I kind of ghosted on my blogging responsibilities at the end of last week, but I have a good excuse for it–my parents came into town!
And as anyone who knows me knows, I’m obsessed with my parents. They’re bright, lovably dorky, adorable individuals. And so I begged them to come see some apartments with me while they were here because Goodness Knows I’m Not Old Enough To Tour Apartment Buildings. Except I am. And that time has come. My goodness.
As you may recall from my having to take a deep breath and begin the process of apartment hunting in DC, I’ve ben collating some apartment buildings I may want to live in with ApartmentList.com (which I’ve liked a lot so far, by the way). But apartment hunting online kind of feels like online shopping where you stick a bunch of things you like in the cart just for fun, then close the tab you have open. Visiting apartments in the flesh felt like a whole ‘nother matter.
Why I felt so afraid of this part of the process evades me; the questions to ask the leasing offices are not difficult ones. It was only once we walked in and the leasing agent at the first place was so nice to me that I realized a Lesson In Adulting…these people want you to lease one of their apartments, and so they’re very polite–many of them are very outgoing and nice. For some reason I had expected them to pay me no mind since I’m just 22 (ageism is a thing and it’s annoying) and grill me about why I deserved the apartment. Again…I’m not sure why I had this notion. But I appreciated being walked around like the customer I am in this process.
In any case, we began our search at three apartments I had bookmarked in NoMa, which is near Union Station and Gallaudet University. We stepped off the Metro and it was very clear that we weren’t in Georgetown anymore; a lot of the row houses looked very run down; a lot of chain-link fences and the like. We first went to Union Market, where suddenly it was mostly upper-class white people instead of a higher lower-income population I was seeing in the neighborhood. When we left and passed back by the Metro to see the apartments, it was clear that there is a bit of a divide socioeconomically on either side of the NoMa/Gallaudet Metro station; suddenly, there were the clearly new high-rise apartments, Starbucks, Harris Teeter, and more. It’s clear that gentrification is happening in NoMa, for better or for worse.
As a result, we saw the Avalon at First and M first, which was a strange (but not bad) experience in the sense that it has incredible amenities–a rooftop pool, indoor and outdoor cinemas, computer rooms, demonstration kitchens, a full gym, and more. It felt more like being shown around a country club than an apartment complex, and part of that made me uncomfortable, especially in light of the run-down area I had just been walking through. As I toured around some apartments in Dupont Circle later this week, it became clear why the Avalon was able to offer such amenities for such a low price–the neighborhood is definitely still up-and-coming. I was especially taken with the dog salon in the bottom of the Avalon for people to wash their dogs–suddenly the image of me with my dog in this glamorous building was vivid in my mind.
So I was trying to figure out why I felt like this wasn’t really what I wanted. As we were leaving and I was still gaping at my parents about the amenities, my mom said something that I’m imagining is another Lesson in Adulting: “Caroline, you’re never going to sit in that internet cafe or use that demostration kitchen. You may use that gym. Once. But other than that you’ll mostly be in your own unit.” True dat, Mama James.
It’s clearer to me after visiting a few of the very new, gentrified apartments in NoMa that I would rather live in a less glamorous building in a more central location in DC with fewer amenities than live in a brand-new building in a less central neighborhood. Could I wind up in NoMa just because of the price? Certainly, if I can’t find a price to beat it. But it’s not necessary for me to have indoor and outdoor cinemas in my complex.
Later this week I toured a couple of complexes in Dupont Circle, which was much more exciting to me in terms of the things that are around the buildings (lots of restaurants, things to do, etc.), even though the buildings themselves were noticeably older. Another thing I figured out was that a handful of management companies manage the majority of these buildings–a lot of them will refer you to their “sister properties.” I got similar vibes from two buildings in the Dupont area that were managed by the same company, and I didn’t love them, so I might check out properties from a management company I liked a lot more (Keener Management), because if the professionalism at the place I visited (2000 Connecticut Ave) is any indication, I’ll get similar treatment at their other properties.
Other things I learned:
- a lot of these buildings still have communal laundry rooms because it’s expensive to renovate units. I thought I’d be done with that when I left college, but apparently not… something else that was brought to my attention is that communal laundry rooms is where **** can go down in terms of safety concerns. I’m not sure how true that is, but it’s not fun to think about.
- These buildings seem to have either a 30- or 60-day notice of lease end policy. As such, they can’t really tell me when they’ll have two-bedroom apartments available because I don’t want to move until July 1st. So for now, I’m definitely just getting a feel of what neighborhood I want to be in and what my non-negotiables are in my living space. So be it.
- If you ask about the safety of the neighborhood, they’ll automatically say, “well, each resident is responsible for their own safety, and there’s key-only access to the building.” In other words, don’t even bother asking because they won’t tell you much. You’re probably better of looking up crime stats in the neighborhood online.
More apartment hunting adventures to come…