Dear PoP


“I am looking to move to the Mt P/Columbia Heights/U Street area soon and want to be a bit more proactive than waiting for a lucky post on craig’s list. First off, can you recommend any good scouting techniques? I’m looking for a one bedroom or English basement with character and trying to stay clear of apartments, unless they fall under the small scale dc charm. My cap is $1000, hoping for W/D, would enjoy outside space, and preferably close to the local spots and metro. Can you or any readers steer me in the right rental real estate direction?”

This is the million dollar question. I get this question quite frequently so I’m hoping you guys can give some good advice for apartment hunting in these neighborhoods. Craig’s List is a good start but there has to be other options. Are there any listservs for Mt. P/Columbia Heights/U Street that have rental notices? The Columbia Heights News Forum didn’t seem to be too up to date on rentals. What suggestions do you guys have? Is it realistic to find a one bedroom or English basement for $1000 in these neighborhoods? For the renters out there, how’d you find your digs?

23 Comment

  • Craigslist worked like a charm for me, although i teamed up with 4 other people to rent houses instead of one bed room apartments, maybe less competition that way, and the rent is much cheaper the more people you have.

    I think it will be tough to find a 1000 dollar place in those neighborhoods. Theyre truly the “in” neighborhoods now and are selling appropriately. That being said, our neighbors one bedroom basement apartment with a w/d in petworth went for 930 a month, so its possible, just maybe not in Columbia Heights.

  • “Is it realistic to find a one bedroom or English basement for $1000 in these neighborhoods? For the renters out there, how’d you find your digs?”

    I found my apartment on Craigslist.

    And to answer your question, an English basement with utilities included- probably not unless you’re around 11th street/Sherman or east of that, or north of Spring. Not included- possible but not likely. There’s always the possibility that you’ll find a nice basement for around that price, but its not likely.

  • I just got done looking a month ago, and I didnt have a problem finding a one bedroom in CH for $800. If you are cheap and can live with people, a three-bedroom goes for around $550-650, sometime utilities included.

  • Craigslist is the most effective for landlords (its free and everyone looks there), so, while there may be other sources, they are likely to be dupes of what is on Craigslist. I think $1000 is tough for what you’re looking for, but it’s crazy what a difference a few blocks will make. A few minutes less walk to the metro seems to be worth $100s to some people. And you could always get lucky. I know someone paying $850 for a studio in a rowhouse, two blocks from the Dupont metro. Be flexible in what you look at, some “1 bedrooms” will be smaller than you assume, and some “studios” will be larger than you assume.

  • I moved out of a SWEET english basement apartment at 18th and Monroe one year ago. I was paying $920. It was never advertised – I got it because a friend had lived there before me… point is, the way to get the sweet deals is word of mouth. Keep talking to everyone you know. If you don’t know many people go into places like Tonic, Wonderland, Marx Cafe or Redrocks and talk to the people that work there or who are sitting at the bar.

  • Drive or walk around and write down phone numbers of buildings that look interesting. A lot of them don’t advertise at all. Also check out websites of companies that manage a lot of buildings, like Bernstein Management or Charles E Smith.

    3 buildings around Petworth are relatively inexpensive and very close to metro – the one at Quincy & NH Ave, the Paramount at Quincy & Georgia, and Taylor Towers at Georgia & Taylor. They all usually have signs outside advertising vacancies.

    I also have a friend renting a 1BR in a small building on NH Ave south of the metro (the next building after you pass the firehouse walking south) and she pays around $850 for a 1BR.

  • 11:35 is totally right about word of mouth being the way to go. But I don’t see $1000 doing it in MtP at this point – I know less about the other neighborhoods.

  • “Is it realistic to find a one bedroom or English basement for $1000 in these neighborhoods? For the renters out there, how’d you find your digs?”

    Yes, but not with with ALL of the following: W/D, outside space, and within .5 mile of the Metro. If you’re willing to drop one or two of those things or pay closer to $1200 you’ll have a chance.

  • After months on Craigslist and real estate websites, I found my English basement through Mt. Pleasant Forum ( I posted a message that said I was looking for a studio or 1 bedroom for no more than $900 including utilities. I received a response the next day for exactly that. The place is adorable, spacious and right in the heart of Mt. Pleasant.

  • Also, for $1000 you’ll only be able to find an English basement (unless you look in Petworth as others have suggested). In Columbia Heights it’s about $1200 minimum for an above-ground 1BR.

  • There are also buildings on 16th St near Mt Pleasant that have some good deals. Some have rent control and income ceilings, but are not as sketch as this might sound. Many of my colleagues at the nonprofit where I work have rented here. One I think is called Claridge House.

    The ones near the Petworth metro are a great deal I think b/c the Petworth metro is only about 8 blocks from the CH metro, so living in this area at the PW metro or just south you can walk to the Giant, Target, and restaurants/bars on 11th St in less than 10 minutes, while rents in CH proper can be a lot higher.

  • I think they could find a studio apartment for $1000 and under, but probably not a one bedroom unless, as others pointed out, they are willing to give up some of the items on their wish list. It took me several months to find my current place (I mostly used Craigslist), and in my experience, apartment-hunting around here is not fun — good luck!

  • thanks for all of the tips, truly appreciated. Does anyone know the deal with the mt p forum? Once I registered it booted me off and I could not get access again. I’ve been trying to contact them but the emails are rejected and the sight is dated 2001. DDouble, Any tips on actually contacting a live person associated?

  • You will not find a one bedroom with character and W/D for $1000.

  • Hmmm. I didn’t have a problem signing up but I know they migrated to a new web host. Maybe that’s the issue? Anyway, here is the “Contact Us” page. Good luck!

  • I had the exact same requirements when I moved to DC.

    Ultimately, I found a 1br basement in Mt. P for $850, with an awesome shared yard, and utilities included (even cable!). It had character, but the ceilings maxed out at 6’5″, there was no W/D, and I was a good 15-20 min walk from the CH metro. That said, it was awesome and cheap!

    I think it’s possible to find what you’re looking for (minus the W/D), if you have a few months to look. A building studio might be a better bet.

  • I’ve been looking into places in Columbia Heights, and agree with you — slim pickings for cheap nice rentals. In Columbia Heights, one bedrooms can be had for $1600: decent but not fancy, above ground, washer/dryer. Maybe look for a junior 1bd or studio/efficiency? And try looking east and north of the center of the neighborhood. Good luck!

  • until recently, i was renting a HUGE studio in a bldg that used to be one of dc’s most glamorous hotels. they still have pictures of the famous people that stayed there hanging on the wall. my studio was $800

    The Woodner
    3636 16th Street, NW
    Washington DC
    (202) 328-2822

  • saf

    Oh, man, the Woodner. It was a residential hotel for many many years. Ted Williams lived there when he managed the Senators.

    When I lived in Mt Pleasant, it had come down to the point where all the Mormon missionary boys lived there, because it was cheap. And it had a great restaurant – Fio’s – Fio’s was a totally unexpected good little Italian place just off the lobby. I was SO sorry when Fio’s closed.

  • In terms of where to look, I have for several years rented out the downstairs apartment in my CH townhome (which sounds very much like what the poster wants). Despite being active on many of the neighborhood blogs/listservs, I only list it on Craigslist when it’s available. It’s so effortless to post on CL and reaches such a wide audience that I’m fairly convinced it would not be worth the time to cross-list anywhere else. That said, I’ve had great tenants, and if one of them were leaving and came to me with a vouched-for replacement whose application checked out, I’d probably just go with that person, as it would minimize the vacancy time and turnover troubles for me while also giving some level of comfort that I’m not chancing it with a potential deadbeat tenant. All of which is to say that I suspect your practical options, especially with an English basement-type place from a non-professional landlord (like me), are either craigslist or through a friend about to leave an apartment you really like.

  • My biggest recommendation is to not count out a studio just because its not a one bedroom. My boyfriend and I live in a huge studio that is much bigger then most of the one bedrooms we saw. We ended up sectioning off the place with book shelves to create “rooms”.
    We have a W/D and all utilities [minus cable and internet] for $1100. We live about equal distance from Petworth and CH metro in the bestest most quietest neighborhood ever. We were lucky to find the place on craigslist. Be sure to be really aggressive on craigslist though. In the sense that if you find something you like, jump on it as soon as you can because chances are 3 or 4 other people also like it. Also, start early. Even if it means you will have to pay rent at two places. It’s better then scrambling at the end of your old lease and taking just anything.

    I was reading an article in the Post a few months ago that the average rent in CH for a one bedroom is like $1600-$1800 and a studio is $1300-$1600. Though I guess this factors in all the crazy expensive apartment buildings around the metro.

  • I would recommend you stick with Craigslist. The type of apartment you listed is most likely to be rented by an individual homeowner who by law can be very discriminate about who they allow to live in their house. As a homeowner/landlord, my experience with advertising a rental is that Craigslist brought in the best prospective renters and it was free. The Post is expensive and brings all kinds of cranks whereas Craigslist brings in professionals and students.

    Here’s my advice, you have to be quick to act as there is a lot of competition out there for the good apartments. Show up on time when you schedule a viewing appointment and make sure you are dressed well. Don’t share all the drama in your life with the prospective landlord. You’d be amazed at how many people disqualify themselves by doing that. If you are dealing with a homeowner/landlord and you really love the place, be willing to make yourself part of the household, even in a little way. For example, I had one woman I was going to rent to, but I asked her if she would be willing to feed my cat when I occasionally go out of town. She said she couldn’t stand cats. Next! The last time I rented my english basement one bedroom with off street parking, utilities, satellite TV, W/D and only a few blocks from Metro for $875, I posted it on a Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday morning had it rented. Sorry, it’s not available now I have a great tenant who loves my pets.

  • we snagged a 2 bed/1 bath basement between red rocks and giant; about 3 blocks to metro. w/d, central air/heat, newly remodeled, w/ carport AND pets allowed with no deposit. 1500$ we’re looking to get out of our lease though b/c we’re hoping to buy soon.

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