DC’s Best Neighborhoods For First-Time Buyers

by UrbanTurf Staff

As home prices in the area have steadily increased over the last couple years, one group of buyers is finding that options in their price range are dwindling: first-timers.

At the request of a number of readers, UrbanTurf did some research and came up with three neighborhoods in the DC area that are good options for first-time buyers.

However, we took a bit of a different approach with our analysis. Too often, first-time buyers are categorized as young professionals in search of a one-bedroom near a Metro line. While in many cases that is true, there are a number of first-timers on the hunt for a larger place.

So, this article picks out the best neighborhoods in the area split up by property size: one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms or three-bedrooms.

Are there other neighborhoods out there that first-timers should look into beyond those mentioned below? Absolutely. These neighborhoods are just our choices for where they can find a place for under $400,000 in a given property segment.

One-Bedrooms — Cleveland Park

DC's Best Neighborhoods For First-Time Buyers: Figure 1
Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park

We can hear it now.

“You chose Cleveland Park???? That is home to some of the biggest houses in the city?!?”

Yes, that is true. But the Red Line neighborhood also probably has the highest percentage of well-priced one-bedrooms in the city.

The average sales price for the last 15 one-bedroom units (condos and co-ops) in the neighborhood came in at $349,000. And at $460, the average price per square foot for these units is also on the low side for DC. While monthly fees can run high (averaging $470), it is important to remember that many of the one-bedrooms in Cleveland Park are co-ops where the monthly fees include property taxes.

Beyond the real estate, Cleveland Park checks a number of boxes for the young, professional first-time buyer. It sits on top of the Metro and several bus lines run down Connecticut Avenue. There is a retail strip that has gotten increasingly better over the past few years and offers everything from restaurants to movies to places to pick up everyday items. And, while not as trendy, the neighborhood remains relatively peaceful and quiet compared to its neighbors to the south and east.

DC's Best Neighborhoods For First-Time Buyers: Figure 2

Two-Bedrooms — Silver Spring

UrbanTurf discovered that finding a neighborhood in the DC area with a healthy stock of two-bedroom units available for under $400,000 was a tall order.

However, downtown Silver Spring, just on the other side of Northwest DC, proved to be a place where there were a number of options…for below $300,000.

The average price for the last ten two-bedrooms to sell in downtown Silver Spring was $290,000. Given our surprise at the low number, we took a closer look to make sure we weren’t including distressed homes in the mix. We weren’t; the listings ranged from homes in garden-style complexes in need of work to move-in ready units in high-rises.

Downtown Silver Spring may not be a destination at the top of the list for prospective buyers in the region, but places like the AFI Silver Theatre, the relatively new music venue The Fillmore and an increasing number of restaurants are making it a place to look.

DC's Best Neighborhoods For First-Time Buyers: Figure 3
Michigan Park

Three-Bedrooms — Michigan Park

DC has a handful of neighborhoods where homebuyers can find a single-family home for under $400,000, and Michigan Park is one of them.

The average sales price for the last 10 three-bedroom homes in the northeast DC neighborhood came in at $388,000 with an average price per square foot of just $262. To be clear, these sales figures include homes that needed some work or renovations down the line, but most were in livable condition when purchased.

Compared to DC’s suburban-like neighborhoods in upper Northwest, Michigan Park is notably more modest and a bit slower. And there isn’t a lot of variety in the housing stock: the tree-lined streets are largely lined with red, box colonials. The retail options are quite limited, but people generally move here because it is a bit quieter than the rest of DC, while still being in the city.

Unfortunately, it is not a neighborhood where homes come on the market that frequently. It took going back through four months of records to find the ten three-bedroom sales used for our analysis.

Readers, are you saying “Holy smokes, they didn’t include that one?” Make your case in the comments section.

See other articles related to: dclofts

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dcs_best_neighborhoods_for_first-timers/7436


  1. Jason said at 2:24 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Great concept. I agree with these and would also add in col hts for one beds and Woodridge for three beds.
  1. J. Martin said at 3:01 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    I would say Fairlawn. Traditional row houses, row houses with garages, bungalows, single family homes and condos. Renovated homes can be had for $270k to $330k. Great location close to Capitol Hill and some shopping nearby on Penn. Ave or shops in Anacostia. Great neighborhood!
  1. Kea said at 3:10 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    I agree that Woodridge in NE DCis a nice neighborhood. Decent sized houses and big yards. Great for young families!
  1. knm said at 3:22 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Don't forget Hyattsville!
  1. Rick said at 3:34 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    I'd throw Trinidad and Kingman Park in there for affordability and being west of the river. What are people's thoughts on Congress Heights and Mayfair?
  1. StringsAttached said at 3:47 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    @J. Martin...I agree with you because I live in Fairlawn and actually get to experience the neighborhood. Unfortunately, real estate websites such as Urban Turf, and frankly the type of individuals that visit their site, can't overlook the negatives of the neighborhood (every neighborhood has its negatives) to suggest it to their readers. I'm sure people would be quite shocked to learn that Good Hope Road, in the infamous Southeast quadrant of the city, once sported "Whites Only" signs and that the row homes you reference were once owned by Caucasians who eventually left because they didn't want to live next to Black Americans. UT would rather send people to Silver Spring than east of the river and forego the sweeping views we have of monuments and other DC landmarks, proximity to the downtown, and the suburban (yes, I said suburban) feel neighborhoods offer. I love how people drive down one or two streets in Anacostia and then feel as though they are EOTR neighborhood experts. I don't fault UT because their job is to appeal to the masses. P.S. I reviewed my post more than I should have and almost didn't submit it because I felt it may come across as being "angry"; it's not. I meant it to be informative and hopefully eye-opening to some people. From a real estate perspective, essentially every UT article regarding value housing (looking at $/sq. ft., access to public transportation, neighborhood improvements, proximity to downtown, access to major highways, parks, bike trails, etc.) in DC should include something EOTR. It's that simple.
  1. Will said at 4:13 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    That small neighborhood between Brookland and Petworth occasionally has houses for sale and they are usually under $400K (that's what 121 Hawaii NE is going for now). Not really sure what neighborhood you would say it's in but it is within walking distance to both. You got to get creative and aggressive to find a place in DC. And even that doesn't always work.
  1. Jamie said at 4:26 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Anacostia -- Douglass -- Congress Heights. We've been in Douglass for 5 years now and our mortgage (3 BR) is less than the cost of a 1 bedroom in Cleveland Park.
  1. Ryan said at 4:40 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Some 3 brs in north Eckington are still going under/around $400k. Close proximity to downtown, metros, and all that's developing in NoMa and Bloomingdale.
  1. Dave Baer said at 5:15 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    This is a very informative article. Thank you! If anyone has an interest in a First Time Home Buyer seminars I am actively do them and willing to present in front of other groups (15 minimum). I work with SEED and HOPE now and looking to expand the awareness of the opportunities in and around DC area. Rates for people earning $84,700 or less is < 3.75% .
  1. Nick said at 5:28 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    I recently bought a house in Lamond North of Kansas Ave. The area is usually advertised as Takoma but is technically Lamond-Riggs. It's a 10-15 minute walk to the shops in Takoma DC/PK. I got it for well under $300k but prices in the neighborhood have been skyrocketing. It's probably increased in value about $45k in 9 months. I'm not a fan of Woodridge but I think Michigan Park, Brightwood, Lamond-Riggs, Manor Park, and their surrounding neighborhoods are all good values. Basically everything in close proximity to Petworth, Brookland, and Takoma.
  1. YupCap said at 5:47 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    This was very informative. Thank you. What was most informative is that if you actually ARE a "young professional in search of a one-bedroom near a Metro line," you're out of luck. When you consider someone in this group, they are likely young, ambitious, career-centered, and craving energized urban atmospheres that support that lifestyle. Cleveland Park feels like a suburb.
  1. SW, DC said at 5:52 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    @Strings Attached - I would assume a lot of people have a tough time overlooking the violence and lack of amenities and walk-ability EotR neighborhoods generally have to offer. You can't put a price on a peace on mind and an overall positive, progressive clean environment. Sure there are great views, but they are not stunning enough to move the masses. EotR needs more. Looks like it is on the way, but I can completely understand why UT and UT readers could be sour on EotR real estate. BTW I grew up on the northern end of Naylor Road and still have lots of family EotR.
  1. SW, DC said at 5:57 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Oh, and SW (near waterfront metro) is a great place to get an affordable one bedroom in a neighborhood that will be BOOMING after the Wharf redevelopment, DC United Stadium and all the other development planned for the area. It has a great location in that you can walk/bike almost anywhere in the city (except way uptown of course).
  1. J. Martin said at 5:58 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    @StringsAttached- I agree Fairlawn, Anacostia and other areas east of the river should always be mentioned in articles like these. There are alot of things going on/planned on this side of the river; not to mention being right across from Anacostia Park. The area is very under rated and for what people are paying for U Street studios you can have a nice row home here or new construction ie. Sheridan Station (which is now sold out by the way) for $250k. Since I've lived here the neighbor hood is definitely changing and becoming more diverse economically and racially. The row houses here are charming and the views of DC are the best!
  1. SL said at 6:22 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    For 1BR units I would recommend Adams Morgan 's Lanier Heights as an even better option - mostly older co-op buildings that are a lower price per sq ft than new construction condos in trendier areas, but a more fun neighborhood for younger buyers. If Lanier Heights is too expensive , you can still get 1 BR units in Petworth for under 300K, that are walkable to metro and also Columbia Heights.
  1. AnacostiaFan said at 7:36 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    @SW, DC - many neighborhoods east of the river have great walkability and growing amenities. Take a look at Anacostia - Martin Luther King Ave coming off of the new 11th street bridge is a classically walkable neighborhood with great transportation access (metro, buses, capitol bike share, and of course 295) not to mention gorgeous views of the monuments. The H Street Playhouse just became the Anacostia Playhouse, and has relocated to Shannon Place. The area is bikable to Capitol Hill too. Haven't seen much more violent crime in this neighborhood than we see in other parts of the city - in recent years. With the new DC United Stadium coming over and the new Reeves Center, it seems like the area is a great investment too.
  1. EmptyNester said at 7:43 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Anacostia fan sure historic anacostia has lots of potential. But the places cited earlier were NOT historic anacostia, but places EOTR with more suburban layouts - if thats what you want, there are lots of suburbs where you can find that - at higher cost/longer commute, but with better schools and less crime. Historica Anacostia has the walkability, but it IIUC it has higher crime than many of those other areas EOTR. maybe that will change soon - with the redevelopment of Barry Farms, the streetcar, the opening of St E's and the movement of more DC offices there.
  1. 3rd Generation Washingtonian said at 8:19 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    If people want to stay IN NW,DC- Another neighborhood to look at is Brightwood... they have homes under $300k too. If people are open to other quadrants of DC- Trinidad, Fairlawn, Congress Heights are also options. People do need to realize that each neighborhood has its own personality and also as long as your looking for something near a metro or HIGHLY accessible (meaning you don't need to drive to get to the bus/metro stop, or the bus runs pretty frequently in the night) by public transit you WILL be paying a pretty penny!.. Another person also mentioned Hyattsville (another up and coming area), but prices in this area are also going up... I'm just saying people will need to keep their options open and not get tunnel vision (especially if they have a set budget). D.C. (as well as the neighborhoods surrounding it) is not what it used to be, with the fast growing population it IS getting crowded and we all know what happens when there's higher demand!!!....
  1. 3rd Generation Washingtonian said at 8:27 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    @SW,DC the Columbia Heights area its fair share of crime still believe it or not (but has improved since the early 90s)! I saw three teenage kids snatch a girl's purse in front of my house. I think people just want to be there because it looks new and shiny, and has more attractions and other places around it are more accessible. U St also has crime, but people are still there?...
  1. jag said at 9:50 pm on Friday August 9, 2013:
    Why would someone choose EotR instead of the places mentioned in this article? Serious question. I don't get it. As the article notes, you get get a pretty good bang for you buck without sacrificing safety, amenities, public transit access, good schools, walkability, etc. in places like downtown Silver Spring. Why would someone actively choose EotR over that? The prospect of big $$ when you go to sell after dealing with the bad times? Or is there something else I'm missing? TIA.
  1. Mary said at 3:19 pm on Saturday August 10, 2013:
    "East of the River" is a pretty broad brush to be tarring very different neighborhoods with. I mean, EoTR includes Hillcrest which has no issues with crime and nicer houses than Michigan Park with no better or worse transit access. While Historic Anacostia has really charming housing stock, a lot of potential for business along MLK, good transit, and still quite a bit of crime. On the leafy, suburban and quiet neighborhoods, in addition to Hillcrest, I'd point out Cheverly. Low crime, right at a metro station, very affordable homes and even a little tennis and swim club for the neighborhood. If you have kids you'll have to do the charter/private school thing in any of the neighborhoods talked about here, though. I concur that SW is a great buy for one and two bedrooms (and there are still rowhouses with decent space selling in the 400s although more in the 500-700s now, I think) close to transit. Brookland also has condos at similar price points, with transit...and, bonus, a nice built in pool of future renters if you want to hang onto said started condo as an investment.
  1. Eponymous said at 3:26 pm on Monday August 12, 2013:
    Another comment for Hyattsville! It's one of the few places near a Metro where it's still quite possible to find a very nice house with a yard for under $400k (though most homes that go on the market in that range do need work). I don't think SW is a very good option - most of the properties for sale there are co-ops, and from what I understand it can be hard to obtain financing (even if you are comfortable with the concept of owning a co-op outside of New York City - which I'm not).
  1. Mary said at 3:45 pm on Monday August 12, 2013:
    On coops - yes, there are three coops in SW (in addition to many condo buildings) but financing isn't all that complicated, so that in and of itself shouldn't be daunting. The principal difference is that they usually require you to use one of several agreed upon lenders (all of them include banks like PNC and Bank of America on thier list). And banks typically will only give conventional fixed term mortgages (so no ARMs or jumbo loans) for coops and, these days, require a 10 or 20% down payment. The upside of all of this is that they have a very low foreclosure rate, which is quite nice for your home value.
  1. SW, DC said at 3:51 pm on Monday August 12, 2013:
    @AnacostiaFan - sure you can walk in Historic Anacostia, but by walk-ability I meant actually walking somewhere. For the time being, there are little options. Not saying options are not coming, but they clearly aren't there yet. And as far as I remember the new soccer stadium is slated for SW (WotR). Of course that development will ultimately help Anacostia, but for now unless you are looking to make a savvy, long term investment, I would steer clear of LIVING EotR. And I spend A LOT of time EotR for business, family, and drinks at Union Town. Try walking to the top of W St. after drinks at Union Town. You may never make it!!! 😝
  1. SomePerspective said at 6:07 pm on Monday August 12, 2013:
    @SW, DC you keep talking about EofTR like its the same. Some very nice places EoTR with very low/comparable crime to NW counterparts. It depends on what you are looking for. There is a beautiful english style Tudor home on woodcrest dr on sale right now for the price of a 1000ft condo in some of these NW areas being mentioned. To each their own, but you paint with a very broad brush my friend. Not everyone has the same priorities, fears, or prejudices for that matter. To broadly state EoTR is not a place for people to "LIVE" begs so many questions.
  1. Brock said at 3:06 am on Tuesday August 13, 2013:
    No Petworth? Seems like Petworth is worth mentioning. right on metro, 2 miles from ColHi (but safer) and still affordable. Am I missing something?
  1. lajoyce said at 3:24 am on Tuesday August 13, 2013:
    North Petworth. There are condos and some houses and also coops that are crazy affordable compared to fancier neighborhoods. And I agree about Lamond-Riggs. Nice and quiet but convenient.
  1. Jorge said at 10:16 pm on Tuesday August 13, 2013:
    To Brock, Pet worth is safer than ColHi? Yes you are missing something
  1. aasnow said at 7:25 pm on Thursday August 15, 2013:
    downtown Silver Spring definitely deserves it's place on this list. Most of the pros and few of the cons of both urban and suburban living. It's a lifestyle in higher and higher demand and I don't see that tapering off anytime soon.
  1. Drew said at 12:52 pm on Sunday August 18, 2013:
    Check out Riverdale Park. Walking distance to the MARC train, between two metro stops, well inside the beltway, and close to UMD. The town has several 3 bedrooms with larger lots which sell for 250k to 300k. Popular Farmers market and at the north end of the Route 1 Arts District.

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