Renting in Northern Virginia

Renting in NoVa is cheaper than buying, still.  For example, if I could find a roomate to pay $800 a month and if I kept paying my modest $1200 a month, I could rent for $2000 a month a three bedroom house on Quincy Street in Arlington or 5 bedrooms in Dale City in Woodbridge.  Fairfax and Alexandria must be 4 BRs for $2000.

With my handy “reality check” spreadsheet, it says $2,000  a month is the same as buying a house for $235,000– taxes and condo fees really take their bite.

Homesdatabase.com and Redfin say that while those 3BR houses exist in that price range, they’re not in walking distance to the metro, at least not in Arlington, while there are tons of 3BR houses renting for $1500 to $2000 in walking distance to the metro.  Also, many of these sub $235,000 bargains are in low price hot spots, which often are low price on account of them being magnets for social problems.

Super commuters in Dumfries can buy a 5BR houses for $2000 a month, but why when you can rent a 4BR for $1600?  And you can buy a 4BR duplex near Huntington metro for about $2000 a month, too.

Conclusion: Renting, despite the big drop in prices is still cheaper than buying.  If you have a roomate that you can tollerate, than buying is flushing money down the toilet.

Perfectly Walkable Apartment in NoVA?

Ideally, it would be in walking/biking/scootering distance of

  • a metro stop. Tricky, some metro stops aren’t in walking distance of hardly anything interesting, e.g. Huntington, Fairfax
  • a coffee shop. Easy.
  • a Unitarian Universalist Church — Tricky, there are only six in VA and none of them are that close to a metro stop. The one in DC might be in hiking distance, I’ve never checked.
  • a Gold’s Gym- Two are close to metro stops, but having to take the metro to go exercise would be a drag.
  • my future office in Crystal City. A metro ride every day to the office isn’t that bad.

I’m leaving on the Metro

Woodbury Park, I’m out of here in about nine months.  I’m going to be moving on over to Crystal City.  I’d be leaving even sooner if it wasn’t for the $1000+ early departure penalty. Now the contract says I might be able to assign it if I can get the landlord’s permission. Hmm. Anyone want 9 months left on a lease a Woodbury Park? No guarantee that management would consent or comprehend the request.

Underwater Realestate

Options

1. Live in it forever. If the total cost of living made sense month to month when you bought it, live there forever.

But, what if you have different housing needs? You need somewhere to put that new 150 inch TV, for example, or a guest room for Grandma.

1a. Squeeze. As more people and stuff accumulate, squeeze them into the same space.

2. Buy/rent the appartment across the hall– more space for the years you needed it.

3. Rent the whole place out. If it’s underwater both the sense of renting for less than mortgage and having market price less than sale price, you’ll have to rent it. Financially, it’s like still be able to move, but having to pay a premium on your next residence, of the monthly loss on your old residence. This is only a problem if you can’t afford the current plus the premium.

3a. Rent out a room. Renting a room could cut the mortgage payment by a third, especially helpful if the underwater real estate is under an exotic mortgage with rising payments. Understandably, renting a room in a studio might be tricky, but hobbits have been known to pay top dollar for a closet in the right neighborhood.

4. Refinance. Refinancing can help turn a 30 year mortgage into a 35 year mortgage if you’ve owned for 5 years. If you have other assets, like a complete magic card collection, sell it and use the proceeds to recapitalize the loan. Will it work? Only Excel knows for sure. Refinancing may be a component of several of these strategies. Just don’t refinance very often. Refinance when you are sure you are entering a five years of stability. (Ha, like anyone can predict that)

5. Walk away. What was the bank thinking letting you pay that much for that place anyhow? LTVs exist because banks know that when the LTV is underwater, it pays to walk away from a house.

Antisprawl is pro-ultra rich

In an effort to keep drug pushing crack heads out of our neighborhoods, we have turned the suburbs into a refuge for the ultrarich. Being merely a college educated professional, I don’t relate to the concerns of the ultrarich.

A columnist in the Washington Post hits the nail on the head, in The Housing Crisis Goes Suburban. Here is my favorite section:

The unfashionable but accurate term for these restrictions is “snob zoning.” Suburbanites use them to boost property values by keeping out riffraff — even the riffraff who teach their kids, police their streets and extinguish their fires. Urbanites are susceptible to the same NIMBY impulses, often couched as opposition to “traffic congestion” or “overdevelopment” or protection of the neighborhood’s “character.” It’s easy to support affordable housing in someone else’s neighborhood. But when developers propose high-density projects, neighborhoods object.

It all makes me want to start a political party to kick out all incumbents who are trying to push the middle class out of the cities and suburbs and turn them into playgrounds for the ultrarich.

As soon as I have some spare time between commuting to work and trying to pay the rent…