With its steady supply of jobs and annual influx of aspiring politicians, Washington D.C.’s housing market can be as thorny as rush hour traffic. The good news? There is also a cache of eclectic, affordable neighborhoods ideal for first-time homebuyers in D.C. To find the best ones right now, we tapped local real estate experts and analyzed Trulia’s data on home values, crime statistics, commuting options, school rankings, and local amenities. Here are the neighborhoods that offer the best quality of life for the most affordable price.
University Park, Prince George’s County, MD
Located five miles south of the University of Maryland at College Park, University Park offers families the perks of living near one of the top 100-ranked universities in the country for a bargain. The moderate median home value of $455,189 has allowed 86 percent of residents to become homeowners. If you count yourself one of them, 85 percent of your neighbors will be college educated and you’ll have access to eleven 10/10-rated schools in a low-crime community. The turn-of-the-century homes, manicured lawns, and town pride make it an easy place to lay down roots.
Groveton, Fairfax County, VA
Buying one of Groveton’s cozy cottages or bungalows puts you in the commuter sweet spot, just outside The Capital Beltway. “It’s a reasonable commute if you work in the city while keeping prices on real estate somewhat affordable and within reach for first-time homebuyers,” says Danny Lee, a financial blogger at LiveFrugaLee and a realtor at Samson Properties. The median home value comes in at $443,506. It’s even more inviting to singles and empty nesters when you factor in the annual appreciation rate of 1.4 percent—half that of D.C., which makes paying annual property taxes more manageable. If you have a little extra to splurge, check out this 6-bedroom beauty.
Kingman Park, Washington, D.C.
This neighborhood is marked by its signature brick rowhouses with spacious stoops that create a social environment ideal for families. Local realtor Ron Sitrin at Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. says Kingman Park is “a prime location with access to everything—from restaurants and bars to the Anacostia River walking trail, and Langston golf course.” Add to that Kingman Park, which sits a half mile north of the popular D.C. Armory concert and sporting venue. Clearly there is no shortage of amenities nearby. The neighborhood’s median home value of $520,423 is generally higher than outside the city limits. “Good listings are tight in the Washington, D.C. market. However, the market has loosened up a bit,” says David Hershman of McLean Mortgage and OriginationPro. This 2-bedroom brick townhouse was recently renovated.
North Springfield, Fairfax County, VA
Potential homebuyers won’t want to overlook North Springfield, where they can take their pick of mid-century homes, quaint townhouses, or modern condos. Even though those sleek new condos can be tempting, Gayle Daniels of Daniels Remodeling encourages first-time homebuyers to opt for a townhouse or single-family home like this 4-bedroom country home, “because you have the potential to increase your equity at a greater value.” The median home value here is $462,533, and Sheena Saydam of Saydam Properties advises working with a realtor while searching for your home: “As a buyer, it may only cost a few hundred dollars to use an agent, but it will save you thousands in money and time in the long run.”
Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, VA
Fort Belvoir’s location nine miles south of the Capital Beltway allows singles, couples, or young families to enter the greater D.C. real estate market without putting a major dent in their wallets. Dominated by Colonial Revival-style red-brick homes with low-maintenance yards, the neighborhood boasts a moderate median home value of $403,821—$140,679 below the D.C. median. Parents will have their choice of five nearby schools to send their kids, and professionals will have no shortage of jobs. But a low-stress commute can be had even if you work in the capital. This 5-bedroom home comes with a fireplace and custom moldings.
Fairlington-Shirlington, Arlington, VA
Low-traffic residential streets, proximity to national attractions like the Arlington National Cemetery, and a median home value of $408,376, make Fairlington-Shirlington “a great combination of location and value,” says Katie Wethman, managing director at Wethman Group. “There are some great options for affordable townhouses and townhouse-style condos (and pet-friendly too) that give buyers room to grow.” Condos like this 2-bedroom with a gourmet kitchen are in high demand. If you settle down in the northeastern block of the neighborhood, the median rental price of $1,300 makes becoming a landlord an attractive investment. The surrounding area draws active families and culture-seekers for the 22-acre Jennie Dean Park and local playhouses and theaters.
Pimmit Hills, Fairfax County, VA
This tranquil, pocketed-size neighborhood spans just one square mile, but it comes with character: It’s the set location for the hit sitcom My Name Is Earl. Off-screen, Pimmit Hills is a down-to-earth community marked by oak trees and homes resting on quarter-acre lots. It’s ideal for families with children, as the neighborhood boasts playgrounds, parks, and eight schools rated from 9/10 to 10/10. The neighborhood’s location inside the Capital Beltway accounts for its higher median home value of $523,434. “Properties inside the Beltway and closer to D.C. are generally the most expensive,” says realtor Darren Robertson of Keller Williams. “Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’ll need to decide what home and location criteria you can compromise on, and what is non-negotiable.” This quaint single-family home comes in at just $280,000.