“Washington DC rents average $1900 for a 1 bedroom unit and $2830 for a 2 bedroom in March”

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From Apartment List’s Rentonomics blog:

“A 1 bedroom in the city of Washington DC averaged $1900 in March, while 2 bedrooms were $2830. This makes Washington DC the 3rd most expensive major US city, with a 2 bedroom price that’s almost triple the national average of $1000. Across the entire Washington DC metro area, rents averaged $2260 for a 2 bedroom, with renters paying 25% more to live in the city itself.”

91 Comment

  • Channeling my inner Charlie Brown here…UUUGGGGHHHH!

  • But cut back on pop-ups, and god forbid we repeal the Height Act, even far from the Mall.

    • I support pop-ups (with standards and limitations) and would support a loosening (but not repeal) of the Height Act. Yet I don’t buy the argument that density will make housing more affordable. Not hard to guess which two cities are more expensive than DC – and they’re both way more dense.

      • I’m sympathetic to the cynicism (there’s no cure-all without downsides), but I think that might be confusing the supply and demand side… NY and SF are more expensive despite being denser because demand to live on both plots of land is so much higher than it is for DC.

        Another way of looking at this is that because of artificially restricted housing stock, DC manages to be close behind both in expense, despite being FAR smaller.

      • One of my favorite things about living in DC is the lack of very tall buildings. It’s something I really don’t like about the feeling of being in cities like New York and Philly…but the Height Act is ridiculous and we need affordable housing in DC.

    • We don’t repeal the Height Act – Congress does. Good luck convincing them.

      Get real, random pop-ups aren’t going to put a dent in this number.

      • Thanks for the lesson, but I realize that. Amendments to the Act were on the table in 2012. This isn’t impossible.

    • When will transplants understand that the height act makes this city beautiful? This is not NYC. We don’t do skyscrapers here.

      • 1. Less than 40% of residents are native. Transplants control the District.
        2. The height act makes the district expensive and have an insignificant population in relation to the greater Washington area.
        3. You see beautiful and others see monotonous.

      • This comparison is so inapt. NYC has a density and transportation network that DC will never match. If DC wants to grow it should set is goals a little lower–SF, Boston, Etc.

  • Looks like those people saying you need to make $80,000 to live comfortably in DC as a single person were right.

    • Who can afford $1900 making 80k a year? Seems that would be stretching money real thin.

      • It’s do-able IF one doesn’t have student loan payments, probably doesn’t own a car, and doesn’t care about saving much money. I wouldn’t do it, but it is possible.

        • SouthwestDC

          When we first bought our house I was making less than $80k, and my half of the mortgage was almost $1900 a month. I was still able to put 13% in 401k, save $800 a month for emergencies, own a car and dogs, and still travel and do other fun things. It’s very doable– $80k is a lot of money!

          • I make $80K and that doesn’t seem to add up to me. Maybe it would if I weren’t throwing $1100 toward student loans every month.

          • The math is tough on this one. Let’s assume you made $75,000. Saving 13% (good for you!) brings your gross to $65,250. Assume all your income-based taxes – federal, DC, social security, medicare – came out to another 20% (which is probably generous) – down to $52,200, or $4350 per month. Taking away $1800 for mortgage and $800 for savings, and you’re down to $1750, taking into account no other expenses. Food? Electric/gas? Car insurance? Health insurance? Did you have a cell phone? Cable? Ever have to buy clothes? The list goes on. I’m not saying you didn’t do it – I’m sure you did – but let’s not pretend it’s a walk in the park.

      • It’s obviously a ton of money, but that would be around 30% of your income if you make 80K — typically viewed as an acceptable amount.

      • I had a friend who was paying almost that for a one bedroom in Shirlington. She didn’t even drive. And she was making much less than 80K. As you can imagine she was constantly broke.

        • Yeah, Shirlington is stupidly expensive for what/where it is. It’s super cute but not at those rents.

    • Because single people have to have their own one-bedroom apartments.

      • because living in a group house at 30 is so fun! yes, single people in their late 20s and up find living in their own one bedroom apartment much more comfortable. god forbid they want to live with their own kitchen and bathroom.

        • You know, living with the right people in the right house makes a huge difference. I am almost 30 myself, and I met many of my friends (who are almost all 30 or over) in a group house two years ago. It is so fun! I wish I lived there myself. There’s some odd mindset that mature people do not share space, which is untrue.

          I would actually love to live in a family version of a group house, where a big home is split between two or three families, and everyone shares a kitchen. It’s not that crazy when you think about it, but it’s the difference between living with strangers and living with like minded people you love who are really part of your family at this point.

          • I’m a private person and it just doesn’t work for me, I can see how for some people the right people make the difference but never has the right people…or wants the right people around. I just don’t think it is so preposterous for an adult to want to live on their own that they should be shamed for being single.

          • I prefer to live alone and also met many of my friends several years ago at group houses, which were great little communities. However now that I’m in my late 20’s every person has moved on to live alone or with their significant other, and nobody wants to go back.

            It feels pretty great to make a home for yourself/your family and have control over it.

          • I would love this as well, but it’s really challenging to find this in regular group houses, particularly with a good representation of folks over 30. The other place to find this is co-housing, but my experience is that they tend to be crazy expensive, units are hard to come by and they often require you to own. And it looks like all available co-housing in the area is in MD or VA.

          • I’ve always wondered why these things never include studio prices. When I was renting I always though 1 bedrooms were this luxurious thing that only rich people could afford.

        • +500 Group houses are great for some people. Some people prefer peace, quiet and not dealing with other people’s messes. Wanting your own space is hardly an unreasonable request-especially at these prices!

  • So, I’m basically never going to be able to live by myself in an area I actually want to live in.

    • Accountering

      That sounds like it is likely correct.

    • if you are ok with a basement studio with no washer and dryer, you probably could.

    • I lived in NE until last year and the highest my rent got was $1300 for a 1 bedroom. I loved NE. Obviously it and my building left things to be desired, but it was cheap and convenient (I worked on the Hill). You’re going to have to give up some stuff, but it is possible. A lot of group houses have basement apartment components for under $1500.

  • God I’m glad I bought two years ago…

    • Isn’t this actually a decrease, though? I read somewhere that rents are down slightly.

      • Yeah, at least in some neighborhoods. I’m paying $200 less/month than the previous renter in my unit. My building has a few vacanies and is offering free rent for the remainder of this month. I doubt it was doing the same a couple years ago. There are lots of vacancy/for lease signs in Columbia Heights these days…

        Not saying rent has become a good value in DC, but it seems to have flattened the past 1-2 years.

        • I wonder if it has to do with the approach of summer and students starting to move out?

          • Professionally managed buildings are loathe to drop rents, even by $20. That’s why you’ll see these crazy concessions – like multiple free months, free utilities, etc – because they don’t want to miss a potential future upturn in prices.
            A lot of rental buildings got burned by price wars during the recession. From what I understand, there’s an unstated agreement among the large “luxury” apartment rental companies that they won’t drop prices. They will leave the apartments empty rather than drop the price which they can do because borrowing costs are so low.
            Tl;dr – the game is rigged. Heads or tail, DC renters (and small landlords) lose.

        • Incidentally, I moved a few weeks ago to Columbia Heights and got a free month, a reduced rent, and the ability to select from three vacant units in the building, too. Maybe we’re in the same building, but I feel like it’s all over: I went for a run yesterday and it seems like every building around has balloons and open house signs out front. Not a bad sign as a renter.

    • Seriously, this makes me want to move out of my condo just rent it out.

  • I think this is more like the average rent in the most expensive neighborhoods of DC. Conspicuously absent are any neighborhoods east of the river.

  • Median and average are not the same things.

  • I struggle to understand how living right downtown is so appealing that it’s worth 15-25% more than the next most expensive neighborhood. Does this include short term/corporate apartments? Seems like that would really skew the numbers. Living right around Gallery Place does not sound interesting at all.

    • I agree. getting from my (much more reasonably priced) 1 bedroom in bloomingdale to downtown isn’t that hard. I can walk in less than 30 minutes, or grab a bus and be there in 15.

      • Whaaaa? I can absolutely not make a walk from downtown to Bloomingdale in that timeframe.

        • Well, it takes 10-15 minutes to walk across Bloomingdale north-south, so maybe the OP is on the southern end. Also, I think you may be using slightly different definitions of “downtown”.

          • I live in mid-Bloomingdale (i.e. right around Rhode Island). It takes me 35 mins to walk to Farragut. So to many parts of downtown it would be a lot less than that. Being able to walk downtown is one of my favorite things about living there.

        • 2nd and rhode island to metro center is 30 minutes. In my mind, metro center is about as downtown as it gets, since chinatown was the orignal reference. Maybe I walk fast, but its like a mile and a half, that is only walking a 20 minute mile. Maybe its because I’m a runner…but it really isn’t that far.

      • Yeah, but if you need to get to someplace beyond Downtown (like NoVA) you’re starting to look at a long commute if you’re coming from a neighborhood further afield like Bloomingdale.

        • but if i needed to be in nova…i’d drive…

          • Yeah, and driving is a lot faster from there than from Bloomingdale. My partner and I both work in NoVA, and probably always will, so we ruled out cheaper neighborhoods that were too buried in the city.

          • Driving to NoVa from Bloomingdale is actually really convenient. Shoot down 1st st to NY ave and you’re practically on 395. Sure, you’ll sit in traffic for a few minutes while the lights cycle through, but it’s really not that bad. I actually enjoyed driving to NoVa more than my usual route to Rockville because of this.

    • I sort of agree, but if I were a biglaw associate working 70 hours a week downtown and making gobs of money I might consider it worthwhile to have my home and office as close together as possible.

      • My best friend lives at 9th and E for this reason, and it’s worth it for her. She works 12-14 hour days, but can go home a block away for some meals and to walk her dog.

        • How do people do this? That is, how do they work 12-14 work days? I mean this sincerely. Even if I had to work that many hours in one day, I have no idea how I could sustain attention and productivity for that stretch of time (even with breaks and lunch included). Let along doing it week after week. It sounds utterly wretched no matter how much money your paid.

          • It is wretched, but it can be done. I did it for a few years, sometimes more than 70 hour weeks, but I don’t recommend it. (You actually get used to it an can focus.) I think it probably shortened my life by some years in the long run – time will tell. I wouldn’t have wanted to live near my job – I had to leave the business district and get to my residential area in order to feel like I wasn’t working. And to spend some time in my neighborhood on Sunday before heading to work made me feel like I had some life – I wouldn’t have felt that way if I lived near work.

        • How do you work 12-14 hour days and have a dog? Doggie day care?

          • Yes or you work close enough to take lunches at home. I think that was part of the motivation to pay a higher rent but be very close to the office.

          • Sounds like a miserable and lonely life for the dog. People working those kind of hours shouldn’t have pets, IMHO.

    • Obviously, I’m a sample of one, so take this for what it’s worth, but everyone I know who had lived directly downtown is either in a corporate rental, on a State Department tour, or in their 50s of 60s (in the nicer apartments near the Archives metro area). I’m not sure the comparison is apples-to-apples, either, at least not on a square foot basis. I think apartments in these buildings tend to be larger and more well appointed.

    • I think you’re correct in your analysis – we’re talking *average* rent, rather than the median. The high-dollar units are likely dragging that number way up.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Misleading title says “average.” Actual chart says median. I believe the chart, assuming the people that compiled it can do math. Thus, these numbers mean at least half the units cost this much.

    • justinbc

      Because not everyone is interested in the same things you are.

      • Justin, we can always count on you to help further the discourse.

      • Not my point, I’m in Penn Quarter all the time. I can see for many where very nice places like Glover Park aren’t appealing at all. I’m just saying many would probably prefer being even a 5-10 min walk from the epicenter as opposed to living at ground zero for traffic and congestion. For those who love it, great!

    • Love living in penn quarter. The only neighborhood walkable to both K street jobs and the Hill. But I agree that this might include corporate rentals. You can still find a solid two-bedroom in an amenity rich building for under $3500.

    • It isn’t. Lived near Gallery Place in a corporate rental when I relocated here. Did not consider living around there when I got my own place – wanted a more residential neighborhood for sure.

      • That got stuck in the wrong place – was supposed to be a reply to whomever above said Galley Place was uninteresting.

  • I think this is one reason why DC is so transient being that the housing cost is so high a lot of families can’t afford to settle down here, even without a car and student loans.

  • justinbc

    Heh, some of the neighborhood descriptions on this website, yikes.
    “• Atlas District and Trinidad name two grimy (but equally hip) areas. The range around H St. is $900-$1200/month for 1BD/1BA and $1000-$1500/month for 2BD/1BA. Trinidad is the less expensiveof the two areas: just be careful where you land.
    Barely worth mention, the Southwest Waterfront is the smallest of DC’s quadrants. That’s not to say there aren’t some great apartments if you love that feeling of being stranded. (No Metro stops; but you could walk to Capitol Hill and Navy Yard if you absolutely had to.) Efficiency condos start at $1400/month and luxury 1BD/1BA average $1850/month. What, did you expect some fun facts about Cleveland’s tenure? There aren’t any.
    Plagued by controversy and overall messiness (need I mention the Trail of Tears?), Polk’s presidency was brief—but hugely influential. In other words, he’s the greatest president no one ever talks about. That’s Southeast DC. Folks who live here will regale its charms: Eastern Market, Anacostia Park, and on and on.
    Anacostia is the Brooklyn of DC. It’s where those Navy Yard dockworkers went home to. $800/month is an average price for a 1BD/1BA; and it’s not unusual to find a 2BD unit for less than $1000/month.”
    Whoever wrote this crap needs to be fired.

    • There is a SW Waterfront metro stop. L’Enfant Plaza metro stop is within walking distance if you know where you’re going.

      • I love that they say there’s no metro at Waterfront, when not only is there one, that’s actually the name of the damn station. Nice research.

      • Aren’t there technically 4 stations in Southwest? Federal Center, L’Enfant, Waterfront, and Smithsonian? I always thought it was an extremely high number of stops considering how not a lot seems to be there.

    • Yeah especially as Brooklyn is now one of the most expensive areas to live in New York City. It shows a lack of knowledge about not just 1 but 2 major cities.

    • please link me to this 2 bed for 1000 in trinidad.

    • Allison

      Lol to the description of SW waterfront. “Stranded?” I think not. When the metro smoke incident happened, guess who was the only person who got home from her job downtown? This gal!

    • I hardly consider H St grimy…especially the west end where I live. Also I have a friend who lives in a nice building at Waterfront Metro and I thought it was lovely so why is it barely worth mentioning? Clearly whoever wrote this hasn’t been to most of the places they’re describing.

  • Ugh. But how do we change this? I don’t see a way this could get better.

    • Well, the good news (though probably only temporarily) is the amount of new units built is apparently outpacing the demand. So that might help to push down the rates somewhat in the short term.

  • Looking at these rental prices…Owning a home in DC never looked so sweet 🙂

  • I’m a native Washingtonian. I remember renting a 1B/1BA, small den, and w/large eat kitchen for $80 p/month in the early 70’s in Petworth on GA Ave. Bus at door to SS, express to Wheaton, walked to full time and part-time job. I rented from a elderly couple who cruised most of the summer. I agreed to water plants/grass and clean front porch. This was not a basement apartment. They added rooms to the back of house upstairs. Downside–no AC! After 5-6 yrs, moved near Takoma Park, shared 2 BD/1 BA w/larger den, with AC, storage in basement, & across large from rec center w/pool, tennis court, basketball, track. I lived with a family friend, a nurse who babysat my son (7 yo) while I worked full & part-time and went to college. She also added rooms to back of house. I had master, son had small bdrm. Owner had also expanded downstairs (1st flr) to accommodate another master and bath for herself. We shared a kitchen; no problem since I could cook while she worked. I agreed to yard work, heavy indoor cleaning and paid $160 p/month. Lived there for 10 years. Now in co-op in Petworth for 20 yrs, 1 sq ft, less than $1K! BTW, the neighborhood got rid of a lot of the bars on GA Ave.. Thought it bring down proper values.

  • These numbers are decent indicators, but should probably be taken with a grain of salt. According to their methodology, the numbers are based on listing from “apartmentlist.com”. I looked at the listings there, and for my neighborhood, they mostly seem to be for managed class-A buildings. Also, only 1-2BR are considered here. Studios, 3BR shares, and group houses (all viable options for median-income earners) are not included. Again, it is a decent indicator, but seeing that a 1BR in Shaw is 2700 doesn’t mean that a single person living in Shaw will have to pay anywhere close to that. I live alone in Logan and pay about half that.

    • HaileUnlikely

      The definition of “median” implies that half of them cost less, and implies nothing about how much less. Some of them could be a whole lot less. And yes, as you note, they are dealing with a very biased sample. The median price for units on apartmentlist.com is going to be a lot higher than the median for all units that exist.

  • Currently paying under $1000 for a 1BR apt. With a parking spot. All is not lost people.

  • EOTR is conveniently absent…. but I guess we can all ignore that

  • The Barac company typically has some affordable units, especially in my Brightwood neighborhood. There are also private owners of buildings, but you will have to drive around to find those. The buildings are a little shabby, but you get what you pay for.

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