Moving to Fairfax, VA. Looking for an apartment where we won't get knifed or offered crack.
June 22, 2011 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Moving to Fairfax, VA. Looking for an apartment where we won't get knifed or offered crack.

My wife and I are moving to Fairfax for graduate school, but can't afford to check it out in person beforehand. It is just to costly to visit from Springfield, Missouri, so we are looking for help from the hive. We would like to be in or around Fairfax, at least until we get to know to area better.

We've never rented before and don't want to get ripped off. We would like to be in the safest possible area for the money. We've checked out specific complexes online, but there seem to always be extremely off-putting, horror-story reviews.

The details:
1. Less than $1,000/month.
2. No less than 450 square feet.
3. Near public transportation.
4. Parking.
5. Laundry access.

A one bedroom would be great, but we don't mind a studio (as long as it has a decent kitchen).

If you know of any specific apartment buildings that fit the bill please let us know. Thanks for any advice you can offer.
posted by carefulmonkey to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Fairfax? Knives and crack? I grew up there...where have you been looking?
posted by sweetkid at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

George Mason? The DC Metro doesn't go out to Fairfax, so unless you are talking about the Fairfax city bus system, there isn't going to be much of a public transportation option. It's also one of the most upscale areas in the nation. I don't think you have a whole lot to worry about in terms of skeevy neighborhoods. Take a look at the DC Metro maps, and look where Fairfax is in comparison.
posted by COD at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2011

I know! Probably any place you go will be totally safe.
posted by elle.jeezy at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My first advice would be to take online reviews with several grains of salt. Fairfax is probably one of the safes areas in northern Virginia. (I've been living in Fairfax for 15 years.)

Assuming you're going to George Mason University, do you want to live really close to campus? Be aware that apartments close to campus are more likely to house rowdy college students who, while fun to party with, don't necessarily make the best neighbors. Also, you're probably going to pay more for less if you're really close to GMU. You might want to consider something a bit further out.

The closer you are to the metro rail, the more expensive your apartment will be. If a bus will work as "public transportation" for you, though, there are metro buses that go within a few blocks of pretty much everywhere.
posted by rhartong at 6:24 PM on June 22, 2011

Response by poster: COD: my classes are held in an office building off Lee Highway. we were told to look into the apartments behind the building, but they were out of budget. sweetkid: it has been difficult to find apartments that will be affordable in Fairfax. We've looked in and all around Fairfax, but we are so unfamiliar with the area, it is had to tell what will be safe by the pictures posted online. rhartong: we have no problem using buses if need be. we will be bringing one vehicle, but the option of public transport. needs to be available.
posted by carefulmonkey at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2011

Well, you'd better hit up Craigslist if that's the price range you're looking for in Fairfax, because you probably won't find a good-sized, clean place in a regular apartment building in Fairfax for that price. A basement studio or something similar would be about in that price range. Check out and

Manassas or Woodbridge/ Lake Ridge would be near your price range (if you're going to grad school in the evenings at Mason, the commute won't be bad at all). Something like the Amberton or Battery Heights around Manassas should be halfway decent in your price range. Also try Occoquan--there's a tiny village there that sometimes has places to rent for very low prices.

As far as apartments go, any place with ratings around 40% or higher in those is worth a second look.

Public transportation in these areas include CUE buses (stops are all over the place), the Burke VRE, the Woodbridge VRE, Mason shuttle buses that go to the metro and to the campus in Prince William (assuming you're a student) and the metro in Vienna, which takes about 40 minutes to get you to the city. Though if you live in Fairfax, unless you're in walking distance from campus you pretty much need a car. Even if you do live in walking distance from campus, you will probably want a car anyway.

There aren't actually a lot of knives and crack in Fairfax. It's pretty suburban. Although some places in Annandale are kind of crappy, I wouldn't really be looking for crack there either.

There is a website for off campus housing here, and there is also housing at Masonvale, which is right on campus but a bit overpriced.

Also, in case you haven't already, double check to make sure that your departments are actually on the main campus. Some students also go to the Prince William Campus for grad school, and the law school is on the Arlington campus.
posted by _cave at 6:41 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, numbers 1 and 3 are going to be your big problems. We've been in NoVA for a few years now, in Fairfax for 1.5, and when I look at the pricing for the complexes that we checked out last year, the one-bedrooms are around $1200. Depending on when you're moving, this could be flexible; summer prices are usually miserable. And yeah, the reviews are ALWAYS skewed toward the "MANAGEMENT COMPANY KILLED MY DOG AND THERE IS ASBESTOS EVERYWHERE" end of the spectrum. Really, pretty much all the complexes in Fairfax are quite nice, and I've never been afraid of getting stabbed.

Square footage isn't really an issue, as the smallest 1-bedrooms I'm seeing in the major complexes are 650+. All of them have on-site laundry, most have washer/dryer in-apartment. Parking has never been a problem for me in any of the apartments I've lived in down here.

There are quite a few buses around, so if you're just getting around town, those are a good option. The metro is pretty far out of the way for a daily commute, but (eventually) they're bringing it a bit closer! MeMail me if you want to know about the buildings we checked out the last time we moved.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:43 PM on June 22, 2011

1) I've been living in DC for 7 years and I'm confident that you would have a hard time finding crack in northern Virginia.
2) If there was crack in northern Virginia, I doubt it would be in Fairfax.
3) What about a group house? My husband and I lived in a group house in DC when we first moved here and it worked out really well. Our roommates helped us find where to get good burgers and Chinese food, how to get to the grocery store, you name it. We lived in a beautiful house. We met some people we're still friends with. It was really cheap.
4) People only go online to write about their apartment buildings if they're miserable.
posted by kat518 at 6:48 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lived in 2 different apartment complexes in NoVa, and when I was looking around I was hard pressed to find anything under $1000 that wasn't a rented room in a family home. My favorite place was in Arlington, off Lee Hwy. Might not be close enough to where you want to be, but Clarendon metro is very close by as are several bus routes. Very friendly neighbors and management. Might be out of your price range, since I don't know what the base rent is. I really liked living there and thought I'd pass along the recommendation.
posted by wowbobwow at 7:13 PM on June 22, 2011

A quick search suggested there may be a couple places in Reston that meet most of your qualifications. You would still require a car, but the area is extremely walkable and just about every home is less than a mile on well-maintained paths from groceries and shops. Some areas are somewhat lower income, some are largely comprised of working immigrants, but the neighborhood where we used to live felt very safe.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2011

To clarify: our neighborhood was largely comprised of working class immigrant families. I definitely didn't mean to imply that this would make the neighborhood unsafe, although we encountered that preconception a lot.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:28 PM on June 22, 2011

Yeah, your physical safety isn't the problem. Finding an apartment that is remotely within your budget is, sorry to say, not going to give you many legit options. Consider that the adjusted 2009 median household income for Fairfax is $93,441.

You may luck into a house-share or sublet via Craigslist. Or, if either of you happen to be from military families, tapping into that network would likely open doors for you.

But I agree that Reston is probably a better bet for you in terms of cost of living, walkability, and transportation. (And construction is finally underway on the new Metro line, so a straight shot to DC is expected by 2013.)
posted by desuetude at 9:11 PM on June 22, 2011

"Less than $1,000/month."

In Fairfax? No.
posted by bardic at 12:47 AM on June 23, 2011

You certainly won't be finding much under 1k/mo in Fairfax- I'm just over the border from Prince William/Manassas and I pay just over 1200 a month in a mostly family apartment complex. I was in Manassas Park for a while, and it was a major haul to get from my front door to even the last Metro stop in VA.

I've got Fairfax Connector lines going by the front of my complex to the Vienna metro station. Part of it is the complexes here set prices based on demand- immediately after we moved in, the rent for the same floor plan in our complex went up by $200/mo.

Another important factor: If you want to spend much, if ANY of your leisure time going places in the area, or if you want employment? Or even if you have weekend classes- some bus lines only run during the weekdays- You. Are. Going. To. Need. A. Car. No bones about it, this is an exceedingly car-focused area. I moved here at 21 and it took me almost two eye-bleedingly awful years to get my license. Don't think that having public transportation for the bulk of your commuting is going to exempt you from needing a car at some point.

I would suspect the only places you're going to find under 1k/mo are going to require that you have a car (for going the long distances between your dwelling and school/work/etc) or live in a hovel. I would go for spending $1200+ if I could reliably do public transport, but it's not in the cards for me.
posted by Hwin at 2:11 AM on June 23, 2011

A quick note RE: public transportation.

You'll have no use for the Metro for getting to school/shopping, but as a GMU student, you will be able to ride a shuttle from the GMU campus to the Vienna metro stop (last stop on the Orange line), which will take you into DC/inner VA suburbs/southern MD suburbs.
posted by kuanes at 5:11 AM on June 23, 2011

Arlington, in particular the Ballston/Clarendon/Courthouse corridor and Pentagon City/Crystal City, has waaaay more housing options than Fairfax does. Whether or not you can get both 1 and 2, I'm not sure. Last time I lived in a place under $1000, it was ~400 sqft and located under the flight path into National Airport.

Oh, and knives and crack? Please. This isn't SE DC of the mid-1980s. There is almost nowhere along the Orange and Blue Lines in Northern VA that has had high crime levels in the last 20 years.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:27 AM on June 23, 2011

MeMail me. And I will tell you about the apartment that I dwell in.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:29 AM on June 23, 2011

Woodbirdge sucks.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:29 AM on June 23, 2011

I no longer live in the area, but I grew up there. The Fairfax area is a lot bigger than Fairfax City, and the buses don't necessarily cover both. Do you know where on Lee Hwy, generally speaking, the office building is located? Is it near George Mason or are we all just assuming that?
posted by treefort at 10:18 AM on June 23, 2011

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