So you got a job offer, and it requires relocating to Washington DC! You’re wondering what’s it like in the nation’s Capitol? Where should I live? Where are my children going to go to school? What’s my commute going to be like? Because I’ve heard bad things… Basically you want to know what life is like in DC.
I’ve been in real estate in this area since 2001. I’ve worked for one land developer, two home builders, and I’ve been a realtor now for over 10 years. Today, I’m going to walk you through the pros and cons of living in Washington DC. We’ll go through four major things that most people contemplating a move would ask. So, let’s get started with location.
All right – there’s a lot to love about DC, and when we talk about DC, in the area, we’re talking about DC, Maryland, and Virginia. So you may have heard that DC was built on a swamp. That’s actually not true. That’s just a lie that people like to make up. The city actually lies alongside two different rivers. The Anacostia river bisects part of DC, and the Potomac river is what separates DC from the rest of Virginia. The weather here is a lot milder compared to say, places up north where you really get a very, very long and cold winter. But, we do have four seasons here, which is kind of awesome and everybody really does enjoy that. As far as allergies go though, I’m sorry. If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, it’s not going to be fun here for you. Most people suffer from allergies here for several months because of the pollen. So, you’re definitely going to want to stock up on your allergy meds when you move here.
The DC area is served by three major airports. We have Dulles, which is out in Virginia. It’s about an hour west of the city. We have Reagan National Airport, which is very close to DC, just over the Potomac river. And then we also have BWI, which is Baltimore International Airport. And that is also another airport that a lot of people will choose to fly from, especially for international flights.
The good thing about our location here is that you can actually get to the beaches in like two to three hours. A lot of people will go to the Delaware beaches or the Maryland beaches, Ocean City, Rehoboth. You can get to the outer banks in four to five hours, and if beaches in warm weather aren’t your thing and you want to go skiing, you can also do that within a couple hours of DC.
Okay, so now that you’ve stocked up on allergy meds and you can find DC on a map, hooray, we’re going to talk about commute times. Not hurray. I am not going to lie. We have some pretty hellacious traffic here. If you live in Maryland and you don’t work in Maryland, yikes. Your routes to DC and Virginia will almost certainly be backed up with traffic from as early as 6:00 AM. Many people choose to park at one of the Metro stations and ride into the city. You’ve got the same situation in Virginia. Traffic coming north on to 95 into the city. It’s heavy, it’s constant. There’s a train that comes from that direction called the VRE and that makes a huge difference bringing people up toward the city from points farther south in Virginia.
Out West though, you got some metros you can get to hopefully, but a lot of people do drive into the city and you are heading east into DC in the morning. That means the sun is in your eyes. You are heading west, back to your home in Virginia. On the way home, that means the sun is setting and it is also in your eyes, I’m sorry.
Employment areas are scattered all over the city. So, while the bulk of commuters are headed downtown, another mass of commuters are heading to Tyson’s corner in Virginia. And we’ll expect a whole other mass of commuters to be heading to Arlington when Amazon gets up and running. If you’re one of the lucky ones and you’re located somewhere else, you may not experience a tough commute. But I remember when I lived in DC and I worked out in Maryland, people used to say, “Oh. That’s a reverse commute.” No. There’s no such thing. Because the problem is is that they close a bunch of roads to make them all one way coming into DC in the morning to bring the traffic in.
And then I would have to meander my way up to Maryland on like the one lone road. And that was filled with traffic too. There’s really no great answers to any of this. Commuting within the city, a lot of people do it on foot, by bicycle, by scooter, by Metro. The times I found myself on a Metro train though with commuters during rush hour are the same times I happen to find myself wishing I didn’t eat so many tacos in my life. Because they really pack into those metros like sardines, and you got to suck it in to get the doors closed.
Okay. So now that you know you’re going to be listening to a lot of audio books and podcasts while you commute all over the city, let’s talk about schools and shopping in DC. So DC has public schools and public charter schools. And there’s a pretty complicated lottery process to gain admission.
Now for the public school. If you’re inbound and you’re going through K through 12 then you’re fine. You’re guaranteed a spot at that school. It’s when you want a pre-K spot, or you want to go to a school that’s not in your neighborhood that the lottery comes into play.
As far as the public charter schools, basically that’s a more level playing field. They just have as many seats as they have. And as long as there’s not more students that want to attend than seats they have, they would be fine. However, if there’s more students who want to attend, then they’re also part of the lottery process. And so that’s what happens where how they create the waiting list essentially. So school choices can be tough. If you need something specific, especially. So all of the sought after schools in DC are overcrowded and it makes it a very tough and ongoing issue that we deal with.
In Maryland and Virginia things are a little bit different. You think about it in Maryland or Virginia, you’re actually taxed by multiple jurisdictions. And so there’s a whole lot more property taxes that are charged to each individual homeowner. Where in DC they pay 86 cents per mil. less a homestead deduction. In Virginia and Maryland, they’re paying, in some cases a dollar 10, a dollar 20 a mill. So there’s a whole lot more money funneling into their systems and the schools are potentially better funded. It depends who you ask. Many would argue that the schools are more efficient and more competitive in Maryland and Virginia. Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland have some of the highest ranking high schools in the country, and they’ve often been known to make the top 100 list.
You’re not going to be hurting for any places to shop here. We’ve got everything that’s pretty high end. There’s City Center in DC, and that’s where you’re going to see a lot of your high end stores, as well as Bethesda, and Chevy Chase up in Maryland. So you’re not going to… If you’re moving from New York or from San Francisco, or LA, you’re not going to miss out on anything that you had in those cities that you would want for here.
So now that we know the overall area a little bit better. Let’s talk about the lifestyle here in DC. Being that this is the capital of the US all the politics and stuff seems to happen here. A lot of conversations when I used to go out to restaurants and bars would be centered on what happened on The Hill. Not that it hasn’t necessarily changed, but if that’s not your thing, that’s not the only thing that happens in this city. I’ve watched the city change from a stuffy political town to really a place that’s become a destination.
When I first moved here like 15 years ago, I never had friends that wanted to come to DC. And then in the last few years I’ve had so many visitors, and couch surfers, and things because the city just has so much to offer. I have a friend that has always said that DC is a city of frustrated, ex class presidents, accurate. We have a ton of good restaurants here, a ton of famous chefs that have come here, and there’s all kinds of ethnic food that you can get here. My personal favorite is Ethiopian. If I ever left the city, I don’t know what I would do because I’ve eaten at all the Ethiopian restaurants, they’re all delicious.
So I’m going to leave you with a fun fact. People who are from here, like the natives as they call them, they have very strong opinions about where they will live. The hardcore DC people will not live anywhere other than DC. And there are people in DC that have been here for generations. Virginia and Maryland people will not leave Virginia or Maryland. It’s actually kind of amazing. So if you ask a person from Virginia, “Why would they never move to Maryland?” They say, “Because it’s Maryland.” If you ask somebody in Maryland, “Hey. Would you move to Virginia?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because it’s Virginia.”
So this is like hilarious to me because I grew up in Connecticut. We used to go into New York City and we were called the bridge and tunnel people, and I thought that was kind of bad. This is like a whole other level. People will not cross a bridge if they are from one side or the other. It’s really kind of amazing.
Oh, I hope that this gave you some insight on pros and cons of living in Washington DC. If you have any additional questions, you can always let me know!!