DC Metro area towns
November 8, 2006 3:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm seeking opinions... What is the best place to live if you're commuting to the Union Station area of Washington, DC? I'm open to anything, but, I need to buy a relatively affordable house. Also, my Mom lives in Frederick, my Dad lives in Baltimore, and my brother-in-law lives on Capitol Hill. It would be nice to be somewhat central to all of them. For a bonus point: Are there any towns that are simply so great (have a great downtown/restaurants, etc...) they are worth consideration regardless of these other factors?
posted by Shanachie to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Silver Spring! It's my home and it was a great place to grow up and is currently undergoing redevelopment. It's just 6 stops from Union Station on the Red Line. If you have a car it would be easy to get to Baltimore and Frederick, and Capitol Hill would just be a matter of taking the Metro. I don't know exactly how affordable it is -- I think it varies widely depending on the specific neighborhood. It is definitely more reasonable than Chevy Chase or Bethesda, although it is probably more expensive than the DC suburbs in Prince George's County. You might also want to consider Takoma Park, which is smaller but more funky than Silver Spring.
posted by puffin at 4:43 AM on November 8, 2006

How do you define affordable? It's not a word we typically use with any house within 30 miles or so of DC.

Somewhere along the I-270 corridor (Germantown, etc) would give you easy access to Baltimore and Frederick, and a quick trip to the Metro for the train ride to Capital Hill. However, nobody is going to suggest Germantown is "cool." It's standard suburban strip mall land. Bethesda might pass the cool test, but it's probably not affordable.

Let us know what you are looking for in a house, and your price range, and I and I'm sure others can help you narrow down the possibilities.
posted by COD at 4:51 AM on November 8, 2006

My wife and I lived in Silver Spring until we moved to Vermont and we chose Silver Spring for a variety of reasons, including its proximity to downtown Washington via the Red Line. It is more than up-and-coming, it has arrived. Lots of great restaurants including MANY ethnic places (Cameroonian, Burmese, Ethiopian, etc) plus a Whole Foods and lots of chains places (if that's your thing).

I am not sure what "affordable" means to you though. Silver Spring is on the metro, and almost anyplace on a Metro line you will pay for that convenience. But as for location, location, location you can't beat Silver Spring. In addition to Metro access it is minutes from I-495.

Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 4:56 AM on November 8, 2006

Yeah, the affordable train left Silver Spring more than ten years ago, these days you'll pay for teh trendy. Hyattsville/Brentwood/Mount Rainier is the (relatively) undiscovered suburb. (Full disclosure: I've lived in Mt. Rainier for over 20 years. ) These are early-20th century 'trolley-car suburbs' populated with bungalows and American four-squares. They've made an active effort to attract working creative types with an Arts District. House prices are low by DC standards - with patience it's still possible to get a sweat-equity bungalow for under 300K. (Yeah, well, by DC standards, that is affordable.)

Hyattsville/Brentwood/Mount Rainier offer easy access to the Red Line Metro stations of Brookland or Rhode Island that are 2 or 3 stops from Union Station. I can lock my door in MR and sit down at my desk right by Union Station in under 20 minutes. Further, 20 minute drive gets you to Silver Spring's restaurants, to the cool trendy DC areas, or the Beltway. Downside: some crime; PG County schools are problematic. Write me at my profile EMA for more info.)
posted by mojohand at 5:48 AM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

For maximum convenience to all of the places you mention, you'll want to stay near Metro's Red Line. And I agree with previous comments that "affordable" isn't really going to happen in DC or its inner suburbs. In terms of cool/fun places, I'd say Bethesda, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Cleveland Park/Woodley Park. But Takoma Park and Silver Spring are probably the only ones in that list even remotely close to affordable, and they're really not.

Basically, you're going to have to decide whether you want to live at the fun (in which case you'll pay for the privilege), or if you're willing to commute to the fun just like you commute to Baltimore or Capitol Hill (in which case mojohand has given you some nice off-the-trendy-path suggestions).
posted by somanyamys at 5:53 AM on November 8, 2006

Have you looked at College Park, MD? There are a lot of houses for sale there, especially up near Greenbelt Metro Station and along the upper Green Line.
posted by parmanparman at 6:08 AM on November 8, 2006

Wheaton is also up-and-coming; it's another two stops out the Red Line from Silver Spring, but it's got tons of inexpensive ethnic restaurants, and while it is suburbia, it's still pretty dense and reasonably walkable.
posted by armage at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2006

Consider anything along the MARC line as well, which goes right to Union Station. I lived in Germantown for three years and worked about two blocks from Union Station. It was long commute, one hour, but I could afford a four bedroom townhouse on two blue collar salaries.

The best you can say about G-town is that there was lots of good shopping. It did not have any night scene, but every place in the D.C. area has good ethnic restaurants. Very close to Frederick, and pretty easy drive to Baltimore.
posted by saffry at 6:26 AM on November 8, 2006

You could just live on Capitol Hill, of course. Since your brother is already there, I suppose you know the real estate market in the area. I live in Capitol Hill "East," near RFK stadium, and the walk to my job is about the same as a walk to Union Station would be. We've had to call the cops only twice this week!
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:13 AM on November 8, 2006

Geographically central to all those things probably isn't the best solution. That would put you somewhere around Laurel, which kinda sucks. How about Mt Vernon or Charles Village in Baltimore? Lots of restaurants, MARC access to both Frederick and DC and much cheaper real estate.
posted by electroboy at 7:20 AM on November 8, 2006

Baltimore, and commute by Marc. Or just ditch the car altogether and find something walking distance to your office in DC and use the saved expense of car/gas/Metro for your mortgage, and use the extra time to work more hours and get promoted. Suburbs aren't that fun no matter how nice, and it seems like real estate in DC or Baltimore proper would be a more reliable investment.

(Silver Spring, by the way, is kind of deadly boring despite all the renovations. My friends and I call it "Downtown Silver Spring TM," because it basically looks like an outdoor mall. And what's up with that astroturf park everyone hangs out in??)
posted by footnote at 8:10 AM on November 8, 2006

I would avoid College Park and Hyattsville. They are cheaper for a reason. Much poorer urban area, drunk college kids, poor infrastructure etc. Silver Spring is a nice compromise, but the inexpensive plane might have flown by.

Rockville is undergoing some major redevelopment, and from an investment standpoint, it might be worth looking into. They are putting in a lot of very nice condos that should elevate the property value and the existing ccheap commercial stuff there.

Could it be the next Bethesda? Probably not, but it should be close...
posted by stratastar at 8:59 AM on November 8, 2006

Another point in Rockville's favor: the vibrant Chinese community. It's way more Chinatown than DC's actual Chinatown (although, admittedly, that's not saying much).
posted by somanyamys at 9:11 AM on November 8, 2006

Response by poster: affordable housing = the 400k range (I'm moving back from NYC)
posted by Shanachie at 9:57 AM on November 8, 2006

400K would definitely get you a 1-bedroom condo centrally located in DC.
posted by footnote at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2006

400K would buy the house two doors down from me. Hi, neighbor!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:41 AM on November 8, 2006

If you are not averse to college towns, College Park, MD would be perfect. It is very convenient to Union Station (both by Metro and car), and fairly close to the arteries that would get you to your parents' houses (I have been out of the area for a little while, but when last I heard, the Intercounty Connector was in development and could eventually make it even easier to get to Frederick). If you pick the right neighborhood and are not buying the sort of house that tends to get snatched up by landlords planning to rent to students, real estate prices can be remarkably reasonable.

I would avoid anything in significantly to the Northwest of Takoma Park (including most of Montgomery County). You'll be closer to 270 to get to Frederick, but your daily commute could be painful.
posted by lionelhutz5 at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2006

I would avoid College Park and Hyattsville. They are cheaper for a reason

This is ignorant nonsense. There are portions of College Park near the campus that are too close to the frats and student group houses for comfort, but the major part is fine. As for Hyattsville, I have no idea what stratastar is talking about, particularly the 'poor' part. Perhaps from a silver-spoon perspective of, say, Potomac, it might be, but any reasonable person would judge it quite middle class. And infrastructure, well I hear Hyattsville and College Park now have paved roads, and frequently potable water and electricity. Idiot.

But I digress. With 400K you can go upscale and afford tree-shaded genteel University Park, located beween College Park and H/B/MR, and convenient to Capital Hill and the Balt/Wash Parkway. Unfortunately unless housing prices really tank it's probably too little for Takoma Park, Silver Spring and Bethesda. I don't know Rockville.
Good luck
posted by mojohand at 2:02 PM on November 8, 2006

Check out Northeast D.C., sort of near the Catholic University area. I'm talking around 3rd and Rhode Island NE. (I think it's "real estate Brookland" but not really Brookland.) It's on the red line and close to getting onto the B-W Parkway. The neighborhood is quiet and very residential, but there is a burgeoning "downtown" along 12th Street, and you're close to Capitol Hill and not too far from DuPont (also in the Red Line, but getting there by bus has proved more efficient; getting there by car is efficient even in rush hour as long as you take Rhode Island Ave. and not Mass. or New York). A friend bought a house there about four years ago, and she's been very happy and safe there, though it's not as bustling as parts of NW. (Areas around there do have crime problems, so check out anything at night, etc.)
posted by Airhen at 4:03 PM on November 8, 2006

One thing to consider is that Union Station is only on the Red Line. If you're going to do the commute via Metro, it's preferable not to switch lines. That limits you to the Maryland burbs for the most part.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:50 PM on November 8, 2006

I live in the neighborhood Airhen mentioned in a previous comment (it's called Edgewood), and second it. I'm five blocks from metro, and several buses go right by my house - the D8 bus goes straight to Union Station.

If you don't need to be near metro, Mt. Ranier is really nice - the houses I looked at there were around $40K less than mine, and bigger. The only reason I didn't buy there was the lack of metro, since I didn't own a car at the time.
posted by clarissajoy at 5:52 PM on November 8, 2006

Riverdale Park!. It's really easy to take the 83 bus to Rhode Island Ave station. There's also a MARC station in the town center, so that's an easy way to Baltimore. It's really quick up the BW parkway, too.

Housing prices here are a bit cheaper than nearby Hyattsville and College Park. There's a 2000 sq. ft. 4 bedroom 1920s house for sale for $400K. That's a little pricey, but there are smaller homes going for less.

It's a great community. I've heard lots of people say that they didnt expect such a small-town feel in an inside-the-beltway burg. There's some slow development happening and a new luxury townhome/condo thing going in on the border.

To be fair I should admit that I am severly biased. I love this town. I grew up here and bought here.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:37 PM on November 8, 2006

Brookland/Catholic U.

On the Red Line. Affordable. Safe. Cute. Nice. Friendly.

Mt. Ranier is the Maryland side of the line there and a bit farther from the metro.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:32 PM on November 8, 2006

Oh, if you do look at Mt. Ranier, you can always take the G8 bus to the Brookland Metro station, or walk there.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:34 PM on November 8, 2006

Whoops. frecklefaerie is quite right. I forgot completely about Riverdale Park, but it's as nice as he describes. Like College Park, University Park, Hyattsville, Brentwood and Mt. Rainier, it's along Rt. 1 (in between Hyattsville and University Park) and a quick (20 +/- minute) shot down to the Rhode Island Metro and from there two stops to Union Station. Even better, if your schedule permits, there's a MARC commuter train from Baltimore that stops (3X I think) right in the middle of Riverdale and runs right down to Union Station. I also endorse the Brookland recommendations, tho I'm under the impression prices have gone up there a lot in the past few years.
posted by mojohand at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2006

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