Renting in D.C.

What Every 20-Year-Old Needs to Know About Renting in D.C.

Oh, the glory of the 20s! A time for new beginnings and endeavors as one throws down the shackles of “teendom” and relishes in the freedom of young adulthood. For many, your 20s are a time to lay a great foundation for the future. A time to find entry-level positions in the career of your dreams, a time to start really saving before parents pull the plug on the allowance fund, and even time for many to move out. The awkward struggle of the 20s is to find a balance as you make the shift from one stage to another; while many might rush to do this by moving out and spreading their wings, there are many steps to know before renting your first apartment, especially in D.C. 

While it might seem as easy as one-two-three when it comes to renting an apartment in D.C., there are many factors to consider to get the best bang for your buck, starting with location and the D.C. market. The D.C. market, like many major cities, tends to favor the higher end for apartment rentals, making studio prices range from $1500 to $1900. One-bedroom and two-bedrooms tend to price between $2100 to $2500, and $2700 to $3600 respectively. Three-bedroom apartments take the cake, ranging from $3800 to as high as $7000+. While it might seem like these prices aren’t realistic, prices depend on the current market and the area in which one wants to live. Neighborhoods like Fort Totten, Anacostia, and Kenilworth tend to be on the cheaper side of apartment rentals. Other neighborhoods like Georgetown, Friendship Heights, and Capitol Hill are more expensive. Enclaves like Dupont Circle and Logan Circle tend to also be on the more expensive side, but do house some affordable gems, depending on your budget. 

Beyond an understanding of the current apartment landscape and areas of note, finances play a huge role in determining which apartments to seek after. While many of us shudder at the word “budget,” it’s important to approach one’s budget through a freedom attitude vs. one of constraint. Great budget building comes out of creating a financial plan that works for you not against you, allowing you the proper understanding of using your finances as a tool to allow you to live the life you want. Many apartments require renters to make three times the rent, and while it might be a hassle, using this rule of thumb helps when creating your list of future apartments to tour. For example, if your monthly income is $3,000, renting an apartment that is $1500 – while physically payable – isn’t the smartest of options because it takes money from other necessary bills like groceries, phone bills, health insurance, etc. It’s more financially advantageous to stick to apartments closer to $1,000 to ensure one has enough money to afford other necessary bills, have room to save, and still have money leftover to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. 

Now that you’ve done your research, learned the market, and created a moving-friendly budget it’s time to set up tours. Touring apartments in D.C. is like touring in any other major city: you do it once, you’ll want to do it again. As most D.C. apartments are within walking distance or a short ride away from one another, it’s best to set up two to three tours in one day. This not only maximizes your time, it also allows you to enjoy the process and picture what it would feel like to live in each. While touring is fun, it isn’t just a chance to see the apartment, but is an important time to make a connection with the leasing agent and ask important questions. Here are several questions you should ask and why. 

What is the apartment building occupancy percentage? 

By knowing the apartment building occupancy, you can use it to understand if the building is in high demand, has a lot of vacancies, and to gauge whether people enjoy living here when compared with when the building was established. You can also use it to negotiate deals; when buildings are in low capacity, they want new tenants and often offer specials or concessions.

What are the fees and are there any utilities included? 

While some D.C. apartments might include utilities like water and electricity, many do not. It is important to know which utilities come with the apartment and which don’t, as well as any extra fees. Asking about application fees and if there are any recurring fees for amenities and trash can help you understand the true cost of the apartment outside of the rent. 

What do I need to qualify? Is there an income requirement? 

Many apartments in D.C. have qualifications one has to meet in order to be able to rent the apartment. Some include things like making anywhere from 2.5 times to three times the rent not having any criminal history. Knowing these things while touring will help you know if you can actually rent the apartment. 

Can I get cheaper rent if I sign a longer lease? 

While it might seem silly to ask, requesting a longer lease in exchange for cheaper rent is a great tool to use to get an apartment. Most people only think about signing leases for 12 months, but it might be advantageous to sign a longer lease to stay in the apartment of your dreams for cheaper.

What move-in services do you offer? 

Not all D.C. apartments are created the same. Many higher-end apartments offer help with moving by providing moving carts and allowing you to ship furniture and items to your apartment and move it in for you before the move-in date. It’s always important to ask, that way when moving you can save time, money, and move hassle-free. 

After knowing this, you are ready to apply, sign and move. Although D.C. might be a big city and it can feel like a large task to accomplish when in your 20s, apartment hunting and moving in D.C. is not impossible. It’s important to do your research, seek help, and most of all have fun! You’re shopping for your next home, not health insurance! Your 20s can be hard but moving doesn’t have to be. Take your time, ask the right questions, plan ahead and you’ll be in your dream apartment in no time. 

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