by April 19, 2013 at 9:00 am 0


Chelsea Rinnig is one of Borderstan writers. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Looking for advice on how to accomplish your goals and make changes in 2013? Email Chelsea at askchelsea[AT]

Dear Chelsea, My current living situation is a bit expensive for my taste, and I’d like to arrange a group housing situation in DC with some friends. However, I’m not sure how to broach moving out to my current roommate, and I’m not even sure how to collect the right group of friends for the group house. Do you have any advice for how to arrange a group house here in DC, and how to navigate my current roommate situation?

Thank you! – Moving-On Molly

Dear Moving-On – Molly housing in DC is a total catch-22. While the greatest selection comes available during popular moving seasons at the beginning and end of the summer, the increased demand manifests in a noticeably higher price tag for rent. How nobody has invented a tech company to expand outside craigslist and revolutionize the real estate industry is beyond me.

First, the most important thing is to sit down and have a conversation with your roommate, which you should do as soon as possible. For all we know, she may have similar thoughts about moving out and living with someone else. But should she not, out of fairness to her you should give her significant time to either find a roommate to replace you or to find a new home of her own.

I would suggest an open conversation that does not begin with “I want to move out and live with someone else,” but rather with “What are your plans? What have you been thinking?” You can move on to tell her that while you are unsure of your timeline, you would like to find less expensive housing, possibly in a group house. It may make both of you feel awkward, but it is honest.

Second, there are many routes to finding housing. The most comprehensive “database” (if you can even call it that) for openings is craigslist. Other means for finding housing that I have tried, and sometimes succeeded with, are as follows:

  • an email to the listserv or human resources at your office
  • calling local management companies in the area to ask of upcoming rentals for their properties
  • post to Facebook (or look out for friends’ posts)

As for finding the right group house dynamic, that is entirely personal. While some can fortuitously find an available group of friends who live in close quarters amicably, others prefer a cohort of relative strangers that can more individualistically coexist.

Consider these factors though: what do you value most in a living situation? What can you live with, what can you be flexible on, and what are your non-negotiables?

Most of all, I would caution against jumping into anything too quickly; the key is to remain patient even when you feel most desperate. Your dream team and house will surface, and casually begin to put the word out there to your friends. If it does not work out, the next step would include considering other options (joining an existing group house, downsizing to just a two-bedroom with the perfect roommate, etc.).

Readers with other suggestions, I invite you to comment below and contribute! What are your suggestions for finding housing in DC?

Good luck! Always, Chelsea

 •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Dear Chelsea,  Should I get Spotify Premium?

Dear Spotify Customer – After reading reviews, it seems much of that depends on how much you care. Do you care about the 160kb versus 320kb improvement in sound? Do you listen to a lot of music? Do you need to download or use the app to play it from a smartphone or tablet? And lastly, do you have a limited data plan.

If you answered yes these questions, then the investment seems well worth it. I cannot as an advice columnist promote one product over another, however, Spotify has pretty good reviews and appears to be a program catered to this kind of consumer.

Always, Chelsea.

Note to readers: Under DC Law, Chelsea Rinnig is not licensed to practice, and does not represent that she practices: psychiatry, psychology, social work or professional counseling of any kind. This column is written for entertainment purposes only. 

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by December 24, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,581 0


The No. 1 story in the Lifestyle section for 2012. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s that time again… a look back before we start 2013. Like last December, we will provide you with a list of the most-read stories on Borderstan by category. Today are the Top 10 from the Lifestyle section for 2012.

The web is forever, so they say. Posted stories continue to get hits long after originally going up on the site. As a result, some of the most-read stories for the year were sometimes published the year before — especially if they were published late the year before.

Top 10 Bordertan Lifestyle Stories of 2012

These stories were Top 10 most read in 2012 in the Lifestyle section on Former columnist Scott Thompson had 4 of the Top 10 stories with his musings about life and former pet-writer Tori Tyree had three of The Top 10.

  1. How to Succeed at Chipotle Without Really Crying (Scott Thompson)
  2. 10 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Graduated From College (Scott Thompson)
  3. Beyond Neverland: The Art of (Finally) Growing Up in Washington, DC (Scott Thompson)
  4. The Virtues of Pumpkin and Yogurt for Doggy Digestive Ills (Tori Tyree)
  5. Cat Scratch Fever: 5 Tips to Protect that New Sofa (Not Declawing) (Tori Tyree)
  6. The Great Migration (Fox Deatry)
  7. Urban Etiquette: Dudes, Don’t Show Your Junk on the Balcony (Mary El Pearce)
  8. Pit Bull Myths and Facts (Do You Fear Newfoundlands?) (Tori Tyree)
  9. DC Rent Prices: How High is Too High? (Rachel Nania)
  10. A Talk with The Greatest Generation: “I Would Like To Go Dancing Again” (Scott Thompson)

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by July 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,977 1 Comment

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]

"For Rent"

Apartments for rent. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s funny to think that back in college, I touted myself as a landlord’s “dream tenant.” At the time, it seemed reasonable; I was studious, organized, trustworthy and somewhat punctual with my rent checks. A dream tenant, right? Renting to me should have been an easy decision, right?


While I was much more responsible (read: dorky) than my fellow peers, I still was a college student. And in my senior-year college house, beer was consumed more than water, the shower never saw a squirt of abrasive tile cleaner and an old mattress stayed propped against the side of the house for a few months because I simply didn’t know what else to do with it.

That is why I (now) fully understand why landlords don’t want to rent to students — and I don’t blame them.

But a recent eye-opening column in The Washington Post explains why some landlords are forced to rent apartments to a gang of students and other less-desirable tenants; such as those with no incomes, only trust funds.

As a renter myself, I fully support laws that protect those of us who pay exorbitant amounts of money each month for 600-square-feet of living. However, are the laws imposed on owners too strict and strange to navigate? Should someone who owns an apartment or house have more leeway in DC in getting to choose who will live in, and take care of, that space?

The author of the article, “For rent by owner: Legal landmines for landlords,” Douglas Hsiao, is a DC landlord who frequently writes about renting out his Dupont Circle condo. In this most recent article, Hsiao humorously illustrates first-hand examples of the obstacles he’s faced when trying to pick the perfect tenant.

According to Hsiao, it all comes down to the District’s Human Rights Law, a well-intentioned law established to protect renters from discrimination. But despite its good intentions, the law provides some additional challenges for owners. For example, it is illegal to discriminate against families and children when renting out a house or apartment. Protecting renting families seems reasonable, right?

But what if an owner doesn’t want all of the structural and aesthetic damage that comes with children? (Full disclaimer: I absolutely love children and have worked as a full-time nanny for years, but let’s not pretend they don’t cause some damage — the paint on walls from flying art supplies, the dings in the hardwood floors that result from dropped toy trucks, the rips in window screens from “practicing with my scissors,” etc.)

Further more, Hsiao explains that if an owner puts a cap on the number of tenants to whom he/she would like to rent, it appears as though the owner is discriminating from families.

“The formula for figuring out how many tenants a landlord legally should allow is the number of bedrooms multiplied by two plus one,” writes Hsiao in his article. “In other words, my two-bedroom apartment should be available to as many as five tenants. But who is that law protecting, a young family or a gang of college students who are willing to jam together for cheaper housing? We can all come up with perfectly rational non-discriminatory reasons why a landlord might not want to have five people living in an apartment.”

Another conundrum: DC landlords can’t turn away someone who does not have a source of income to pay the rent, as long as someone on the lease (such as daddy, the co-signer) can cover the monthly payments (this law does protect those in the Section 8 housing program).

So then, what’s the best way for Hsiao to find the perfect tenant? Not to meet them in person is the answer. If you never meet them, you can never be accused of discriminating.

As a renter myself, I fully support laws that protect those of us who pay exorbitant amounts of money each month for 600-square-feet of living. However, are the laws imposed on owners too strict and strange to navigate? Should someone who owns an apartment or house have more leeway in DC in getting to choose who will live in, and take care of, that space?

I just know that if I am ever lucky enough to own a slice of living space in this city, I want the option of saying “hell, no” to the college tenant that was formerly me.

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by January 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm 1,786 1 Comment


Originally planned as condos, the development going up between S and Swann Streets on 14th Street NW will be rental units. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

In addition to winning the South Carolina presidential primary on Saturday, Newt Gingrich also recently voiced his opinion on your decision to rent (not own) an apartment (not a home) in a city (not a suburb). He also threw in the Metro and fancy newspapers — leaving out dog parks and bike lanes, but perhaps he’ll hit on those in the future.

In a speech to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) last week, Gingrich pledged his support for the institution of home ownership, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the “Rally for Home Ownership” in South Carolina, Gingrich advocated for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial bill, as well as more lenient tax policies for manufacturers and builders.

Gingrich, who campaigns as a small-government conservative, makes an unlikely bedfellow for a trade group like NAHB, which lobbies for government regulation of the industry. But platform changes like this are not uncommon in a primary season, during which candidates try to appeal to multiple, shifting electorates.

Accordingly, Gingrich used the rally to strike a populist tone and appeal to his suburban base, drawing a harsh comparison between those who value home ownership and those who, in his mind, do not:

“Those who live in [apartments] writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the Metro, who don’t understand that for most Americans [having] their own property… is one of the greatest achievements of their life, and it makes them feel like they are good solid citizens,” Gingrich told the crowd.

Gingrich’s comments are interesting in light of where we live — a densely populated downtown neighborhood with lots of renters (yes, lots of condos, too) who use public transportation. And while we may not be solid citizens, our rents are certainly fancy here in Borderstan.

Anyway, welcome to the 2012 presidential election.

by January 4, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,528 1 Comment

Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street NW, Borderstan

News from Dupont-Logan-U Street.

From Michelle Lancaster. Follow her and tell her your news on Twitter @MichLancaster or email her at [email protected].

WMATA: We Want to Lower Expectations

Done! Cross that one off your New Year’s resolution list. We kid, we kid. But in all seriousness, Metro told TBD the “reason” they estimated a full year for the repair of the two Dupont South escalators  was to lower expectations of riders, so they could hopefully beat the timeline for completing repairs. This is probably a pretty good strategy, but I think it only works when you don’t tell people that it’s a gambit. This is precisely the point of the TBD piece, which is (IMO) pretty well done. Thanks for talking to us more, Metro. We know those escalators have more fail in them than the Twitter Fail whale. Now quit yer yappin’ and show us some more men at work.

More Closings Blamed on Rents

Melody Records in Dupont Circle is closing (story from Washington Business Journal). Georgetown’s Barnes and Noble has already closed, we learned from DCist. What do the two have in common? It appears, according to blog Urban Spaces and Places, quite a bit despite their different retail footprints. As commercial space is generally over-valued in DC, they argue, this leads to increased rents and even higher expectations of earnings at such retail locations. It may have little to do with the profit margin of the store, and much more to do with the market and new players with deep pockets, often in the food industry. If you started thinking about high-end burger concepts from out of town, well, that makes two of us.

But a New Opening in an Old(er) Space

Whiskey is back on the menu at the space that formerly housed Porter’s, a bar beloved by many Terp alumni and M Street bar crawlers. Irish Whiskey Public House is due to open this Friday and got a pretty nice renovation, from what we see on Urban Daddy. For anyone nostalgic enough to miss the dilapidated interior of the dive bar, you can still see small touches in the new photos but overall, this is a much more aesthetically pleasing place to grab a drink. Oh, and there are over 60 types of whiskey if you want to toast to the past, present or future of the 18th and M Street strip.

And More Sammiches!

Taylor Gourmet junkies can feast their eyes on the first peek from the The Washington Post. The new 14th Street location is open for business in the former Ruff and Ready space. I’m guessing the cold kept most sandwich connoisseurs at bay today, but am a little surprised at the total lack of a line. Have we reached sandwich saturation?

New Year’s Resolutions

I can’t resolve to complain less, because then you would have nothing snarky to read. But I did resolve to have more fun and take things less seriously. Step one: get thee to Riot Act Comedy Theater with me tonight to see the guys from Gaylarious take the stage. This time, Chris Doucette and Zach Toczynski can be snarky for me and I keep my resolution longer than the first one (ordering pizza on New Year’s Day and skipping the gym is probably not in compliance with “eat better and exercise more.”) (Full disclosure: the boys were kind enough to comp me after I said they were “sort of” hilarious.)

by October 10, 2011 at 10:50 am 2,083 0

Borderstan, New Hampshire Avenue NW

It’s a tight, expensive rental market in DC. (Matty Rhoades)

From Matty Rhoades. 

In last week’s reader poll, we asked Borderstanis how much they pay in rent. Readers were asked to select a range per monthly rent. So, how does your monthly rent-check-pain compare?

Considering how rapidly the value of real estate has escalated in the last decade in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, the results were not particularly surprising: Only 21% of poll takers said they paid $1,000 or less.

The largest chunk of readers, 43%, said they pay from $1,001 to $1,500 a month in rent. A total of 36% pay $1,501 or more each month. Total results are below.

  • $500 or Less: 1%
  • $501 to $1,000: 21%
  • $1,001 to $1,500: 43%
  • $1,501 to $2,000: 20%
  • $2,001 to $3,000: 13%
  • More than $3,000: 3%

One Logan Circle area realtor told Borderstan, “The average prices in the 20009 zip code are around $1,400 for a studio, $2,000 for a one-bedroom and $3,000-plus for a two bedroom. The real shocker is what is happening with two-bedroom apartments, they are getting very expensive very fast.”

A property owner who rents a number of units in the area said, “”Even though young professionals are locating in areas further away from Dupont/Logan (including NOMA/FL/NY Avenue area, Ledroit Park, Columbia Heights/Petworth, NE Capitol Hill), the areas surrounding 14th St from P to U remains the destination of choice for many, if they can afford it. Also, many previous buyers are unable to buy housing simply because of current traditional mortgage financing qualification requirements. Most lenders are requiring 10 to 20% down payments compared to 5 to 10% in the past.”

“Therefore, many previous would-be buyers are forced to continue to rent and save for an eventual down payment. The strong job market and lack of new units being produced relative to five years ago create a demand over supply situation that has led to rents continuing to rise, especially in highly desirable areas. Another area with huge increase in rents recently is Columbia Hts. Renters like like access to three Metro stops and the availability of abundant new retail and nightlife,” according to this Dupont-Logan landlord.

According to, the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in DC is $1,100 — of course that is for the entire city. NBC Washington reported last month that the average monthly rent for Washington-Arlington-Alexandria is $1,473 per month — a 7% increase in the past year. gives a much higher figure of $1,734 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, with Logan Circle units going for $2,550 for all apartments in the neighborhood. According to a January article on Urban Turf, Trulia came up with a median rental price tag in DC of $2,835 per month for apartments of all sizes.

What’s driving rising rents in DC? Well, demand – jobs are more plentiful here than in many other metro areas. Second, many transplants are choosing to rent instead of buy because of the unpredictable economy and housing market.

No wonder more and more people in DC are electing for roommates.

by October 5, 2011 at 8:00 am 2,041 0

17th Street NW, treeboxes, Old City Green

Sarah from Old City Green plants ground cover in a treebox at 17th and Q Streets NW on Saturday. The treeboxes were renovated during the 2010 17th Streetscape project and are maintained by local businesses and community organizations. Last fall students from Ross Elementary School on R Street planted spring bulbs with help from Old City Green. (Matty Rhoades)

From Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and tell her your news on Twitter @MichLancasterEmail her at [email protected].

Supply & Demand: Why Your Rent is Too Damn High

Urban Turf explains why you may feel like channeling your inner Jimmy McMillan while looking for new digs. Turns out, the vacancy levels are the second lowest in the country (only behind metro NYC), which allows owners to keep boosting the rents. Be sure to take the Borderstan Reader Poll, Rent: What’s Your Pain?

Locals Unplugged — Don’t Miss

If you own a small business in DC or just dream of opening your own, come on out to Busboys and Poets on October 13. This edition of Locals Unplugged! is hosted by Live Green and Think Local First DC and will feature Jasmine Chehrazi, founder of Yoga District. Get some good advice, ask some questions and learn the zen of navigating business red tape. There’s a small fee, which you can pay here, to get your ticket.

U Street is a ‘Great Place in America’

The American Planning Association issued their ‘Great Places in America’ list, which includes great public spaces, neighborhoods and streets in the United States. This year, U Street NW made the list of the Top 30 (Eastern Market has been named to the list in the past). DCist notes that the resurgence of the neighborhood is one of the top reasons the area made the list, yet is also a source of concern to area residents grappling the growing pains of gentrification.

New Little Sister for DC?

Or big sister, since the city in question is Ankara? At any rate, Mayor Vince Gray just announced that Ankara, Turkey is the latest addition to DC’s list of sister cities (making it 12 total). Washington City Paper dives into what requirements a city must meet in order to become a sister city, what other cities made the list and what the heck a sister city actually means.

Where Chefs Eat, After Hours Edition

Despite the abundance of bars and restaurants on 14th Street NW and Dupont Circle, you may be hard pressed to find our local chefs hanging out on a bar stool after hours. That is, according to the Washingtonian‘s informal poll of some chefs. The list includes El Centro DF and Masa 14’s Antonio Burrell, who ditches the neighborhood for the far reaches of H Street NE or Annandale… although we forgive anyone for Honey Pig noms. Any surprises on the list?

by October 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm 2,687 6 Comments

Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street NW, Borderstan

News from Dupont-Logan-U Street.

Are you a renter? If so, what’s your monthly paycheck pain for the rent?

DC has been a popular destination ever since the financial crisis and 2008 recession — there are jobs here when the rest of the country is hurting. (Thanks, Uncle Sam!). In addition, downtown DC has become very popular in the last decade (and what’s more popular than the Borderstan area?). Put these two factors together and you have a tight rental market with rising rents.

So… how much do you pay a month? If you have a roommate, significant other or spouse, only figure what you owe — not the total amount for your abode.


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