Relocation Guide for the Incoming Administration

Welcome to Washington!

No doubt you’re excited about what the next four years holds for both our country as well as your own relocation. Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland are fantastic places to live, as you will soon discover. Obviously there are lots of other factors to consider in choosing a new neighborhood: schools, taxes, amenities, and lifestyle just to name a few. There are lots of great places to live in DC, MD and VA. Here are a few other tips to get you started:

1) Decide whether to rent or buy. If you’re looking for rental resources, check out my web page here. But I’d seriously considering buying if your expected time frame for living here is four years or more. Prices are lower than they’ve been in years, interest rates are low, and opportunities abound. Washington, DC, and Arlington were just named two of the top ten places to live in a recession, and the recent bailout is expected to be a boon to our local economy. This area is often pegged to be one of the first to “recover” and prices are expected to rise in the next two years.

If you’re thinking of buying in the District and meet certain income requirements, you’ll be entitled to a $5000 tax credit! This might also be a good opportunity for you to take advantage of the $7500 tax “credit” (really a loan) recently passed as well.

2) Carefully consider your commute time in choosing where to live. Most transferees to our area are shocked by the commute time—it can easily be 30 minutes to go just 3 or 4 miles, so don’t just look at a map and decide “it’s not that far.” This area’s congestion is among the worst in the nation. Our public transportation system is very good though; our subway system (known as Metro) is fantastic, though very expensive to live near. And don’t forget VRE and MARC trains. If you’re willing to commute by rail, you can get a lot more for your housing dollar. Commute times also vary widely based on whether you choose to live in the District proper, Maryland, or Virginia.

3) Get ready for sticker shock. Despite the national downturn in housing, prices in the Washington, DC, area have held up much better than other parts of the country, especially in close-in areas with under-an-hour commute times or along a metro line. For example, a one bedroom condo in North Arlington along the orange line will run you in the high $300s. But there’s some good news: there are definitely some pockets of under-valued homes right now—areas that were hit disproportionately hard by foreclosures and short sales in recent years, and in my opinion are primed for a comeback due to their proximity to public transportation and/or area demographic and employment trends. Keep in mind, though, that foreclosures and short sales, while attractive in terms of pricing, come with a host of other challenges that may be particularly difficult for someone on a tight timeline.

Looking for more info on area schools, government, crime stats, or cultural events? Check out my web page here. There’s an amazing array of activities and events in this area. I send out a list every month as part of my monthly real estate newsletter. (You can sign up on the right hand side of my blog here.)

If you need help with your relocation, please contact me to discuss the local market and your needs. Put my local knowledge, experience, and consultative background to work for you. I’m licensed in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, and I’d be happy to help you with your real estate needs!


How will the election and relocating administration staff impact the Washington, DC, area real estate market?

I’m often asked whether the market will pick up after the election, with the incoming administration. Whether the Republicans or Democrats win, a wave of new junior staffers and senior officials will sweep into Washington, DC. My guess is that the impact on the real estate market will be positive—by which I mean positive for sellers–for this reason: people who make a career of politics often don’t leave once they’re here.

What I mean is this: many of the current administration won’t leave, so it’s not a one-for-one swap in residents even with a complete turnover in administration. Some will have fallen in love with the area, some will have kids in schools or other local commitments that they don’t want to give up, many will be absorbed into local lobbying and law firms. So 100% of the current administration won’t be leaving. Of course there will be some houses put on the market, but I’m guessing not many.

On the flip side, though some of the next administration will undoubtedly already be living locally, there will be definitely be an influx of new residents as staffers and administration are relocated here from other parts of the country for their new appointments. Those people all need a place to live, whether it’s renting or buying. Junior staffers will undoubtedly rent, but senior officials and their families could just as easily look to buy—especially when they absorb the sticker shock of high rental prices in this area. They’ll likely decide this is certainly a good time to buy, with historically low rates, relatively high (though shrinking) level of inventory from which to choose, and their new four-to-eight year time horizon. The District and Arlington, after all, were recently named two of the top ten places to live in a recession, and our local real estate market has held up relatively well versus most of the country.

Since most of these new residents will be working in the District, I expect the real estate market to tighten in the District and close in, metro-accessible areas like Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Falls Church, and Vienna. Outer areas like Prince William likely won’t see a bump, but that’s okay—their current uptick is coming from the investor community.

Time will tell, but I predict that the incoming administration will cause a tightening of both the rental and purchase markets in close-in areas.

Are you a member of the new administration looking for help in understanding the local real estate market? Confused about where to rent or buy? I’m licensed in DC, VA, and MD and would love to help you. Contact me for an overview of the area and the local real estate trends.