So You Want To Live in Arlington, VA? Should you Rent or Buy?
It’s no surprise that many people look into living in Arlington, Virginia when they move to the DC area. It tops many nationwide lists for a variety of reasons. This year, it was ranked #1 as the best city to live in America on Niche.com, taking into account a variety of factors including family-friendliness, schools, diversity, and nightlife. The same site ranked it #3 in 2018 as a spot for millennials to live, examining a different set of factors like walkability and access to coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Seventy-five percent of Arlington workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and Forbes even ranked it the #3 city where women are most successful.
Arlington offers the vibrant hustle-and-bustle of city living with the parks, schools, and other luxuries of living in the suburbs. It’s the perfect place for a person who would like to be able to walk down the street to a restaurant but also have easy access to their car.
Because of its high demand, housing prices are slightly higher than some of the suburbs located farther from the city, but many of its residents would tell you that the benefits of living in Arlington far outweigh the costs.
When looking to settle down in Arlington, the first thing you should know is if you are looking to rent or looking to buy. To do this, you will need to examine a variety of factors.
In an area of the country where the average commute time is 43 minutes one way, transportation may be the first thing a prospective renter or buyer researches. In Arlington, there are many ways to do it. Arlington is home to ten metro stops along the Orange, Yellow, and Blue lines. If a future resident wants to take the metro, finding a place within walking distance is crucial, as daily parking through third-party lots can become prohibitively pricey. Luckily, most major apartment complexes in Arlington are located under a mile to the metro.
One downside to renting is a less predictable and sometimes costly parking situation. Most apartments charge a monthly fee for a parking space (for example, 19Nineteen in Clarendon charges $200/month and Meridian in Ballston and Courthouse charges $195/month). In many apartment complexes, having guests over can be tricky as well with limited guest parking options. Prospective homebuyers may have more flexibility to park for free in a driveway or along the street with a residential tag ($20 yearly in some neighborhoods), and they are more likely to have a spot open for guests. At the end of a commute, no matter how short, knowing where you will be able to park can offer some peace of mind.
Walking or biking to work from Arlington is sometimes an option thanks to a well-maintained network of sidewalks and trails. The Custis Trail runs along 66, and the W & O D can take commuters to Shirlington in one direction and all the way out to Purcellville in the other.
Whether you rent or buy, if you have school-aged children, you’ll be able to take advantage of Arlington County’s superb school system. If your children are ages 3-4, you can send them to Arlington’s Montessori Program, which uses a sliding salary scale to determine tuition.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’d take advantage of the extras many rentals offer, including gyms, pools, and other commonly maintained areas.
While you might save on a pool or gym membership, many apartments charge an upfront amenities fee. The Bartlett charges $500; AVA Ballston charges $450. These fees are less than the average cost of joining a neighborhood pool or local gym, but they are needless costs if you don’t plan to use them at all.
While most rental situations in Arlington are pet-friendly, an extra charge for “pet rent” is common. Some apartments charge a deposit or upfront charge as well as a monthly fee. For example, The Beacon in Clarendon charges $500 upfront and $50 a month. If you have pets, especially multiple pets, purchasing a home might be worth it in the long run.
Your Monthly Budget
How much can you afford to spend each month on housing? In Arlington, the average rent is $2,230. The average home value is $751,270, and while mortgages can vary widely, a rough estimate with current interest rates would be $3,290 a month. Though purchasing a home likely involves a higher monthly payment, homeowners will be able to make their money back when they sell their home.
After graduating college amid famously turbulent economic times from 2007-2010, many millennials might feel skeptical of the promise of making a return on their housing investment. For this reason, most millennials have preferred to rent. However, some areas—while not recession-proof—have shown some recession resistance. In 2020, Smart Asset ranked Arlington, VA the 15th most recession-resistant city in the nation, taking into account employment, housing, and social assistance. Though the housing market has had minor ups and downs from year to year, overall, prices in Arlington and the greater Northern Virginia area have remained steadily on an upward trajectory for the past 45 years. When purchasing a home in Arlington, home-buyers can feel confident that they will eventually be able to sell their home for much more than they purchased it.
The Longevity of Your Stay
How long will you want to live in Arlington? That can help you decide whether it is worth it to rent or buy. According to CNBC, which takes into account average closing costs, real estate taxes, interest, and a twenty percent down payment, the number of years it takes to “break even” after buying a home in the DC area is 6.5. However, the rental market is thriving in Arlington, and homeowners could easily turn their home into a rental property if job opportunities bought them elsewhere.