Washington's rental market showed no signs of slowing down in 2014, according to a year-end report from the real-estate company Zillow. In total, tenants paid their landlords $13.4 billion in 2014, or about $300 million more than they did last year, an increase of 7.7 percent.
Zillow's research pegged the region's average rent at $1,428 per month in 2014. Over the past year, residential rents in Washington remained nearly flat, increasing by an average of just $2 per month. That translates into about an average annual jump of just $24 for the roughly 782,000 Washington residents who rent their homes. As a metropotlian area, Washington is well outside the norm; average increased by much more in some of the regions Zillow studied.
Rents in Denver rose by $86 per month, San Francisco increased by an eye-gouging $163 per month, and renters in San Jose, California experienced an average hike of a totally dispiriting $197 per month.
But even with Washington's relative calm, there are no signs of paying rent becoming less painful in the near future, according to Zillow's chief economist, Stan Humphries.
"Over the past 14 years, rents have grown at twice the pace of income due to weak income growth, burgeoning rental demand, and insufficient growth in the supply of rental housing," Humphries says in a press release.
That last detail applies somewhat less toward the Washington area, where several jurisidcitions, including DC, Tysons, and Bethesda, continue to put up new buildings at the higher end of the rental market. But we might not want to get too comfortable with our relatively unchanged rents. Renters across the spectrum should brace for higher costs of living in 2015, Humphries says.
"Next year, we expect rents to rise even faster than home values, meaning that another increase in total rent paid similar to that seen this year isn't out of the question," he says. "In fact, it's probable."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that average monthly rents in Washington increased by $59. In an e-mail, a Zillow spokesperson says that figure was published erroneously.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
While the Urban Institute's comprehensive study on DC housing costs on Tuesday stated what most of us already know—that DC rent is damn high and getting higher—the effects of a surging residential market are felt more on the blocks with the best public transportation access. Again, this isn't a big shock: with nearly 40 percent of DC residents relying on public transportation to get to work, it's logical that the housing closest to Metro stations comes at a premium.
The Urban Institute's research found that citywide, 64 percent of rental units now cost more than $1,000 per month, while 35 percent go for at least $1,500 a month. However, when apartments sit on top of train stations, the typical rent for a one-bedroom unit often approaches $2,000 a month, according to RadPad, an online apartment-hunting service that combed listings around the Metro stations with the most rental activity.
The findings aren't that startling for a metro area in which more than 50 percent of renters spend at least 30 percent of their monthy earnings on housing, but there is a bit of sticker shock to reinforce the fact that rental costs continue to surge. RadPad's map tops out at the Foggy Bottom-GWU station, where nearby one-bedrooms average $2,723 per month. Dupont Circle, at $2,443, and Mount Vernon Square, at $2,402, are next.
The spiking rents extend beyond the urban core, but tend to drop as the Metro lines push out. A one-bedroom near the NoMa-Gallaudet station runs $2,238; the next station up, Brookland, runs $1,551 a month.
Of course, this map is skewed from sourcing only one company's listings—that's possibly why there's a $998 difference between Anacostia and Congress Heights—but it does reinforce much of what the Urban Institue found in its report and hints that the chunk of people who spend upward of 30 percent of their incomes on rent will continue to expand.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
One of those websites that ranks cities along arbitrary metrics has decided that Washington is the third-best US city for millennials, the generation of young people that marketing professionals and baby-boomer newspaper editors can’t stop talking about. And according to the new list, the best part of town isn’t even in town. It’s Clarendon, a section of Arlington known for its heavy concentration of bros.
The ranking comes from Niche.com, a website that compiles rankings of municipalities and schools, and in the case of millennials, reviewed cities according to income, housing prices, crime rates, and percentage of people with a college diploma, along with less statistically sound things like professional sports teams and nightlife.
Fifteen percent of the Washington area’s population is between 25 and 34 years of age, Niche found. But in Clarendon, that demographic accounts for a staggering 53 percent of the population. They live in places like the “METAL HOUSE,” a four-story domicile that was rented out last September to tenants seeking a haven for keggers and flip cup tournaments.
Why else is Clarendon perfect for millennials, Niche.com reasons? Forty-eight percent of its residents hold master’s degrees, the median household income is $108,132, and the median rent is $1,788 a month. By contrast, the median rent for all of Washington is measured at $1,353.
Looks like it’s time for people born after 1980 to get out of Mt. Pleasant and H Street and head across the river to Clarendon, home of popped collars and expensive apartments that double as beer pong arenas.
With so many new, high-end apartment buildings dotting Washington, prospective tenants have plenty of options to choose from. And building owners are responding by upping their amenities. Twenty-four-hour gyms, heated bike rooms, and rooftop pools are so standard that new developments need too get creative.
W.C. Smith’s 2M, a 314-unit building opening this summer in the NoMa neighborhood, features all that, and is possibly inventing a brand-new amenity in Emmy, a six-month-old English bulldog that will be shared by tenants. Yes, really. A communal dog for residents to borrow in chunks of time like a Zipcar.
“I was sitting at a cafe one day, and we saw a puppy come in and everyone just stopped in their tracks and came alive,” W.C. Smith vice president Holli Beckman tells the Washington Post. “And it just dawned on me that everyone loves doggies and babies, right?”
But as much as a cute, playful creature like Emmy—who has a dedicated Instagram account (obviously)—can melt hearts, experts on dog care are concerned for the pup.
“It’s a cute idea, but oh, no,” says Mary Huntsberry, an animal behavior specialist in Montgomery County. “Not a good idea at all.”
Huntsberry says that offering up a dog like a time-share could have severe effects on its mental and physical health as Emmy is moved from apartment to apartment and cared for by so many different people.
“Certain people think you need to be harsh, that’s not true with another person,” she says. “Dogs can be easily traumatized.”
W.C. Smith’s advertising for 2M says the building is pet-friendly for people who actually own their own dogs, but Huntsberry worries that Emmy is being dumped into a uncertain situation.
“They’re animals, they’re not purses you just lend out to people,” she says. “That’s just nutty.”
Editor’s Note (added 4/4/2014): In response to this article, Anne Marie Bairstow, vice president of marketing and communications at W.C. Smith, writes: “We appreciate Washingtonian’s interest in our 2M Street pet ambassador, Emmy. However, the story had several inaccuracies. The article says that Emmy will be rented out like ‘Zipcar for dogs or like a ‘purse,’ which is, of course, not the case. Emmy will live with the 2M property manager and come to work with him in the leasing office. Residents will be allowed to walk Emmy in the building’s private dog park, but all visits will be closely monitored." Washingtonian thanks WC Smith for this clarification.
An old house in the Clarendon section of Arlington undergoing a sleek renovation is hitting the rental market, and its owner is hoping to find the right pack of bros to move in. Not only does it have a rooftop party deck, it also boasts a yard that, in the owner's mind, is perfect for "kegger[s], flip cup, corn hole" and whatever other fratty activity one can think of.
What does a summer intern in need of a place to crash get for $4,200? If she's renting a dorm room from the George Washington University, accommodations include crumbling ceilings, moldy bathrooms, rusty appliances, and fungal growth.
That's what Ayla Nejad encountered during her nine-week stay this summer at GW, where she lived while working at an internship. The university, with its collection of dormitories in Foggy Bottom, does a fair bit of business while school's out, providing housing for some 4,700 interns every summer.
Nejad, who did her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego, says she paid GW $4,189 up front. When she arrived in early June, she was directed to a room at the Aston, which was renovated in 2008 and houses law students during the academic year. The room, Nejad says, "was a complete disaster." Among the dingy details: a soiled toilet seat, dislodged shower head, a rust-covered refrigerator, and a chair with a hole the size of a small frying pan burned through the seat.
Nejad, who is now living in Paris to pursue a master's degree, called GW's housing services and requested an immediate switch. She got one, but the second room was hardly an improvement.