How to Find an Affordable Home in Washington DC

Washington DC has become the place to be in the past decade or so. From the bustling arts and culture scene, excellent nightlife, unbelievably inventive cuisine, and of course, jobs within the governmental center, DC has a great deal to offer especially to those in their twenties and thirties. Gone are the days of thinking of the principality as a crime-infested city with a gutted infrastructure near the halls of world power. While the music scene in DC has always been the stuff of legend – Fugazi, anyone? – it admittedly had quite a downturn and has only emerged as a great place to live fairly recently. Prior to that, those living in DC felt that they had to, whether due to limited income or because they wanted to rub shoulders with movers and shakers in the political scene. This is no longer true, and it has now emerged as the country’s best-kept secret.

However, it is admittedly hard to find affordable housing in Washington DC. This shouldn’t come as a huge shock given the waves of intense gentrification, and especially when you consider billionaires such as Jeff Bezos eagerly making a home there so that he could be near the halls of power. Other Silicon Valley titans have the same idea. So, if you’re a budding professional – especially one with a young family – you might be wondering how to go about finding an affordable home in DC. The following are a few steps to help guide the process.

Finetune Your Budget

First things first, you need to have a clear budget in mind when trying to find an affordable home. DC has an abundance of housing at all imaginable price points, and luxury high rises seem to dominate. If this is not something you can ostensibly afford, then don’t waste time looking into it. You should assess how much you can pay in rent or mortgage payments, and even ask a financial advisor to look into your finances and help by recommending the best way to divvy up your income – post taxes – and set aside a specific monthly amount that you can afford to give up for housing. While doing this, you need to account for basic expenses such as utilities, WiFi, transportation, food, etc. In general, most will tell you that you should only spend twenty-five or a maximum of thirty-five percent of your income on housing, and this is a good rule of thumb to go by as you look for a new home. 

Look Into a Referral Service

Once you know how much money you can allocate to your housing costs every month, it might be incredibly helpful to look into finding a referral service or broker, especially if you are trying to rent an apartment and are doing so from a different state. Looking remotely can be a drag, and you may be missing out on different opportunities since you don’t have on the ground knowledge of the place. There are plenty of brokers who can help sift through choice listings and find you the best DC apartments that fit your own needs. They will take into account critical factors such as the price range, building amenities, the neighborhood, and so on. If you are worried about brokerage fees, then rest assured: you can find referral services that are basically free since the property managers post the details in a whole slew of local resources that you can find online if you do a bit of research.

Affordable Housing Authorities

Besides perusing community resources and looking into brokerage firms to help you find a home, you should also not be shy about finding affordable housing authorities. State and local authorities whose focus is on the housing market; they lead many non-profit housing services and help people find affordable options. The great thing is that these organizations have a local and community-oriented objective, so they are there to serve people like you. Their programs specifically cater to the locales they represent and are often the best source of information regarding affordable housing options that only true insiders could be privy to. Contrary to popular perception, these entities aren’t there to only serve those within the low-income bracket, but they offer plenty of resources to individuals and families with a moderate income. Also, these services are not only for those who need Section 8 housing. In fact, you might be able to find everything from cheaper brokerage services, low-interest loans, and even financial counseling to help with your budget. 


Learn to Let Go

Like most people feeling overzealous about moving to a new place, especially one as exciting and dynamic as Washington DC, you might have a laundry list of precious items and amenities that mean the world to you. After all, moving to DC communicates a measure of professional success or aspiration, and you may be tied to getting a home that helps you to embody this ideal. 

Unfortunately, with the high cost of housing these days and given the particulars of your budget, you may need to be less precious about these things and just learn to let go. Getting the home of your dreams does entail making a few compromises, so you should feel comfortable with settling on fewer amenities to save money. It’s ok for your home to not look like something you’d find on the cover of Architectural Digest. Besides, a place that looks relatively plain or blah on the outside can be made unique once you inhabit it – just treat the house or apartment as a blank canvas for you to be more creative and customize the space to fit your needs. The most important thing is the neighborhood, and as we’ve already seen, Washington DC as a whole has a lot to offer. 

Given the extremes in the housing climate these days, it may seem completely unfathomable to find an affordable home in a place as dazzling as DC. Luckily, there are plenty of resources that can help you get on the right footing straight away. It just requires a measure of patience and research on your end to make things work. 

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