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Young Dreamer planning to move to No Va
Old 01-16-2011, 07:38 AM   #1
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Young Dreamer planning to move to No Va

Hey all, my son is planning to move to northern Virginia in early summer after his girlfriend (who is from there) graduates. He is a mechanical engineer, who completed his masters degree last May and has been working (midwest) since last summer. He doesn't plan to go until he finds a job, which won't be easy probably from long distance, but we'll see. My question for you folks is how you that live in the area find the cost of living, home buying opportunities for a young couple, etc. Can you throw out a few pros/cons for a young couple planning to relocate from the midwest where the COL is relatively cheap? His girlfriend will find work as a nurse after she graduates in May. Thanks for any pointers/ideas that would help him with this big move.
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Old 01-16-2011, 01:59 PM   #2
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Hi bubba. My husband and I have lived in NOVA for many years. It's a great place for young, educated people to find a good job. The unemployment rate in Fairfax County is well below the national average. Last I heard, it was around 5%.

We've been keeping a close eye on the real estate market since we plan to sell one of two homes we own in the area. Everything I've been reading indicates the RE market bottomed out last year and is now rising slowly. Homes are selling more quickly and at prices much closer to the asking price.

The cost of living is much higher here than in the midwest. Even so, a couple of young professionals should do quite well. I have family in Kansas, so know how different these two areas are. I suspect it may be challenging for him to adjust to the traffic and intensity of the area. Even so, many young people find this an exciting place to live.

Because of the traffic, they may want to wait until he gets a job before they buy a place. Around here, a 20 mile commute can easily take well over an hour. Back in the Kansas town I have relatives in, a 20 mile commute usually takes 20 minutes, even in rush hour

Here's a site with lots of statistics about the market in NOVA:

Real Estate Market Statistics for Northern Virginia | RBI

If you click on a county or city, you can pull up detailed reports which should give you a good idea of the trends. This information is gathered by a company called RealEstate Business Intelligence using data from the MRIS Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The fact his girlfriend is from the area will help. Does she have family and friends here? Any particular areas they are looking to move to?

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:01 PM   #3
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I grew up in the Midwest and lived in the DC metro for two years so can relate to this. Personally speaking I couldn't wait to move back to the Midwest. But personal feelings aside, there are some things that can be done to really make up for the high COLA.

I lived just inside the beltway and was paying around 1100 a month for a 650 Sq FT studio. However, I was not close enough to the metro to use it consistently. I would advise a young professional, especially one in your son's situation where it sounds like he will be living with his girlfriend, to live close to the metro so they have that accessibility. It will help on commutes to the office, and also in getting to all the places around time. It will save time, stress, and energy. Arlington is a pretty nice area in NOVA that's close to a metro line, and I think you can find a nice place to live for a relatively moderate cost (for the area).

I might also recommend Fairfax but I don't think there's a metro line nearby, and I'm not sure of the COL.

One of my experiences with the DC-metro was that it was very hit or miss. You were either in a nice area, or a bad area. And there was really no inbetween, and you paid financially for living in the nice areas.

My parents live in Frederick, and personally speaking I think they've got the best of both worlds. Frederick is about 30 miles north of DC in Maryland. It's cheaper to live up there, but they don't have the amenities of DC itself. However, they are close to areas like Gaithersburg, Bethesda, and Germantown, which IMO have quite a bit to offer. Plus, there are enough companies and jobs outside of DC itself that you don't have to live in DC or close to it to make a good living.

If your son is a city person, he may not like the lifestyle in Frederick. It's more suburban, and further removed from the city. But IMO it's better than being in DC or close to it. You can still visit on weekends, but avoid most of the headaches of the beltway and the city itself. If I were to live in DC again I'd live in Fairfax or somewhere in MD like Germantown to avoid as much of the DC/Beltway traffic as possible.

So I guess I'd sum up this way:

North of the beltway in MD you have some nice cities - Bethesda, Germantown, Gaithersburg, and even up to Frederick that have something to offer, but you won't get much of what DC itself has to offer. Bethesda, however is close to a metro so that may be a good compromise.

NOVA I admittedly don't know as much about, but my sister lives there, and has lived in Arlington and Fairfax, liked both (she's a young professional, turns 26 this month). Arlington offers more of the city life and easy access to DC, Fairfax is nice as well.

Hopefully this offers some insight.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:33 PM   #4
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The US Patent and Trade Mark office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA is hiring many engineers for the position of patent examiners.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:35 PM   #5
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Hey all, my son is planning to move to northern Virginia in early summer after his girlfriend (who is from there) graduates. He is a mechanical engineer, who completed his masters degree last May and has been working (midwest) since last summer. He doesn't plan to go until he finds a job, which won't be easy probably from long distance, but we'll see. My question for you folks is how you that live in the area find the cost of living, home buying opportunities for a young couple, etc. Can you throw out a few pros/cons for a young couple planning to relocate from the midwest where the COL is relatively cheap? His girlfriend will find work as a nurse after she graduates in May. Thanks for any pointers/ideas that would help him with this big move.
I recently moved away from NoVA (thank you Jesus! ) after being there 30 years, although DD and DGD still live in Leesburg. Also other relatives in MD suburbs, so we're back there fairly often. My main recommendations are to find somewhere close to wherever the job ends up being. I would rent for awhile, until they are sure they are going to stay in the area. Traffic sucks, especially going from MD to DC or VA in the morning. Close to the spotty mass transit would be good. The COL is sky high. If they end up buying, the odds are they'll be way out, Ashburn or Frederick or Dumphries or something like that in order to be able to afford it. A good solution (if possible) is to work outside DC, like Reston or Gaithersburg, and live farther out where prices are less unreasonable. The other best bet is to live in close (DC, Arlington, Bethesda, etc) and enjoy the city life, although at high cost. But rent, for sure, for a while before locking in on anything.
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Old 01-17-2011, 02:07 AM   #6
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i rented a townhouse in springfield the two years i was in NOVA which was near
where i worked and was near a metro station. That worked pretty well. i never
experienced much in the way of traffic woes that way. And it was great to be able
to bop onto the metro station and do stuff in DC/alexandria on the weekends.
That's one thing i miss now that i'm back in SoCal.
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Old 01-17-2011, 11:38 AM   #7
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My wife and I have lived in NOVA for almost 4 years now, Ashburn/Broadlands. While the cost of housing is high the unemployment rate is low. I think sometimes that comes with the territory. My advice is to find jobs as close together as possible and then find housing as close to those jobs as possible. Keep the commutes short or choose locations that are accessible easily to public transportation.

Be careful of low cost of housing areas as well. Those areas often come with higher concentrations of crime and illegal aliens. A couple areas that come to mind are Manassas and Sterling, but I know there are others.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:07 PM   #8
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Being a former resident of the DC area I cannot stress enough that a newcomer should rent for a year before buying. Coming from the Midwest, the sticker shock on housing will be significant. As Purron said, a 20-mile commute can easily take an hour, and that's on a good day. There's a reason commuting by bicycle is increasingly popular there - given a safe route it can be faster than driving.

So he will need to decide what's more valuable - a more spacious home with a two-hour commute or a small townhouse with a 30-minute commute? This assumes he finds a job in the "core" of DC.

There are plenty of jobs in the suburbs outside of DC itself with correspondingly shorter commutes. But he doesn't want to find himself working in Fairfax, VA and commuting from Rockville, MD, easily a two-hour commute during rush hours in areas where housing is similarly priced (slightly more in Fairfax, I think). The frustrating thing is that Rockville/Fairfax drive can be 30 minutes at 7:00 AM Sunday morning and three hours at 5:00 PM Friday afternoon. Drop an inch of snow and times increase by 50% to 200%+. And that's if there are no wrecks.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:26 PM   #9
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If your son is a city person, he may not like the lifestyle in Frederick. It's more suburban, and further removed from the city. But IMO it's better than being in DC or close to it. You can still visit on weekends, but avoid most of the headaches of the beltway and the city itself. If I were to live in DC again I'd live in Fairfax or somewhere in MD like Germantown to avoid as much of the DC/Beltway traffic as possible.
At their age if they like the city life they might do well in closer in in something like the Clarendon area. Lots of restaurants, clubs, etc. Falls Church is fairly close in and accessible to the Metro for more of a nice single family house environment with a good school system. But either choice will be pricey. I wish them luck. I have been in the DC area since 1980 (a few years in an apartment in VA just inside the Beltway and 28 years in a townhouse on Capitol Hill) and I like the area a lot.

I think Walt's recommendation to rent is good almost anywhere someone moves. Find out where you will be working and whether you like the area before you even consider buying. In the meantime get to know the neighborhoods with their advantages/disadvantages.
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Old 01-17-2011, 04:38 PM   #10
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Thank you so much, everyone, for the tips and so forth. I will forward a link to this thread to DS and let him read up on the suggestions. His gf's parents live in Stafford, and she has family further north, but I do not know the areas. Just from reading here I see a big headache is going to be finding a place where he can store/work on his 2 older trucks and a motorcycle. He is a true "shade tree mechanic" and must have a garage. Clearly they need to plan, plan, plan and then rent for a year.

Again, thanks so much, and if anyone has any other thoughts/suggestions, we'd sure appreciate hearing them.
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Old 02-11-2011, 04:17 PM   #11
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Don't bring the cars/trucks/etc! Move as close as possible to your work location. Find a position that's close to everything. There's plenty of jobs here!

Quick access to Washington DC is a must for a huge quality of life benefit. I find quite a few of my co-workers that must drive to work or drive to a metro station, complaining about their commutes, and stressed out. When I invite them out on a weeknight, they will decline, because it's too much of a hassle for them to get into the city. But then I hear them talking too much about TV shows they watched all week long while I was out and about hanging out with friends, meeting new people, networking, and never repeating a restaurant.

I walk 5 minutes to work, through a shopping mall that's connected to my apartment. Best decision ever. I never thought of driving a car ever since. There's a metro 1 block away that can take me wherever I need to go in the City. Buses that leave every 30 minutes to take me to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or New York City. for $15-$35 round trip (boltbus.com, gotobus.com)

For visiting family, you can rent a car on demand that's parked close by. I use zipcar.com
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Old 02-11-2011, 05:23 PM   #12
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Again, thanks so much, and if anyone has any other thoughts/suggestions, we'd sure appreciate hearing them.
Here's a link to the VA page Virginia Bigger Cities (over 6000 residents) - Real Estate, Housing, Schools, Residents, Crime, Pollution, Demographics and More but I have always found city-data.com to be a great place to start researching any place in the USA. And don't miss reading/using the forums there, you can go directly to people who live/lived in the area you're looking into. Best of luck...
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Old 02-17-2011, 09:25 AM   #13
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I live in Alexandria and work in DC. I agree with others that the COL will likely be a bit surprising to someone from the midwest. Renting for a year is the best option, especially if they both don't know where they will be working when they get here. Friends of mine just moved after 4 years in my development to Herdnon area because of the hubby's job - the commute was killing him, although her's was fine as she metro'd into DC.

Needing a garage will definitely make it tough. Pretty much leaves all of DC out (unless they are quite wealthy). Condos are out, and they are still quite cheap right now because there are so many of them in areas where younger people would like to live (Arlington neighborhoods like Clarendon/Court House come to mind). There are lots of townhouses with garages, so that could be an option, and since prices are still a bit depressed, there are a lot of them to rent (by people who don't want to sell, but had to move).

If they are going to work in DC, being within walking distance to a metro stop would be ideal.
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