Buying A House In DC: Facts And Tips
Kim Porter6-Minute Read
May 03, 2021
Love the fast-paced environment of Washington, D.C. and want to make it permanent? Check out our guide to the ins and outs of buying a house in the capital.
As the seat of the nation’s political life, Washington, D.C., has a lot to offer current and potential residents—from top-notch universities, a bustling city life, and international culture.
If you’re thinking of moving to the District, it’s a good idea to research your options. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a house in D.C., including real estate tips, listings and market trend reports.
Why Buy A House In Washington, DC
With a strong job market, rising home appreciation, and international flair, D.C. real estate can be a great place to buy a home. The biggest industry here is the federal government, but you’ll also find jobs in professional services, hospitality and tourism, and health care.
There are plenty of part-time residents within the district’s population of nearly 700,000, making it a great place to buy a rental property.
Although D.C. is currently thriving as a seller’s market, these real estate trends depend on the overall housing industry. If you’re looking to buy a home or invest in the D.C. market, you should know which neighborhoods have the best value.
Top 5 Real Estate Neighborhoods In D.C.
We’ve gathered a list of the Rocket Homes top five real estate neighborhoods in D.C. Read on to learn more about how they’re the best value for your investment.
At the top of our list is Capitol Hill, the largest historical neighborhood in D.C. with a population of around 29,000. It’s a mostly residential neighborhood with multiple schools, but it also boasts a busy commercial area with restaurants, shops, and bars. Some of this neighborhood’s famous landmarks include the U.S. Capitol, the Senate and House office buildings, Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court building. The median list price of homes in Capitol Hill is $726,000, according to the Rocket Homes March 2021trend report, that’s a 20.4% increase since the last month.
With a population of just over 16,000, Adams Morgan is home to many young professionals and boasts a vibrant nightlife scene—but there are plenty of schools, parks, and shops, too. The median listing price of homes in Adams Morgan is $504,500. Home prices dropped 8.3% since February, which means it could be a good time to score a deal in this popular neighborhood.
Dupont Circle is a popular residential neighborhood with a population of 14,952. Some of the highlights here include Dupont Circle Fountain; America’s first museum of modern art, The Phillips Collection; and Embassy Row, which lends an international vibe to the area. Most residents here rent, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking to buy an investment property. The median listing price is $550,000, which climbed by 17.6% since February.
Georgetown is an upscale historic neighborhood that’s situated along the Potomac River and has a population of nearly 15,000. It was named in honor of King George II and is home to Georgetown University. The median listing price in Georgetown is $1.6 million, which is up 4.3% over February 2021.
With a population of nearly 31,000, Columbia Heights is a perfect blend of urban living with a laid-back residential feel. The neighborhood is home to a number of restaurants, bars, and two academic powerhouses—Howard University and George Washington University—which could mean plenty of potential renters for your investment property. The median listing price in Columbia Heights is $598,500, which is a 6.9% drop from February.
Things To Know About Buying A House In D.C.
If you’re thinking about making D.C. your home or you’re looking to invest here, it’s important to know the unique ins and outs of homebuying in this area.
Prepare For High Price Tags
If you’re planning a move to the D.C. area, get ready to spend money. Washington, D.C. has a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in America to buy a home and pay property taxes. That means you may have a hefty monthly mortgage payment, and you may need to save longer for your down payment and closing costs, too.
Consider The Surrounding Counties
If D.C.’s home prices are outside your budget, consider buying property in the popular counties that surround it. Alexandria, Virginia; Frederick, Maryland; and Silver Spring, Maryland all offer more affordable housing and a 30-minute commute to the District.
Make Your Home Offer Quickly
Most homes in D.C. are on the market for fewer than 30 days, which means you’ll need to move fast and put in an offer when you spot a home you want to buy. D.C. is in a seller’s market right now, which means homes may sell above the listing price and further increase competition. Preparing your budget, making a list of must-have features in your new home, and figuring out how much you can borrow are all good ways to help you move quickly.
Partner With A Neighborhood Real Estate Agent
Your real estate agent will be the person who walks you through the process of buying a home, from touring properties to making an offer, hiring an inspector, and helping you to the closing table. You’ll want to find an agent who has experience finding homes in your chosen D.C. neighborhood.
Winter Is Often The Best Time To Buy
Winter isn’t usually seen as the best time to buy a home because there are fewer homes on the market, but this can actually give you an advantage. With fewer shoppers, you’ll have less competition and may be able to negotiate for seller concessions or receive more generous contingency periods. Plan to look for homes in January and February for better deals.
Invest In Radon And Termite Testing
Washington, D.C., has been identified by the Environment Protection Agency as an area with a higher potential for radon levels. So when you put in an offer on a home, make sure you include an inspection contingency and complete a radon test and termite test—especially in older or historic homes.
Requirements For Buying A House In D.C.
The requirements to buy a house in Washington, D.C., are standard, which means lenders are looking for:
- Good credit: When lenders check your credit history, they’re generally looking for a good credit score and few or no derogatory marks on your credit reports. The minimum credit score requirements vary with each mortgage program, but you’ll likely need a score of at least 620 for a conventional loan and a score of 500 or 580 for an FHA loan (a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration).
- Low debt-to-income ratio: This ratio helps lenders measure how much debt you have compared to the income you earn. Requirements vary, but a low debt-to-income ratio—around 43% or less—can help you qualify for a mortgage.
- Financial documentation: Be prepared to hand over a stack of paperwork when you apply for a mortgage. The lender will need to document your employment status, income, debts, and assets to ensure you have enough money to cover the down payment and closing costs and make your mortgage payments. The financial documentation usually includes pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and W-2s.
- Appraisal: Your lender will also order an appraisal during the underwriting process to determine the market value of the property you want to buy. This confirms the amount of money you’re borrowing lines up with the home’s value.
- Down payment: The down payment represents your investment in the property, and the amount you need varies with every home and mortgage program. Generally, you’ll need a down payment of around 3% for a conventional loan and 3.5% for an FHA loan. If you can put down 20% on a conventional loan, you’ll avoid paying private mortgage insurance.
The Bottom Line: Dive Into The District
There’s something for everyone if you’re looking to buy a house in Washington, D.C., whether you’re interested in the District’s historic neighborhoods, night life, or top universities. Home prices are above-average in this area, but working with a verified real estate agent through Rocket Homes can help you find a home within your budget.
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