We’re still homeless!

One of the hardest things we have to do right now is find a new apartment.  It’s a hard decision, as we weigh living in better neighborhoods with saving money, as we try to strike a balance that will be comfortable if Chad doesn’t find work for a while, but isn’t so dumpy that we’ll we regret the decision once Chad starts working.

We’ve narrowed our decision to three places:

#1 is a gorgeous apartment complex within walking distance to Old Town Alexandria.  I’ve wanted to live in Old Town ever since I stayed here for business in 2007, and every time I ask for advice on where to live, people tell me Old Town is the best.  Old Town is full of restaurants and shops, and is a popular place for people to go out on weekends.  The apartment is pretty small – 711 sq. ft. – but has hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.  Our room would look out over the tops of some restaurants to a busy main road.  In addition to rent, you have to pay to park in their garage, or pray that you find a spot on the small stretch of curb out front.  If money were no object, we’d probably live here; on 2 salaries we could definitely afford it.  Total cost: $1785 per month + $100 per month for parking.

#2 is about a 5 minute drive from Old Town Alexandria.  It’s in a high rise off a busy highway, right near entrances to the freeway, and very close to a Metro stop.  It’s larger than the one in Old Town by about 100 sq. ft. and has new appliances.  It looks out over the busy road, and has giant grey radiators in every room.  We probably would have scratched it off the list, except for the fact that it’s the cheapest place we looked at.  It has some unique amenities (such as a shuttle to the grocery store on Saturdays, and some essential businesses – like a dry cleaner – on site).  Parking is free. Total cost: $1300 per month.


#3 is considerably farther from Old Town, but is literally 2 miles from where I work, which would be nice as it means Chad could have the car during the day.  The neighborhood is decent, although you probably couldn’t walk to anything. It’s less centrally-located than the other 2 paces, meaning if Chad got a job in downtown DC, he would have a pretty long commute. There is a Metro stop about a mile away.  The one-bedrooms are TINY, but we could get a one bedroom with a loft for a decent price.  They have free parking, and allow pets for an extra non-refundable deposit and additional rent. Total cost: $1500 per month.

If Chad was working, I would say we should live in Old Town.  We’ll only be young once, and once we decide to settle down (you know, have kids and all that) we’ll have plenty of time to live in the suburbs.  With just my salary, though, ANY of these is a stretch of the PF rule to  not spend more than 30% of your income on housing.

Any recommendations?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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10 Responses

  1. If you think Chad can find a job pretty quickly you could always sign a short term lease with the cheap place and then move into Old Town after…

    Just a thought

  2. Aw I love Old Town! Option #2 is pretty cheap, especially for this area. Have you read any reviews online about it? It depends on your budget but that is probably what I would do since it’s still central to things and is the cheapest. Welcome to the area!!

  3. My vote is #3….. Just because it’s 2 miles from where you work and he can take the car.

    The only sucky thing is the commute but he could Metro it from the one mile away 😉

    Plus, #2 sounds bad. I mean you would have crossed it off too if it wasn’t so cheap 😛

    Go for #3. #1 sounds a bit fancy…

  4. I’d go for cheap. It’s a total pain to move, so you want to find someplace that you think will last a while. But I ended up an an apartment similar to number one in a situation similar to yours (only one person working, second person actively hunting for job) and it took my husband 1.5 years to find something (Not anticipated. Had never happened before and has never happened since). We went into a ton of debt because we could barely afford everything, and so any time an emergency came along, we had to put it on credit. And we just happened to have a year full of emergencies. Health emergencies, car emergencies, family emergencies … you name it, we had it.

    If you think you can stand #2 for a year or two, I’d say take it. But if its too terrible, I’d go for #3 or keep looking. Sure, it’s fun to be walking distance from a ton of neat stuff … but it will only make it harder to stay within budget. If Chad gets a job immediately, save the difference for a year and then move with a large budget for fun. I assure you that you will still want to have fun next year and the year after … that urge doesn’t go away with age.

  5. I agree with Cat, at least on the part about temptation if you’re walking distance from all these cool restaurants and shops. The apartment itself is a stretch, and if Chad doesn’t get a job immediately it could lead to some cranky nights (you know, when you want to go out to those cool places just steps away…but you can’t afford them. That would be torture!).

    Option 3 sounds good, its not *as much* of a stretch, and being so close to work sounds nice! Although not close enough to walk…As for Option 2, is it as bad as you think it is? Free parking, a free shuttle (fun! reminds me of college!) and new appliances….plus its cheap. You have to consider if those big radiators bother you enough that you’ll pay at least $200 extra to avoid. Now, if its in a shady neighborhood, that’s another issue….

    Either way, I know what you’re feeling like! I always like to ask around, since I know I can get a little emotionally attached to apartments, even though I KNOW its not the most practical choice. Good luck with your decisions!

  6. Something about Option 2 makes it sound shady to me. I can almost picture it and I don’t like it. The sensible thing would be Option 3, I think, but I do have an argument in favor of Option 1. When I moved to the city I currently live in, I wish I had taken a nicer apartment in a neighborhood I loved instead of an OK-passable apartment in an OK neighborhood. Why? Because when you first move somewhere, you don’t have any friends, and you spend a LOT of time at home. Plus, moving is such a shock to the system that it’s comforting and nice and lovely to be live in a place that makes you happy and feel good about the decision. If you think you can rent the dream place for a year, then maybe do that and if Chad doesn’t have a job by then, you might have to downsize.

  7. I used to live and work in the Old Town area. I’d opt for Option # 1 0r 3 only since you have cars. Parking can be a nightmare at times in Old Town. If you want to pay for parking, go for Option 1. Option 2 sounds like it’s right off of 395 or 95 if you are that close to a Metro.

    Good luck.

  8. I suppose I’d take a cheaper place and then move again when Chad got a job (unless he is far enough in a process that an offer seems inevitable).

    That being said I now live in a neighborhood with tons of things in walking/biking distance and I love it. But $1900 on one salary is going to really impede your savings progress until he does get a job.

    By this point, perhaps you have decided?

  9. I don’t have any advice but I am happy to know that DC prices are pretty similar to LA! I think the decision depends on your goals, are you looking to save and get ahead or is it more important to enjoy the place where you are living? Number 1 sounds awesome but expensive, not the place to choose if you are saving for a house etc.

  10. You may also want to look a little more into the Carlyle area, it’s about a mile from Old Town (easy walk) and between two metro stops (Kings and Eisenhower).

    The other place that may be nice to check out is around Huntington, you’d only be two stops away by Metro from Old Town, and a lot of the apartment complexes in that area run weekday shuttles to the Metro station (currently parking at metros on weekends is free so you can drive in and ride where ever).

    Hopefully it’s not too creepy coming from a random internet stranger, but I just found your blog via a link, and actually live/work in the Old Town area. 🙂

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