Marcos Huerta hates moving. Really hates it. So in each city he’s lived in since college, the 35-year-old government employee has found one apartment and stayed there.
He’s been in his Kalorama apartment in D.C. for more than six years. And he has no plans to leave.
“I know people who seem to move every year, and that just boggles my mind. I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m just not a fan,” he says.
Huerta belongs to the rare breed of Washington renter that has found his or her ideal habitat in the harsh D.C. rental climate. New neighbors and rent hikes have not been enough to persuade him to move out. And owning a house or condo doesn’t sound appealing.
“I thought a lot about buying and have concluded it’s not for me, at least not at this stage of my life,” he says. “Plus, whenever I price it out, I would basically be paying the same I am now.” Except, he adds, he would have “huge debt” — and wouldn’t be able to move as easily, if he wanted to.
But for him, moving’s not likely to happen anytime soon. And Huerta isn’t the only Washingtonian perfectly pleased with his rental situation. Take Chinaka Young, 31, a public relations specialist: She isn’t planning to leave the Fairfax Village apartment in Southeast D.C. where she’s lived since 2008. And then there’s Patrick Spray, 58, an IT professional, who thinks of his two-bedroom Riverdale Park, Md., house as home after renting it for nearly 14 years.
Here are some of the factors that have kept these marathon tenants happy for the long haul — and what you can learn from them if you’re sick of changing rentals and considering staying put.
The D.C. area is rich in rentals, so finding a gem of a landlord can seem like throwing a dart at a target. Still, it can be done, and it is one key to lasting rental happiness. Huerta, Young and Spray all say they have no complaints about their landlords, and even have good relationships with them.
Spray’s landlord lets him handle repairs and has allowed him to add ramps to the 1,600-square-foot house for his and his wife’s wheelchairs. He also allowed Spray to delay six months of rent payments when he lost his job and pay them back later over an 18-month period.
“This guy is a good guy,” Spray says. “You need to find a landlord that’s like you who has similar values. It’s a lot like finding a roommate.”
Young’s landlord also goes above and beyond, she says. Her landlord has been quick to fix the few problems she’s had, and if he were unavailable, her building has maintenance crews on site.
“Now that I’m saying it out loud, I’m like, ‘Wow, he’s really awesome,’ ” Young says.
Is the Rent Right?
Whether your rent fits your budget is another major factor. Spray’s landlord didn’t raise the $1,200 rent he set in 2000 until Spray volunteered to start paying $250 more per month in 2007 to keep up with the market.
Young’s landlord charges her $1,100 per month for her two-bedroom, 700-square-foot apartment, even though the unit upstairs is rented for more, she says. He hasn’t raised the rent since Young moved in, because he likes that she doesn’t complain a lot and keeps the place clean, she says.
As for Huerta, his apartment is rent-controlled, which means D.C. caps how much and how often landlords can raise the rent. His rent has gone up to $1,811, from $1,470 in 2008 when he moved in. The most recent time it increased, Huerta says, he researched rents in Kalorama and elsewhere in D.C.
“I concluded that it was quite competitive, so I did not pull the trigger [on moving out],” he says.
The Ideal Setting
Paying the right amount and having a good landlord won’t matter if your rental isn’t in an area you want to call home.
Young says she likes her neighborhood’s vibe, and crime isn’t a worry. “I’m a creature of habit. If I don’t need to fix it, I’m good,” she says.
She admits she has thought about moving. But, she says, she thinks: “Where am I going to go where I’m going to find such a good deal?”