What to Know if You’re Moving to D.C.

Table of Contents

Washington, D.C. is at the heart of the nation’s political scene. It’s also a diverse, urban area that manages to combine the feel of a small town with the arts, culture, and activity of a major metropolitan area. 

Whether you’re moving there for a job, school, family, or simply because you’re a fan of world-class museums, restaurants, and beautiful public parks, there are things you should know first. Here’s a primer on what to consider if you’re thinking about moving to D.C.

5 Things to Know Before Moving

If you are considering moving to D.C. or already have a definite move-in date, there are some aspects to living in the city you should know about. Here are five important ones.

1. Cost of Living

Living in D.C. is more expensive than residing in less-densely populated areas. Be prepared for higher rents and housing prices if you’re moving from a smaller locale. You can also expect to pay a bit more for purchases such as groceries (they are tax-exempt, though), meals at restaurants, transportation, and leisure activities. You may be pleased by the D.C. cost of living and find it more affordable than what you’re used to, however, if you’re relocating from an expensive city like NYC or San Francisco.

2. Neighborhoods

Washington, D.C. is a metropolitan area, but strict limits on building height mean it feels less congested than other large cities such as New York or Chicago. Each neighborhood in D.C. has its own personality and vibe, as with most large cities. Some neighborhoods are very professional whereas others have a relaxed, bohemian feel. Living in one neighborhood over another is likely to make a big impact on your experience, so it’s worthwhile to do some research on various parts of town. Some of the most popular neighborhoods in D.C. are Dupont Circle, Navy Yard, Adam’s Morgan, and Kalorama.

Want to find out what your home is worth?
Get an instant market report sent straight to your inbox in seconds.

3. Lifestyle

D.C. is diverse and tailors to a variety of lifestyles. Jobs in politics are the main draw here, but this city is also known for: 

  • Its museums (the Smithsonian), cultural institutions (the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), sports arenas, and public parks
  • A strong music scene with historical roots in jazz and punk
  • Neighborhoods such as Navy Yard and U Street Corridor, which are filled with great restaurants, cafes, museums, shops, and more.
  • Suburbs like Arlington in Virginia and Bethesda in Maryland, which are great if you’d prefer to live farther away from the action and want a more suburban feel

D.C. also has a very high concentration of green space. Rock Creek Park in the Northwest quadrant is more than twice the size of New York City’s Central Park. The district has the best park system in the United States, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 8th annual ParkScore index, and 98% of residents live within a ten-minute walk of a public park. D.C. may be an ideal city to call home if you enjoy walking and exploring beautiful nature within a city. 

4. Seasons

You will want to be prepared for windy autumns and cold winters if you’re moving to D.C. from the South or West. D.C. weather changes with each new season and summers can be particularly hot and humid. The city has been known to shut down for significant snowfall in winter. The district truly shines in the spring, however, when you’ll get to enjoy the city’s storied Japanese cherry blossoms. 

5. Taxes

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the tax system in this town to avoid any surprises. Groceries, medicine, and utilities are not subject to sales tax in the district. Here are the tax rates you can expect to pay for other essentials:

  • Sales tax: 6%
  • Liquor: 10%
  • Restaurant meals: 10%
  • Parking: 18%
  • Hotels: 14.95%

Washington D.C. is an urban district with a smaller town feel. It is more expensive to live in than the average city but there are many inexpensive perks for the public, such as the modes of transportation it offers.  

Person packing a box Moving to D.C.

4 Ways to Get Around D.C. 

There’s more than one way to get around this town, and each method has its pros and cons. It may take some time to adjust to other types of transportation if you’re moving from a place where driving is the only option, but they can be cheaper and more convenient once you get the hang of them. 

The Metro

The metro is a quick and convenient way to travel around the city, particularly to and from work. Taking the metro can save you time over driving if you work close to downtown since traffic tends to get congested in the central parts of D.C. Parking can also be an issue. You’ll likely pay to park in a garage if you attempt to park downtown or close to it, as most places do not have their own parking lots, and street parking is extremely limited.

Uber & Lyft

Rideshares are widely available throughout the district, and these can be useful for getting to places where there’s no metro stop. D.C. has a wide-reaching metro service that extends into surrounding areas like Arlington and southern Maryland, but there are still some areas that are not accessible by train. There’s always the chance for public transit to incur delays also, like with any urban area. 

Bike & Scooter Shares

Bikes and scooters are newer modes of transport that have popped up recently and they seem to be popular with residents and visitors alike. Bikes and scooters abound in D.C. neighborhoods and are a great way to travel a short distance. They’re also an easy last-minute alternative if you’re in a hurry while stuck in traffic. 

Personal Vehicles

Driving your own car is always an option, and if you’re moving from a town where you drive everywhere, it might be the first option you think of when considering transportation. Driving may not be the quickest or most convenient method of travel, though, given DC’s notorious traffic and alternative modes of getting around. Be sure to consider the parking situation at your destination when you think of driving. 

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the public transit routes and how to get around by car. Traveling around town is fairly easy once you get your bearings. 

Day Trips and Weekend Getaways

There’s so much to do in and around D.C. Take full advantage of what the area has to offer, with outings like these: 

Outdoor Adventures

Hiking in Great Falls and Shenandoah National Park and rafting in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia are just some of the active day trips you can take from D.C. Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach are within driving distance if the beach is more your speed.

Wine Tasting

D.C. is very close to Maryland and several vineyards are within a short driving distance, including Port of Leonardtown Winery and Romano Vineyard and Winery. It is also close to historic Leesburg, VA, which has several high-rated wineries to check out, such as Casanel Vineyards and Winery

Doing things outdoors is especially nice during the spring. There are many parks, wineries, and other outdoor activities to take advantage of when you live in D.C.

Looking for Property in Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C is a vibrant city with a plethora of historic and cultural institutions as well as plenty of green space for exploring nature and taking leisurely walks. It has something for everyone, including theaters, music venues, five-star restaurants, and more.

The experienced team at Nomadic Real Estate is here to meet your needs if you’re looking for DC Rentals. or you’re hoping to invest in the local real estate market. We can help you find the right home or investment property as well as provide property management and advisory services. Contact us today to speak with one of our real estate professionals.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Twitter

Get help from DC's top real estate team.

Founded in 2005, Nomadic is the go-to full service real estate firm in the DMV. We've helped thousands of landlords, investors, and residents and we would love to connect with you next.

Check out more of our blog posts below!

Or search for a different topic:

Scroll to Top
Explore Logo

Get a free INSTANT home valuation report!

Automatically delivered straight to your inbox within seconds.

Explore Logo

Thinking of selling? Get an instant market value report: