From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (2024)

The Hunt

By Michele Lerner

After spending two years on the road and having a baby, a young couple decided to put down roots just south of the nation’s capital. Here’s what they found.

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (1)

Mehmet Ari Botani and Tara Zerya Botani both grew up in Turkey, where they faced a longstanding culture of discrimination as children of Kurdish descent. When they met in college, they bonded over a shared dream of making a home in America.

“Growing up as a member of the Kurdish community, there was no feeling of home, because you always have to learn at least two languages and be part of two cultures,” said Mrs. Botani, 33. “Our biggest accomplishment is that we were both able to come to the U.S., and now we are citizens.”

The two, who remained friends during school, moved to the United States separately on work visas about eight years ago: she, to Colorado; he, to New Jersey. But they stayed in touch and eventually became a long-distance couple.

After getting engaged in 2019, they rented in Washington, D.C., where Mrs. Botani found a job at a hotel and Mr. Botani bought a pizza shop with a business partner. But when the pandemic hit, she lost her job and he had to sell the restaurant.

[Did you recently buy a home? We want to hear from you. Email: thehunt@nytimes.com]

“We got married in April 2020, and I started an online IT course so I could work remotely,” Mrs. Botani said. “Mehmet joined a mobile rental-car service company with another business partner, and we decided it was a good time to have a baby, since we could all be together.”

In 2021, with home prices rising, Mrs. Botani newly pregnant and the future unclear, the couple sold everything, bought an R.V. and spent months exploring their new country. They weren’t sure where they might land.

“We traveled to Connecticut, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Boston, Toronto and Montreal in the R.V., plus we had both been in California before,” Mrs. Botani said. “Everywhere we went, I looked at homes on Zillow, but none of them really clicked. We didn’t see ourselves living there.”

They returned to the Washington area and settled into an Airbnb in Northern Virginia for a few months, just as their son was about to be born. They felt comfortable there and loved the access to free events and museums.

“There are lots of opportunities in the D.C. area, and there’s more diversity,” Mr. Botani said. “We especially like Northern Virginia, because our first apartment when we got married was in Arlington.”

Shortly before their R.V. adventure, the Botanis had consulted a lender and qualified for a $550,000 home loan. But when they returned to their home search in 2023, higher interest rates and their vehicle payments had reduced the loan they were approved for to $470,000.

They reconnected with Loretta Gray, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, in Old Town Alexandria, Va., who had helped them look for homes earlier in the pandemic. “In 2021, we looked for a rowhouse or a condo in D.C. or a townhouse in Virginia,” Ms. Gray said. “But by 2023, mortgage rates and prices were higher, so ultimately they needed to choose a condo in Virginia.”

After two years on the road, the prospect of having a place with two levels and high ceilings was appealing. They also wanted something move-in ready, so they could focus on their jobs and their new son.

They considered waiting for mortgage rates to drop, but decided to forge ahead with buying in Alexandria. “We were concerned that there would be so much pent-up demand later that prices would go higher,” Ms. Gray said. “They can always refinance or sell later.”

No. 1

Duplex With High Ceilings

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (2)

This 980-square-foot duplex was in a condominium community built in 1988. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit felt large, especially in the living room, which had a soaring ceiling, a fireplace and glass doors that opened to a deck. The primary bedroom had a walk-in closet, but the second bedroom was small. The development offered residents an assigned parking space and a pool. The asking price was $360,000, with a monthly condo fee of $356 and annual taxes of about $3,700.

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (3)

No. 2

Two-Bedroom Closer to D.C.

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (4)

Built in 1990 and updated in 2004, this 939-square-foot condo was in a gated community a few miles closer to Washington. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment had a spacious living room with a fireplace and doors that opened to a balcony. There were two walk-in closets and carpeting in the bedrooms. Mrs. Botani liked the kitchen pantry and the updated bathrooms, but not the busy road just outside the gates. The apartment came with a parking spot, and the development had a pool. The price was $375,000, with a monthly condo fee of $344 and annual taxes of about $3,500.

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (5)

No. 3

Renovated With Amenities

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (6)

This two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment was about 1,000 square feet. It had been renovated in 2022, and while it didn’t have high ceilings, it did have an open floor plan that made it feel larger. There was a gas fireplace and a large balcony overlooking the parking lot. This condo community was the farthest from downtown Washington, but it had two pools, tot lots, basketball and tennis courts, and walking paths. The apartment was listed for $399,990, with a monthly condo fee of $348 and an annual taxes of about $3,900.

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (7)

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

Which Would You Choose?

0%

Duplex With High Ceilings

0%

Two-Bedroom Closer to D.C.

0%

Renovated With Amenities

Which Did They Buy?

0%

Duplex With High Ceilings

0%

Two-Bedroom Closer to D.C.

0%

Renovated With Amenities

From an R.V. to a Condo Near Washington: Which Was Better for Their Growing Family? (2024)

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