Author Topic: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?  (Read 972 times)

MilitaryMM

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Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« on: June 26, 2018, 11:18:49 AM »
Long time voyeur, first time poster here.  I apologize in advance for the long post.

I have, what I think, is an upcoming great opportunity to live in a world class city while simulatneously adding some serious padding to my stash.

I'm a military officer and I'll be re-locating to work in the Washington D.C. area next year.  Since I don't know the area, I figured I would reach out to this community for recommendations and some insight.  I'll be making some assumptions based on popular bias, so feel free to correct me on any of these if they're out of touch with reality.

Baseline Info:
- I'll be working in Suitland, MD, otherwise known as the ghetto (so says everyone), just outside the SE quadrant, so living within walking/biking distance isn't necessarily an option.  Even if I live just outside the area within biking range, is it really safe to be riding around that area on a bike?  Same question regarding the metro.  I could live somewhere along the metro line, but is the metro stop in that area safe?  Even late at night if I have to work late? Plus I've heard the metro is getting expensive and can take a while if you're not within a few stops of your destination.

- I'll be receiving a housing allowance of about $2900 per month.  Sounds like a lot, but if you've looked at housing around D.C. you know that might not get you very far without a commute (which I would like to avoid).  That being said,  I can pocket the difference between the allowance and what I pay for rent (hence my perceive opportunity).

- Looking to rent, but not necessarily opposed to buying.  I like to buy at different duty stations and keep the properties as rentals, but given how expensive the current market is in that area, it doesn't seem like a good idea. 

- I also have a family and pets (I know, I know...believe me, they would be gone if the wife weren't so attached), so a 700 square foot apartment won't cut it.  Looking for a 2-3 bedroom townhouse or apartment that is near all the typical mustachian coveted amenities (parks, good eats, library, decent schools, etc.).  I'm open to anything really.  I've been looking in and around Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Greenbelt, MD.  I don't want to commute, but if I can be within 15-20 miles of work I can probably make it work between buses, metro, zipcar, and maybe a cheap used Honda Fit.

Any recommendations for good, mustachian friendly areas would be greatly appreciated.  If not, at least tell me what your favorite book is.

EmFrugal

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2018, 02:06:29 PM »
I'm not much help on the MD side, but we are in Falls Church City, a lovely little quaint town near the orange line. We own a townhome here because yes, ouch, housing prices are insane. There is a nice townhome village called Winter Hill that rents for $3K. It is walkable to everything... Parks, library, groceries, etc. Has a community pool. Walk to metro would be long though. You could bike to metro though and leave your bike there. Or ride share. The school system (Falls Church City Public Schools) is excellent. We moved here specifically for the schools and commute. But schools in N. VA and nice parts of MD are really good in general. There are a lot of military families in our area and they are really happy. They say the schools are the best they have experienced thus far.

Hopefully someone else can chime in on MD locations. Otherwise, try posting on the City-Data forums. I realize the commute might be longer from FCC but give it a look. Schools are Mount Daniel Elementary (K-1), Thomas Jefferson (2-5), Mary Ellen Henderson (6-8), and George Mason (9-12)

ETA... And just to be clear Falls Church City is its own municipality right next to Arlington. It is NOT part of Fairfax County.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 02:10:40 PM by EmFrugal »

BrightFIRE

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2018, 02:48:37 PM »
My MIL just retired to Alexandria because her other sons (and grandkids) live there. She found a great, inexpensive for the area, apartment complex with lots of amenities near the end of the yellow line. I believe she said she is paying $1900 for a 2 BR. There was a mix of young and old, retirees and working professionals living there and it's right off the interstate.

It's about 10 miles from Suitland. (However, it looks like that would be a crappy 1 hour commute with a quick Google transit search because you'd have to connect via downtown DC.) If you're interested, the apartments are called Huntington Gateway.

Mathew675

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2018, 02:50:16 PM »
If you can walk from the metro that opens up a lot of opportunities. If you don't get reimbursed for the metro then it does get pretty expensive and parking there is generally $5/day on top of that. However, you really need to focus on traffic and how long the commute is. 15-20 miles doesn't sound like a lot, but with traffic it really makes the trip a pain.I know a lot of people who bought nice places in great areas (in VA) and then are stuck with multiple hour commutes/day. Andrews is somewhat close to there, maybe on base housing is an option. Use permissive TDY to try a few trips into work at the times you will be going in and leaving. If you have to go for PT at 0630 then the drive in won't be as bad, but leaving at 1700 you will run into the brute force of the traffic.

historienne

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2018, 03:23:57 PM »
In that area, I'm not sure if metro is actually the way to go.  You'd need to be somewhere on the green line for the commute to be reasonable, and those options are mostly going to be either not-great areas or very pricey.  Maybe biking distance from the Branch Ave station would work, towards Andrews, if you're ok with things not really being walkable.  The area southeast of Suitland is Big Box City, USA, but there's plenty of nice areas if you're ok with that genre.  Walking distance from a library, park, and elementary school would definitely be possible.  Good eats...depends on your definition of that.


beattie228

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2018, 03:35:33 PM »
Metro is a bit of a nightmare at times, both in terms of reliability but also the shadiness of some of the metro stops in southern Maryland at night. I'd recommend you look into Alexandria, Arlington or Shirlington. You'll be commuting but hopefully your hours can keep you out of the thick of rush hour. If you're looking for a decent sized place in your given budget (while hoping to pocket some difference), pushing out from DC is your only bet.

As far as options to commute, Uber pool express can save a lot of money as long as you're strategic about when to hail a ride. Otherwise you may just have to bite the bullet and get a car. I love cycling, but it's not feasible for my hours in this area because of the concern for night time riding as well as safety issues regarding riding alone late at night.

MilitaryMM

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2018, 03:55:38 PM »
In that area, I'm not sure if metro is actually the way to go.  You'd need to be somewhere on the green line for the commute to be reasonable, and those options are mostly going to be either not-great areas or very pricey.  Maybe biking distance from the Branch Ave station would work, towards Andrews, if you're ok with things not really being walkable.  The area southeast of Suitland is Big Box City, USA, but there's plenty of nice areas if you're ok with that genre.  Walking distance from a library, park, and elementary school would definitely be possible.  Good eats...depends on your definition of that.

Are you talking about the Upper Marlboro area or further out?

MilitaryMM

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2018, 03:59:33 PM »
Metro is a bit of a nightmare at times, both in terms of reliability but also the shadiness of some of the metro stops in southern Maryland at night. I'd recommend you look into Alexandria, Arlington or Shirlington. You'll be commuting but hopefully your hours can keep you out of the thick of rush hour. If you're looking for a decent sized place in your given budget (while hoping to pocket some difference), pushing out from DC is your only bet.

As far as options to commute, Uber pool express can save a lot of money as long as you're strategic about when to hail a ride. Otherwise you may just have to bite the bullet and get a car. I love cycling, but it's not feasible for my hours in this area because of the concern for night time riding as well as safety issues regarding riding alone late at night.

I'll have to look into Uber Pool Express.  Never heard of it.
I have an e-bike, but was also concerned about the safety aspect of riding around that area at night.  Getting a car wouldn't be the worst thing, still would like to be close to a metro for weekend trips into the city.

Ocinfo

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2018, 04:05:51 PM »
As far as commute goes, it’s really dependent on your hours. If you’ll have to work 8-5, it’s going to be rough. I’m in DC and commute to Virginia 3-4 days per week and before 7AM most roads are busy but flowing. I do know some military guys that basically go to base, Pentagon, etc. early to workout then do a workout until traffic lets up to go home. It lets them be productive but cuts down on family time.

Housing wise, you should be able to find a wide range of large town houses for ~$3k. Make sure you focus on drive time (or access to bus, train, etc.) versus distance as distance is pretty much a useless metric here.

Enjoy the DC metro area! It’s a good place to make money and live for a few years.


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simonsez

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Re: Suggestions for where to live around Washington D.C.?
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2018, 04:20:26 PM »
I metroed to Suitland when I worked at the federal campus that houses Census, Naval Intelligence, and NOAA.  The campus itself is getting better with food trucks and a farmer's market.  But yeah, that immediate surrounding area is shit.  If you have young kids, get on the wait list at the childcare building ASAP.  It's very convenient to basically take your kids with you to work.

How far you want to live from there is up to you, I know lots of co-workers who lived near Deanwood, Minnesota Ave, Largo Metro stations and worked in Suitland.  Obviously I know people who worked all around the area (and even commuting form Harpers Ferry, WV, Gettysburg, PA, Fredericksburg, VA, and Aberdeen, MD) but those were the Metro-accessible spots on that side of the Anacostia where people made it work just fine.  You'll find nicer accommodations in NW DC (although Navy Yard has changed so much recently), much of NoVa (Falls Church, Del Ray, McLean, Old Town, etc.), and Montgomery County, MD.  I personally lived in Landmark (SW corner of Alexandria) and didn't mind my hour long commute via shuttle, foot, and Metro.  Metro was subsidized (most months it was free) and I didn't mind having a little extra time to read, do a crossword or sudoku, or basically avoid traffic. 

In fact, if you do plan on driving to work, I would recommend the South Alexandria area.  The heavy traffic flow on the Beltway is the opposite of you both times of day, especially in the morning.  It was a 22 min commute in the morning from my old apartment on Duke Street and I suspect something around Huntington Metro Station would be 15-20 min.  Old Town and parts of Mt. Vernon will be nicer and pricier.