Dear PoPville – Apartment Hunting from Afar?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoPville,

I am going to be moving to Washington D.C. to attend AU in August. I am looking for a one-bedroom apartment near AU that takes dogs (60 pounds) but I am not having any luck. I will be a starving student so I can’t live in the luxury buildings.

Do you have any suggestions of how I should be doing my searches on Craigslist? I am searching Cleveland Park, Friendship Heights, Tenleytown and Bethesda (but Bethesda seems to encompass a huge amount of space not near AU). I am not familiar enough with the area or the names of the neighborhoods to know what to search.”

I’d recommend you also look around the Van Ness metro station. Where would you guys suggest?

45 Comment

  • If you can, take a trip out here for a week or two and stay with a friend. I had no luck apartment searching from afar, and given your special circumstances (dog and small budget), you’re going to be competing with people who can show up at an open house.

    • Seconded. I tried to search remotely for weeks with no responses. Once they see that you can’t be there in person you are disregarded.

      • Thirded. I took a place sight unseen after a phone ‘interview’ with the housemates. While the place itself was great, the commute was a bitch. I didn’t have a car at the time (and they knew that) and they totally oversold the place’s proximity to public transportation. It’s definitely worth trying to get out here not only to do face-to-face meetings with potential landlords, but also to test out the commute and see if that’s doable for you.

        • Fourthed. The rental market moves very fast in Washington, DC. A new listing on Craigslist will usually net 3-4 applications on the day it’s posted.

          Moreover, there aren’t too many rentals that are listed with real estate agents; your best bet is indeed Craigslist for apartment vacancies.

          That said, you should contact a Realtor just to have a complete list of vacancies. A Realtor can send you a list of every vacancy listed in DC, not just ‘their’ listings.

          Unlike New York and other cities, there are no “fees” when leasing an apartment that is listed with an agent. In DC, the agent is compensated by the landlord, not the tenant. Stand clear of any apartment services changing you a fee just to show or provide you with listing vacancies, this is a rip off and a huge red flag.

          If you’re unable to view properties in person, be prepared to sign a lease sight unseen. Also it’s important not to begin your search too early. If you’re looking for a September 1st apartment, don’t start looking until August 1st at the earliest.

          Best of luck on your search,
          M Squared Real Estate

    • Fifthed. I moved out here for a job in the summer of 2009, spent a week with a friend looking for apts. and still didn’t find anything. Thankfully my friends let me stay at their place for a month while I started the job and searched for a place to live…otherwise I would have been totally screwed. It worked out in the end, but it was stressful as hell.

  • Finding an apartment building that will take a dog that’s over 60lbs might be tricky, but I’d widen your search to the following neighborhoods:

    Glover Park (depending on where you live, easy to get to by bike, bus or walking)
    Columbia Heights (To/From Tenleytown via the H2,H3,H4 – 20-30 minute commute)
    Van Ness (Stay north past the Van Ness Metro station, preferably in line with Albemarle, i.e. a 10 minute walk from Tenleytown metro)

    Otherwise, hope and pray there are good roommate/sublet openings on Craigslist.

    If you need more help, PoP can give you my email if you want to stay in touch (FYI: I’m an AU alumna)

    • Glover Park is a good suggestion. When I lived there it seemed like every other person had a dog.

    • I second your suggestion to widen the search, and looking along the H route is excellent. This also includes Mt. Pleasant, a very canine-friendly community with a lot of 1-BR basement rentals.

  • As an AU grad, I lived in Cleveland Park but many of my friends also lived in Columbia Heights/Mt Pleasant.

    The H bus will take you to the AU shuttle stop really easily and this area would probably be better if you have a dog because of the abundance of dog parks.

    I second the stay on someone’s couch option while you figure out the city. It’s hard to navigate and most houses want to meet before you move in. Good luck!

  • I currently live in cathedral heights…a sort of convergence of Glover Park/AU/Cleveland Park. We had a lot of trouble just finding a place that would take our 17lb cat. My best advice would be to look for a family renting their basement out. Most of the pet friendly places we found were of that sort. We are ~1mile from AU and its a straight shot up mass to the school or a straight 10min shot on the bus to dupont or farragut and from there we can get anywhere in teh city.

    • I’m an AU alumna and lived in a group house in Cathedral Heights for Junior & Senior year. It’s an area that is somewhat overlooked by students (since it’s bus but not metro accessible), though it only used to take me 10 minutes to bike up Mass Ave to campus.

      AU also provides some off-campus housing resources that you may want to look into to help expand your search: I’m not sure how helpful they would be, but it couldn’t hurt to reach out.

      My final thought is that you may be able to get a closer/more affordable apartment rental if you’re amenable to finding a roommate who may be facing a similar situation. I would be tempted to put some feelers out among the AU listservs and/or Craigslist.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck in your search and studies!

  • I would look for someone who is willing to take you in for a month or two while you apartment-hunt. I think that’s what most of us have done when we first moved here. If you don’t know anyone personally, put a request up on listservs or on Craigslist– maybe someone has a gap in between tenants that they’d like to fill.

    The truth is that there are very few vacancies in DC, and landlords prefer people who can see the place that afternoon and sign a lease that same week. Also, one’s tolerance for crime, price, commute length, etc, is so wildly varying from person to person that you really need to go see these neighborhoods for yourself before making a commitment.

    If you must sign a lease now, a boring neighborhood is probably a better bet than an overpriced or gentrifying one.

  • What is your budget? That will help people suggest appropriate places.

    With a dog that size, I really think you are going to need a group house type situation. Non-luxury apartments rarely ever allow dogs, especially big ones.

    Good luck! Are you enrolling in graduate school? If so, maybe you can contact your dept. chair and they can send something out on the listserv.

    • Agree that knowing the budget is an important piece. And whether you are metro/bus dependent or bringing a car.

      Also agree the department listserv is a great resource.

      We got our first place in DC sight unseen (though a friend did visit and take pix) through City Paper, but I think Craigslist is much more common for listings now. We’ll also have a basement apartment for rent by that time, and would welcome your puppy, but unfortunately we’re not near AU.

      • Lisa,

        How far are you from AU? I can do about a 45 minute commute one way if need be.

        I appreciate the advice from all. This is a lot harder than I expected it to be.


        • Going through Rock Creek Park, we’re about 4.5 miles to AU (Petworth/Brightwood Park). If you’re driving, and depending upon time of day, that could be 30-40 minutes. Also, my understanding is that parking is a real issue on/around campus. Transit-wise that would definitely be a 45 minute trip, just travel time. Door to door would likely be longer.

          Not telling you your business, but don’t set yourself up with a pain in the ass commute if you can help it. It will make life just that much more difficult. New school, new city, academic work, attempt at a social life, rest and play with your dog, etc–don’t add to the stress! 🙂

    • Do group houses normally allow dogs? I didn’t think they did. I’d look for someone who’s renting out a basement or other level of their rowhome.

  • Try Cathedral court condos on Wisconsin Avenue near the Cathedral. If you’re on a budget you might need a roomate though.

    • Second. I lived here for about a year with my large dog. While I ended up hating the location and moving to Mt. Pleasant (I work downtown), it would be good for an AU student. You could try the condos directly to see if an owner is renting, or you could use a broker like Urban Igloo that will have more options.

      And you should make a trip out here if you can.

  • 3022-3026 Wisconsin Ave, to be more precise

  • The dog does make it difficult. I agree with the poster who suggested finding a temporary place to stay for about a month (there are usually lots of short term housing situations advertised on Craigslist), and using it as a base while you search for a long term apartment in person.

    Also, is pretty awesome.

  • As someone who has had roommates off craigslist and rented out a basement on craigslist, i would never take someone I hadn’t met. And never, ever take someone with dog that I hadn’t met. You have to come to DC and meet people in person.

    Also, I know you’re a starving student – we’ve all been there – but DC’s expensive. If you want to live in anywhere near AU with a dog, add about $200 to what you think you can afford.

  • I currently go to AU, and have a 60 pound dog happily living in Columbia Heights. The commute isn’t bad, the neighborhood is diverse, and the rent is somewhat tolerable given this is DC. Good luck with your search! Also keep an eye on the listserv that AU has, or post on it with your search requirements and see if you get any hits back.

    Good luck and I hope you like AU as much as I do!

  • The Park Crest at Glover Park takes dogs with some breed restrictions. It’s pricy, though. I would definitely go to the AU housing website and post to find a roommate. PoP can give you my email if you like, we just did an apartment search and I’m an AU student.

    • I was going to recommend Park Crest in Glover Park also – I almost took an apartment there but opted for a cat-only building instead (Park Crest takes dogs and cats). I found it to be on the more affordable end of one-bedroom, non-basement, apartments. Keep in mind that summer is a crazy time for renting in DC and many places are signed for on the spot as soon as they’re advertised. As a pet owner and former grad student I can sympathize with you in your search – good luck!

  • I don’t know what your budget is, but a group called Nest in DC has relocation services. Link here:

    This might be a lot easier than trying to do it from afar and going with the whole sight unseen/pray for the best thing.

  • You can try looking in

    Also, when using Craigslist or something similar, it is always much better to call than to just send an email.

  • This doesn’t directly answer your question, but it might be helpful in your apartment hunt. It’s a Google map that pulls listings from a bunch of different sites (including Craigslist). I hope it helps.

  • You’ll need to come to town, to avoid getting scammed and to avoid having other people think you are a scammer. One good option with a dog is to share a house with other students — but you’ll want to meet them before you sign a lease.

  • It was hard for me to find a place last year, searching from brooklyn. As everyone has said, it’s best to be here even just for a weekend. Also, is great combination of google maps and craigslist.

  • is pop really this big now? college students from outside D.C. use it?

  • Another option you might not have considered is the northern Petworth/Walter Reed area. The E2 bus runs across town directly to Friendship Heights Metro station and the area is nicely residential. If you’re on a budget this area will likely be more affordable.
    But definitely check anything out before you commit. A weekend trip is the minimum.

  • definitely check out the condos across from the national cathedral, 3022-3026 Wisconsin Ave.

    i am entering the mba program at AU this fall and just got a place in one of the condos. its dog friendly and has a dog run in the complex. listings for this area pop up a good amount on craigslist.

  • I second the vote for Glover Park. Try also Spring Valley — it’s an expensive neighborhood, but you could probably get an English basement in the neighborhood. I went to AU — lived in Spring Valley and Mt Pleasant, and with the H base Mt. Pleasant/CH are very viable options.

  • I think you might need to be open to studios as well. I understand that it’s probably not ideal with a dog, but a one-bedroom apartment that allows big pets and is inexpensive will be difficult to find. Here are a few options that are reasonable and a fairly easy commute to AU (at least upon quick first look):

  • andy

    I used to live in Glover Park. Decent amount of apartments there but not much luxury.

    Consider places on the Red Line.

  • I would suggest posting a housing WANTED ad on Craigslist and really talk about yourself, what you’re studying, and about your dog. Give a good idea of your trustworthiness/personality, if you’re comfortable doing it put a pic of yourself and your pooch. When I first moved to DC I found all my housing this way. A lot of times people have a great unit but for a variety of reasons they don’t advertise them. Instead, they cherry pick their tenants through word of mouth or the wanted section on Craigslist.

    For example, the best apartment I had was the converted ground floor level of a townhouse near the Tenleytown metro. The landlord did not advertise it because he really needed to pick a good tenant – the unit was private with a lock on the door INTO it, but due to the architecture of the townhouse there was no way to block access to rest of the house. He also wanted someone around to watch the place and sometimes dog-sit when he went out of town.

    I loved that place – I only moved because I needed to be closer to my office/boyfriend. It was huge and it was only $900 a month because it didn’t have a certificate of occupancy (technically it would be an in law suite, I guess) and because of the watching the house and dog sitting (though 90% of the time he ended up putting his dog in a kennel).

    I would do the wanted ad – primarily because you have the dog and $ restrictions. But I would also consider areas like Cathedral Heights, Van Ess, Cleveland Park, Friendship Heights, Bethesda, or even Rockville.

  • I have a room for rent in my townhouse located in Bloomingdale. You can sublease for two months, if you like. (will need first months rent + security deposit) $950 including utilities, and the dog can come too AS LONG AS it is friendly with other animals and is 100% housebroken. Your commute will be long to school but as a pet owner myself, I understand the pain it is to find a place that will take a large dog and can tell you it will cost you quite a bit. Email me if interested: [email protected]

  • if there’s a listserv for current students in your program, see if any of them are moving out of a place that might work for you.

  • Au has a housing office where many local people list basements in private homes that they wouldn’t put on Craig’s List. It’s a smaller pool — you need an AU id to log in and view the listings.

  • Ug. Good luck. This will be hard. I don’t have a dog but I paid $800+ utilities for a room in a house shared with four people, one mile from AU, and then $825 for a basement apartment in Petworth. It’s not clear if you have a car, but keep in mind that AU is about 3/4 mile from the AU metro. I walked it – maybe 15-20 minutes if you’re carrying things or wearing non-sneakers, and much longer if you are waiting for a shuttle. This means that if you want a 45-minute commute, you’d need to be no more than 30 minutes from the Tenleytown/AU metro to wherever you are living… and metro is SLOW at night, particularly if you are changing lines.

    Having a car or a bigger budget really makes a difference. If you’re going to be a full time student and don’t have a car, I think your best bet is somewhere where you can a) walk to AU within 45 minutes or b)be near on the red line so you can avoid having to transfer – and you’ll probably need something shared.

    Once you’re here and have a chance to get to know the area it’ll be easier.

  • One of reasons we built is for situations exactly like this – to help people collaborate on an apartment hunt, especially one in a new city when you’re not physically there!

    While it’s best to avoid signing a lease sight unseen, using our site you can tell how far away the place is from public transport easily, to avoid problems mentioned in the comments above. Also, if you have a local friend/family member, maybe they could have checked out a couple places for you?

    Also, yes, timing is important. If you’re looking more than a month out, all you’re doing is really browsing to get a general sense of the inventory in the market – because all those apartments will be gone. Check out to help you learn about various neighborhoods from afar.

    Good luck!

  • I’m an AU alum and have a 70 lb. dog. We had luck in Cleveland Park and were able to rent out someone’s condo. A great way to avoid extra dog fees.

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