Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.: A Guide for Homebuyers

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

If you’re considering moving to Washington, D.C., understanding the cost of living in our nation’s capital can give you a better idea of what to expect.

This guide breaks down the cost of living in Washington, D.C., from housing to food and healthcare costs. We’ll provide data from cost of living index tools and how Washington, D.C. ranks in the nation for livability.

We’ll also share a handy set of additional online resources to measure and compare the cost of living expenses in different Washington, D.C. communities.

Yes, You Can Buy Before You Sell. Why Move Twice?

Through our Buy Before You Sell program, HomeLight can help you unlock a portion of your equity upfront to put toward your next home. You can then make a strong offer on your next home with no home sale contingency.

What makes up the ‘cost of living’ in Washington, D.C.?

When you’re planning to live in a new state, the cost of living there will be a combination of expenses required to maintain your desired lifestyle. Statista, a leading market data platform, defines “cost of living” as “the monetary cost of goods and services necessary to maintaining a certain standard of living.”

This overall cost will vary significantly based on location, even within the state. But the core living expenses you’ll pay for typically include the following categories:

  • Housing (rent/mortgage)
  • Energy (utilities)
  • Food (groceries)
  • Transportation (vehicles or transit systems)
  • Healthcare (doctors, hospitals, etc.)

However, the costs often extend beyond these basics to cover other expenses, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Education
  • Childcare
  • Entertainment

These elements, when combined, establish the core costs associated with a particular way of living. However, your income and debts primarily influence your cost of living and how the dollar amounts compare to the costs of basic needs in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood where you live — or want to live.

Let’s take a quick look at some ways you can compare your current living cost with what you might experience if you move to Washington, D.C..

What’s a Washington, D.C. cost of living index (CLI)?

A cost of living index (CLI) monitors how much these basic expenses change over time in different cities or regions. They provide a way for you to compare the price of maintaining a certain standard of living.

The CLI is calculated by assessing the price of essential goods and services such as housing, food, healthcare, and transportation in different areas.

An index is typically standardized, with a base city or region assigned a baseline index value (often set at 100). Other cities or regions are then compared against this benchmark. For example, a city with a CLI of 120 would signify that living there is 20% more expensive than the base location, while an index of 80 indicates it’s 20% less expensive.

A cost of living index will typically break down and score each basic expense by category. Here are separate scores for Washington, D.C.from the Cost of Living Index:

  • Groceries: 106.90
  • Housing: 241.80
  • Utilities: 110.20
  • Transportation: 107.90
  • Health: 104.70
  • Miscellaneous: 117.70

Washington, D.C. overall annual cost of living data

Using additional data collected by Forbes, let’s take a closer look at actual dollar amounts and how Washington, D.C., ranks compared to other parts ofthe United States.

  • Total annual cost of living: $78,809

(Average yearly expenses for housing, food, healthcare, transportation, and taxes)

Washington, D.C. cost of living data at a glance

Cost of living factor Dollar amount 
Annual salary (average) $68,400
Transportation costs (annual) $5,477
Home price (median) $657,499
Mortgage payments (median monthly) $54,791
Rental costs (average monthly) $1,960.61
Food costs (annual average) $520 (per month)
Healthcare costs (annual average) $12,201 per year

Sources: Forbes using data from the C2ER, U.S. Census and BLS reports, MIT Living Wage Calculator, Kaiser Family Foundation, and other public sources. Bestplaces, SoFi

Washington, D.C. tax rates

  • State individual income tax rate: 0.00%*
  • State sales tax rate: 0.00%
  • Effective property tax rate (percentage of home value): 0.57%
  • Median annual property taxes paid: $3,641
  • Average annual property tax bill: $3,619

*Some jurisdictions may collect local income taxes

How does Washington, D.C. rank for livability nationwide?

If you’re planning a move to the nation’s capital, you may be interested in more than just the cost of living data. Here’s a brief summary of livability insights for Washington, D.C.:

Washington, D.C. livability rankings

According to the AARP’s overall livability index, the District of Columbia has a livability score of 57. This puts it in the upper half of communities in the United States, with 48 being the average score for U.S. cities in 2023. Other livability scores for D.C. are as follows, based on data from the AARP. All scores are out of a possible 100 maximum, with higher scores ranking more positively than lower scores:

  • Housing: 58 (affordability and access)
  • Neighborhood: 71 (proximity and security)
  • Transportation: 77 (safety and convenience)
  • Environment: 38 (clean air and water)
  • Health: 60 (prevention access and quality)
  • Engagement: 76 (civic and social involvement)
  • Opportunity: 18 (inclusion and possibilities)

Additional cost of living indexes

Here are some cost of living index links to research additional Washington, D.C. living expenses:

  • Statista: Provides free access to many basic statistics. Paid subscriptions are available for more detailed information about Washington, D.C. communities.
  • ACCRA (C2ER): Maintained by the Council for Community and Economic Research. This is a paid service that maintains one of the largest databases of cost of living metrics for most all Washington, D.C. cities.
  • World Population Review CLI page: This website provides a free search-by-state tool at the bottom of its Cost of Living Index page.
  • Numbeo: This crowd-sourced CLI promotes itself as “the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide.” This service can show you user-provided insights such as the cost of an inexpensive restaurant or the perceived presence of crime in different parts of Washington, D.C.. It’s free for personal use.

Why are people moving to (or away from) Washington, D.C.?

According to the United Van Lines 47th Annual Movers Study that tracks migrations within the United States, here are why people are moving into Washington, D.C., or away to other states.

Primary reasons people are moving

Inbound Reason for the move  Outbound
0.00% Retirement 6.90%
0.00% Health 0.00%
5.70% Family 17.20%
8.60% Lifestyle 6.90%
60.00% Job 51.70%
0.00% Cost 0.00%

Total inbound: 63.3%

Total outbound: 36.7%

How Much Is Your Home Worth Now?

Home values have rapidly increased in recent years. How much is your current home worth now? Get a ballpark estimate from HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator.

Budgeting for your move to Washington, D.C.

Below is a collection of handy online tools to help estimate your moving costs and living expenses in Washington, D.C. — from how much you’ll need to pay a mover to how much your current home might sell for and the expected proceeds.

1. Online move cost estimators

With today’s smart technology, you can find a wide variety of tools to help you estimate the cost of paying for a mover or how to find a trusted mover for your relocation to Washington, D.C. Some examples include:

2. Cost of living calculators

Cost of living calculators are different from cost of living indexes. These tools, which are typically free, provide a comparison based on income and regional costs for housing, transportation, food, healthcare, and other basic necessities in the two locations you select.

For example, if you live in Baltimore and you want to move to Washington, D.C. Some popular cost-of-living calculators include:

3. Living wage and budget calculators

  • Living Wage Calculator: Designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this calculator can help you estimate the local wage rate that you’ll need as a full-time Washington, D.C. worker in order to cover the costs of your family’s basic living expenses in a selected new location.
  • Family Budget Calculator: This tool, provided by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), estimates the income your family will need to attain a modest — yet adequate — standard of living in your selected new community. Choose from 10 family types in all counties and metro areas in Washington, D.C.

4. Homebuyer calculators

  • Home Affordability Calculator: Understand the costs associated with buying a home and find out how much home you can afford before you start looking at homes for sale or planning a move.
  • Down Payment Calculator: Estimate how much you might need to put down on a home and learn more about the loan options that work best for you.
  • Closing Costs Calculator: Find out how much cash you’ll need for closing costs on a house, including estimated lender and third-party fees.

5. Home seller calculators

  • Home Value Estimator: Get a preliminary estimate of what your current home is worth, along with options to help you get the best price when you’re ready to sell.
  • Best Time to Sell Calculator: Use this calculator that incorporates nationwide real estate transaction data to help time your move.
  • Agent Commissions Calculator: Learn how much you might pay in real estate agent commissions when selling a house in your current market.
  • Net Proceeds Calculator: Get a ballpark idea of the net proceeds you could earn from the sale of your existing home.

Selling your current home and buying in Washington, D.C.

To make your move smoother and less stressful, modern real estate solution companies like HomeLight have created innovative programs to help you buy a house before you sell your old one.

Watch the short video below to learn about HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program that lets you move into your new Washington, D.C. home now and sell your current house with peace of mind and on your timeline.

Partner with a professional to find your new Washington, D.C. home

As you plan your move, HomeLight can connect you with a top-performing, trusted real estate agent in your current city or in the Washington, D.C., community where you’d like to live. We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

For the best of both worlds — coming and going — ask your agent about HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program to help take the uncertainty out of your Washington, D.C., home purchase.

Header Image Source: (Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash)