I have lived in Arlington for 23 years and in the DC area for 43 -- I came here in 1964 to attend college at GWU. Yes, you can find what you want at that price in Arlington, which has excellent schools. I lived in Fairlington Villages for a few years. They were originally built WWII era, so they are SOLID (although I could hear the small children in the adjacent wall screaming when they were put to bed), are brick on all sides. They are town house style with small back yard patios, plenty of green space, several small community pools. Fairlington has about 14 different style "regular apts." that sit one atop the other. There are 6 villages, a few thousand units, with many rental units by the individual owners. Fairlington is convenient to bus lines that take you to the Pentagon, where you catch the Metro to Capitol Hill.
You DON"T want to drive to work, even if you get "free" parking with your Capitol Hill job (no hope of that parking space if you work on the Senate side, some hope if you are working on the House side).
If you have/plan to have children, Arlington's schools are THE BEST. No racial problems, only 20,000 children in the school system. Fairfax County has over 160,000 KIDS in the school system. Somehow, Arlington never runs short of money (unlike Fairfax), so in hard economic times, the schools don't really "cut back." Services are MARVELOUS here in the "People's Republic of Arlington," where things are done by consensus -- known as "the Arlington Way," we talk it to death over a period of several years of study.
Yes, welcome to sticker shock, but rents are as bad -- expect to pay over $2,000 for a 2 BR 2 BA new rental apt. in Arlington which isn't even walking distance to Metro. Many new buildings were built with the intention that they'd be sold as condos, but the market has soured, so they are rental and LOVELY. But, you pay for parking, all utilities, etc., and have a GORGEOUS exercise room, party room, 24 hr. attended front desk, etc.
Remember the 3 most important words in real estate: "LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION." There is always a market for Arlington properties, but the further out you go, the harder it is to sell.
When you say "30 min." you mean RUSH HOUR. My husband's office mates HOWLED when a new hire, a political appointee, who had househunted ONE WEEKEND came in on a Monday and reported that he'd bought a house "only 15 min. from the office!!" Sure, when he did the drive on SUNDAY MORNING, but otherwise, on a DRY WEEKDAY, the drive took well over an hour. His wife wanted a place with room for horses.
The commute killed him and he left after a year.
There isn't a "bad neighborhood" in Arlington and there isn't a less expensive one either, unfortunately. Things used to be cheaper in South Arlington (on the other side of Rt. 50, the dividing line between north and south).
Well priced homes sell FAST -- sometimes before the first open house.
Advice: Choose a FULL TIME realtor, tell them EXACTLY what you want. Think SERIOUSLY about renting for a year, unless you think your boss won't lose the 2012 election.
I have owned a condo in the District for 34 years -- hundred year old bldg, renovated in 1976, 704 sq. ft., one bedroom plus den, purchased in 1977 for $42,000, in a PLAIN JANE no elevator 3 story bldg. whose only amenity is the coin operated machines in the laundry room. NO JOKE. My unit is on the first floor. Current assessment: $367,000. No nighttime street parking, 20 min. walk to Metro. Public schools are not great. Lovely neighborhood, but how much time does anyone spend walking around the "hood?" And, in this EXCELLENT NEIGHBORHOOD, CRIME is a problem -- muggers figure wealthy people carry money -- we don't, we carry credit cards!!
Good luck. Now you will find out why Federal govt. salaries are allegedly so "high." Wait until you buy groceries, the food prices are out of sight because there is no competition -- only 2 grocery store chains!!
I love it here (why else would I have remained for 47 years?). Mild winters, people from everywhere around the country and internationally as well. Extremely well educated. Interested in current events, etc.