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Posted at 09:34 AM ET, 02/07/2012

The Apartment Hunt: An ironic ending

This is the fourth and final installment in a multi-part series about one reporter’s search for a rental in the District.


After three long months of searching for an apartment, Steven Overly finally found a home.

At last, victory.

The hunt for a rental in the District has felt like nothing short of an epic. I’ve ventured to homes in neighborhoods far and wide - well, just Northwest - only to face constant defeat.

There was the minefield known as Craigslist, where advertisements for promising apartments are mixed in among scams and dead ends. There were open houses where prospective renters compete for minimal face time with landlords. And when you finally find an apartment with potential, it’s often a race to the lease.

But in the end of every epic, the hero fetches his prize, and in my case, it has a lovely floor-to-ceiling window.

Ironically, nearly three months of searching came together in a single week. I found on Craigslist yet another handful of apartments with promise but let past disappointments calibrate my expectations. I’ve contacted landlords and prospective roommates in the past only to end up disinterested, rejected or ignored altogether.

Oddly, those past letdowns helped. While the competition is fierce and the options limited, I have come to know there are enough available places that you shouldn’t hinge your hopes on just one. Thus, I felt eager but not desperate as I met with propsective roommates for sit-down interviews.

To maximize my options I opened the search to include apartments with one or two roommates, rather than just group houses or studio units. It’s a decision that proved fruitful. After nearly three months without a single offer, I manage to land two in two days.

Each offer had its perks:

Option 1: A two-bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights, just three blocks from the Metro station and a shopping mall anchored by Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and other stores. There is a fitness center in the building, updated appliances in the kitchen and a bedroom closet that spans nearly an entire wall. I would share the place with one roommate, and my portion of the rent would cost $1,050 plus electricity.

Option 2: A two-turned-three bedroom unit in Cleveland Park, where the residents had converted a sunroom into a third bedroom. There was more square feet than Option 1, all of which came covered by hardwood floors. But the kitchen could certainly use an upgrade and the building lacked amenities, such as a gym. Rent for my room would total $1,200 including utilities.

Earlier in my housing hunt I would have agonized over this decision for days. But after looking at so many apartments in different parts of the city, I narrowed my priorities to price, location and safety. I discovered these were the categories that mattered to me most, and Option 1 narrowly bested Option 2 in at least two of them.

So three months of hunting actually allowed for a quick decision: Columbia Heights would become my new neighborhood.

Of course, there was paperwork to sign, furniture to haul and Internet service to activate. Each of those, I’ve learned, comes with its own headache. But the logistics of finalizing a rental in this city are child’s play compared to the search.

Now, onto my next project: Renter’s insurance.

Related: Apartment Hunt: Craigslist

Related: Apartment Hunt: Navigating the open house

Related: Neighborhood guide: Columbia Heights

Are you on the hunt for a place to rent in the Washington area and want to blog about it on Where We Live? Email us at realestate@washpost.com.

By  |  09:34 AM ET, 02/07/2012

 
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