Washington DC offers a variety of housing options. That said, the actual city limits are considerably smaller than most expect and many people who move to Washington DC for work end up living in neighbouring Virginia or Maryland. These nearby states generally offer better options for suburban family living and cheaper accommodation.
Many neighbourhoods in Washington DC are full of students attending the assortment of nearby universities, or young professionals who have recently moved to the city to start their working life. Residential family homes are usually found further out of the city centre, and vary in terms of quality and price, depending on their neighbourhood and proximity to public transport.
Because property becomes more expensive closer to the city centre, commute times via car are long. Accommodation near public transportation routes, such as the bus or metro lines, is therefore highly sought-after.
Property prices and rent in Washington DC are among the most expensive in the country. It'll likely be the largest monthly expense for people planning to relocate there.
Types of accommodation in Washington DC
Apartments are the most common type of housing in the city and range from single-room studio apartments to luxury multi-bedroom lofts and penthouses. Rent will naturally vary according to size and location, with the more expensive apartments being closer to the city centre. Practically all apartment buildings are equipped with modern facilities and amenities.
Another option for new arrivals to rent in Washington DC are townhouses, which are cheaper than single-family homes but also generally have separate entrances and multiple storeys. These are often historical Victorian homes built in a row along one street, hence referred to as rowhouses.
Single-family houses are fully detached residences which may be best suited for a family, as they normally include a garden and are located away from the city centre. Despite being predominantly in the suburbs, single-family detached houses are particularly expensive. It's therefore advised that new arrivals realistically asses their housing budget before making any commitments.
Finding accommodation in Washington DC
Due to limited space in the city, newcomers are advised to begin the search for accommodation as early as possible. Knowing one’s price range and desired accommodation type is essential as it will clarify the search and simplify the decision-making process. It is worth considering factors such as space requirements, amenities and proximity to shopping hubs, public transport and schools.
New arrivals may want to find a local real-estate agent who understands the local area and can help identify a home suited to their requirements. If considering living in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, new arrivals should keep in mind that agents require separate licences to work in different states. It may therefore be necessary to employ several realtors to scout the surrounding areas thoroughly.
Renting accommodation in Washington DC
With DC being such a small city, it follows that accommodation is in high demand. This has made accommodation expensive and harder to come by than in some other American cities. If a newcomer has their heart set on a place, they should act quickly as good properties don’t tend to stay on the market for long.
The rental process
As in most of the US, potential tenants will need to obtain an application form from the landlord. Subsequently, the landlord will contact their chosen tenant and together they will sign a standard lease agreement. Having a US bank account will act in one's favour when applying to rent accommodation in Washington DC, especially for expats without a social security number.
Furnished or unfurnished
Most accommodation tends to be unfurnished in Washington DC, though furnished apartments are also available. Furnished accommodation usually includes everything from appliances to bedding and cutlery. Furnished accommodation is usually more expensive and is typically let on a shorter lease term. Unfurnished accommodation rarely means a completely bare apartment or house. Properties usually still come with large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and fridges.
Rental contracts are traditionally valid for a year with the option to renew when the term is over.
Usually, new tenants will be required to put down an amount equivalent to a month’s rent as a security deposit. This deposit is refundable once the lease has come to an end. If any damage has been done to the property, the deposit will be used to cover the cost of repairs.
Newcomers renting accommodation in Washington DC should check the conditions set out in their lease to find out the details on utilities. In some cases, the landlord may assume responsibility for utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but tenants will usually be expected to pay for extras like telephone services, internet and cable TV packages. New arrivals should spend some time looking into different service providers as one can often find a good range of inclusive deals for telephone and internet services.