Dear PoP

Dear PoP,

We have lived in Harlem for the past 5 years and Petworth seems like a similar type of neighborhood. Work is in the 1200 block of Taylor and we would really love to be close enough that hubby could walk to work. Also, since we live in NYC now we don’t have a car and would really like to avoid getting one.

So my question to you is with the above mentioned criteria can you suggest some areas in Petworth? It seems to be a pretty large neighborhood and I am interested in being close to the action in the neighborhood but also within the parameters listed above.

We are looking to rent but would love to buy! I am just a little nervous about the market and the move to a new area. I think it would be better if we lived there for awhile before we starting looking. Although, I have been enticed buy some rowhouses I have seen online.

Currently, we pay rent of about $1475 for a 3 bedroom, which is pretty ridiculous for NYC standards. Just from the research I have gathered that seems a little ridiculous for Petworth standards, too. Anyway, we would like to stay at or below and don’t need three bedrooms. A 1 bedroom is fine.

I am not a huge fan of “cookie cutter” apartments so something with a little charm might be nice. Last, but not least we do have a dog. He is used to apartments and not having a yard but it seems yards are more plentiful in DC so that might be nice.

One more thing.. don’t know how much it matters but we are 29 (me) and 32(hubby). He is a musician and we enjoy going out. I don’t know if there are pubs in walking distance in Petworth but that might be nice. Noise isn’t that big of deal either. We live on a pretty busy street right now. There is a post office across the street and that makes the street pretty lively.

Also, I am already used to lugging groceries/laundry several blocks, too.

Thanks again!

DC Bound

My response after the jump but of course please add your suggestions in the comments.

Dear DC Bound,

First let me say congratulations on your move.

19 Comment

  • Thank you, POP.

    This information has been very helpful. I do have a couple of questions. Are the places you mentioned to eat/go out in the neighborhood concentrated in one area or spread out? Right now, we have to take a pretty lengthy Subway ride to go to a restaurant. There is nothing in our neighborhood so the fact you have at least a couple of places is cool.

    How about the grocery store? I have seen posts about the Safeway but I am still a little uncertain geographically where all these places are.

  • Don’t mean to be too pessimistic, but you are going to definitely going to have to be able to compromise on what you want in your new place and especially what you want with regards to price. The rental market is tight in DC, really tight, as in 2.3% vacancy rates compared to national average of 6%. The landlords know this and there will be high prices prices for even studios and English basements and won’t negotiate. Also finding a place that will accept a dog could be a problem. We had a hard enough time finding places that would allow a cat. The plus side to this, is that it really helps limit the number of listings that you have to followup on. Just a little insight into the market in the NW DC rental market.

  • There is a nice end row house on the market on the 4000 block of 8th street between Sheppard and Taylor. I don’t know the price. Also, it is right across from the Police command building, close to Safeway and the new Yes Organic Market, subway and rec. center park if you have children. It sounds like the Petworth enclave between Georgia and New Hampshire just up from the Metro stop would be convenient. I have a neighbor on Taylor who works at the Library of Congress building on Taylor (I think close to your husband) and he walks that short distance every day.

  • Hate to say this, but $1475 for a three bedroom is actually unheard of for certain areas of dc. I would love to pay 1475 for a three bedroom. Is Petworth really that inexpensive to where 1475 for a three bedroom is not unheard of?

  • PoP is right – there are not a lot of apartment buildings so most rental options are basements or whole houses. But there are a couple apartment buildings right at the metro and an easy walk to all the action in Columbia Heights I would check out:


    and this building at the corner of Quincy and New Hampshire pictured on PoP (they advertise in Craigslist sometimes when there are vacancies, there’s also a sign in the yard w/ a #)

    2BR apartments in these buildings are under $1500 (a steal in DC) and you can’t beat the location, both less than a block from the metro. I don’t know about pets though…

  • Thanks for the heads up….. Trust me I know the deal we have in the city. I think 1475 for a a 3 bedroom is probably not realistic in any major metropolitan area. We would be happy with 1475 for a 1 bedroom. I have seen several english basements for $1100 or so. I actually saw a listing for one on Upshur in the 800 block for $875 and they take dogs.

    I am sure it is probably cheap for some reason. We aren’t really that picky in terms of what the place looks like.

    I don’t think it can be any worse than apartment hunting in NYC. I shed many a tear five years ago trying to get an apartment. We also have had roommates pretty much the whole time we have lived here so I am really not that picky with my living situation.

  • as someone who has lived in an english basement in the past….i would not recommend it. yea it’s cheaper, but in a lot of cases it’s very dark and there are insect problems…even flooding problems. for 1475, i imagine you can get a nice 1 or 2 bedroom rental in any of the areas that PoP mentioned. just my 2 cents!

  • why dont you move to NOMA? i heard that place is rockin’

  • It’s a bit of a small target, but I think the area between 14th and Georgia, Spring and Upshur, is one of the best places to be in the city. From there it’s just a short walk to most of the businesses in Petworth and Columbia Heights (everything you need — groceries to flat screens), both metro stations, and its only a longer walk or short bike ride to Mt. Pleasant and Adams Morgan. I also think that with some searching you could find a two bedroom in the $1500 range. Good luck, hope to see you around!

  • Clark Elementary between Kansas and 7th streets at about Allison has a great fenced in park where many people bring their dogs. Next year Clark will be closed down, so I suspect even more people will be using it as a dog park. Something to keep in mind – since we started going there every morning my english-basement imprisoned doggies are a lot happier.

  • I second avoiding the english basement trap! Having just moved out of one, I’ve only now realized what the world of sunlight is again, and just how soul sucking they can be. You can find something good for $1475 — keep plugging away.

    The Safeway is about 2 blocks north of the metro, on GA ave. It’s kinda crappy, but having lived in New York myself — I know that that’s hardly an issue! There’s a much better Giant in Columbia Heights, one neighborhood over. With a granny cart, it’s not too far on a nice day.

    The restaurants and bars mentioned by PoP are spread out over the neighborhood, but not too far cast from GA ave.

    And blittle: she pays 1475 in NY, not DC. Of course that’s not realistic. I’d assume our lucky new transplant has a coveted rent control deal. 🙂


  • I don’t think Petworth is anything like Harlem, if you mean an upper middle class black enclave with a deep cultural history, grand old mansions, and outstanding transportation downtown.

    Petworth is more like Windsor Terrace, Bklyn, but with crime and drugs.

    I think the couple might want to focus on U Street or central Columbia Hts, specifically 13th St or Holmead around Monroe and Park if they like the larger old houses.

  • The Washington Post local explorer maps might help to get a fix on where certain things are in relation to one another. It’s not 100% up to date or accurate but is a good start to see what’s near the metro station, for example. Use zip code 20011 to begin your search at:

    Best of luck.

  • dcnative, you KNOW there ain’t no such place as NOMA. It’s Swampoodle.

  • Everyone complains about the DC rental market, but frankly, I’ve never lived in a place that was so easy to find an apartment. You just have to take the time to look.

    Some rules:

    1. Stay away from Craig’s List. Craig’s List apartments tend to be overpriced and there’s a lot of spam on their.

    2. Ignore rule #1 and post a “housing wanted” add. I have found to fantastic places that way (one in Oakland — the best apartment that I’ve ever had: charming — fireplace, built-in bookcases, two blocks from BART, a backyard and great neighbors — and one in DC, not as great, but good landlords and big)

    3. Don’t be afraid of rental companies. We went from Fred A. Smith now. Best experience I’ve ever had, repairs made promptly. Easy to deal with. Lease was easy. I have a 1 bedroom with backporch for just north of $700 a month. It’s not in the best part of Petworth, but everything else is unbeatable.

    4. Do look at City Paper. The apartment listings in the City Paper tend to be more unique. Cheaper on average. And with landlords that are easier to deal with.

    5. Walk the neighborhood. There are still a lot of places that put out “for rent” signs. Start at the job location and then walk in several directions from there. The 1200 block of Taylor is great (we used to live in the 1300 block) there’s a lot of businesses on 14th street that feel NY-like, including cheap places to eat. And Red Derby too. Walk around there. You’ll likely find an apartment building or a house that is for rent that should be in your budget. You’re budget is completely reasonable as well. I personally have never paid over $1000 a month for a one-bedroom in either DC or the San Francisco Bay Area, which people seem to think is impossible. It’s not. But you have to look.

    Good luck with your search. We are hoping to make the opposite move this summer. If I still live in DC when I’m 35, I have given my friends orders to shoot me.

  • Holmead is one of the nicest streets in CH-

  • Thank you everyone for your responses! This is really, very helpful. Hopefully, we will get to make a trip down in a couple of weeks and will take all your advice to heart.

  • My roomates and I pay 1590 for a three bedroom across the street from the metro, so don’t give up, dcbound!

  • Hey now! English basements aren’t ALL bad. (okay, yes, many of them are, but there are a lot that are really comfortable. So- I wouldn’t eliminate that as an option, but definitely don’t sign a lease sight unseen on one. And when dealing with a dog, I would think you’re more likely to be able to find some dog friendly home owners who rent out the basement than in dealing with an apartment building (and really, when you have a dog, who wants to live in a place where you’d have to deal with staircases or elevators in the middle of the night for late night pee breaks??).

    When we were looking to buy a house, we looked at one on Rock Creek Church Rd that had an “basement” rental on the lower level that had SUPER high ceilings and was huge, lots of windows and was very inviting. (the problem was, the basement rental was nicer than the rest of the house…)

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