No sooner do I find a place than I am beseeched for help from a friend planning to move into town with the Obama people. The inauguration rental ads in the wrong place on Craigslist are still going strong, but they've been supplemented by clearly fraudulent ads aimed at the Obama folks. I came across this myself during our house hunt, when I randomly discovered that someone was advertising my mother's place for rent, at a ridiculously low price. A friend suggested we try to play the scammers, which would have been fun and instructive, but immoral, given that other people on Craigslist might be taken in by the ad.
I doubt that any current residents are being taken in, because we know that a $1400 2br in Georgetown, or $895 1br in the heart of Dupont, do not exist. But I'm sure that there are people coming in from out of town--for the administration, or just because they're graduating from school or what have you--who are getting taken in. What to do for these people? Isn't there some sort of charity one can subscribe to?
If you are a potential newcomer, and you are reading this, here's my short, useless stab at explaining what to look for. The gentrified neighborhoods in lower Northwest are: Adams Morgan, Kalorama, Georgetown, Dupont, Logan, Foggy Bottom, West End, Chinatown/Gallery Place, Penn Quarter, U Street, and Columbia Heights. The more adventurous may try Shaw, Bloomingdale, Eckington, LeDroit, or Petworth.
In Georgetown, Dupont, or Logan, you should expect to pay at least $2,000 for a one bedroom that you can turn around in; and similar in the others if you want to be above ground. Each additional bedroom should cost you $300-600. The standard deviation is about $150-$250 per bedroom, depending on the degree of gentrification; if you are 3 standard deviations from the mean, you are dealing with, on the expensive side, a busted house-flipper who is pricing the house to their mortgage payment rather than the market; and on the cheap side, a scammer. This led to the odd sight, during my house search, of people asking more for a narrow, badly renovated row house on fourth and Elm than for a bigger place at 9th and Florida, which was farther from the ambulence run and closer to both bars and transportation. You can guess which one we chose.
In the edgier neighborhoods, $1400 is about the bare minimum for a 1 bedroom you'd want to live in, unless you don't care about light, in which case, you can get a smaller basement in the $1000 to $1200 range.
Apartments that sound glorious--newly renovated, plenty of light and outdoor space, at least two bedrooms, and priced well under $2000--do not exist in any of the neighborhoods you have probably targeted. It is not New York, or even San Francisco. But it isn't exactly Smalltown USA.
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