Apartments near Metro stations still command premiums

February 24, 2013

With parking in the region becoming scarce and gasoline prices chronically high, an increasing number of young adults are shunning the hassle and expense of owning a car in favor of public transit.

Here in the Washington area, the trend is clearly evident in the rent premium enjoyed by apartments located within walking distance of a Metro station. Those properties achieve an average of a 15 percent total rent premium and a 57 percent price per square foot premium over multifamily properties located farther away from Metro stations.

Looking more closely into this trend, it appears proximity to certain Metro stations comes at a bigger price tag than others. Apartment renters pay the biggest premiums to be close to Metro stations near the center of the region’s transportation grid that also offer proximity to nightlife, dining and other retail amenities.

Among the most expensive, both in terms of total average monthly rent and a price per square foot basis, are apartments near Metro stations in downtown D.C., including Foggy Bottom and Farragut North, and those close to the Gallery Place station in Chinatown. For one-bedroom apartments near these stations, renters can expect to pay upwards of $2,800 per month in a property of average or better quality (Class A or B) that is institutionally managed.

Apartments just across the Potomac River, along so-called yuppie corridors, are also higher priced. One-bedroom apartments within a short jaunt of Orange Line stations from Rosslyn to East Falls Church, and along the Blue/Yellow Lines from Crystal City to Old Town Alexandria, rent for more than $2,300 per month, or well over $2 per square foot.

Apartment renters seeking mass transit accessibility and more bang for their buck should consider looking along the Red Line stretching north of the District, both to the west and east, in apartments near the Shady Grove, Glenmont, Wheaton or Takoma stations. Units in those locations rent for a relative bargain at an average of just more than $1,650/month, or $1.60 per square foot for a one-bedroom, average-quality unit. Apartment communities at the farthest-flung metro stations in Virginia, including Franconia-Springfield and Vienna, offer similar bargains although availability is scarce.

Apartment renters seeking the optimal combination of affordability and mass transit access should look in Prince George’s County where a number of stations rank among the most affordable; one-bedroom units average $1,200 per month. And for those seeking newer properties, there are some relative steals near the Largo Town Center, Branch Avenue and Prince George’s Plaza stations. Bargain hunters can find a relatively roomy unit built within the past five years in a Class A property that rents for about $1,700 per month, or $1.60 per square foot, just minutes away from a train station.

Erica Champion is a senior real estate economist with CoStar Group in Washington.

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