So after much searching and cold-calling, my roommate and I finally signed the lease this morning for the new apartment. It is a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom "dig" located around a mile south of the Clarendon metro station. The complex itself could be better but, for the price, it is an awesome deal. We will be paying less than $1300 per month, all utilities included. I am just really glad that this ordeal is (almost) over -- we have to move our things later tonight and hopefully the process will proceed without a hiccup.
In the midst of this event, I wanted to share some thoughts and offer advice derived from my experiences. Some of the advice will be important to save time and money, while others are just personal quirks that perhaps some of you may identify with:
- Craigslist is not always a reliable source of apartment hunting. I had really high hopes for the most part of this month that I could find somewhere ideal through Craigslist. My assumption that people would be moving out, especially in Arlington, and that I could take over whatever they were leaving behind. What I forgot was the number of scams and the erratic-ness of housing opportunity available through Craigslist. I have by now become pretty good about spotting scams, but it's annoying nonetheless. Days can go by without an opportunity showing up, which leads to the next point....
- July 1st is (apparently) one of the busiest times in the Washington D.C. area. You would think all comings and goings (e.g. interns) would have happened in May and June, right? That does not appear to be the case. Housing is very tight for the month of July and pretty competitive. I know this as good opportunities are snatched up very quickly.
- Have your social security card in your possession. I had to scramble to obtain a letter from the Social Security office in order to fulfill application requirements for the apartment. It's a pretty stupid rule as social security numbers are readily demonstrated by things like W-4 or W-2s, but the apartment managers were dogmatic.
- Know what you want (be satisfied). This seems like a no-brainer, but when things get desperate, we tend to not think properly. I almost signed with another friend for a 2 bedroom apartment in Rosslyn, only to realize before we submitted our application (and thereby wasting money) that neither of us were extremely happy with the place. We each gave preference ratios and both of ours were 60:40, that is, 60% for and the rest against. I recommend having preference ratios of at least 80:20 before making a commitment.
- Shooting for a weekend day to move. Sometimes you can't help it but move during the week. When you can though, try to schedule to move during the weekend. It allows for much greater flexibility and...
- Arrange moving arrangements ahead of time. Notify your friends ahead of time, especially those who have pickup trucks to move big furniture pieces. This is especially true for holds of Zipcar membership -- I am learning this lesson the hard way.
Overall, the housing market in the Washington D.C. area is crazy. This is particularly true for renters like myself. Good deals are really hard to comeby. Just stick to the basics: know what you want, know if you truly like it, and know if it meets your needs.