Dear PoPville – Is moving to Capitol Hill worth paying a month’s double rent and getting a roommate?

Photo by PoPville flickr user K’s Clicks

Dear PoPville,

I need help. I currently live in Chinatown in a one bedroom, 700 sq ft condo with my boyfriend. One day while taking a break at work I stumbled upon a house in Capitol Hill between Union Station metro and New York Avenue metro. It is 1,800 sq ft with 2 master bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, small den, and parking. It is however, $600 out of our price range. So, I recruited a coworker and friend to take a look. Rent split three ways would save us money!!

Once seeing the place she agreed. The lease for the new house would begin July 1st.

I had asked my current landlord in May if he would possibly let us out early. He said yes if were out by the 30th of June. Today when we said yes we would like to move out and I offered to help show the place, he said no. Since we hadn’t given 30 days he would not allow us to move out early.

At first I was upset, but he is the landlord and I did sign a lease. I can’t blame him.

The question is, do we all move forward and pay double rent for a month? Is it worth it?

Chinatown, Capitol Hill? Roommate or no roommate? 700 sq ft or 1800 sq ft?

Granted this isn’t the biggest problem of all time, however it is a big chunk of change for one month and I don’t know if it will be worth it.


Distressed DC Renter

I’d say if you really love the new place it’s worth paying the extra months rent especially if your rent will ultimately be cheaper with the new roommate. The place also sounds big enough that you will all have lots of breathing room. What do you guys think – is it a good idea or too dangerous to move in with a co-worker?

49 Comment

  • I say do it. It’ll also mean you can move yourself in at your own pace, might save you money if you were planning on hiring movers.

    • That’s a good point. I was always doing it the cheap way and had to move everything in a day, which was super-stressful. One time I left my cat behind (so he wouldn’t get in the way) along with a few small items. When I came back the landlord was about to call Animal Control and toss the rest of my stuff already.

      Welcome to the neighborhood, OP!

  • Hmmm, lots of variables in play here. Generally speaking I would say that you and your boyfriend moving in with your coworker does not sound like a good idea to me.

    • I think it’s going to be tough to go back to living with a roommate if you and your boyfriend have had your own space together for a while. I don’t think it will take very long for some discomfort to develop between you two and the coworker in question. Sorry, but there’s a certain point in adulthood when roommates become an option of last resort. I think you and your BF may need to plan ahead and see what it would take to cover the $600 gap by yourselves should your roomy decide to leave. Hope it works out for the best in any event.

  • Don’t live with coworkers. That sounds like an awesome new place, but I advise against living with a coworker.

  • I think it depends on the co-worker. If you two are in different departments and don’t see each other much, it might be ok. If you are around each other all day in the office, I agree with the others.

  • Between Union Station and New York Avenue Metro? Is that even considered Capitol Hill? Isn’t that NoMa or SoFla or ESwamPoo?

    Also, more than one relationship has been ruined by “friends” becoming roommates. Look at Hitler and Eva Braun.

    • Being that close to the rail yard, hobos might also be a concern.

    • Oh, I missed that part. That’s definitely not Capitol Hill! Sounds like Near Northeast.

    • That’s what I was thinking. The term “capitol hill” has definitely been stretched quite a bit. In NW, as neighborhoods gentrify, they typically get their own name to kind of dispel the bad (to some) connotations of what the neighborhood had been, or was perceived to be. The result is a lot of smaller neighborhoods where there used to be only one (Shaw is clealry the example I’m thinking of). In SE/NE, as other areas gentrify, they quickly latch on the Capitol Hill bandwagon. For instance, I know people who live near the 13th & H and definitely claim to live in Cap Hill. It seems like a fair assessment to me, but when looking at a map I realized just how huge that must make the Cap Hill area. What are people’s thoughts on the boundaries of that neighborhood?

      • In my mind it stretches north to H Street and east to 15th.

        • Also, based on what I’ve heard/read my boundaries are very liberal… in other words, no one would consider something north of H Street to be Capitol Hill. A lot of people don’t even think H Street should be included.

          • I think the Capitol Hill Historic District, or whatever it’s called, considers F Street NE to be the northern boundary. But there is almost zero difference between the blocks immediately south of F Street and the blocks between F and H.

            Saying anything north of H is Capitol Hill is a real stretch.

      • when i moved to dc 15 years ago and was looking for places to live, people in trinidad were calling their hood capitol hill, everything east and south of the capitol to the river was capitol hill. near northeast, gallaudet all were capitol hill, according to some.

      • The historic district technically extends to 14th St., north to F St. and south to Virginia Ave. More recently, I think most people consider H St. the northern border as opposed to F St.

        • I’ve never heard of H St as the border. I have heard F before. I think stretching it all the way to 14th street is a bit of a stretch in my mind – regardless of the historic district designation.

          • it’s flat all the way to rfk, therefore still on the “hill”.

            the hill bottoms out at h.

          • Most Hill organizations now include H St. businesses, The Hill is Home considers H St part of the border, etc. It’s odd that you’ve never heard of it as included.

          • That’s pretty persnickety to say “F” is the northern border, but that “H” (which is two short blocks north) as the northern border is inconceivable. And 13th is the eastern border of the historic district, so that’s about as Capitol Hill as it gets, right?

          • Do Cap South metro folks and NY Ave metro folks live in the “same”* neighborhood? Maybe technically — but otherwise no.

            Even if this is “the Hill”, you don’t have the ability to tell people “I live in Capital Hill” if you live in NoMa. Not if you want to communicate effectively.

            *Quotes denote sarcasm.

          • Really @Tres? Because technically Schneider’s is in “NoMa”; same with an address like 5th and D NE, but no one would dispute that either of those is in Capitol Hill.

            I sort of see your point, but mine is that neighborhood names (even something supposedly with specific geography like NoMa) are completely arbitrary.

      • I was wondering about the OP’s assessment of where Capitol Hill is. The area between Union Station and NY Ave. Metro is definitely not Capitol Hill and H Street is definitely outside the confines. I think that Capitol Hill extends in the east to maybe a block or two past Lincoln Park, in the north to F Street, and in the south maybe to the freeway.

    • You might call this area “Union Station North”.

      I prefer Near Northeast. Or NoMa. Anything but Cap Hill. Calling this Capital Hill is like calling U Street “Dupont East”. Reaching but not quite making it…

  • I’d say no way. It costs a lot to move–think truck, some new furnishings, boxes and tape, maybe not getting your whole security deposit back, double rent, etc. I bet if you factor all that in, you won’t save as much as you think. The “small den” is not enough breathing room if that and the kitchen are your only common space. The co-worker thing is a red flag, but more importantly than that, a single person (or even someone dating someone who lives elsewhere) with a couple has the potential for disaster.

    I say this as someone who lived as a single person with a couple. I realize my experience is just an anecdote and other people might have had better ones, but for me it was not a good situation, to say the least (ended with the couple breaking up, one of them spending Thanksgiving in a psych ward, and a small claims case)…and no, I didn’t break them up or start dating one of them or sue anyone or anything. If you want to save rent, I’d sooner look into a 3 or 4 bedroom place and live with several other people/couples, not just one and certainly not just one co-worker.

    As for Chinatown or Capitol Hill, that really depends on your preferences (where do you work? where do you like to go when not at work?).

  • I paid double rent for a month for a place I really loved, and it was so completely worth it. The rent I pay and the quality of my apartment and roommates was an incredibly rare find in DC. Sometimes landlords advertize properties so last-minute that it can be unavoidable.

    Living with a boyfriend and other roommates sounds find, but I agree with the others on the coworker situation: it depends a lot on your work environment, but I personally wouldn’t do it.

  • No way in hell we’d live with a housemate again. Of course, I suppose it depends upon your age and lifestyle, but we are far too old for and require more privacy. Just got out of spending two years with a housemate so we could afford a house rental. Disastrous. He wasn’t a coworker, but we a couple and he a single DID NOT WORK OUT. One of our motivating factors in buying.

    I think it depends upon the relationship among the three of you. Are you all friends and hang out together outside of work? How close of friends? Or would it be strictly business? Do you know how your coworker lives? As in cleaning habits, noise levels, etc.

    I wouldn’t do it, but I’m old and cranky and grew up an only child. I do not share well with others. :p

  • Where do you and the co-worker work? If it’s far away it may be be worth it for the carpooling benefits. There are a lot of variables at play…

  • It’s not the extra month’s rent that would concern me; it’s the taking on of roommates. Not knowing anything about OP, my observation would be that, if she’s acclimated to living alone, taking on 2 roommates is going to be novel for about a month (there will be some great nights in the back yard, a fun housewarming party, joint trips to Target for furnishings … always good times), then reality is going to set in, and it may not be as pleasant. (Also, it’s unclear to me, but it seems like 4 people would share this space: OP, boyfriend, co-worker, and random 4th friend. What basis is there to think bf and co-worker will co-exist peacefully, for instance? With 4 people, you’re talking about 6 separate relationships, any one of which could go south and create a horrible living experience.) Once your name is on a lease with 3 other people, you’ve tied your fortunes together, for better or worse. Unless OP is lock-tight certain about these relationships being solid, I’d lean against it.

    That said, if you’re talking about $500-600/mo, and that amount of money is worth the risk, go for it. Money now is worth more than money later, and generally I support the idea that spending a lower % of your income on rent makes a lot of sense, particularly when you’re younger.

  • Are you moving for the extra space? It’s going to feel smaller than you think when you’re sharing it with someone else.

  • a couple with a third roommate? I think thats the bigger problem, never seen a situation where that turned out to be a good idea. Inevitably, the roommate is gonna feel like the third wheel. Or, the couple starts having problems and uses roommate as a buffer (been there before). If you want to play house with your boyfriend, then do like most adults do when they are serious, come up with a budget and find a place you can afford together. If you can’t do that, then are yall ready to be living together? Otherwise, find some fun friends and get a place with them instead.

    • I think “Lost” was maybe a little tough on the OP, but I agree that idea of a couple living with a roommate sounds like a bad, bad idea from the point of view of the roommate. (And maybe even from the couple’s point of view.)

    • I’ve actually seen it work. My favorite tenants ever were that set-up. But I recognize they were succeeding against all odds.

      The other question that the OP begs is: what’s the status with her bf? Are they rock solid, about-to-be-engaged, or is this just modernity creeping in and rent being saved against the backrdop of a serviceable relationship that might end up discarded at some point? Not to be all fuddy-duddy, but I generally think signing a lease with a less-than-fully-committed significant other is a bad idea, for reasons purely practical. It’s kind of like the “don’t sh*t where you eat” maxim: don’t let your housing situation depend on your relationship status.

    • Hi there lost –
      I actually live with my boyfriend now and have for almost a year. We are more adult like, then I would ever like to fess up to.

      I just thought having a 3rd roommate would not only save on cost, but be fun.

      We are a serious couple and will be settling down sooner, rather than later. I look at this as our last hooray. Save money, be with friends, have fun.

      Granted not everything can always be perfect, but I believe it is worth the shot.

  • I sort of get the impression the third person was talked into the arrangement, or else is very impulsive. Either scenario would spell disaster. Might be a good idea to take a hard, honest look at the dynamics here.

  • Is the kitchen three times bigger than your current kitchen (enough drawers for two sets of silverware and mixing bowls and pans)? Is the fridge three times bigger? The coat closet, the hot water heater? Taking on another roommate means more to share than the living room TV. I think you’ll be missing your privacy, space, and a month’s worth of rent.

  • andy

    always live by yourself until you cohabit. only way to live.

  • It’s definitely worth paying double rent for one month. Think of it this way: Divide the amount you’ll pay extra for one month and divide it by 12. Add that figure to your monthly rent at the new place and ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile. If it is, move. Additionally, if you stay there for 2 years, divide the aforementioned amount by 24 and so on each year that you’re at the new place. It’ll all work out, trust me.

  • DON’T DO IT. Roommates will make you hate your home and ruin your life! It NEVER works like you think it will.

  • You stumbled on this house and hadn’t really been thinking of moving right? So maybe you & BF are just feeling a need for a bigger place, different neighborhood, etc. Take your time and look around for something else.

    • “Take your time and look around for something else.”


      Why the rush? If you’re month to month (or are allowed to break your lease with 30 days’ notice), do it right. It only seems like this unit is unique, because you put yourself in a pressured situation. That’s what really has you worked up about this — not the unit itself, but the imminence of the decision. Many other rentals like this one exist — some in your price range. Patience.

  • I missed that the potential roommate in this equation is a coworker.

    It sounds like all kinds of things could go wrong with this situation. If the current setup with the OP and boyfriend in Chinatown is working out OK, stick with it. Introducing another party into the mix just to be able to afford a bigger, nicer place sounds like it could introduce a whole lot of hassle.

  • if you move to a place that is not actually in the strictly defined neighborhood that it is loosely advertised as you will die a slow and agonizing death.

    who would want that?

  • Is moving to Capitol Hill worth paying a month’s double rent and getting a roommate? Possibly.

    Is moving to somehwere near the New York Avenue metro worth paying a month’s double rent and getting a roommate? Hell no!

  • moving in with a roommate and neighborhood issues aside, we had a similar situation with finding an amazing place but having the dates of when we could give notice and would have to start paying the new rent not line up exactly– we asked our landlord if he would break the lease (it was less than a month left) if we could find someone to move in as soon as we moved out for the new place, which we did (easily). would something like that work for you?

  • I have been considering moving to Capitol Hill area, but I don’t think it would be worth will all of those stipulations.

  • I’d rather live in Chinatown than Capitol Hill, but I guess we are allowed different opinions. That’s what makes the world go round.

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