Author Topic: How to survive in Washington, DC  (Read 12893 times)

J2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
How to survive in Washington, DC
« on: September 24, 2015, 07:31:23 PM »
Hi everyone,

This is my first post, so please be nice.  I'm writing to ask advice for how to achieve a mustachian savings rate (50% of income before taxes) in the very expensive Washington, DC metro area.

If there's anyone out there living in DC (or other metro areas where decent houses cost 500k+ or rent is 2K+ like NYC, San Francisco, etc.), do you have any techniques on how to make it in such an expensive place? 

Right now I live in a 1BR apartment that is walking distance to the train and pay about $1,600 a month, which is a steal in this town! It's a subpar apartment by the standards of most cities (very energy inefficient, peeling paint, 70s appliances), but in DC it's either this or pay out the nose for "luxury" living that is the norm for middle class people in places like Atlanta, Las Vegas, and other middle-of-the-road metro areas. The suburbs aren't any cheaper, and even if they are the costs of car ownership more than make up for it.

A bit of background about me.  I work for a research organization making $60,000 a year.  I am in my late 20s and have a PhD in a non-economics social science field.  I'm married (spouse earns about $50,000) with no kids I don't even want to think about how it would be here with children in the picture). I like the idea of owning a condo, but it just does not seem worth it here. 

I would move and hopefully I will one day, but right now it's very hard for me to find work outside of DC.  DC is where the vast majority of think tanks, government agencies, and research organizations are.  The few that aren't usually can be found in NYC or the bay area, which are even worse. 

Does anyone in a similar situation have any advice?  Any strategies on how to boost income or navigate the ridiculous housing market?
   
Lastly, one might think I should try to be a professor but that is just not attainable for me.  I will never be able to publish enough or bring in enough money to make it at a big university that pays well, and the smaller colleges tend to pay people in the social sciences (excluding economics) and humanities less than secondary public school teachers, so it's just not on the table.   I'm not picking on economists, I'm just jealous that they make such bank:)  In hindsight, I should have gone into that field instead but now it's too late. 

Thanks!

MsPeacock

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1505
  • Location: High COL
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2015, 08:27:55 PM »
I agree that housing prices are insane here (and most big cities). However, you can look in the outer burbs that are still on the metro lines to see if you can do better. There are houses for less than 500k - and since it is just you and your spouse you don't need a 4 bedroom house. Many of my neighbors are carless - or nearly carless (no car for commuting - just for weekend getting around and moving children as needed).

TBH - I own a 500kish house in the burbs, walkable to bus line, short ride to metro, big down payment (almost 50%) and my monthly mortgage (with tax, interest) is less than your rent. My personal feeling about the DC area is that rents are out of alignment w/ housing costs (rent higher than expected given cost of buying a house - at least in my burb)

So my suggestion would be to get out of the expensive rental or out of expensive rental areas and see if you can find a reasonable house to purchase (this is assuming you have a down payment and intend to stay in the area).

JPinDC

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 169
  • Age: 32
  • Location: DMV
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2015, 08:43:37 PM »
Hey J2, there are a lot of us in DC. There's a Google group you can join https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/dc-mustachians and we meet up occasionally (usually organized through the group).

I'm with you on not buying a house/condo in DC, but I'm not ready to commit to living here long enough for it to make sense personally -- there are mustachians who own. Focus on the bringing down the major things -- housing, food, transportation -- and do the best you can with those. Housing is very expensive here, but I don't feel like the rest is much worse than other places, and there's lots of free entertainment!

If you can consult in your field, that might be an easy option for extra income, but people have posted about all kinds of interesting hustles here: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/who-has-a-side-gigjob-that-brings-in-extra-cash-share-with-us!/

For feedback on specific places in your budget to cut, you could post a case study. Welcome!

J2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2015, 06:40:03 AM »
Thank you both for the advice.  I have looked at houses near the metro in the outer burbs and they are still very expensive if you want to be within walking distance of the metro.  I don't have a car, so adopting a situation where I am a car rides distance to metro and most amenities (which is largely the case in the outer burbs) would raise my costs.

I don't have the money for a down payment and also unsure if I want to live here long term. Even if I did, the amount required for a healthy down payment (20%+) would take many years at my income level. I am saving, but setting aside 100-250k in a low risk account for a house does not seem wise compared to investing that amount in index funds.  The latter option would allow me to take greater advantage of my 401k.

I guess the frustrating thing is the whole lowering housing costs seems beyond my control, and it is the bugged item in my budget. I know Mr. M always talks about reducing spending, but it seems like finding side hustles will be the best strategy for me and many people living in expensive areas.

Jouer

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 371
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2015, 07:00:06 AM »
This may not help you save money right now but it may help your peace of mind....

You are in your late 20s and have a PhD so you've probably only been working for a couple of years, right? I would expect in the next 5 years your salary will increase by quite a bit. In the meantime, keep flexing your mustacheian muscles and you'll come out the other side ok.

MetalCap

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 113
  • Location: Washington DC
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2015, 07:43:24 AM »
Thank you both for the advice.  I have looked at houses near the metro in the outer burbs and they are still very expensive if you want to be within walking distance of the metro.  I don't have a car, so adopting a situation where I am a car rides distance to metro and most amenities (which is largely the case in the outer burbs) would raise my costs.

I don't have the money for a down payment and also unsure if I want to live here long term. Even if I did, the amount required for a healthy down payment (20%+) would take many years at my income level. I am saving, but setting aside 100-250k in a low risk account for a house does not seem wise compared to investing that amount in index funds.  The latter option would allow me to take greater advantage of my 401k.


Two thoughts on this (I'm in Silver Spring)

1. Be ok with taking the bus, the DC area actually has a pretty good bus system with Aps for scheduling and locations.  It's not just for poor people, there isn't tons of drama like everyone always thinks.  I'm a 15 minute bus ride to the metro and it's great to read, listen to music, and relax on the way to and from work.  It's also cheaper than the metro if you can find one to take you directly to work.

2. Look into FHA loans, you should only have to put down 2-3% on it.  I went from your situation (1BR 1600/month) to a 3BR SFH at 2k per month.  BUT once I paid 2 years into it and used the tax savings to pay down faster, I refinanced at a lower rate & got rid of mortgage insurance which brought me back down to 1600/month! 

You can definitely find a place in a decent neighborhood thats close to a metro.

There are definitely ways!

Can't Wait

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2015, 08:44:38 AM »
I live in the DC area.

Houses can be had for a lot less than 500k out in the suburbs of MD and northern VA, but that will leave you with a commute.  Charles county, Calvert County, and St. Mary's County all have affordable homes but as mentioned, you will have to deal with a commute if you work in DC. A hellish commute actually for a normal job with 9-5 hours. The commute is much better if you can work early hours to avoid the rush.

Things get complicated if you actually work in DC though and live in the suburbs. If you drive your car into DC, you will have to find parking and you will pay dearly for it. I know people who pay $200-300 a month just to park their car in DC. The other option of course is to drive your car to a metro station and take the metro into DC. You still pay $4 something a day to park at the station plus your metro fares and unless your company offers you some sort of subsidy, that can quickly add up to $200-300 a month as well.

I've chosen to live in the suburbs and just commute. Since I work for the Federal Govt, I get a monthly subsidy that helps to pay for the metro fees plus I can choose to start my work day at 5am to avoid the rush-hour. I can also telework and work a compressed work schedule so that cuts down on the actual trips into the office (I only drove into the office once this week - mainly due to the Pope's visit). The wife and I also drive 10-15 year old fuel efficient cars (cheap insurance) and I maintain them myself. I could take it a step further and purchase a used Chevy Volt and just charge it at work for free; with my commute, I'd never have to purchase gas or pay to charge the car. I also happen to work on a military base so I'm able to park on the base for free. All of these things has made the choice to move to the suburbs easy for me but if I didn't have any of these options, I would probably just live as close as possible to my job, pay the higher rent and not have a car and a commute.

As you can see, you can have more house for less but you will pay for it with a commute and metro and/or parking fees. If your job doesn't let you work from home regularly or provide some sort of subsidy for metro or parking fees, then I would just stay put. Live close to your job and just bike in or something. The commute from the burbs around here is the worst. It can suck your soul right out of you and literally make you want to shoot yourself right in the face.

Scandium

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2198
  • Location: EastCoast
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2015, 09:03:16 AM »
I agree that one of the few options is buying. If you do intent to stay a while (10+ years) that is. You'd pay the same or more in mortgage, but part of that is building equity so effectively saving. Compared to your $1600 apartment we have a giant SFH in a good school district (columbia) and we pay $2000/month. But over $500 of that is "savings", and will only increase in the future. Find something on a metro line though, or you'll have a hellish drive. If your employer subsidize public transit even better, otherwise be sure to include the cost. Metro is not cheap.   

jhess002

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 23
  • Location: Washington, DC
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2015, 09:09:49 AM »
Since it is just you and your wife, and you value walkable neighborhoods (to metro, etc), perhaps look into buying a small condo, or even a small house, in a good neighborhood.

I was fortunate to find a small 2 bedroom fixer-upper house close to metro that other buyers were not willing to make it work.  It is combination of the black jelly bean scenario that others here have discussed, you can get a good deal when you're the only one interested and living a minimalist lifestyle.     

aspiringnomad

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 786
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2015, 09:47:44 AM »
If you don't plan on having kids anytime soon and work in the city, rent or buy in one of the transitioning neighborhoods in DC proper. I especially like Brookland/Edgewood where I just rented out a recently updated 1BR to a nice couple for $1,300. It's a ten minute walk to two Metro lines and right off the Metropolitan Branch Trail for a quick protected bike ride downtown and to Union Station. Similar rental deals can still be found in this neighborhood or in Petworth, Trinidad, and even Southwest DC (gotta get in before the Wharf is finished). Don't do the killer commute from the exurbs and avoid buying a car at all costs. Even if you're near a Metro station way out, you're still subject to the whims of that increasingly unreliable transit system. Stay close!

It takes a little research and experience, but living a Mustachian lifestyle in DC is totally possible. Good luck!

aspiringnomad

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 786
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2015, 09:55:41 AM »
A few other things:

Whatever you do, if you buy, don't buy more house than you need! You can happily raise a kid or two in a two-bedroom condo provided that the neighbors and schools are good (there are some good schools in the District, but mostly west of Rock Creek). Europeans do it all the time. As an added benefit, living small means not accumulating unnecessary junk and being able to afford to live in more convenient locations.

And as others have stated, use the bus system if you can't bike! Somehow the buses are more reliable than Metro despite having to deal with unpredictable traffic.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6449
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2015, 09:57:47 AM »
Mmm...when I lived in DC I rented a room in a house (basement room) for awhile, then lived in apartments - shared and then my own studio.

My husband had cheaper rent in his apartment because he lived relatively far from the train.  If you are somewhere that you need a bus to the train, it will be cheaper.

Otherwise, I don't know what to tell you.  We moved from the frying pan (DC) into the fire (Santa Barbara).  After many years here in rentals or in grad student housing, we took the plunge and paid way too much (over $700k) for a small starter home.  That is now almost worth what we paid for it 11 years ago.

Leanthree

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 64
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2015, 10:17:03 AM »
Consider living in a 2BR with another couple.

Stop taking the metro and bike. There are such good bikeways in DC. Like along 4 mile run. You can be to Metro Center in ~30 minutes with a protected route nearly the entire way.

Try to get a raise. Maybe work for a more evil organization/agency/think tank. They generally pay better.

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 10:19:46 AM »
I also live in DC and I completely understand your frustration about housing prices in the area. Living here became a lot easier once I realized renting made a lot more financial sense for us and I stopped looking for places to buy. We also have a sub-2k 1 BR apartment, which I really love, so that helps. There's so much social pressure to own and when you have to reconsider your housing situation every time your lease is up, it's really tempting to not be drawn into the "buying is better" hype. Renting is a completely legitimate and responsible way to house yourself and there are plenty of other superior avenues for investing. If you want to own a house for non-financial reasons, I guess it comes down to how important that is to you and if you'd want to live somewhere that would be more likely.

I may be the odd one out in that I really like living here and think it makes financial sense for my family right now and the foreseeable future. DC has a lot of free entertainment and amenities that make it really easy to keep discretionary spending low. We live in a neighborhood that is not downtown but is walkable to everywhere in the city I would want to go (my idea of an acceptable walking distance is pretty high, but not marathon-walker high). The abundant farmers markets and pop-up stands from community garden programs mean we can shop frequently for just what we need and minimize food waste and expenses. There are also plenty of free and inexpensive events that serve food alongside cultural experiences, if you're into seeing music performances at Embassies and things like that. Although housing costs are not cheap, I love that I can have a really nice life without spending much money beyond our housing cost (not because we are apartment-poor and can't, but because we choose to). The DC Public Library system is awesome and has tons of materials to borrow and events going on all the time. The freecycle and craigslist communities are really active and a great way to procure the stuff you want or need without spending money.

DC isn't perfect, but no place is. Whenever I meet someone who left for the 'burbs because the city was too expensive, who then proceeds to spend money on vehicles, movie tickets, and take-out, I can't help but wonder if they were spending money on things that were free in DC and didn't know it, or if they just prefer that life and the financial reason is an after-the-fact rationalization. I don't say that to be judgmental, and I would be sincerely curious to know if I am wrong and there is a better place to live. If you're not paying for childcare or private schooling, though, I don't think DC is such an expensive place.

frugalecon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 513
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2015, 10:35:14 AM »
I know someone who lives in a co-housing development in Takoma Park. That would obviously involve a somewhat different lifestyle choice, but I think that it is more affordable than run-of-the-mill condos. I have been to community functions there, and it is really a nice group of people.

Can't Wait

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2015, 10:36:00 AM »
DC isn't perfect, but no place is. Whenever I meet someone who left for the 'burbs because the city was too expensive, who then proceeds to spend money on vehicles, movie tickets, and take-out, I can't help but wonder if they were spending money on things that were free in DC and didn't know it, or if they just prefer that life and the financial reason is an after-the-fact rationalization. I don't say that to be judgmental, and I would be sincerely curious to know if I am wrong and there is a better place to live. If you're not paying for childcare or private schooling, though, I don't think DC is such an expensive place.


I chose to live in the suburbs because I felt that it is quieter and more peaceful than living in the city. I also have a 2000+ sqft house for $1100 a month. I've averaged $137 a month this year in fuel, insurance, and maintenance for my car. I've also gone on two 1000+ mile road trips this year so my fuel costs are a little elevated. Since I don't have a car payment nor do I have to pay for metro or parking in DC, it's actually cheaper for me to live in the suburbs as opposed to living in the city with no car. However, I realize my situation is a little different than most living in the area as I mentioned in my post earlier.

HappyHoya

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2015, 10:58:41 AM »
DC isn't perfect, but no place is. Whenever I meet someone who left for the 'burbs because the city was too expensive, who then proceeds to spend money on vehicles, movie tickets, and take-out, I can't help but wonder if they were spending money on things that were free in DC and didn't know it, or if they just prefer that life and the financial reason is an after-the-fact rationalization. I don't say that to be judgmental, and I would be sincerely curious to know if I am wrong and there is a better place to live. If you're not paying for childcare or private schooling, though, I don't think DC is such an expensive place.


I chose to live in the suburbs because I felt that it is quieter and more peaceful than living in the city. I also have a 2000+ sqft house for $1100 a month. I've averaged $137 a month this year in fuel, insurance, and maintenance for my car. I've also gone on two 1000+ mile road trips this year so my fuel costs are a little elevated. Since I don't have a car payment nor do I have to pay for metro or parking in DC, it's actually cheaper for me to live in the suburbs as opposed to living in the city with no car. However, I realize my situation is a little different than most living in the area as I mentioned in my post earlier.

It sounds like you have a really good thing going with such a flexible work schedule. Do you mind I ask what government entity you work for (feel free to be as general as you'd like or not answer at all if that's too personal)? I'm with leg. branch and even for people who are eligible for telework or compressed schedules (not everyone), it's one or the other, not both. It's also at your supervisor's discretion so application varies widely. While we have some flexibility with start times, 5am is way earlier than our band starts.

Can't Wait

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2015, 11:36:47 AM »
DC isn't perfect, but no place is. Whenever I meet someone who left for the 'burbs because the city was too expensive, who then proceeds to spend money on vehicles, movie tickets, and take-out, I can't help but wonder if they were spending money on things that were free in DC and didn't know it, or if they just prefer that life and the financial reason is an after-the-fact rationalization. I don't say that to be judgmental, and I would be sincerely curious to know if I am wrong and there is a better place to live. If you're not paying for childcare or private schooling, though, I don't think DC is such an expensive place.


I chose to live in the suburbs because I felt that it is quieter and more peaceful than living in the city. I also have a 2000+ sqft house for $1100 a month. I've averaged $137 a month this year in fuel, insurance, and maintenance for my car. I've also gone on two 1000+ mile road trips this year so my fuel costs are a little elevated. Since I don't have a car payment nor do I have to pay for metro or parking in DC, it's actually cheaper for me to live in the suburbs as opposed to living in the city with no car. However, I realize my situation is a little different than most living in the area as I mentioned in my post earlier.

It sounds like you have a really good thing going with such a flexible work schedule. Do you mind I ask what government entity you work for (feel free to be as general as you'd like or not answer at all if that's too personal)? I'm with leg. branch and even for people who are eligible for telework or compressed schedules (not everyone), it's one or the other, not both. It's also at your supervisor's discretion so application varies widely. While we have some flexibility with start times, 5am is way earlier than our band starts.

Yeah, I'm pretty lucky when it comes to my schedule. I work for an agency in the Dept. of Defense and I do IT work. I've worked for several different agencies inside the DoD and outside and the rules regarding telework and flex schedules vary widely and, as you said, its usually up to your supervisor. I've had some supervisors that were totally against regular telework and some that didn't mind at all. I've always been able to work a compressed schedule, however. Some agencies, like GSA, actually prefer that their workers telework more than they come to the office. They've gone away from cubicles and offices and have an open space format. So on a day that you come to the office, you sit down wherever there is an open seat. You can telework 3 days or more per week there. I worked for one agency that let me telework 2 days a week for giving up my office and moving into a cubicle haha.

If you work for an asshole that won't allow it regularly, I'd suggest hopping on USAjobs and moving on. It's usually the old school baby boomers that are against it, but not always. I think you'll start to see more and more telework as new employees are added and office space becomes more expensive for the govt to lease. A lot of agencies will be forced to allow it since they'll have more employees than cubicles/offices.

Joggernot

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 513
  • Age: 73
  • Location: Gulf Coast, TX
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2015, 12:50:37 PM »
We lived 2 miles from the Vienna station on Oakton Terrace Road in a 2 bedroom condo.  Bus stop just outside the development took me to the station; one change and a short walk and I was at work downtown DC.  Took a full hour to get there and I read lots of books.  The condo was affordable then; today's price is around $310k by Zillow.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2871
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2015, 12:59:08 PM »
Well, I don't have to survive DC because I'm from here and this is my home.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 01:24:46 PM by mozar »

J2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2015, 05:39:05 PM »
Wow, seeing all this great advice has really given me some perspective on my situation, so thank you all!

I take the metro to work, which is downtown.  I don't receive a subsidy, but I can deduct $130/mo pretax for public transit.  I could take the bus but it would double my commute.  I haven't seriously considered biking the 8 miles to work because the dress code at my job is formal business attire and I don't want to increase the wear and tear on my suits. 

Seeing as how the more affordable houses out in the burbs involve hellish commutes and significantly higher transportation costs, it seems like staying close to the city, at least within the beltway, is probably best.  Since that raises the cost of buying significantly, the question remains whether it's worth it to try and buy or just rent.  The recent MMM article on this question seems to favor renting, but there are some things about home ownership that sound very appealing.  The tax deduction, the stable payment schedule of a fixed-rate mortgage, the possibility of living close to rent free one day  (minus property taxes and condo fees), and the fact that you're building equity.  I guess the frustrating thing about DC is it feels like this option isn't available without foregoing other savings priorities, namely early retirement!! 

For those that did buy a house here and didn't use FHA (which sounds like a promising idea), how long did it take you to save enough for a down payment?  At my income level, it seems like the opportunity cost is too much.

Places within PG county like Greenbelt appear to be the exception to high housing costs, but that seems to come at the cost of higher crime.  I know I'm generalizing, but most of the people I know that live or have lived in PG county for the cheaper housing have been mugged and dealt with vandalism. 

Maybe Old Greenbelt is different.  Is crime high in the area, or does Old Greenbelt buck that trend?

Btw, I think I've heard about this co-op in Old Greenbelt. How did you buy it?  I've never looked closely at co-ops because I've always heard the wait lists are long and you have to know and impress the right people.  Is that the case at your co-op? 

In the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I don't like DC that much and some of my complaints are not monetary in nature.  There is much about the culture that grates on me.  The constant networking and judging of people by "what they do" and whether they can be of use instead of who they are as a whole. 

People seem so focused on appearing important and busy that they usually divide up their free time into 2 hour increments, moving from social event to social event (to make things more annoying, these events are usually some stupid brunch or cocktail thing). It feels like in order to have a social life here you have to make appointments with people far in advance and then maybe they'll pencil you into their schedule.  I am not saying these qualities are absent outside of DC, but it seems to stand out more than other places I've lived. I should also add that I don't find people who have grown up here to have these tendencies as much, but they are harder to find, and the transient nature of this area has meant that most of the people I meet are not from here and probably won't be staying. 

That being said, maybe there are some great people I can meet through the google group!

In reality, I think I am doing fine, but I feel like I'm not.  Perhaps it's because happiness is not so much about our absolute well-being, but what our standing is relative to others.  There are so many well-educated, high-earning, high-powered people here that I sometimes forget  what I have and how fortunate I am.  And maybe I'm just frustrated because I see my peers purchasing houses and I feel pressure to do so too.  Either way, these comments have really helped me to flesh out things.



 

frugalecon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 513
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2015, 06:04:24 PM »
Wow, seeing all this great advice has really given me some perspective on my situation, so thank you all!

I take the metro to work, which is downtown.  I don't receive a subsidy, but I can deduct $130/mo pretax for public transit.  I could take the bus but it would double my commute.  I haven't seriously considered biking the 8 miles to work because the dress code at my job is formal business attire and I don't want to increase the wear and tear on my suits. 

Seeing as how the more affordable houses out in the burbs involve hellish commutes and significantly higher transportation costs, it seems like staying close to the city, at least within the beltway, is probably best.  Since that raises the cost of buying significantly, the question remains whether it's worth it to try and buy or just rent.  The recent MMM article on this question seems to favor renting, but there are some things about home ownership that sound very appealing.  The tax deduction, the stable payment schedule of a fixed-rate mortgage, the possibility of living close to rent free one day  (minus property taxes and condo fees), and the fact that you're building equity.  I guess the frustrating thing about DC is it feels like this option isn't available without foregoing other savings priorities, namely early retirement!! 

For those that did buy a house here and didn't use FHA (which sounds like a promising idea), how long did it take you to save enough for a down payment?  At my income level, it seems like the opportunity cost is too much.

Places within PG county like Greenbelt appear to be the exception to high housing costs, but that seems to come at the cost of higher crime.  I know I'm generalizing, but most of the people I know that live or have lived in PG county for the cheaper housing have been mugged and dealt with vandalism. 

Maybe Old Greenbelt is different.  Is crime high in the area, or does Old Greenbelt buck that trend?

Btw, I think I've heard about this co-op in Old Greenbelt. How did you buy it?  I've never looked closely at co-ops because I've always heard the wait lists are long and you have to know and impress the right people.  Is that the case at your co-op? 

In the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I don't like DC that much and some of my complaints are not monetary in nature.  There is much about the culture that grates on me.  The constant networking and judging of people by "what they do" and whether they can be of use instead of who they are as a whole. 

People seem so focused on appearing important and busy that they usually divide up their free time into 2 hour increments, moving from social event to social event (to make things more annoying, these events are usually some stupid brunch or cocktail thing). It feels like in order to have a social life here you have to make appointments with people far in advance and then maybe they'll pencil you into their schedule.  I am not saying these qualities are absent outside of DC, but it seems to stand out more than other places I've lived. I should also add that I don't find people who have grown up here to have these tendencies as much, but they are harder to find, and the transient nature of this area has meant that most of the people I meet are not from here and probably won't be staying. 

That being said, maybe there are some great people I can meet through the google group!

In reality, I think I am doing fine, but I feel like I'm not.  Perhaps it's because happiness is not so much about our absolute well-being, but what our standing is relative to others.  There are so many well-educated, high-earning, high-powered people here that I sometimes forget  what I have and how fortunate I am.  And maybe I'm just frustrated because I see my peers purchasing houses and I feel pressure to do so too.  Either way, these comments have really helped me to flesh out things.



 

One way to manage the DC experience is to find a group of people that are more simpatico than the usual high stress/ high power crowd.i attend a UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregation, and it has a different vibe. There may be other similar groups.

Megma

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 702
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2015, 06:31:50 PM »
I moved from DC a two years ago, in part bc it was so expensive. Housing is the key expense...

Don't discount homeownership, I have the following suggestions:

1) look at the HPAP program. It's a housing program for "low income" borrowers (low for DC...I was making 36k when I got it). They will loan you part of a down payment at zero interest and no payments for five years. I used this to buy my condo and it was a goo deal. Granted you have to prudent so you don't end up underwater.

2) if you can manage to afford a place with a second bedroom, you can collect bank in rent instead of paying it.

3) This is riskier, but given the DC market less so than other places, even in a short time your small condo could appreciate a lot. When in a few years you move on, you could earn a tidy sum. Especially if you buy in a lower cost, transitional neighborhood which continues to improve.


But my ultimate advice is to move within five years. I felt the same about my job situation, thought I needed to be in DC, then I found a job in NC that was closer to my field than any I had in DC and paid the same in a lower COL area. Yes DC has more jobs in my area and if I want to leave my current employer there are few options but the market here is also way less competitive as opposed to DC where everyone has at least a masters! Good luck!

aspiringnomad

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 786
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2015, 10:14:15 AM »
Wow, seeing all this great advice has really given me some perspective on my situation, so thank you all!

I take the metro to work, which is downtown.  I don't receive a subsidy, but I can deduct $130/mo pretax for public transit.  I could take the bus but it would double my commute.  I haven't seriously considered biking the 8 miles to work because the dress code at my job is formal business attire and I don't want to increase the wear and tear on my suits. 

Seeing as how the more affordable houses out in the burbs involve hellish commutes and significantly higher transportation costs, it seems like staying close to the city, at least within the beltway, is probably best.  Since that raises the cost of buying significantly, the question remains whether it's worth it to try and buy or just rent.  The recent MMM article on this question seems to favor renting, but there are some things about home ownership that sound very appealing.  The tax deduction, the stable payment schedule of a fixed-rate mortgage, the possibility of living close to rent free one day  (minus property taxes and condo fees), and the fact that you're building equity.  I guess the frustrating thing about DC is it feels like this option isn't available without foregoing other savings priorities, namely early retirement!! 

For those that did buy a house here and didn't use FHA (which sounds like a promising idea), how long did it take you to save enough for a down payment?  At my income level, it seems like the opportunity cost is too much.

Places within PG county like Greenbelt appear to be the exception to high housing costs, but that seems to come at the cost of higher crime.  I know I'm generalizing, but most of the people I know that live or have lived in PG county for the cheaper housing have been mugged and dealt with vandalism. 

Maybe Old Greenbelt is different.  Is crime high in the area, or does Old Greenbelt buck that trend?

Btw, I think I've heard about this co-op in Old Greenbelt. How did you buy it?  I've never looked closely at co-ops because I've always heard the wait lists are long and you have to know and impress the right people.  Is that the case at your co-op? 

In the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I don't like DC that much and some of my complaints are not monetary in nature.  There is much about the culture that grates on me.  The constant networking and judging of people by "what they do" and whether they can be of use instead of who they are as a whole. 

People seem so focused on appearing important and busy that they usually divide up their free time into 2 hour increments, moving from social event to social event (to make things more annoying, these events are usually some stupid brunch or cocktail thing). It feels like in order to have a social life here you have to make appointments with people far in advance and then maybe they'll pencil you into their schedule.  I am not saying these qualities are absent outside of DC, but it seems to stand out more than other places I've lived. I should also add that I don't find people who have grown up here to have these tendencies as much, but they are harder to find, and the transient nature of this area has meant that most of the people I meet are not from here and probably won't be staying. 

That being said, maybe there are some great people I can meet through the google group!

In reality, I think I am doing fine, but I feel like I'm not.  Perhaps it's because happiness is not so much about our absolute well-being, but what our standing is relative to others.  There are so many well-educated, high-earning, high-powered people here that I sometimes forget  what I have and how fortunate I am.  And maybe I'm just frustrated because I see my peers purchasing houses and I feel pressure to do so too.  Either way, these comments have really helped me to flesh out things.



 

One way to manage the DC experience is to find a group of people that are more simpatico than the usual high stress/ high power crowd.i attend a UU (Unitarian Universalist) congregation, and it has a different vibe. There may be other similar groups.

+1. I find that the new transplants to DC tend to be the ones who talk about their jobs, presumably because they've moved to DC for their career and wrongly assume it conveys some sense of importance onto them. Longer-term folks could care less in my experience. DC is not gonna be as mellow as the Midwest, but I've found people here to be much more down-to-earth than in LA, Miami, or NYC (low bar, I know). In my circle of friends the only one who talks about their job is the teacher because his students are so crazy and the stories are so good.

Schnurr

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #24 on: September 26, 2015, 12:30:23 PM »
I certainly would not encourage you to buy in DC if you are not happy here and the only option you are considering is a $500k house somewhere in the 'burbs. In that case, renting is probably a better idea.

However, if you do decide to buy, there are many options for houses in the 200k-300k range within walking distance of Metro. We bought a house near the Benning Road and Minnesota Ave Metro stations a couple years ago and love it. Newly renovated houses (flipped... usual precautions apply) have started to creep into the low $300s in our neighborhood, but deals can still be found. Fixer uppers for half to two-thirds that price. Having said that, there is not a whole lot on the market at any given time, so you have to be quick.

Since you mentioned crime and safety, I think it's important to take what people say about which neighborhoods are "safe" and "unsafe" with a huge grain of salt. There's always been an invisible line in DC, east of which "everyone" claims there is nothing but dangerous "ghettos." That line used to be Rock Creek Park, then 16th St NW, then North Capitol, and now it's pretty much the Anacostia River. However, there have always been great, stable neighborhoods east of this line, and that continues to be the case today. The best thing to do is just visit and walk around.

We immediately liked our neighborhood. Tree-lined street, well-kept yards, people greeting us on the street. And that has been borne out since living here: we've never felt "unsafe" or had any issues with crime, our neighbors keep an eye on our house when we are out of town, and downtown is a 20-minute metro ride away (less to Capitol Hill and the Mall). And even better, nobody has ever asked me what I do for a living!

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2871
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #25 on: September 26, 2015, 01:48:57 PM »
Quote
Places within PG county like Greenbelt appear to be the exception to high housing costs, but that seems to come at the cost of higher crime.  I know I'm generalizing, but most of the people I know that live or have lived in PG county for the cheaper housing have been mugged and dealt with vandalism. 

Maybe Old Greenbelt is different.  Is crime high in the area, or does Old Greenbelt buck that trend?

Btw, I think I've heard about this co-op in Old Greenbelt. How did you buy it?  I've never looked closely at co-ops because I've always heard the wait lists are long and you have to know and impress the right people.  Is that the case at your co-op? 

No, I've never been mugged. Though friends of mine have been mugged in DC in Petworth, and my car was vandalized in Shaw. PG County is a pretty big place so you'd have to tell where exactly you are talking about. I also don't know what you mean by safe. Often when I hear people saying that an area of DC or PG County isn't safe, what the really mean is that it's majority black, which, as a person of color, doesn't bother me.
I bought the co-op by looking at the houses, then applying to the board, the same way you apply to a mortgage. So it was like doing everything twice. There was no wait list and they were blown away by my income of 65k. Most of the people moving here are pensioners or tradespeople. I know a few people who have bought co-ops (here and nyc), and none of us have had to suck up to anyone.

Sounds like the issue is your friends. Who are these people who are telling you that the world is crawling with crime, and there are waiting lists and sucking up to get what you want? I mean, I consider myself a realist, bordering on pessimism, but damn. Though I agree about transients in DC being annoying. It's one of the reasons I moved to the suburbs. It's nice to have friends who aren't moving away in 2 years.

DCKatie09

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1617
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2015, 02:49:30 PM »
DH and I have been in the area for 10 years now, bought a few years ago on salaries not dissimilar to yours (though housing prices have gone up probably 100K since then). Our mortgage payment is just over $2100 for a 2br/1ba duplex, walkable to two metros and pretty much everything we'd want. We haven't quite hit a 50% savings rate, but we're damn close (running around 45% right now). So I'd say find better people to hang out with, live in a neighborhood that makes you happy, and focus on the rest of your spending - $1600/mo is less than 20% your gross income, you should be able to make it work out. And if you just don't like DC, I also second checking out college towns, Research Triangle, etc. Might be able to find a better fit. But we like it here! :)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 09:51:17 AM by DCKatie09 »

J2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #27 on: September 26, 2015, 03:36:43 PM »
Quote

No, I've never been mugged. Though friends of mine have been mugged in DC in Petworth, and my car was vandalized in Shaw. PG County is a pretty big place so you'd have to tell where exactly you are talking about. I also don't know what you mean by safe. Often when I hear people saying that an area of DC or PG County isn't safe, what the really mean is that it's majority black, which, as a person of color, doesn't bother me.
I bought the co-op by looking at the houses, then applying to the board, the same way you apply to a mortgage. So it was like doing everything twice. There was no wait list and they were blown away by my income of 65k. Most of the people moving here are pensioners or tradespeople. I know a few people who have bought co-ops (here and nyc), and none of us have had to suck up to anyone.

Sounds like the issue is your friends. Who are these people who are telling you that the world is crawling with crime, and there are waiting lists and sucking up to get what you want? I mean, I consider myself a realist, bordering on pessimism, but damn. Though I agree about transients in DC being annoying. It's one of the reasons I moved to the suburbs. It's nice to have friends who aren't moving away in 2 years.

Lol yeah my friends do tend to be overly pessimistic.  It's refreshing to hear your perspective and a positive DMV-home-buying experience.  Several of my friends that have attempted to buy homes have given up due to the competition and prices, so the experiences about which I hear most often tend to be discouraging.  :)

Melody

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1089
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Australia
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #28 on: September 26, 2015, 05:33:33 PM »
Not from DC, but from another HCOLA - Perth, In Australia.

Your household income is $110k and your rent is $1600 a month, at first glance, that doesn't seem like it should prevent a 50+% savings rate (unless your personal taxes are very high or you have to pay health insurance out of pocket). Maybe you should post a budget case study and see if people can help you from that angle.

Another thing I am about to try:Here there are lots of "cheap", near-city but slightly awkwardly located apartments and townhouses. (I say "cheap" because $300k for a two bedroom apartment/townhouse isn't "cheap" to anyone not from a HCOLA). Anything near the train line or express bus route costs a lot more than stuff that makes for an awkward commute (i.e. 45 minute bus commute), but is still under 10kms (6 miles) from the city. I am buying a scooter (vespa) to nail that commute and take advantage of free parking in the CBD (10 min commute). If this is an option for you it could open up many of the "bus" suburbs as desirable. [NB: also get the "real" crime stats from the police rather than making assumptions and filter your crime stats on "crime against persons" as IMHO this is the only one that really matters. I currently live in "car theft capital"  but crimes against persons are low, much lower than in "safe" areas. Yes, I've had my car done over three times in the year I have lived here (two x boot popped open, no damage, one time window smashed $240 to replace) but I feel perfectly safe walking around at night.  So while I live in a "high-crime" area once I looked closer at the stats I worried a lot less...]

jfer_rose

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 438
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Urban Dweller
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2015, 06:05:14 AM »
Please join our DC Google group. Speaking of the DC Google Group-- seems like it is time for another meet-up. Maybe I will plan one...

Anyway, I've been living in DC since 2002. One of the ways that I have made it work is by developing a passion for small-space living. I have found a lot of tips and tricks that make living in a small-space manageable. I was fortunate that I was able to buy my 466- square foot home in 2004, but honestly, my building is still affordable. The unit above mine is currently on the market for less than 140K. It is really a very reasonable price considering that I live in Adams Morgan!!!

My building is also a co-op. I've never heard of any DC co-ops having a waiting list. Rather what I have found is that since a lot of people don't understand them, they can be quite affordable!

Anyway, hang in there! I know it can seem expensive here but there are deals to be found.

Can't Wait

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #30 on: September 27, 2015, 06:16:48 AM »
Since you mentioned crime and safety, I think it's important to take what people say about which neighborhoods are "safe" and "unsafe" with a huge grain of salt. There's always been an invisible line in DC, east of which "everyone" claims there is nothing but dangerous "ghettos." That line used to be Rock Creek Park, then 16th St NW, then North Capitol, and now it's pretty much the Anacostia River. However, there have always been great, stable neighborhoods east of this line, and that continues to be the case today. The best thing to do is just visit and walk around.

We immediately liked our neighborhood. Tree-lined street, well-kept yards, people greeting us on the street. And that has been borne out since living here: we've never felt "unsafe" or had any issues with crime, our neighbors keep an eye on our house when we are out of town, and downtown is a 20-minute metro ride away (less to Capitol Hill and the Mall). And even better, nobody has ever asked me what I do for a living!

You couldn't pay me enough money to live in any area east of the Anacostia along the Green Line. I'm glad to hear you have found a stable neighborhood though although I guess you're closer to the Blue Line.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2015, 06:20:01 AM by GovtWorker »

Schnurr

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #31 on: September 27, 2015, 01:34:04 PM »
You couldn't pay me enough money to live in any area east of the Anacostia along the Green Line. I'm glad to hear you have found a stable neighborhood though although I guess you're closer to the Blue Line.

Well, I have heard some promising things about the Anacostia neighborhood, but you're right, I am not as familiar with the Green Line neighborhoods. My point was not that all neighborhoods east of the river are wonderful, just that the area is worth checking out if you want a house in the District that's within walking distance to Metro, but don't have 500k-1000k to spend. The fact that there are only a handful of restaurants over here is also great for encouraging a Mustachian lifestyle :)

urbanista

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 217
  • Location: Australia
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #32 on: September 27, 2015, 11:30:09 PM »
If there's anyone out there living in DC (or other metro areas where decent houses cost 500k+ or rent is 2K+ like NYC, San Francisco, etc.), do you have any techniques on how to make it in such an expensive place?

We live in Melbourne, where the situation with housing or rent is very similar.

Our technique is to commute 1hr10min to work (one way, both me and DH). We drive to the train station by a car, then there is 40 minutes train ride to/from work.

The alternatives are:

- 3-bed apartment, walk to work, $4300 rent
- same apartment, 30 minutes commute, $2500 rent
- 2000f house similar to ours, 30 minutes commute, $1.8M price tag
- 2000f house with walking distance to work just doesn't exist no matter how much we pay
« Last Edit: September 27, 2015, 11:32:39 PM by urbanista »

zhelud

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 226
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #33 on: September 28, 2015, 08:23:45 AM »
If you have got to be within walking distance of Metro, then you are not going to find many houses or condos that are affordable in your price range.  Walkability to metro adds something like $100k to a home's value around here.

But you should be able to find plenty of places that are on a bus line.  Or, as one poster already said, you can ride your bike, which is what I do.  I, too, have to wear "formal business attire" at work. I just wait until I am at work to put it on. 

katesilvergirl

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 45
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #34 on: September 28, 2015, 09:47:14 AM »
We live in Hill East and share a 3-bed townhouse with another couple. It's a pretty ideal set-up (half a block from the metro) and we get a lot more house (and a yard!) then we could ever afford on our own (I also have a humanities PhD and work in research).

I'd like to give another plug for biking to work. My husband and I both live in the district and work in the suburbs, which means our commute is awesomely clear. My commute is 9 miles, and DH's is 11 miles each way, and takes about an hour. We shower/clean-up/change in our building's gym and get our commute and work-out done all at once! The bike lanes/trails in DC and Virginia are really quite terrific (fairly protected, clear, etc.) and a bike commute is definitely doable, at least a few days a week. Saves us $16 a day on Metro fees, and builds awesome thigh muscles.

BlueHouse

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2914
  • Location: WDC
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #35 on: September 28, 2015, 10:09:43 AM »
I live on the green line down by the ballpark (west of the river).  I bought while the neighborhood was gentrifying and even though my house was expensive and is more than I need, it's already worth a lot more on paper than what I bought it for. 
If you have time to wait for the perfect opportunity, I'd start researching some of the "affordable housing" program for "workforce" housing.  I'm putting those terms in quotes to identify them as search terms.   All new developments in DC have some concession to affordable housing.  In my hood, it meant that anyone who earned between 85K and $120K was eligible for one of the workforce housing units.  These are exactly the same as mine except one foot narrower.  And the price was $250-$350k less, AND the city is your second-mortgage holder for a 30-year, zero-interest loan for $100k on the property.  It's a sweet deal and for me it means that my neighbors are teachers and cops and people who otherwise couldn't afford one of these homes. 
I'm not sure how you find out about the program, other than going to each new building and asking during their pre-sales phases.  My neighborhood had so many people wanting these homes that there was a lottery for them.  (about 1/3 of all homes are workforce and about 1/8 are low-income and voucher-type housing.  the rest are market-rate). 
I would definitely look into SW Waterfront and scour those buildings for workforce housing.  Anybody buying one of those stands to make a boatload within a few years.

rweba

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 239
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #36 on: September 28, 2015, 10:35:30 AM »
I agree with Happy Hoya that home buying is WAAAY overemphasized in general. People seem to view it as some kind of rite of passage which should be done as soon possible no matter what.  But as MMM's recent blog post pointed out, if housing is especially expensive, sometimes renting just makes more sense for both financial and life style reasons.

Personally I'll keep renting walking distance to my work in DC and focus on maxing my 401K, putting as much as I can of the rest in index funds, being frugal, and enjoying all the city has to offer. If a really good place comes on the market at a good price and in a location I like and I can swing the down payment, I will gladly pursue it. But otherwise I plan to keep on enjoying the mortgage free life for as long as it makes sense. No car, walk to work, walk to grocery store, restaurants, ton of free events - so far it looks like the best option for me.

But I REALLY REALLY HATE the idea of commuting and REALLY LIKE living in DC (despite some of the annoying career obsessed people) so Your Mileage May Vary. If you really value owning your own place or actually prefer living outside DC your calculations might be different.

The other thing I would say is that you just started working and you'll probably be making 100K within 5-6 years. In your line of work you should eventually reach at least 150K (in current dollars) by the time you're considered a "senior" something or other in your field. Combined with your wife's income and assuming you don't explode your spending, that should give you some good options as time goes on.

MissGina

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
  • Location: MD
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #37 on: September 28, 2015, 10:37:17 AM »
To me, if you want a quality life in DC, you NEED to make a certain minimum amount. Otherwise you are going to have to have roommates, or live in not so trendy neighborhoods. I currently work in DC and commute from Baltimore because in Baltimore I have no rent/ house expense. I'm able to take my DC salary and save towards a SFH.

I also work 2 part time online jobs during tax season for extra income so that almost all of daytime job savings goes towards house fund. I am not above working part time jobs even when I make close to 6 figs at day job.

In this area, you HAVE to get creative and define the things that are important to you both short and long term. It's too costly to not think about things carefully.

That's how I plan to survive this area.

Can't Wait

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #38 on: September 28, 2015, 11:55:21 AM »
I live on the green line down by the ballpark (west of the river).  I bought while the neighborhood was gentrifying and even though my house was expensive and is more than I need, it's already worth a lot more on paper than what I bought it for. 
If you have time to wait for the perfect opportunity, I'd start researching some of the "affordable housing" program for "workforce" housing.  I'm putting those terms in quotes to identify them as search terms.   All new developments in DC have some concession to affordable housing.  In my hood, it meant that anyone who earned between 85K and $120K was eligible for one of the workforce housing units.  These are exactly the same as mine except one foot narrower.  And the price was $250-$350k less, AND the city is your second-mortgage holder for a 30-year, zero-interest loan for $100k on the property.  It's a sweet deal and for me it means that my neighbors are teachers and cops and people who otherwise couldn't afford one of these homes. 
I'm not sure how you find out about the program, other than going to each new building and asking during their pre-sales phases.  My neighborhood had so many people wanting these homes that there was a lottery for them.  (about 1/3 of all homes are workforce and about 1/8 are low-income and voucher-type housing.  the rest are market-rate). 
I would definitely look into SW Waterfront and scour those buildings for workforce housing.  Anybody buying one of those stands to make a boatload within a few years.

I'd be interested to know how that program would work for the new condos being built on the wharf. They seem horribly overpriced as it is (starting at 400k for a studio and $1m for a 2 or 3br from what I've read) and I'm sure they'll have $800 a month condo fees or some ridiculous batshit crazy amount like that.

Longwaytogo

  • Guest
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #39 on: September 28, 2015, 01:04:26 PM »
+2 on meetup, it has been a while and I missed the last couple.

I'm in MoCo and have lived here my whole life so like some others I guess I'm sort of accustomed to the HCOL area.

I would agree that generalizing PG as unsafe is a bit unfair as many people from MoCo feel the same way about DC. I live right on the border of PG and have spent a decent amount of time there over the years between laurel and College park. Never had any problems there where I have had run ins in DC, Baltimore, and Vegas...but all were late night incidents.  Also my Brother in law and one of my best friends had their cars stolen right out of their driveways in "safe" montgomery county. So anyway, tough to generalize on safety.

aspiringnomad

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 786
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #40 on: September 28, 2015, 08:06:28 PM »
Regarding biking to work - my ride into work is all downhill, so even in the dead of our very humid summer I never arrive sweaty, and I don't have to wear a suit anyway. But if it weren't downhill and I did wear a suit, I would seriously consider purchasing an electric bike as discussed by MMM in a recent blog post. One of the companies he profiled, Riide, is based on U Street if you want to buy local.

J2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #41 on: September 28, 2015, 08:10:48 PM »
+3 on meetup. 

Regarding biking and changing at work--how do you carry your suit without it getting messed up?  Do you use some special bag and have a specific quite of basket on your bike?

maco

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 422
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #42 on: September 29, 2015, 12:49:25 PM »
If there's anyone out there living in DC (or other metro areas where decent houses cost 500k+ or rent is 2K+ like NYC, San Francisco, etc.), do you have any techniques on how to make it in such an expensive place? 

Move to the suburbs. I bought a house in Montgomery County two years ago for $284k. Ok, yes, it's small, but my backyard is huge. When shopping, I looked for access to bus stops. There's a stop a few doors down from me that services like 8 different buses. The bus ride is less than 10 minutes to Wheaton station.

I have family buying a bigger house a few blocks from a metro station in MoCo, and they're getting up close to 500K, there, but they're still not hitting. 450, maybe?

Quote
Right now I live in a 1BR apartment that is walking distance to the train and pay about $1,600 a month, which is a steal in this town! It's a subpar apartment by the standards of most cities (very energy inefficient, peeling paint, 70s appliances), but in DC it's either this or pay out the nose for "luxury" living that is the norm for middle class people in places like Atlanta, Las Vegas, and other middle-of-the-road metro areas. The suburbs aren't any cheaper, and even if they are the costs of car ownership more than make up for it.
Yes, they are. That's what I paid for a "luxury" 1BR in Silver Spring a block from the metro station before buying the house.

You could also get a basement apartment a few blocks walk from Wheaton station for less than $1000/mo (possibly more like $600). In the 00s, that's what my husband did while working a job that paid $1/hr too much for him to qualify for food stamps.

Neither downtown Silver Spring nor Wheaton would require that you have a car. They both have a large grocery store across the street from the metro station, so you can grab groceries on the way home from work. Wheaton even has a Costco.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2015, 12:55:16 PM by maco »

maco

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 422
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #43 on: September 29, 2015, 12:55:01 PM »
You still pay $4 something a day to park at the station plus your metro fares and unless your company offers you some sort of subsidy, that can quickly add up to $200-300 a month as well.
Starting January 2016, employers with 20+ employees are required to offer commuter benefits.

SuperSecretName

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 242
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #44 on: September 29, 2015, 01:33:45 PM »
Please join our DC Google group. Speaking of the DC Google Group-- seems like it is time for another meet-up. Maybe I will plan one...
link?

Rockville here.

oldtoyota

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3113
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #45 on: September 29, 2015, 02:10:42 PM »
I'm walking distance to metro and paid under $200K for my house. You have to think of trends. Ft. Totten might still be affordable. Brookland, too. You gotta look where investors are investing and get in early.

If you're looking to live in the heavily gentrified areas (Crystal City, Arlington, Roslyn, Falls Church, Bethesda), then it's going to be pricey.

Do your own research but I'm not sure buying a house in DC is such a great investment. I was about to buy a new home and then realized I'd be 75 before it was paid off, so I decided to stay put.

Also--look for homes with 2BR/1BA. Those seem to be the least wanted and you might find a deal and be able to add a bathroom later if you want.




oldtoyota

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3113
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #46 on: September 29, 2015, 02:15:40 PM »

Places within PG county like Greenbelt appear to be the exception to high housing costs, but that seems to come at the cost of higher crime.  I know I'm generalizing, but most of the people I know that live or have lived in PG county for the cheaper housing have been mugged and dealt with vandalism. 
 

One of the good things about crime is that it kept my housing costs low. What you say is partly true. I've lived in PG for 17 years and have yet to be mugged. Who knows? Maybe I'll get lucky tonight.


BlueHouse

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2914
  • Location: WDC
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #47 on: September 29, 2015, 02:44:26 PM »
I live on the green line down by the ballpark (west of the river).  I bought while the neighborhood was gentrifying and even though my house was expensive and is more than I need, it's already worth a lot more on paper than what I bought it for. 
If you have time to wait for the perfect opportunity, I'd start researching some of the "affordable housing" program for "workforce" housing.  I'm putting those terms in quotes to identify them as search terms.   All new developments in DC have some concession to affordable housing.  In my hood, it meant that anyone who earned between 85K and $120K was eligible for one of the workforce housing units.  These are exactly the same as mine except one foot narrower.  And the price was $250-$350k less, AND the city is your second-mortgage holder for a 30-year, zero-interest loan for $100k on the property.  It's a sweet deal and for me it means that my neighbors are teachers and cops and people who otherwise couldn't afford one of these homes. 
I'm not sure how you find out about the program, other than going to each new building and asking during their pre-sales phases.  My neighborhood had so many people wanting these homes that there was a lottery for them.  (about 1/3 of all homes are workforce and about 1/8 are low-income and voucher-type housing.  the rest are market-rate). 
I would definitely look into SW Waterfront and scour those buildings for workforce housing.  Anybody buying one of those stands to make a boatload within a few years.

I'd be interested to know how that program would work for the new condos being built on the wharf. They seem horribly overpriced as it is (starting at 400k for a studio and $1m for a 2 or 3br from what I've read) and I'm sure they'll have $800 a month condo fees or some ridiculous batshit crazy amount like that.

Me too!  I'll keep my eyes open and hope to hear about it.  It was such a great deal in my neighborhood and I'm really glad that my neighbors are all from a mix of income levels. 
Here's an article explaining how the workforce housing program worked in one neighborhood. 
http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/opportunity_to_buy_at_a_discount_in_capitol_riverfront/3179

jfer_rose

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 438
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Urban Dweller
Re: How to survive in Washington, DC
« Reply #48 on: September 29, 2015, 04:06:25 PM »
Please join our DC Google group. Speaking of the DC Google Group-- seems like it is time for another meet-up. Maybe I will plan one...
link?

Rockville here.

The link to the Google Group was listed very early in this thread. Here it is again:
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/dc-mustachians