No investment comes with a guaranteed return. If you will be able to rent the unit for enough to carry it, or a positive cash flow, you will be providing yourself with a very improtant cushion.
When you figure those two out, look for that type of property and scrutinize the prices of the ones you are looking at versus recent sales. Hindsight is always 20/20, none of us can predict where the market will lead in terms of appreciation/depreciation over 5 years, the best you can do is make sure you are getting a good deal in TODAY's market because that is all we know for certain.
The second place I would consider are some of the places where BRAC is having an impact, such as Ft. Belvoir or Ft. Meade. They have a lot of transient families that are often looking to rent.
I actually own an investment property in Foggy Bottom and find it to be goldmine. Student housing in DC is a premium and schools like GW, AU, and Georgetown all have students with deep pockets (or at least parents with deep pockets). You can get top dollar for your rentals and the DC condo market is a little stronger than the suburbs.
Sorry about that.
I probably wouldn't do that. I was involved in some condos in Reston a few years ago, and I'm not too optimistic about prices recovering soon.
If you're willing to hold for perhaps longer than 5 years and are willing to focus on cash flow, what you can do is attempt to buy a low-end foreclosure or short sale and then rent it out. In Shadowood, for instance, the condos (2 and 3 bedroom) are selling for $120,000-$150,000. And they're renting for about $1,250-$1,450. So you could buy one, get a positive cash flow, and just sit on it awhile. But there tends to be a lot of competition for those units. Long-term, that strategy should pay off. You'll get cash flow now, and at some point (though who knows when) appreciation.
Still, I'd probably look elsewhere for investment properties.
Hope that helps.