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Thread: DC Area Advise

  1. #1
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Question DC Area Advise

    Hi all,

    I used to live in Manassas, VA, and am now considering relocating back to the Washington DC area. Where are the best places to live that have good access to an airport (BWI is probably preferred because of Southwest Airlines), access to a DC daily commute, and the lowest housing costs. From my initial searching, it looks like the Clinton, MD - Waldorf, MD area is a possibility... but I don't recall anything about that area. From my initial look at Manassas, it looks to be too much for us. We are also looking to keep our kids in a private Christian School, and it looks like those are available in Manassas, Gaithersburg, Clinton, and Waldorf. This also means I'm not that concerned about the public schools as long as the neighborhood is safe. We need at least 4 bedrooms, preferrably 5; and we prefer a newer home in a development... not looking for a fixer-upper (my free time is spent here... )

    I know a lot of you regulars are from the DC areas, so I'm looking for some advise...

    Hey, I've got to make it easier to go to the DC Area pdaPhoneHome Meeting next time!
    Mike - Been Converged?

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    Hey Mike,

    The Montgomery county area (which includes Gaithersburg) is known for its excellent public school system just in case you decide to go that route. I am thinking of moving to Gaitherburg myself (lived there for a year in the past) and highly recommend it. The only thing I do not like about Montgomery County is that the main highway that runs through it, I-270, is pretty bad when it comes to traffic, especially going south in the morning trying to get to I-495 (aka the "beltway"), which is how you would also get into DC. Montgomery County is also a very pricey place but Gaithersburg is one of the more reasonable towns in the county (probably because its a little bit farther away from DC). Closer to DC you have Bethesda and Chevy Chase which are both excellent places to live but definitely on the higher side of costs.

    Waldorf and Clinton are down in southern Maryland and pretty reasonable as far cost of living/housing prices go, they are a bit a ways away though which would make your commute somewhat longer. I always considered them out in the boonies but that's just me.

    My recommendation would be Bowie, MD. It has quick access to BWI (25 mins), the metro rail system (15 mins), I-495 (10 mins), is very safe and community-oriented, and is one of the more reasonable places to live as far as cost of living is concerned. I always considered it one of the best kept secrets in MD but more and more people seem to be moving there as it is getting further developed and as such housing prices continue to rise. Still, I think for the location and the type of community you get, it is a great place to live and raise a family. I do not know about Christian school in the immediate Bowie area but Bowie is also 15 minutes away from Annapolis, MD (Anne Arundel County) and there are a lot of good private schools in that county/area so definitely check that out.

    Curious to see what recommendations everyone else has...

  3. #3
    Registered User jpmihalk's Avatar
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    I had to laugh at this... I used to live in the DC/Baltimore area and I can't think of a single "good" commuter route into DC. If I had to do it, I'd find something closer to a Metro rail station and use that for actual daily travel into DC. I'd probably look at something in the Damascus, MD area...
    John

  4. #4
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jpmihalk
    I had to laugh at this... I used to live in the DC/Baltimore area and I can't think of a single "good" commuter route into DC. If I had to do it, I'd find something closer to a Metro rail station and use that for actual daily travel into DC. I'd probably look at something in the Damascus, MD area...
    Well that's why I said that I used to live down there. I'm well aware of the traffic problems, but I may need to commute into DC from time to time. I am currently doing work that doesn't require any activity in DC, but my company has a lot of project work there... so it is the backup plan. My preference would be to work at home with occaisional travel in the eastern corridor. To be honest, I have an incredibly sweet situation right now, I'm coming to realize. I am about 1.5 miles from the airport (zero traffic... and the planes don't fly over my house). I'm 4 miles from Amtrak. My company office is about 15 minutes (haven't been there in 3 months) and the NY State campus (my primary customer) is about 10 minutes. We are 10 minutes from any shopping we'd ever need to do - major malls, groceries, home improvement, etc. There is almost no traffic here. They just built a huge park adjacent to our neighborhood. Our Church (and the kids school) is 7 minutes from our house. There are a half dozen colleges within 15 minutes. Then add to it that I'm 2 hours by train to NYC, 3 hours to Boston, and 3 hours to Montreal. Other than the fact that it is COLD UP HERE, it couldn't get any better than this.

    Thanks for the tips so far. My question on Clinton / Waldorf... is if it is OK to live there? It doesn't look that far from the beltway, and seems to be convenient to BWI... but I may be reading the map wrong. I didn't remember if it was maybe too close to the city to have safety issues.
    Mike - Been Converged?

  5. #5
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    gaithersburg wihtout a doubt. i was a camera operator for cox broadcasting on capitol hill and also at WUSA. the commute was not bad (here in atl its worse).

    anyway, g'burg was a very nice community, avoid chevy chase and rockville..

  6. #6
    Registered User jpmihalk's Avatar
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    I'll be honest, I'd much rather live in the Albany, NY area than DC. Both are nice with all of the conveniences, and I've lived in both places (upstate NY and DC.) Of course, the weather is the mitigating factor. I'd guess that if the $$ was right and all other things were equal, I'd think about it too. But the cost of living in upstate NY is much less than MD/DC.
    John

  7. #7
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jpmihalk
    I'll be honest, I'd much rather live in the Albany, NY area than DC. Both are nice with all of the conveniences, and I've lived in both places (upstate NY and DC.) Of course, the weather is the mitigating factor. I'd guess that if the $$ was right and all other things were equal, I'd think about it too. But the cost of living in upstate NY is much less than MD/DC.
    Well, unfortunately for me, my wife has decided its too cold here and is now on the fast path for moving. Her point, which is a good one, is that we need to do it now if we're going to do it at all. My oldest is a senior and trying to plan college and needs to know where we will be (she is considering a year or two at a community college to save some $$$), and my second is going to be a junior next year. My wife doesn't think we should move her in her senior year... so she wants to line things up to be able to move after school is out this year. By the way, she's from Burlington, VT, and was the reason we moved north to begin with... but her blood has thinned with age and she can't stand the cold now (which is something we agree on).
    Mike - Been Converged?

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    Techguru alanb's Avatar
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    This is too funny. My wife and i are thinking we want to move to the Albany area. Maybe we should just trade houses and assume each others mortgage's.

    Seriously though, I agree with the other peoples comments that Gaithursburg would be a good choice for Montgomery county. I greatly prefer where I am in the north eastern corner of the county, but the home prices here are out of control. My house has doubled in value in the five years since we bought it. I could never afford to move here if I wasn't here already.

    Although the taxes are higher in Montgomery county then the other surrounding counties, I find the county services are worth it. If I call 911, I know that a cop of ambulance will be at my door within about 3 minutes. I would not be able to rely on that in Prince George's or the other surrounding areas.

    For commuting into DC, Metro is great. The drive is rarely worth it during the day, although going out to dinner or a show in DC in the evening the drive is easy since most of the town shuts down at about 6:00.

    Alan

  9. #9
    Editor and Site Administrator Convergent's Avatar
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    Yep... the housing costs are scary... we've had about a 40% increase in the last year or so, but not even in the league with down there. From what I've seen of Manassas, it would be nearly double the price to get a similar house.
    Mike - Been Converged?

  10. #10
    Registered User Robert K.'s Avatar
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    Originally posted by Marctronixx
    gaithersburg wihtout a doubt. i was a camera operator for cox broadcasting on capitol hill and also at WUSA. the commute was not bad (here in atl its worse).

    anyway, g'burg was a very nice community, avoid chevy chase and rockville..
    G'burg is pretty nice (and very expensive, for a house)... I work in G'burg. Chevy Chase is where rich doctors live Rockville is overcrowded and over-priced. I live in Frederick County... but if I had to commute to DC that would be a bit far.

    It would be nice having you in the area Mikey
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  11. #11
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  12. #12
    Techguru alanb's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Markito
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    Chevy Chase

  13. #13
    Registered User Robert K.'s Avatar
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    Originally posted by alanb
    Chevy Chase
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  14. #14
    Moddin' & Poddin' Markito's Avatar
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    Good reply!
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    Converged. It didn't even hurt! tuckeyr's Avatar
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    I moved (back) to Montgomery county after 4 years in Cheverly. I actually loved Cheverly but found the drive to my office in Gaithersburg to be AWFUL! I'm in G'burg and happy there, although I don't have kids to or school systems to worry about. Housing has gone up radically just since I bought my house. Olney and Laytonsville might be reasonable alternatives, too.

    Tuckey

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    I would recommend northern Anne Arundel County, where I live.

    The tax rate in Anne Arundel County is the lowest in the area; in fact, they may be the lowest in the state, I can't remember. And I do remember reading an FBI crime statistics "thing" not to long ago that said that the crime rate was the lowest in the area, too.

    The downside is that the public school system -- while still probably better than the national average -- is probably not quite as good as Montgomery (and Howard) County, although I would guess they are still better than Prince George's County. But since you say you are looking at private, Christian schools, this might not matter to you.

    But the great thing about it is the commute. I live in the Hanover/Linthicum area and am literally eight minutes from the gate at BWI airport. When either my wife or I travel alone, we wait until our plane lands and is at the gate before we call the other to pick us up and more times than not, the one driving from home will get to the loading area before the one getting off the plane with only carry-on luggage.

    Also, because we are between BWI Airport and Fort Meade (restricted airspace), it is very, very rare that a plane will fly overhead. Essentially, the runways are East/West and we are just south of the airport. Maybe once every other week will a plane make a sharp turn and fly overhead.

    Also, I work in downtown DC and the MARC commuter train service is pretty good. It is about a 35 minute ride each way: I use the time to catch up on the news with AvantGo on my Kyocera.

    Driving to DC is heavily dependent on traffic but the worst on I95 South or the Parkway (295) is probably not nearly as bad as I270. If for whatever reason I drive to work during rush hour, it takes me about an hour to get to my office. If it's off-hours or on a weekend, I can usually make it in 35-40 minutes. Negotiating the traffic in Washington, DC is the hard part.

    And outside of DC, I am about ten to fifteen minutes (driving) to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, MD and Camden Yards, if I want to take in an Orioles Game. Or Baltimore Ravens football game.

    Home prices are going up -- my home has increased about 80% in the almost five years I've been here (not quite the doubling that alanb enjoyed in Montgomery County but still not bad -- but you can still find "affordable" housing in the neighborhood. That is, if you consider $300-400,000 affordable but then again, you probably can't find anything decent ANYWHERE in the area for anything less. especially if you want 4 or 5 bedrooms.

    All in all, if you're seriously looking into moving back to the DC area, I say give northern Anne Arundel County a look. Look for something in Linthicum or Hanover. The location is fabulous, the neighborhoods are nice and the value, comparatively speaking, is great.

  17. #17
    Registered User Robert K.'s Avatar
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    Originally posted by William
    All in all, if you're seriously looking into moving back to the DC area, I say give northern Anne Arundel County a look. Look for something in Linthicum or Hanover. The location is fabulous, the neighborhoods are nice and the value, comparatively speaking, is great.
    You didn't mention that you also live practically next door to Arrundel Mill... one of the nicest malls anywhere (I'm guessing his teenage girls would consider that a selling point at least )
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  18. #18
    Registered User jpmihalk's Avatar
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    I had a good friend who lived in Gambrills, MD... I think that's southern Anne Arundel County. It's close to Odenton and Crofton, which are pretty established places (they were there 20 years ago, when I last lived there.) I think that the new Interstate 97 runs through there also - quick access to most nearby conveniences. That was a nice area... right in between DC and Bawlimer.
    John

  19. #19
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    Originally posted by Robert K.
    You didn't mention that you also live practically next door to Arrundel Mill... one of the nicest malls anywhere (I'm guessing his teenage girls would consider that a selling point at least )
    Are you kidding. I didn't mention Anne Arundel Mills mall (which is a very, very nice upscale, off-price mall, BTW) precisely because he has teenage daughters.

    Show the poor man some mercy. Do you think he'll be able to afford any house once his daughters get to the mall.

    BTW, I live less than a mile from the mall and there are several new developments going up in the area. Brand new four/five bedroom homes can probably be had for the low 400's.

  20. #20
    Registered User Robert K.'s Avatar
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    Originally posted by William
    Are you kidding. I didn't mention Anne Arundel Mills mall (which is a very, very nice upscale, off-price mall, BTW) precisely because he has teenage daughters.

    Show the poor man some mercy. Do you think he'll be able to afford any house once his daughters get to the mall.

    BTW, I live less than a mile from the mall and there are several new developments going up in the area. Brand new four/five bedroom homes can probably be had for the low 400's.
    LOL I figured you had to be pretty close to it.
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