It’s revolving door time! The newest batch of graduates, interns and job-switchers has landed in DC faster than you can say, “the rent is too damn high.”
Which brings me to…housing. Here’s the short answer: it’s doesn’t HAVE to be too high. Whether temporary or long-term, there are still ways to find a place that doesn’t break the bank. Do your entry-level paycheck a favor with these strategies:
1. Create your bio. When I first began my search, I created a boilerplate introduction of myself, and included a description of the kind of environment I was looking for. I tweaked it as needed. And, voila! my very own advert.
2. Craigslist is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve had “random roommates” before, if you’re generally flexible with the unknown, give Craigslist a basic search. But remember that posts don’t have a long shelf life; jump on it, or forget about it. Because of that “revolving door,” openings go fast.
3. Get an agent. Identify a few DC-based connections and use them as your “agent.” If they already live in DC, they can keep you in mind when they see openings. Folks who already know the area can help you understand the neighborhoods, and give you perspective on if you’re getting a deal, or getting reeled.
4. Find a niche listserv or virtual bulletin board. I’ve had enormous success finding housing (and finding roommates) through several church bulletin boards. There are three that cater to young professionals (mainly because that describes their congregations): Grace DC, National Community Church, and Frontline DC. Look around for listservs based on your interest or background, whether it’s the DC tech community, or a university alumni chapter.
You can also subscribe to the neighborhood listservs to hear about openings, sometimes even before they go to Craigslist. Most of them are located on Yahoo! (This 2005 post from DCist highlights several of the listservs, but now there are even more — especially as “new” neighborhoods like NoMa emerge).
5. Bide your time with a temporary abode. If time runs out, or if Craigslist just gets too creepy, try for a temporary option. You can always look into university summer housing through area institutions such as GWU, Catholic or Howard. Internship companies like WISH and The Washington Center cater specifically to interns. Don’t forget the couch-surfing option, too.
Finally, as you navigate neighborhoods, lease agreements and amenities, remember to keep your rent at no more than 1/3 of your monthly income. It’s challenging, but it’ll help you save money for a plane ticket home.