The easiest way you can help me move!
June 6, 2007 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Moving to D.C. for grad school! Need help with the rental market!

Okay, so I've read through all of the stuff here, but it doesn't fully help (and I imagine a lot has changed in the last 3 years.)

I'm starting Georgetown Law in late August, and am looking for a place in the city that's close to school (The Law Center is actually in the Chinatown/Capitol Hill area) and big enough so that it'll fit both myself and my girlfriend once she moves down 2nd semester. I imagine this won't be too difficult, but I'm freaking out a little bit because:

1. I've lived in NYC the last eight years, my entire adult life, really. Everything I know about getting an apartment, moving, applications, etc. is specific to New York. Also, it's not easy for me to just keep bobbing down to D.C. as the date gets closer, looking for the perfect place. However, I need a decent place, as I plan to live there for the next three years.

2. I really don't know Washington at all. In total I've spent maybe nine days there, and at no point was I able to go exploring on my own and get a feel for the place. Essentially my entire knowledge of the town comes from West Wing. Where should I be looking, and what should I be looking out for?

3. As I'll be a student while living there, my application will be a little different, I imagine. What should I expect as far as providing guaranteur letters, etc.?

Thank you, hive mind!
posted by Navelgazer to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Capitol Hill is close to the Law Center and actually fairly affordable by DC standards, so I would search there - DC city paper and Craigslist and and, all those places, and maybe come to town & walk around and see if any "for rent" signs are out.

I think in general a place just gives you an application, you fill it out, they run a credit check, and you pay deposit plus first month's rent. It's not hard..

The Law Center runs a shuttle to Union Station (it's actually located between Union Station and Judiciary Square metros) so if you lived anywhere along the red line metro it'd be fairly easy..

I'll send you an e-mail if you have any questions.
posted by citron at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2007

Well, DC doesnt do brokers. Thank goodness.

What's your price range? That's the best place to start. And how close do you want to be to Metro? You'll pay a premium as well.

GULC is also really close to Union Station (Red), but Chinatown isnt THAT far either (Red/Yellow/Green)
posted by jare2003 at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, citron. Also, I forgot to ask, about when should I start really looking and deciding for a mid-august move-in date. It seems like every place I'm finding online wants an immediate move-in, but I'm afraid of waiting too long and missing out.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:16 PM on June 6, 2007

I can't say for sure, I'm afraid.. I feel like the housing crunch applies more in the vicinity of main campus at Georgetown and AU, the Law Center is a different story. I mean, you can only move when you can move, right? I really think if you do move to Capitol Hill it won't be hard.. those places online just want immediate move-in because they couldn't get a renter for June yet and are desperate to stop losing money..

I sympathize, I had to do a long distance apartment search once and it all worked out although it took me several trips..

You can also, incidentally, get a shuttle direct from Georgetown main campus to Law Center and vice versa - trouble is it only runs once per hour so you've got to be careful about not missing it - the crosstown buses take about 40 minutes to go the same route. :)
posted by citron at 3:29 PM on June 6, 2007

You might consider expanding your search to other parts of the area that are metro accessible, away from Capitol Hill and the Law Center. Metro is reliable and runs about as late as you will need for study purposes. Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, and other areas of Arlington, Virginia are probably going to offer nicer accommodations and amenities -- grocery stores, city services, shopping malls -- then Cap Hill. You would sacrifice being a short walk from GULC and most of your classmates' residences, but you would probably benefit a bit materially and also have an easier time avoiding your classmates when you want to get away from the law school environment.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:34 PM on June 6, 2007

Nicer accommodations, yes, but those parts of NoVA are pricier than the Hill in general - then again the poster might have a bigger budget than I do. Takoma Park in Maryland is on the Red Line and kind of funky and cool, Arlington near those Metro stops is extremely yuppie, not that it's a bad thing necessarily, it is safe, and convenient, and full of joggers
posted by citron at 3:52 PM on June 6, 2007

Most of the city is metro accessible, and if your used to living in a city (and like it) then Alexandria/Arlington is most likely gonna annoy you as far as commuting and feeling connected to all of the cool shit DC has to offer.
Keep an eye out for the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant listings, both neighborhoods are weird and kicky but safe and close to many cool clubs, bar and restaurants. Also way more reasonable price wise than the Hill.
Keep in mind that DC is small, really small, so your never very far from anywhere as long as your in DC proper. Watch out for east of 12th and west of Howard University, that's where things get sketchy.
posted by mikoroshi at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2007

I agree with Mikoroshi on living in VA. If you were going to main campus Georgetown, that'd be one thing, but for law school, capitol hill would be the best. The further east you go from there, the more dangerous the town gets. Closer to capitol hill, the more expensive and more lively. If you're going to be in law school, you might as well be in the center of it all...great bars near by, and nice bistros. Lot of young people working on capitol hill and nearby offices to start a conversation here and there.

Here is the metro map,

You prolly don't wanna go farther easter than Eastern market on blue line. On greenline, you prolly don't wanna go further than Navy Yard. I know there are some apartments off of waterfront. I don't know how much they are, but worth looking into. For orange line, if you go farther than rosslyn, you're looking at at least 30minute commute. While this time can be spent well reading and stuff, when you're commuting during non-rush hour time, you're gonna have to spend upto 20minutes waiting for the next train. When you're going to be sleep deprived most of the time, that extra ten minute is worth more than 200-300 bucks extra a month. You could even look for a place off of the redline near AU, that's a big residential area, with buses. And from what I hear there are some decent places with rent control. I wouldn't take the redline east of chinatown, and no further north from Columbia heights or Georgia Avenue on yellow/green, especially if you're a woman(your gf).

If you have time, you can take the bus down from NYC Chinatown to DC chinatown, which takes you to Gallery Place-Chinatown and take the metro around to checkout apartments. The bus should cost around 35-40 bucks if cost is an issue. That way if they want to make sure you're gonna move in, you can meet with them and get a feel for it.

When I was moving here, I did my searches online, and I was too far to come to see or anything. Both times I looked at craigslist.

The first time I came out here, some random person told me about the four quadrants that divide up DC. I am sure you know this already, but make sure you do so you don't get lost or end up in Pennsylvania SE.

Good luck and congratulations! The best and the worst 3 years of your life.
posted by icollectpurses at 4:22 PM on June 6, 2007

I actually just found a new place in DC. I found it (and several others that I was interested in) on Craigslist. It's a good place to look if you'd like to rent out someone's condo rather than a place in an enormous apartment building (it used to be the city paper, but I didn't find it useful this time around). I've actually seen a lot of ads for affordable Capitol Hill places. Often, the cheaper places are English Basements (usually someone who owns a townhouse and is renting out the basement), so if you're willing to forfeit some sunlight, that might knock $100-200 off your rent, and there is tons of availability since they're not as desirable. As for when to look - I'd say start July 1 for anytime in August. I started two weeks ago for a move in date that is in two weeks. Good luck, feel free to email if you have any DC questions...we're a very odd little city.
posted by echo0720 at 4:51 PM on June 6, 2007

There are some rental management companies that cover Capitol Hill like this place and this one that could be handy for you-- both looking at a bunch of listings on their websites, and also making the most of your limited time on visits by having them take you to several of their properties in one go.

Let us know how you feel about commuting... you have a lot of options on the Red Line in both directions that will get you to Union Station pretty quickly.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2007

Unfortunately, there isn't really any housing near the campus short of the on-campus dorms. It's also pretty difficult to get affordable, metro-accessible housing near the Capitol. I'd recommend looking elsewhere, specifically up the NW part of the red-line. DC public transport is really pretty good, and rent along the northwest part of the red-line is relatively inexpensive. Also, the downtown area is pretty boring. I've found the Tenleytown/AU area to be very affordable — currently I live with my girlfriend about a block away from the metro for $650/mo. The trip from the Tenleytown metro stop to the Georgetown Law campus is about 40 minutes, but this isn't really as bad as it sounds. Many people make this commute everyday to work, my girlfriend included. The area is very safe, as far as cities go; in some places you can even leave your door unlocked at night (though obviously, in general, this isn't a good idea). Columbia Heights is often cheaper, but feels slightly less safe to me at night. I've found that a good measure of the safeness of a neighborhood is how many houses have bars on the windows a few blocks beyond the major traffic areas. Eastern Market is a bit closer to the Capitol and very nice, but significantly more expensive.

To address your third concern: I've lived in DC as a student and haven't had any problems. Provided you can demonstrate that there will be a source of income to pay the rent, whether through loans, parental help, or a job somewhere, you should be fine.

My girlfriend and I have lived in DC the past 3 years. We've stayed at three different places at three different places, each with one-year leases, so we have a bit of experience finding housing. I might even have some friends who are subletting or who are graduating and moving out of their places. My contact info is in my profile if you should want any more info.
posted by Frankieist at 5:14 PM on June 6, 2007

mikoroshi isn't quite right on the "whole city" being Metro-accessible. Unless you're counting Metrobus (which can be a decent but slower way to get around). But coverage in a number of areas is pretty good, so as long as you stay close to a station, youll be fine.

In regards to what icollectpurses said: There are some nice places east of Chinatown. Around Union Station would be good, for one - or the upcoming H St Corridor, which has some cool bars and cafes. Brookland on the Red, and Takoma Park on the Red (on the way to Silver Spring) are also pretty nice places still in the District. (Takoma station is just inside the DC border, though the area is in both DC/MD)

Also, I like the chinatown bus - but Greyhound matches their prices from NYC-DC, coming from Port Authority in NYC to the Greyhound Station (1st and K NE) in DC, which isnt a far walk from GULC either. And usually is a lot more reliable. You have to buy the tickets on the website, though.
posted by jare2003 at 5:23 PM on June 6, 2007

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks for everybody who's responding (and keep the help coming!)

For more information, I'll be going down there within the week just to spend a day wandering around and seeing what I like, how everything fits together, which way I'd be most comfortable getting to GULC, etc. Hopefully I'll know a little more after that, but I figure I should go down there at least somewhat knowledgeable.

For commuting - I'm not entirely against it, but I'm dead-set on living in D.C. proper. (Also, the last time I was on the D.C. Metro a guy got stabbed right next to me, so I'm still a little gun-shy, or rather stab-shy, on that. I'll get over it.)

Really, the fact is that I don't want to move down there to a spot where I'll have trouble socializing and being part of the GULC "scene," whatever that might entail. I've spent the last three years living on the outskirts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and adore it, and if there's anything approximating that in D.C. proper, then that's probably ideal. The H Street corridor sounds like it might be it.

oh, and jare2003, it sounds like you've got a feel for both NY and DC - can you help me at all on differences in apartments/city living that I can expect? (I'm used to being able to get whatever amenities I need at any time of day, and living without a car, for instance.)

Thanks again, all!
posted by Navelgazer at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2007


If you're looking for hipster-ish type neighborhoods and places, 14th Street/Logan Circle, Columbia Heights/Mt Pleasant, and maybe U Street would qualify. The Black Cat (indie music central of DC) is in 14th Street, for example. H Street is the 'newest' upcoming area in DC, and definetly has some hipster-ish type bars. Keep in mind only the wsetern end of H Street NE is close to Union Station metro, you'll have to hop the X2 bus to go down H (but that will take you close right past GULC, more or less as well)

Ive never lived in NYC, outside of a two month stint one summer. My sister lives in Queens, though, and many of my friends are from the city - so i have some background, although not a great amount.

THe one thing i'll say (and i really like DC a lot) is that DC isnt NYC. The metro shuts down at 12 on weekdays, 3a on weekends. You can get by without a car if you're close to metro - but might have problems otherwise, especially if there arent much amenities close to where you live. A lot of places aren't 24 hours, either. The drug store and the occasional grocery store - but this city isnt open 24 hours everywhere (although there are definetly places open late in the city)

Also, dont discount the border counties - Arlington has some great places to live, as does Montgomery County (silver spring, for instance)
posted by jare2003 at 6:16 PM on June 6, 2007

For commuting - I'm not entirely against it, but I'm dead-set on living in D.C. proper. (Also, the last time I was on the D.C. Metro a guy got stabbed right next to me, so I'm still a little gun-shy, or rather stab-shy, on that. I'll get over it.)

I'm not sure how long ago this was, but you should know that this is extremely atypical. According to the metro crime stats 1.7 people per million riders were victims of the crime, and I would imagine that this number is much lower for the northwest. So I really wouldn't be very worried about this.
posted by Frankieist at 7:14 PM on June 6, 2007

Best answer: Unfortunately, there isn't really any housing near the campus short of the on-campus dorms.

I disagree, unless your definition of "near" is across the street.

Chinatown /H Street* is your friend. Seriously. When I started at GULC, there was an apartment complex called Crystal Towers at the Crystal City metro stop in Arlington that everyone called Gewirz South (Gewirz is the GULC dorm) -- it's where half my class lived as 2Ls. When we were 2Ls, something like 5 brand new apartment buildings opened around 4th & H, 4th & Mass. Everyone in the class after me moved there as 2Ls. It completely took over and became Gewirz West. Look for the Avalon at Gallery Place (converted to condos, but some units may be available to rent from the owners. try Craigslist for this), the Mass Court, and the Meridian, right off the top of my head. There is at least one more I can picture in my head but can't remember the name of. These are all extremely close to school -- maybe a 10 minute walk. If you're on the roof deck of the Avalon, you can look across 395 and see school (good or bad... depending on your mood, I guess).

Penn Quarter is essentially a few blocks directly south of Chinatown, and equally close to school. I don't know the names of any particular buildings there, but it was undergoing a similar "revitalization" when I was a 3L, with new apartments opening. There were already some good restaurants in that area too.

I strongly encourage you to stay on the Red Line, in NW DC, your first year. This is especially true if you don't know DC that well and you are concerned about integrating into the GULC scene (At one point there was a even blog ring of GULC students just in the Mass Court alone.). There are a lot of great places to live outside of this limitation, many suggested here, but for your concerns I'd stick to these areas for now.

See also.

Email is in my profile if you have any other GULC questions. I'm 2 yrs out, so not the most current, but I'm happy to help if I can.

On preview: wow, I like parentheses.

* The urban planners who gutted this area in a most-impressive (and incredibly un-subtle) forced gentrification a few years back are trying to get people to start calling this neighborhood, together with Penn Quarter, the "East End." To my knowledge, it hasn't really taken off other than in marketing materials, but you can use it in your searches just in case.
posted by jewishbuddha at 7:29 PM on June 6, 2007

Yeah, I probably should have prefaced my comments by noting that I avoided the hipster scene in favor of clean, safe, yuppie-ish environs and focused on trying to have a productive commute from Virginia. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. At the time, DC still had serious problems with trash pickup and snow clearing, and a lot of the places on Capitol Hill seemed old and rundown to me.

I think other commenters would agree that you should not equate Metro (which is usually clean, reliable, and fast) with the Metro bus system (which is not). Having to rely on commuter buses during rush hour can be dicey, especially if the weather is bad. If you can stick near Metro or within walking distance of the campus, you will probably be better off. Even then, you can probably expect to burn some money on cab fare for when you end up sleeping late or hustling to and from first year classes.

If you're interested in other thoughts about GULC, drop me a line at my user name @gmail. And good luck.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:30 PM on June 6, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, something about the hipster scene... I dunno... I don't partake of it that much, really, it just makes me feel better to know that it's all around me. I had no idea that there were so many Hoyas on MeFi, but I can't thank you all enough for all of your help. I recognize that the metro isn't that bad, but I seriously would like most to live within walking distance of the school - if there's one thing about NYC I'd like to hang on to, it's the walking.

The more this thread goes on, the more I realize that my biggest worry is probably adjusting to the new city. I've lived in NY for 8 years, in Brooklyn for 5 of them, and it's the first place I've really felt "home." I recognize that no U.S. city will be as cozy and communal and 24-hour in the same way, but I want to minimalize the culture shock, if I can.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:07 PM on June 6, 2007

One or our leading alternative weeklies has occasional articles comparing NY to DC. Lots of comparisons among the 1Ls every year, so you'll have lots of conversations about it and will probably end up longing for good pizza/bagels/whatever within a few months of living here. The difference is really striking. Good luck with the adjustment.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:53 AM on June 7, 2007

The more this thread goes on, the more I realize that my biggest worry is probably adjusting to the new city. I've lived in NY for 8 years, in Brooklyn for 5 of them, and it's the first place I've really felt "home." I recognize that no U.S. city will be as cozy and communal and 24-hour in the same way, but I want to minimalize the culture shock, if I can.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:07 PM on June 6 [+] [!]

Sadly, you are in for a shock no matter what. DC just can't measure up to NYC's coziness. If you compare them, you'll just be disappointed. Instead, focus on what DC has to offer. And no, I do not mean the free museums (bleh - everywhere has museums - why do people always try to tout the DC museums?). So does DC have to offer? I'm not sure -- I'm still trying to convince myself that it's got something! So far, what I've come up with is: pretty houses in Dupont and Georgetown; Rock Creek Park; and the awesome wonky geekiness of the average citizen. That latter factor makes it an awesome place to go to law school.

Anyways, I think you should definitely stay within walking distance of GULC. This is good advice for anyone in their first year of law school. If you're doing 1L right, you won't have all that much time for wandering around, and it will be good to have the essentials (friends, library, grocery store, pub, cafe) very close at hand to fit into your schedule as convenient.
posted by footnote at 6:50 AM on June 7, 2007

I live in an apartment literally across the street (well, and around the corner) from the Law Center. Rent here is cheap. Email in profile.
posted by brownpau at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2007

DC has plenty. Don't discount the museums, as there's so so many of them, and they're free - which makes jumping in to see new exhibits a lot nicer.

Rock Creek Park is one of the nicest urban parks Ive been to. Take advantage of it.
posted by jare2003 at 9:58 AM on June 7, 2007

HousingMaps makes finding stuff by area about a thousand times more pleasant, at least as far as the Craigslist items go.
posted by phearlez at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2007

Garantur letters? Is that a cool NYC Craigslist? 'Cause that's what we use down here.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:27 PM on June 7, 2007

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