Housing

Housing

While TWC provides wonderful housing facilities at the RAF at NOMA in D.C. and RAF at Solaire in Silver Spring, MD, financial constraints caused me to find my own housing in D.C. I thought it would be easy: a decent sized city with plenty of interns and young professionals, how hard would it be to find housing? It’s actually a little harder than I thought.

 

Here are some lessons I learned during my housing search. These are useful if you are interested in extending your stay in D.C. I personally wouldn’t recommend staying off-campus during your semester at TWC because you miss out on the apartment culture at the RAF and Solaire.

 

Budget

Have an estimate of how much you’re willing to spend a month or how much you want to spend over the duration of your stay. For me, I initially set $750 as my high limit; later I increased this to $900. I saw housing listed from $600 to $2,500 a month, with the latter exceedingly out of my price range. Before snatching a cheap deal, remember that sometimes there are tradeoffs for cheaper housing. The least expensive listing I visited was in a sketchy neighborhood. The most expensive listings I saw were usually for single-room apartments in high-end areas.

 

Location, Location, Location

The neighborhood you live in factors considerably into the cost of housing. Housing near Metrorail stops is generally pricier. Housing outside of D.C. tends to be cheaper. Places such as Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia, and Silver Spring, Mt. Rainier, and Hyattsville in Maryland had good housing options. The friend I was living with in Arlington was paying $650 a month for a row house he shared with three guys he knew. His room was a decent size. I pay $850 a month for a nicer row-house in Columbia Heights in D.C., shared between a family of three and a young professional. And I probably have the smallest room in the house.

 

Cost of living also varies in the different neighborhoods. I spent less on food and (good) beer at restaurants when I lived in Arlington. But my transportation costs (in time and money) were expensive. It would take at least 40 minutes to go from work to Arlington—a whopping 4.7 miles—by Metrorail and bus. I now ride less than 3 miles to work in 20 minutes (because of traffic lights). Be mindful of these other costs (transportation, food, beer, etc.) when you choose a place.

 

If you want to live in D.C., there are plenty of good options. Neighborhoods that were recommended to me included: Adams Morgan—this seems to be a lively and popular spot, especially for house shares; Mt. Pleasant; Columbia Heights; Kalorama; some places in the NE quadrant, but I was warned not to go too far east. I was told to stay away from the SE quadrant, specifically Anacostia. DuPont Circle and Foggy Bottom, areas much closer to downtown D.C., were generally out of my price range, so I didn’t look too much in those places.

 

Furthermore, decide the type of housing you want. Do you want a studio apartment for yourself? Or are you fine sharing a room or a house? Sharing a room or a house tends to be cheaper than living solo. However, it opens the potential for having unpleasant roommates.

 

Search Tools

Craigslist is the site that was suggested to me; and I know it works because that’s how I found my current residence. There are plenty of listings for housing, but you have to respond quickly to them. Housing is very competitive in D.C. I sent emails to and called 8 places before I received one reply. Also, and I’ve never had to do this before, some people make you go through an application process. Some places hold open houses to review prospective housemates. I didn’t have to do this; however, one guy handed me an application that I discarded after I saw his place. Make sure to check out these places before fully committing. Pictures don’t always tell the truth.

 

If you’re a female, you can be at an advantage here. There were days when I saw more listings asking for female roommates only (a female presumably posted the listing) than listings without a gender requirement.

 

There are listservs for some of the neighborhoods (for Adams Morgan and Mt. Pleasant). It’s like an online forum, with information about the communities, including housing listings and places to post housing requests. You have to register or request to join some of these sites to see all of the posts.

 

Some of the nearby universities have off-campus and on-campus housing resources on their websites, where you can find open dorm rooms and the rates per night/month or links for off-campus housing options.

 

Some other options I tried were AirBnB —people offer their room or couch for a nightly fee, or monthly depending on the duration of your stay—and roommates.com.

 

If you know someone here who is willing to offer you a couch or basement room, do what I did and bum it out for a couple weeks until you figure things out.

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