Dear PoP – Finding a 1br apartment?

Photo by PoPville reader A.L.

“Dear PoP,

I’m looking to make the jump to a 1br and looking in the N Dupont / U Street / Adams Morgan / Columbia heights area. My current situation is flexible, I’m on a month-month lease and can move any time – so I can wait for the right place / price. My budget is in the 1,000-1,400 range. I know a lot of buildings do not advertise on CraigsList so what would be the best option to find a place? A rental agent? Walking around and calling places to get on waitlists?

My only desire is to be walkable to the metro and have at least some street parking available (although I’d be willing to add up to $150 for parking if needed). A gas stove and a dishwasher would be nice but not necessary.”

I think the best option in addition to religiously searching Craigslist every few hours is to walk around the areas you are interested in. Often times there are building that have phone numbers/for rent signs out front that do not advertise on Craigslist.

What/where would you guys recommend for this reader?

57 Comment

  • A lot of the larger apartment buildings have listings in the WaPo’s apartment guide – the big, bricklike book that shows up in sidewalk dispensers all over the city. You can look through that, get an idea of what buildings might be of interest, and then contact the building directly.

    Pretty much all the big rental buildings on CT Ave are in there, for example.

    • Yeah, that’s what I did. Or check out apartments dot com. Just be aware that most of the prices are inaccurate/out of date.

  • increase your budget?

    • I live in a 1BR on U Street, half a block from the metro, with really easy on-street parking, a private patio, en suite washer/dryer, and dishwasher (but alas, an electric stove). I pay $1425.

      I may be lucky, but these places do exist. Since the OP indicates flexibility in moving timeframe and a willingness to hunt, I don’t think it’s an impossibility.

      • Exactly – OP here. Just looked at a place at 14th and T NW for 1375 that included all utilities and had 9 foot+ ceilings. Unfortunately about 16+ other people wanted it as well so I didn’t make the cut.

        I don’t need granite counters or stainless steel appliances – I’ll save that for when I finally get around to buying a place. For now I just want something that’s a upgrade above my group house.

        I know the price I’m looking at is on the verge of unrealistic but since I’m in no dire need to leave immediately I’m willing to wait it out.

        And Anon – if you need someone to take over your lease let me know 😉

        • Ben,

          I live in the neighborhood you are looking for, really close to Meridian Hill Park. I pay $1215 a month w/ utils included. No granite/stainless steel/dishwasher, but it’s a very large one bedroom that I love. I’m actually looking for someone to take over my lease for one month (June) and then start their own afterward b/c I’m moving out of the country for a job. Is there a way to get in touch with you?

          And yes, people, it is doable. You just have to put in the work to visit all those less fancy looking buildings who don’t have balloons and 20 signs in front.

  • Hahahahahahaha. Yeah right. Good luck.

    For a non-basement, you’ll be paying $1700+ w/ street parking for an apartment that hasn’t been updated since 1086. It sucks. But it’s true.

  • Good Luck. I spent months looking for a one bedroom in that area and had trouble finding anything under $2k. But, my standards were probably a little high. There’s a couple of buildings just off of 14th Street near Rhode Island or possibly N St. that might have apartments in that range. They have signs posted just outside of their buildings with a number you could call. Its a good day to head over there and take a walk.

  • increase your budget by $1000/mo

    • me

      Not only is that super pessimistic, but just wrong. You probably don’t even live in the neighborhood and are just guessing. Don’t post something so unhelpful just to be a jerk.

  • I second the walking around looking for “rent” signs…just be prepared that unless you want to up your budget to at least $1600 you’re going to be looking at English basements and/or studios–a lot of the new buildings start 1bdrms at like $1700+ and when we were looking for a place the apartments we saw that were 1bdrms and in your budget were pretty grim and dingy. Good luck, it’s definitely not an easy task!

  • Try on mass between 14 and 17? You might be able to find a jr 1 bedroom for that price.. Or search craigslist, you can find them on there. not every landlord is greedy these days.

    • Love this. Why would I rent my place below market value? Because I feel sorry for some stranger’s budget? Give me a break.

      • Just speaking for past experience. Not all landlords are asses.. I rented a place for 3 years in north dupont & u street $200 below market because the landlord was a nice guy and wanted to keep me as tenant. But if people will pay above market then let them.

        • The landlord doesn’t know you’re a good tenant, until you’ve already lived there.

          Time to graduate from sociology and take a business class.

          • me

            I had a landlord knock off $100 per month because I signed a year-and-a-half lease instead of a year lease. It happens.

      • Once you’re in, a landlord may keep the rent low in order to keep you there if you are a low hassle tenant. Additionally, some landlords actually are not trying to squeeze every dollar out of their apartment(s).

        Until several months ago I rented a very spacious 1 bedroom in West End, a block from Georgetown, for just 1,700 in a nice buildling with pool, gym, etc. When I found it, it was notably cheaper than anything else I came across, including others in the building. It did not have fancy appliances and the landlord’s agent (that managed several of their properties) specifically said the landlords are not trying to get as much as they can out of it, but just wanted a good quality tenant and wanted to provide a reasonably priced place. In my 4 years there they never raised the rent.

        • This used to be the case. Unfortunately it’s hard to justify with the constant property assessment increases. Especially when there are way more tenants than there are apts!

  • check out the raymond:

    that site is for someone looking to buy the whole building, but it’s just to show you what it is. i think this and the building next to it are still pretty affordable.

  • i am in almost the exact situation with the exact same budget, but add in that i have a 62 lb dog 🙁
    i’ve been looking for the past 7 months and haven’t found anything. am trying to get out of a group house, but am thinking of just staying, saving up money, and increasing my budget for apartment hunting.
    it is all about diligence, i’ve certainly found great apartments, but not with the right pet policy (and yes, i’m willing to lie and tell the bldg that i have a 40 lb. dog, as my dog is old and quiet).
    walking around looking for apartment for rent signs is a great way to find places, but i’ve had better luck with craigslist.
    good luck! 😀

  • If you can compromise a few blocks, I lived in a very nice apt. on 16th and Lamont Street, NW called The Majestic. It was a 1939 art deco hotel that got converted into apt. The renovations are true to the 1939 decor and the reno job was superb. I was a roughly 600 sf studio with Parquet floors, French doors, chrome fixtures and subway tiles in the bathroom and kitchen that only cost me $1100/mo. ALSO, it only cost me a non-refundable deposit of $250 to move in. Laundry is in the basement, its right next to Mt. Pleasant, which happens to boast the cheapest grocery store in town, Best Way, a weekend Farmer’s Market and great restaurants/bars and a 10 min walk to AdMo and <5 min walk to Target/Columbia Heights. I would highly recommend looking into the building! Best of luck to you!!

  • Under $1400 is pushing it, but I know someone who just (last month) rented a large, nice 1-bedroom in that area for $1500. Try walking around and asking at the buildings. Best done on weekdays during business hours, or Saturday mornings. The big companies that rent out the really large, older buildings don’t seem to use CL, so you can also just call the management companies and ask what they have available.

  • I actually ended up using Apartment Detectives when I was in the same boat as you. I know some people haven’t had the best experience with them, but it was SUPER helpful for me. Since they’re directly in touch with a lot of landlords/property management companies, they can hook you up with an apartment viewing before a place is publicly listed. The downside is that you will have to part with $325 for the service.

    I thought it was worth it, personally. Within two weeks they found me a HUGE 1 br, non-basement apartment in Capitol Hill for $1300/mo that met my specifications.

    That’s my 2 cents, and good luck finding an affordable apartment!

    • Only work with these people if you’re SURE you have to.

      I hired Apartment Detectives and the next day(before they had started doing any searching) was contacted by a landlord who had turned me down for a second chance offer. I contacted Apartment Detectives and told them to put things on hold. I ended up accepting the offer and Apartment Detectives refused to refund me a single dime of my deposit.

      I don’t have any experience with their actual ability(they sent me an email with a half dozen apartments, almost all of which were explicitly out of my stated price range), but be certain before you give these people any money.

  • I found it very helpful to call the big management companies and ask if they had any apartments opening up with whatever it is you want. I saved hundreds of dollars a month by doing this when I was looking for an apartment. The large ones have a bunch of different buildings all over the city, and each one had a range of apartments that might be too nice for your criteria and very affordable ones.

    • +1 That’s what I did. I went with Bernstein Management company b/c they had what I was looking for. I’ve been in my apartment for 4 year and counting.

  • Try the Segovia Apts (newly built) between 13th and 14th on Euclid in C. Heights….they aren’t online but there is a number to call. Just finished a few weeks ago and look like they’ll be nice and not too pricey!

  • I ended up not living by myself, but when I was looking in the same range, I looked at the Park Monroe at 16th and Park and the Windmere-H(something) on T and New Hampshire I believe. They are owned by the same management company. I don’t know anyone who has lived there, but it seems to fit all of these qualifications and they get a decent rating on apartment-ratings, at least in comparison to other large apartment buildings. Just a couple buildings to consider.

  • kiki

    Check out the Barac Company’s listings. They own a bunch of buildings in DC and are pretty affordable. I live in one of their apartments in Kalorama, 1-BR, dishwasher, gas stove, all utilities included and it’s less than $1500/month.

  • I am in the process of renovating my basement apartment that is approximately 750 square feet, I plan to throw in off street parking. Location good, three blocks to grocery store and metro. I was going to ask for 1200 a month, I think I need to up my price. By the way, a legal rental with C of O.

    • that actually sounds right for a basement apartment. my friend rents one near columbia heights metro for $1150 w/parking space and it’s huge.
      i don’t think $1200’s too low, but i’m not a landlord.

    • You prob do, unless you’re in the Totten.

      • I rent my English Basement in Bloomingdale for $1450. When I put it on CR I had over 100 inquiries in a few days so I figure I could have asked more. If you’re address is in the area in question than asking $1200 is below market price.

        • When I made a casual inquiry about renting out my English basement (1 block from Eastern Market) a few months ago everyone thought I was being greedy for thinking it could be rented for $1000.

      • why “the totten”? why not “the fort”?

        • Because I also say, “The McNair”.

          Not sure, honestly. Heard it somewhere.

          • do you say “the reno”?

          • Yes, but with an accent on the last syllable. “The re-NO.”

            You know what bothers me? When people write about Truxton Circle. There’s no damn circle. As far as -official- names go, it’s the worst.

            I hearby bequeath the arbitrary circle designation to Trinidad. “Trinidad Circle”. Makes about as much sense.

          • tres,

            how about foggy bottom? there no longer a bottom there.
            and no park in ledroit park.
            and neither woodridge or edgewood are next to the woods.

            i like neighborhood of “riverfront” even though we have lots of riverfront in dc. on two rivers, even.

            we could call the starburst intersection ” the trinidad circle”.

          • Good point. I had forgotten our city is so full of Gallagher worthy naming errors.

            I think I would settle for Truxton Loop.

            Meanwhile, Trinidad is now the chic-sounding Trini Circle. Take that, Ward 7ers! May hoards of Realtors descend upon you.

  • Why a 1-bedroom and not a studio? In my opnion it’s not worth the extra $3,600/year or so that you’re paying to have part of the living space partitioned off as a separate room.

  • check out John C Formant. I’ve used them before and they were great:

    That said, they usually list Cap Hill apartments. For your tight budget, I think you’ll have to expand your search.

  • I think a lot of the problem with finding a place in your price range is that the majority of DC (or at least the neighborhood you’re looking at) is rent-controlled. So we aren’t moving out of our places, but if we do the market price rent jumps up a few hundred $ for the next renter. In my case, I found a nice 1 bedroom for $1350 4 years ago… now up to $1550 for me…listed at $1800 current market.

    But to answer for advice, I second the option of walking around and taking down phone numbers/email addresses for buildings and management companies. If you find a building that suits your needs and price then put yourself on the wait list and follow up monthly.

  • I rented from Yarmouth for years – they have rental listings updated daily on their website –

  • Squatting works for me.

    Kidding. Someone already mentioned the Barac Group. Here’s a link to their vacancy listings – several of which are affordable and in the U Street region:

    I haven’t rented from them but have my eye on their listings, since I’m thinking about moving to a 1-BR place too. Good luck! It’s not impossible to find a place in your price range, as long as you’re not looking to live in the lap of luxury.

    DC can be fairly affordable…it just requires a little tenacity. I’m paying $615 a month for a 15 by 15 rowhouse room. It’s a little like a fraternity, but my GOD, it’s a deal. (Our basement neighbors have a MASSIVE place with its own kitchen and w/d, and they pay $1300, utilities included.)

  • If there are buildings you would like to live in, go in and ask about vacancies and put in an application. My experience (granted 10 years ago) was that buildings often did not advertise, but if they liked your application you’d get informed of places that were opening up soon.

  • I agree with C. Money and a lot of the others. Figure out by word of mouth (like this site) or walking around which buildings you might want to live in and then stalk them. If you become friendly with the building manager and get on the wait list, they may call you before they even list a place.

    Also if you think you may be renting for awhile, it may be worth it to pay a bit more up front for a building/apartment you really like knowing that down the road you’ll benefit from rent control too. Five years ago when I moved into my top floor one bedroom it was a financial stretch for me – but now I’m paying $400 less than market and still love my place.

  • I was in the exact same situation about 10 months ago. Craigslist worked for me, but only to a certain extent–a lot of apartments in that area of town move fast. A couple of times, I set up an appointment to look at a place–when I got there, it was rented. Finally found a place by just walking around and walking into places.

    For your budget, there is hope, as long as you don’t mind living in an older building. I almost lived in either the Century or Embassy Towers, both at 16th and Fuller…both under the same management co, I believe, and both within budget. I think both the units I looked at had stoves and dishwashers, too.

  • I think half the city is looking for a 1bd apt in these areas right now, including myself. How about a place under 1700ish by 16th street that accepts cats? Further south is better. Any recommendations?

  • Two words and a letter:

    William C Smith

  • try the dorchester house on 16th street & kalorama/euclid. i moved to the neighborhood a couple years ago, and i remember the building being cheaper than a lot of other places in the area. the apartments are spacious and there’s a great rooftop deck. the big drawback for me was the small kitchen with out-of-date appliances, but if that’s not important to you, it’s definitely worth checking out. good luck!

  • I’m currently looking with a 2BR apartment in DC and right now there’s not a lot to choose from. Is it the time of year?

    • Yes – the cycles tend to move in accordance with college semesters and congressional sessions. Leases are easiest to find starting July/August and December/January, but stuff will probably start opening up soon for May since college students will be leaving

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