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Renter's Guide to Washington

Washington, DC, the capital city of the United States, is known for its deep connection to the nation’s history as well as its status as the epicenter of federal politics.

At only 68.34 square miles in size, Washington, DC, is a small (smaller than almost any major capital city you can think of) but vibrant metropolis. In terms of population, however, the Washington metropolitan area has officially surpassed the Philadelphia area to become the sixth-most populous metro in the US, according to the Census Bureau.

Several other major U.S. cities are also close by: Washington is within 4 hours of New York City and 3 hours of Philadelphia, and only an hour from Baltimore.

Weather in Washington, DC, is typical of the mid-Atlantic climate. The city experiences four seasons: summer from June through August, autumn from September through November, winter from December through February, and spring from March through May. July is Washington’s hottest month, with an average temperature of 80 degrees, and January the coldest, averaging 38 degrees. Summers in Washington, DC, are humid with frequent thunderstorms, and the city averages 15 inches of snow in the winter months.

Washington, DC Demographics

  • Total Population672,391
  • Female 319,046
    Male 353,345
  • Median Age33.9

Cost of Living in Washington, DC

Public transit in Washington, DC, consists primarily of buses and the Metrorail subway system. Both buses and Metrorail trains service downtown Washington and extend into Maryland and northern Virginia. Standard bus fare in Washington, DC, is $1.75 for adults, while the charge for metro rides varies by the number of stops taken and time of day. During peak times - effectively weekdays during morning and evening rush hour and weekends after midnight - fares start at $2.15 and cannot exceed $5.90; off-peak, fares start at $1.75 with a maximum charge of $3.60.

The average commute time for the Washington, DC, metro area is 34.5 minutes, which is higher than the national average of 25.4 minutes (however, over 70 percent of DC workers commute from across the Maryland or Virginia state lines).

A meal for 2 people in a mid-range Washington, DC, restaurant may cost anywhere between $50 and $90, and a regular cappuccino goes for about $4.

For a 915-square-foot apartment, Washington, DC, residents pay on average $140 on utilities (such as electricity, heating, water, or garbage removal), which is close to the national average of $147 in monthly utility expenses.

Average Rent in Washington, DC

  • Washington, DC Average Rental Price, December 2019 $2,236 /mo

Washington, DC Apartment Rent Ranges

  • $701-$1,0002%
  • $1,001-$1,50015%
  • $1,501-$2,00028%
  • > $2,00055%

Washington, DC Rent Trends

Average Rent Nov / 2016 Mar / 2017 Jul / 2017 Nov / 2017 Mar / 2018 Jul / 2018 Nov / 2018 Mar / 2019 Jul / 2019 Nov / 2019 Dec / 2019
Washington, DC $2,081 $2,045 $2,086 $2,110 $2,077 $2,137 $2,146 $2,141 $2,224 $2,235 $2,236
National $1,354 $1,350 $1,382 $1,385 $1,388 $1,423 $1,431 $1,434 $1,469 $1,473 $1,474

Average rent is projected to grow by 3% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Please note that projected rent growth is calculated at city level.

Check out the average rent prices in Washington by neighborhood.

Living in Washington

Washington, DC, is a lively city with a wide array of free things to do and an abundance of historical sites. It is also home to a young, diverse population and an evolving cultural scene.

Yet the high cost of living in Washington, DC, is often a hurdle for prospective residents. While some sectors - including government, business consulting, and tourism - are robust and consistently hiring, others - such as the entertainment and creative services industries — are currently less developed in the region.

Things to do in Washington

There is no shortage of activities and attractions to take advantage of in the nation’s capital! The National Mall, which runs from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and includes the Washington Monument, is a point of interest for tourists and residents alike. Families with kids will find many free things to do in Washington, DC, including the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums (the majority of which are free) and the National Zoo. Professional sports are also a draw: attending a Washington Nationals baseball game, Washington Redskins football game, or Washington Capitals hockey match makes for a fun activity in DC for couples or families.

Washington, DC, is a vibrant city for culture, with growing theater and live music scenes and stately, historic performance venues. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, known for the Kennedy Center Honors and home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera, presents over 2,000 performances each year. Other notable arts and culture attractions in Washington, DC, include The Library of Congress, DAR Constitution Hall, and the Shakespeare Theater Company’s Harman Hall, which is adjacent to the Verizon Center, one of DC’s largest and most successful sports and entertainment venues.

Washington, DC, has abundant green space and public parks for walking, jogging, recreational activities, and playtime with pets or children. Of course, the National Mall is one of the most prominent, but other notable DC parks include the Constitution Gardens, East Potomac Park, Meridian Hill Park, and Rock Creek Park.

Individual storefronts outnumber larger retail complexes in Washington proper, with the majority of shopping malls clustered in nearby Maryland and northern Virginia. The DC USA shopping mall in the Columbia Heights neighborhood is DC’s largest retail development, and is anchored by shopping giants like Target, Best Buy, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Employment and Economy

The city’s economy is closely tied to government and politics; Washington, DC, is a hub for careers in the federal government as well as related fields like the law, lobbying, international business, public relations, and news media. The city’s universities and hospitals are consistently its largest employers, highlighting the steady education and healthcare career opportunities in Washington, DC.

Additionally, Washington now receives over 20 million visitors each year, making it one of the most visited cities in America and a hotspot for jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries.

Beyond federal government agencies and Congressional offices, The Advisory Board Company, Fannie Mae, and Marriott Hotels & Resorts are headquartered in Washington, and many major international companies have satellite branches in the DC-Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area.

Washington, DC Households

  • Total Number of Households277,985
  • Family 121,411
    Non-family 156,574
  • Children 59,794
    No Children 218,191
  • Average People Per Household2.28
  • Median Household Income$77,649
  • Median Housing Costs Per Month$1,599

Education in Washington, DC

Though small in size, Washington, DC, is home to several major undergraduate and graduate institutions, including: American University, The Catholic University of America, The George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Howard University. Gallaudet University, the only U.S. university whose facilities and programs are designed to accommodate deaf or hard of hearing students, has its campus in Washington, DC. There are also three medical schools and six law schools within the city’s borders.

At the primary and secondary level, the DC public school system supports nearly 50,000 students. An additional 40,000 students attend the 114 tuition-free public charter schools in Washington, DC, which are operated by nonprofit organizations. Both the public and public charter schools may incorporate language immersion programs, arts education, and STEM curricula; and families in the DC area have many educational environments and opportunities to choose from.

Washington, DC Education Statistics

  • No High School4%
  • Some High School26%
  • Some College14%
  • Associate Degree3%
  • Bachelor Degree24%
  • Graduate Degree29%

Tips for Renting in Washington

The Washington Mayor’s office operates a tenant advocate office that is a useful resource for new renters in DC. If you are looking to rent in Washington, DC, be vigilant about your rights. For starters, you should be aware that DC landlords may legally only charge a maximum of one month’s rent for your security deposit.

Landlords may also implement automatic annual rent increases at a percentage determined by the Consumer Price Index, but may only do so once in a 12-month period and must provide written notice at least 30 days in advance of the increase. Your landlord is required by law to give you proper notice to vacate your property if an issue arises due to a violation of the lease, illegal activity, sale or conversion of the property, or renovations or demolition that would be unsafe to residents. Any clause in your lease that indicates you can be evicted without notice (unless it is for nonpayment of rent and you explicitly waived your right to receive notice in your lease) is otherwise invalid according to DC law.

RENTCafé is your one-stop shop for finding a great new apartment in Washington, DC. Easily search through a wide selection of apartments for rent in Washington, DC, and view detailed information about available rentals including floor plans, pricing, photos, amenities, interactive maps, and thorough property descriptions. Property owners and managers are one click away, so feel free to contact them and find out all you need to know about the apartment you’re interested in. Browse Washington, DC apartments with rents starting from $1,451 and submit your rental application today!

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