You’re moving to Washington, DC — and this guide offers a detailed look at how to make the move.
You won’t find fluff and filler in this guide. We’re here to lay out the process and logistics behind relocating to Washington, DC. If you’re looking for a “23 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Washington, DC,” BuzzFeed article, we’re sorry to disappoint.
Full disclosure, this article is really geared toward anyone who will be looking to rent an apartment in DC. That’s my area of expertise. I’ll offer some insights on planning and executing your move and direct you to some other helpful resources that can assist as well. I hope it helps!
And of course, you can always reach out to [email protected] if you have specific questions and I’ll get back to you personally.
If you’re looking for a well-produced walk-through of Washington, DC, this video from Expedia actually does a pretty good job. If you’re already familiar with (or not really interested in) the more historic buildings/areas of the city, then skip to around 3:15 and the video will talk more about neighborhoods, transit, and everyday life in the nation’s capital. Happy watching!
Here are the broad strokes on moving to Washington, DC.
Relevant tangent: What do you call someone who lives in Washington, DC? Technically, you’ll be known as a Washingtonian!
Let’s start with a high-level overview of DC’s rental market:
- Washington, DC, is the fourth most expensive U.S. city to rent in, according to a report from the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. The average rent per person is about $1,200 per month in the DC metro area.
Washington, DC, has eight wards and 131 neighborhoods. That’s a lot of options to consider, so we’ll do our best to help you sort out which wards/neighborhoods will make the most sense for your particular circumstances. You can also check out our Washington, DC, neighborhoods Web app, a tool specifically designed for anyone trying to determine where to live in Washington, DC.
- Some neighborhoods are seeing meteoric growth in rent prices. As an example, Dupont Park (a neighborhood in Ward 7) has seen rent prices increase 18% in the past year. We’d definitely urge you to be mindful of neighborhoods that are seeing rapid rent price growth.
Now that the broad strokes are out of the way ...
Here’s how this guide is going to go down.
We’ll walk you through the answers to the following questions ...
“What does it cost to live in Washington, DC?” Every metropolitan market has a unique profile of costs, from everyday expenses like groceries to the cost of renting an apartment. We’ll help you get a grasp on what life in DC will cost. From there, we can focus on helping you understand ...
“Where should I live?” You’re a unique person with specific interests and a particular lifestyle, so we want to help you find which one is your speed. Three major elements that factor into choosing a neighborhood in Washington, DC, are price, lifestyle fit, and safety. We’ll help you get context on DC’s neighborhoods to make the decision about which area is right for you.
“How do I find an apartment?” You’re probably well aware, but this is typically the most stressful part of the moving experience. Planning can be fun. We’ll help you get a handle on which apartment search approach is best for your style.
“How do I physically move my possessions?” Whether you’re moving from across the country or from just outside of the Beltway, moving isn’t easy — and it can be really expensive with the wrong moving plan/partners. We’ll walk you through some moving options recommended by current residents. I’ll show you some less-stressful and/or cost-effective solutions to physically move your life to your new apartment.
“What do I need to do to get settled quickly?” I wanted to put together a little epilogue in this article to help people quickly tie up all of the loose ends that come with moving. It won’t be long, but it could save you a lingering post-move headache.
Read on — you’re doing great!
What does it cost to live in DC?
Washington, DC, is pretty darned pricey. But before we jump into the details, I want to reassure you that my goal here is not to get you down — I want to equip you with as much accurate information as possible so you feel confident that you know what living in Washington, DC, will be like. With that said ...
For renters, the baseline monthly cost of living in Washington DC is from $1,600 to 2,400, depending on roommates and not including entertainment, transportation, and other expenditures.
This figure is definitely just a guideline. A renter sharing a two-bedroom apartment in DC can expect to pay around $1,400 per month for rent. Other essentials like food, utilities, and cable/Internet add around $600 extra.
Adding or removing a roommate from this two-bedroom scenario can decrease or increase your monthly cost of living by about $400 — all because rent is by far the largest monthly expense for the vast majority of people living in DC (and other major cities like Boston and Chicago).
Check out these broad cost comparisons for a second, and then we’ll jump into a more in-depth breakdown of the monthly cost of living for renters in Washington, DC.
Let’s talk renting an apartment in Washington, DC.
So what are rents like in different neighborhoods in DC?
Where should I live in Washington, DC?
We won’t presume to make any recommendations here, but we’ll give you some good, solid information to help you decide for yourself.
For starters, we've put together a comprehensive overview of DC neighborhoods and relevant resources.
This article is designed to give you the information and resources you need to determine which neighborhoods might be a good fit for your move to DC.
If you’re looking for a resource oozing with local thoughts about neighborhoods in Washington, DC, check out this wiki on Reddit (warning: it’s a little bit heavy on text).
If you’re looking to just get acquainted with DC’s neighborhoods, definitely check out this public map that shows each neighborhood clearly and has a detailed description.
The map above provides a more “qualitative” or opinion-driven analysis, helpful for getting a ballpark of what the “feel” might be like in DC’s neighborhoods. But safety is a primary concern for many people when choosing where to live. If you’re looking for official statistics on neighborhood safety and crime, click the image below, which is a screenshot of Trulia Local’s analysis of crime data in the DC area. This interactive map will help you understand where the safest areas of the city are.
Done with safety research? Take a stroll through some of DC’s neighborhoods with some help from Airbnb’s neighborhood profiles.
When it comes to creating rich profiles of neighborhoods, Airbnb does a heck of a job. Each of their neighborhood profiles offers a great amount of insight into what the vibe is, complete with beautiful photos of the area (both outside and inside of local shops and eateries).
Check it out below!
How do I find an apartment in DC?
Start with our in-depth guide on how to find an apartment in Washington DC.
This guide answer the following key questions about looking for apartments in DC:
- Where should I look for an apartment?
- How much do apartments cost in DC?
- How do I find an apartment?
- What's the apartment search process like?
- How do I apply for an apartment?
And when in doubt, consult the locals! Before I give my recommendation on what apartment search approach might make sense for you, I’d like to offer up links to outside forums where locals speak their minds on the topic of looking for apartments. I’ll never say there’s one “correct” way to find an apartment, so go ahead and browse through the comments made by these Washingtonians who’ve done this before.
- How Did You Find Your Apartment? (Reddit)
- Apartment-Hunting Assistance (Reddit)
- How Did/Do You Find an Apartment in DC? (Reddit)
- What’s the Best Way to Find an Apartment in Washington, DC? (Quora)
The consensus is pretty much that people found their apartments by browsing Craigslist and/or using a Realtor (i.e., rental agent).
How do you physically move your possessions? First, you need an awesome checklist.
Next, you need movers you can trust.
There are a bevy of individual moving companies that you can sort through, but I’d recommend using a service that shops them all for you.
Check out Unpakt. Unpakt is essentially like “Yelp for moving” — you can enter your moving details, compare prices and reviews, choose a vetted mover, and book everything online. Unpakt will instantly show you precise quotes based on how much stuff you’re moving — no ballpark estimates or hourly rates here.
And check the forecast in the days leading up to your move!
The last thing you want to do is to be unprepared for a downpour on move-in day. Ugh! Tarps, boots, and rain jackets will be key to have at the ready (not at the bottom of a suitcase or box!).
What do I need to do to get settled quickly?
Changing your address? Updater is an awesome free service — but it’s invite-only.
Updater used to be open to anyone moving, but not anymore. It’s still worth looking into, though, since they do an awesome job helping you transfer, set up, and close existing utilities and other key services/subscriptions.
We all know that there are a few address-related changes to make after moving into your apartment:
- Mailing address
- Subscriptions and loyalty programs
- Cable and Internet
Updater helps you easily change your address with the USPS and transfer subscriptions and utilities.
Get a preview of what’s going down in DC.
The Washington Post one of the most respected and well-read news sources in the U.S. has put together an awesome page for getting a feel for what’s going on in DC.
And with that, I’ll leave you with the Stars and Stripes.
Oh, say, can you see ...
Some Extra Resources
These are not DC-specific but nonetheless are some of the most useful guides I have come across:
- Corporate Moves: A Guide to Negotiating a Relocation Package: This page has some essential information about what to ask for in your relocation package and how to calculate your costs. They have some great stats about how much companies usually reimburse or pay directly for things such as packing your items or moving your car.
- The Ultimate Guide for Couples Moving in Together: By “ultimate,” they do mean ultimate. This guide gives you an outline of the topics to address with your partner before the move instead of during it, and it also gives some great tips about how to downsize from two apartments to one.