The brains behind ExposedBrickDC.com dishes on rental tips for DC and reveals her go-to spots
Jamie Grigg first got her feet wet in this swamp of DC we all know and love in the summer of 2011, she says, after she “made the mistake of committing to my job in public affairs only two weeks after graduation day.” But what she says she didn’t know at the time was that her move to DC, “played a big part in sparking [her] interest in real estate.”
That’s likely how you know her today. Jamie is the housing guru behind the popular website ExposedBrickDC.com, and her real estate chops were cut on experience.
“Because my time between school and my job was limited,” she says, “I experienced the apartment scramble that most people dread. As I studied for finals, my mom lined up appointments at several buildings. Her search method? Craigslist. In one day, we saw countless places and signed a lease. It was a whirlwind and I had no idea if I was making the right decision. The second time around, I vowed it would be different. As my lease came to an end, my obsession with Craigslist began. Through my continued obsession with Craigslist and a belief in a better way, Exposed Brick DC was born.”
We have searched Craigslist and wished there was a new, more appropriate filter one could apply. For example, it would be so much easier if someone could pick out all the nice places and just put them in one place. If you have never been to Jamie’s site, that’s much of what she loves to do. And apparently it’s working. With over 1 million pageviews in six months, I think she may be on to something.
What’s the funniest thing she notices about Craigslist apartment ads I ask? “People using ALL CAPS. It never works,” she replies. I THINK SHE IS RIGHT!
Since DC is a town with many renters, I couldn’t let her get away without trying to get some tips. “Get educated and act quickly,” she says. “These two things might not sound like they go together but they do. Sixty days before your lease is up, start doing your homework. Start looking at apartments that fit your criteria and see how much they are going for. This way you won’t end up overpaying. By looking early, you are arm yourself with facts so making a decision is easy. This is where the acting quickly part comes in. When you are ready to commit, go for it. The best deals go fast. If you know it is a good deal, sign the lease.”
But let’s talk about food now, shall we? What about living above a restaurant? Are there pros and cons? “Well,” Jamie thinks, “Depends on the restaurant. Le Diplomate is a win. Jumbo Slice is a fail.” I guess she has a point, although if you go out a lot, pretty sure the latter could have some perks too!
Hailing from Charlottesville, VA, there are some specific things no perfect apartment can make her forget. “The cobb salad from Keswick Hall, burgers from Riverside, hanger steak from C&O, the chicken, cheddar, and fig panini from Feast, Bodo’s bagel, and Princess cake from Albermarle Bakery.” I ask where in DC she goes where she wants something from home or a good home cooked style meal. “Does this exist?” she quips.
Don’t fear for Jamie just yet. She will soon (we hope) be cooking all of her own meals. “I just recently started cooking, she says. “I am a notoriously bad cook. In fact, I found an apartment in an awesome location for minimal rent. The catch was it didn’t have kitchen. I seriously considered it. In hindsight, I am glad I have a place with a nice kitchen. Maybe it inspired me to learn? My skills are limited but I am learning.”
Learning is key and everyone can cook something, right? “I recently confused a zucchini and a cucumber. It didn’t turn out well,” she says.
Until she can get that whole vegetable thing sorted out, “I have always been a big fan of Ghilbellena,” she adds. “They have the best cheese plate in the city. It’s crazy how hard it is to find a good cheese plate. I am lucky that my office is downtown. I go to a lot of the well-known places like, Zaytina and Graffiato often. Proof is one of my favorites. They have an awesome lunch special. $14 will get you an entree and a glass of wine at the bar.” In a town known for high rent and equally high prices, these deals are one’s no one should overlook.
Being a fan of more intimate places, she says, “For dinner, I would much rather go to a quiet hole-in-the-wall than then somewhere new and trendy. My boyfriend and I go to Fainting Goat a lot. They have great cocktails and really laid-back atmosphere.” This U Street haunt does have a great vibe, and I’d also remark, a very good cheese plate.
Loving a nice cheese plate doesn’t translate to food snob. “I would [rather] have a fast food burger over a gourmet budget any day. It is hard to beat a Shake Shack Burger,” she says. And after that burger and an equally long day you can find her at Matchbox having one of their cucumber gin and tonics.
Cheers to many more burgers, cocktails, and affordable housing! Moving quickly Jamie conquers the Feasting Famously Fast Five where I say five words and she quickly says the first thing that comes to mind.
Craigslist: When I first started EBDC, I got an email from a reader titled “I think you are crazy.” When a complete stranger thinks your Craigslist obsession is nuts, that is saying something.
Ramen: When my boyfriend described someone as having “ramen noodle hair.” He meant wet curls.
Eggs: During finals week, the dining hall would serve late night breakfast. I was eating a huge plate of scrambled eggs, turned to my friends, and said, “Eggs is brain food.” Clearly I needed to stop writing my final paper.
Butter: Got nothing.
Worst place in DC: Mad Hatter. I feel like every young twenty-something finds themselves there at one point. You see things that you think are ok at the time. You think, “Oh this just normal city living behavior.” It’s not.
So the next time you’re seeking to uplift your roots and head somewhere else, check out Jamie’s site and let her do the filtering for you.