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Posted at 06:40 PM ET, 04/24/2012

Apartment Hunter: The delicate balance between distance, space and price

Our new apartment hunter is an intern looking to stay in the Washington area after he graduates.

This week, I checked out south Fairfax County on my expedition to find the right place.Being car-less, I made my way via Metro and bus to Engleside, a small apartment village outside Mount Vernon.

I went to check out Sacramento Square Apartments because they had everything I am looking for.

As I described in my last post, I am looking for a two bedroom with a good kitchen, spacious living area and formal dining area that is somewhat close to a Metro station — all for a bargain $1,300 a month or less.
(David Hood)

Sacramento Square seemed very promising, with a community that appeared to house mid- to high-income residents. On a dreary day this week, the drivers in the area seemed calm and relaxed, unlike the Rosslyn area, where the driving is a free-for-all nightmare.

The complex’s showcase room was the type of two-bedroom unit that I am looking to rent. It featured a very spacious living room with medium-sized formal dining area and a big kitchen. To my surprise, it came with a full refrigerator, washer and dryer inside.

At 956 square feet, the place felt like home. The carpets were new and bathrooms (these units featured two-bedroom, two-baths) were big enough not to feel cramped.

At the end of the main hallway was a master bedroom that was big enough for a king-sized bed and a lot of breathing room. In addition, it had a huge walk-in closet, easily enough room for two people with diverse wardrobes.

The total cost came out to $1,365 a month, a little over my initial spending cap. But because Sacramento Square pays for all utilities, with the exception of electricity, I see it as worth pursuing.

Sacramento Square offers third-party onsite additional storage units for a relatively low cost, compared to storage units in my California hometown.

Lastly, and most importantly, it allowed cats — albeit for a fee. Having my furry friend Bear here is something my girlfriend and I are looking forward to. And the fact that the apartment was very spacious made it legitimately pet-friendly.

But there were a few concerns. The first was that the second bedroom was small. It was good enough for a 5-year-old, but barely for a home office. Since my girlfriend is a graphic designer, it’s important for us to have a nice work area, something Sacramento Square Apartments lacked.

Additionally, the countertops were vinyl and the oven and stovetop looked dated. And although the bathrooms were nice and big, those too seemed dated in terms of hardware and decoration.

Another downer is that Sacramento Square is out of the way. The average drive to the Huntington Metro station is about 20 minutes. That means waking up very early and getting home later than I would if I were living closer to the city.

Walking, Metro-riding and busing down there took me well over an hour and a half, making the complex inconvenient for traveling into the city. However, it is close to beautiful Mount Vernon and Huntley Meadows Park.

I think that the convenience of a full refrigerator, the washer/dryer and overall spaciousness of the apartment overruled its lengthy travel time into Washington, its older appliances and slightly higher price tag. I think Sacramento Square fits the college-grad/newlywed budget and is worth a second look.

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Previously:

Apartment Hunter: From intern to full-time Washingtonian

By David Hood  |  06:40 PM ET, 04/24/2012

 
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