Finding housing in DC (or any major city) can be intimidating. With so many neighborhoods and homes to choose from, newcomers to the District might not know where to start.
If you’re not sure how to find an apartment in DC, this guide is for you. We’ll break down four key tips that will help you discover your next rental home; we’ll teach you how to assess your needs, set realistic expectations, explore DC’s neighborhoods, and tour properties in person before signing a lease.
With our top tips from housing search gurus, you’ll find your next home in DC in no time.
#1 Make a List of Wants and Needs
When you don’t know how to find apartments in DC, narrowing your search can seem like a daunting task. The first step? Make a list of what you need (and what you want) in a home.
When it comes to DC property searches, there are a few key questions that can help you build your list of must-haves:
- Do you have a car or a bike? – If you have a car, you’ll need to find a home with convenient parking options. As a prospective tenant, if you plan to walk or bike around town, keep an eye out for properties with nearby public transit access.
- Are you planning to live with roommates? – If you’re planning on living in DC with a roommate, explore the numerous options for coliving in Washington, DC.
- Do you have pets? – If you plan to move to DC with some furry friends, you’ll need to find a pet-friendly property or unit.
- Which amenities are you looking for? – Want access to late-night workout facilities? Community spaces and organized events? On-site laundry? Make a list of must-have amenities to include in your search as a prospective tenant.
#2 Set Realistic Expectations
As you learn more about how to rent an apartment in Washington, DC, you’ll likely discover that:
- Cost of living can be high – The median price for a rental home in DC (across all sizes and property types) is $2,650.3
- You might need to use public transit – The DC Metro transit system serves more than 600,000 residents each day.2 DC is large and densely populated, so you might need to lean on public transit for your commute to work or school.
For newcomers to DC who haven’t experienced city life, these can be two major hurdles to overcome. The solution? Set realistic expectations, then look for homes that meet (or exceed) those expectations. You can do this by:
- Setting a budget – Determine the average rent in Washington DC and how much you can comfortably pay for housing and filter your online searches to rule out properties that are too expensive.
- Determining commute limits – Think about how much time each day you can devote to commuting. Then, filter properties by their distance from work or school.
#3 Consider Multiple Neighborhoods
DC offers numerous neighborhoods to choose from, each with its own unique charm, character, and entertainment options. Some of these neighborhoods include:
While you might be tempted to only search in the neighborhoods closest to work or school, don’t be afraid to branch out. Whether you’re looking for a quieter area, close proximity to nightlife or entertainment, or communities with ample green space, DC’s neighborhoods offer something for everyone.
#4 Tour Properties in Person
Even if you’re moving to DC from out of state, we recommend touring all of the rental homes on your shortlist in person. Why?
- You’ll avoid rental scams – In the digital age, rental scams are only becoming more common.3 To make sure the properties being advertised are all they’re chalked up to be, check out any homes you’re interested in by scheduling an in-person tour.
- You can learn more about the community – Rental home tours are an excellent time to ask the property owner, complex manager, or real estate agent about the neighborhood. Learn about regular events, nearby attractions, and public transit access so you can get the full picture of your potential new home.
- You can secure a home quickly – Finding a rental home in a big city can be competitive—properties often go fast. If you tour a home that you can’t resist, you might be able to sign a lease on tour day.
Plus, seeing your potential new home in person is exciting. Whether you sign a lease on tour day or take some time to weigh all of your options before signing, touring is an excellent opportunity to take in the sights and feel of your new neighborhood.
Discover Your New Home in DC with Common
Finding housing in DC doesn’t have to be intimidating—making a list of your needs, setting realistic expectations, considering multiple neighborhoods in the city, and touring homes in person will all help you discover a home you’re sure to love.
If you’re looking for the perfect rental home in DC, explore properties by Common. We offer apartments, all-inclusive coliving options, community spaces, and top-of-the-line amenities in some of DC’s most sought-after neighborhoods—all at more affordable prices than traditional rental options.
Search for rental properties in DC from Common to find a home (and a community) you’ll love.
- Zillow. Washington, DC Rental Market. https://www.zillow.com/rental-manager/market-trends/washington-dc/
- Metro. Metrorail. https://www.wmata.com/service/rail
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Warns of Spike in Rental and Real Estate Scams. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/boston/news/press-releases/fbi-warns-of-spike-in-rental-and-real-estate-scams