten up that budget.

2) why does the median price of the homes matter if youíre renting? If you really want to live in a trendy Arlington or Alexandria neighborhood, I would say just rent a studio or one bed. And try to move your job there as well so you donít have to commute 11 miles (for anybody lurking not familiar with dC traffic- 11 miles can be up to an hour commute, or sometimes more)

3) FYI Iím looking to buy soon and I see tons of 1-2 bed condos/townhomes for around $200k-400k. An $800k house is very very fancy, even in this area. If youíre thinking Arlington then yes, $800,000 is right. But look at Springfield or Burke and you might have an aha moment.

4) you are missing the gift that you work 11 miles south!!!! Most people have to buy in Woodbridge but then tragically commute up to DC. You can buy the cheap house further south, and probably bike to work.  11 miles south of Alexandria you can buy/rent a NICE 3-4 bedroom  house or townhouse. Just make sure you like your job and itís stable, because you do not want to live there but then have to commute to DC. Lake Ridge is nice, and so is Occoquan. Or even Lorton is not bad! In Alexandria for about $350k you can buy a 2 bedroom townhouse/condo in the Kingstowne/Manchester Lakes/ Wegmans  areas. Those areas of Alexandria are nice because theyíre close to the Springfield metro. TONS of restaurants/shopping too.

5) to save your sanity, if you buy, please try to do what you can to never have to commute to work on 95.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2019, 09:42:04 PM by Apple_Tango »

magniv

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2019, 09:44:02 PM »
Hi there!

I should specify that 11 miles is more south east, so work is in the Springfield area.

My job is extremely stable, but I could see myself working in DC eventually (if I get a job at State or something).

I have coworkers who have really nice houses in Occoquan and Lake Ridge. The issue is they have to commute in and drive 12+ miles north super early at 4 or 5 am because, like you advised to avoid, they come up 95. They seems miserable.

That really seems to leave me with few options. Springfield is fairly pricey for a shabby area. Annandale same story. (I don't think I'd be happy in either area. There's nothing to really walk to, not great areas, higher crime in parts, etc.). Right over the Wilson bridge into Oxon Hill and south DC SUPER cheap, but I've heard crime is significantly bad as are the schools. Plus the Wilson bridge is a choke point that can take an hour to get over.

And you're right $250k-300k condos in Alexandria, but the condo fee has me doubting whether it's something I should really do. Is the ~$300 a month, $3.6k a year something I should avoid? I was even under contract for a condo in Arlington. It was one of the worst, retro units in the cheapest part of a really nice area. $1.9k a month... and it needed $15k worth of work (contractor estimates for parts and labor... I'm reluctant to do the work myself... yet).

So I'm still brooding over what to do. Thanks for the input!

DCJrMustachian

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2019, 12:59:43 AM »
I started with a roommate and then went the condo route.  My office was in a place with $1-2 million houses all around so a 1br condo near Metro and across the street from the office seemed reasonable.  It is a good lifestile but the problem is that investment-wise a condo is not a great decision.  The rules, condo fee, and close neighbors limit your freedom.

If you're tired of roommates, what I would suggest is an apartment in Springfield near where you currently work, to take advantage of the lower price.  You can always drive over to Alexandria, National Harbor, etc to hang out on the weekends.  The 5x a week commute should be short.  Just make sure you're near a park or grocery store that you like.

If you do eventually get a job in downtown, living in an apartment means you can easily move closer in.

Geographer

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2019, 06:34:23 AM »
If you're looking for a family-friendly affordable place with an easy commute to Springfield, go with Kingstowne like Apple_Tango said, or Lake Ridge if you're OK with Prince William County.

If you want to stay in Alexandria/Arlington, I'd consider the condos/TH around Parkfairfax, Fairlington, or even Columbia Pike area. The Columbia Pike area of S. Arlington has been getting a lot of development lately and is still affordable. Parkfairfax and Fairlington are affordable areas with easy access to Shirlington for urban-esque amenities, while giving you a reverse commute down 395.

EDIT: That being said, DW and I don't plan on being here long enough to buy. We'll wait until we're in a LCOL city for that!
« Last Edit: March 29, 2019, 06:36:43 AM by Geographer »

Apple_Tango

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2019, 07:12:09 AM »
Oh if youíre in the Springfield area I would go wth either the Alexandria areas I already mentiond, Springfield,  Burke, or Fairfax. I like the West Springfield area a lot. I donít find Springfield to be sketchy? I mean....a little. But not like Manassas or Baltimore.

FatFI2025

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2019, 07:20:35 AM »

Should I go house or condo? I can't afford a house in the neighborhood where I live; I only make $90k (median home sale price is $800k according to trulia). I feel forced into a studio or 1 bed condo in Arlington or Alexandria.

You can't afford a house in your desired neighborhoods, so you have to go condo. Condo fees and the association are a PITA but that's just how it is to get started on a modest salary in an expensive area. I bought a 1 br. condo in Eastern Market area in 2011, making about the same as you are now. It was a lot of work renting out and dealing with the board, but it netted a nice profit after sale in 2018.

Also nothing wrong with renting a studio for a time if you think the housing market will cool. I don't time equity/bond markets, but I think housing is different. And I'm renting my primary residence now.

But honestly if you want to be wealthy in the long term, you should reconsider your standards for neighborhoods and roommates. To buy my second rental property, I moved into a mouse-infested basement across from the projects for six months. Most of the people on this forum are happy to invest in an area like Springfield, knowing that it will allow them to live in a much nicer area in 20 years' time.

magniv

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2019, 06:23:38 PM »

Also nothing wrong with renting a studio for a time if you think the housing market will cool. I don't time equity/bond markets, but I think housing is different. And I'm renting my primary residence now.

But honestly if you want to be wealthy in the long term, you should reconsider your standards for neighborhoods and roommates. To buy my second rental property, I moved into a mouse-infested basement across from the projects for six months. Most of the people on this forum are happy to invest in an area like Springfield, knowing that it will allow them to live in a much nicer area in 20 years' time.

Very curious about all this...

I'd first like to figure out what the most financially optimal choice is here. Springfield as near as possible to work of course... 3 bed 2 bath SFH? Rent out the two rooms? Who would want to rent in that area? Community college students?

What do you mean by much nicer area? By FIREing to someplace nice, or that Springfield will somehow be nice by then?

And then how do you factor in quality of life? I was thinking if I buy in a nice area of Arlington or Alexandria (even if it is a condo) it will be easy to sell and I'll enjoy living there. Even if it isn't financially optimal it's a better quality of life and I'd still likely sell at a modest profit at the least. Where I live now I can walk everywhere... 10 minutes to the metro, the cheapest grocery store in the greater Alexandria area, and a ton of unique restaurants. My gym is a 6 minute walk. It's really nice and charming here with plenty of green space. How do I replicate that in Springfield with a bunch of chain restaurants in a seemingly pedestrian unfriendly area?

I really don't see how the DC area market will ever cool; the federal government is here. Granted I wasn't here in 2008, but I thought this area was largely unaffected? Plus you have Amazon, which I think will have a knock on effect that drags in more tech and further drives up prices. That's why I feel pressured to find a place now; I don't want to get priced out.

remizidae

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2019, 03:21:25 PM »
How do you make housing work here? I'm renting with a roommate in Alexandra and I don't think I can do it anymore, but I pay less than $800 a month.

I don't understand the problem here. Less than $800 a month is pretty ideal. If you don't like your current roommate, why not look for another one instead of jumping to buying? Cause honestly, it sounds like you like Alexandria a lot more than exurbs like Springfield.

FatFI2025

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2019, 04:40:46 PM »
Very curious about all this...

I'd first like to figure out what the most financially optimal choice is here. Springfield as near as possible to work of course... 3 bed 2 bath SFH? Rent out the two rooms? Who would want to rent in that area? Community college students?
Yea probably. Put some sweat equity into a fixer upper, housing hacking type of deal.

What do you mean by much nicer area? By FIREing to someplace nice, or that Springfield will somehow be nice by then?
I meant if you make "sacrifices" now by living in a lower-end neighborhood, you'll be able to live in a higher-end neighborhood later. Springfield now, Georgetown in 10 years.

And then how do you factor in quality of life? I was thinking if I buy in a nice area of Arlington or Alexandria (even if it is a condo) it will be easy to sell and I'll enjoy living there. Even if it isn't financially optimal it's a better quality of life and I'd still likely sell at a modest profit at the least. Where I live now I can walk everywhere... 10 minutes to the metro, the cheapest grocery store in the greater Alexandria area, and a ton of unique restaurants. My gym is a 6 minute walk. It's really nice and charming here with plenty of green space. How do I replicate that in Springfield with a bunch of chain restaurants in a seemingly pedestrian unfriendly area?
Here I feel like you might not be getting the core concept of MMM and FIRE. You give up luxuries in the short term to be FI in the long term AND you're super happy to do it because you value financial independence more than those luxuries. The reason you can't afford a single family home right now in Alexandria is because you have insufficient wealth, which is a situation more or less in your control. If you want that not to be the case in the future then you'll need to make some sacrifices.

I really don't see how the DC area market will ever cool; the federal government is here. Granted I wasn't here in 2008, but I thought this area was largely unaffected? Plus you have Amazon, which I think will have a knock on effect that drags in more tech and further drives up prices. That's why I feel pressured to find a place now; I don't want to get priced out.
The market does go up and down, but yes I agree DC is less volatile than other markets. I jumped in to buy RE starting in 2011 and now I'm less optimistic about short term RE values, but no one really knows the future of markets so buying or waiting are both reasonable decisions for you.

BlueHouse

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2019, 05:32:40 PM »
I would rent again, with a different roommate, but make sure the new place has some separate living space.  Or get a roommate that commutes weekly -- arrives monday night and leaves Friday morning.  It's not that hard to find. 

I do think that where you live is important.   Some people may not care about where they live, but honestly, i think it depends on the types of things you like to do.  When I lived out in the suburbs, I was dying.  There just weren't other people there like me with similar interests.  Now I live in a much more expensive place in a HCOL area, but I do a ton of things that I didn't do in the burbs and I'm enjoying my life. 

It is never worth being unhappy in order to do something in the future.  That is not what mustachianism is about.  We can always make the best out of bad situations, and we can choose priorities.   Living in a nicer place just means that you have to make that your priority. 

BTW, I'm selling (or renting) a 1 BR condo in Reston in case you want to pay too much to live in a soulless condo.  :)

coffeefueled

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2019, 09:06:06 AM »
Why do you want to buy? If you are considering a move to work in DC in a few years it sounds like you should be renting. Don't expect to turn a profit, especially on a condo or townhouse, if you're only in it for a few years.

You didn't tell us much about why you don't like your current housing situation. Do you want to live without roommates? Do you dislike Alexandria? What do you consider decent? Are you solely focused on Clarendon/DC style condos with bar and restaurant life? It'd be easier to give you suggestions if we knew more about your situation and what you're looking for...

The commute from North Arlington to Springfield will be horrible. You could do Shirlington or S. Arlington/Columbia Pike and reverse commute down 95 to Springfield depending on where your office is located. Kingstowne could be a good option, but I'm guessing you'll think it's too suburban. There are some cool individual neighborhoods in northern VA that are walkable and fun, but they take some time and exploration to find.

Apple_Tango

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2019, 09:35:43 AM »
Yes, continuing to rent sounds good in my opinion. And also $800 per month for an Arlington/Alexandria downtown location? Thatís a steal. I know people paying $1500 for a studio.

I think one solution to feeling too ďsuburbanĒ is to choose a suburban location close to your work *cough* Springfield *cough* with the metro within a mile or so. Those areas in and of themselves are the better feeling suburbs because they have some action going on, plus you can be in a cool downtown Alexandria or Arlington or DC stop within 20 min. Doesnít help with nightlife if drinking is your thing because the metro closes after....1? I think? Lol itís been so long since Iíve been into DC for a bar itís not even funny.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2019, 09:40:26 AM by Apple_Tango »

civil4life

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Re: Housing in DC Area
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2019, 11:51:56 AM »
Are you tired of having a roommate completely or this roommate specifically.  If it is this roommate, do you have the control to find someone else.  Or talk through whatever issues are making it a difficult situation?