Across the Potomac River from the District in Arlington County are three places where you can find the green space and housing prices of suburbia in an urban atmosphere. Depending upon your needs, Shirlington, Clarendon and Pentagon City are great choices if you want a downtown feel without actually living downtown.

"Some people just don't want to live in the city," said Nick Kuhn, a Realtor with McEnearney Associates. "It's more expensive for insurance and taxes, and parking is more available and cheaper in the suburbs." In certain areas of Arlington County, however, homeowners "feel like they are in an urban environment but still have the pluses of suburbia," Kuhn said.

Kurt Eichenlaub is one of those homeowners. Eichenlaub owns a one-bedroom condo in Shirlington that he shares with his fiancee. He said he likes the area because of its proximity to local nightlife, the 20-to-40- minute commute to his office in D.C. and the price of real estate.

"The community is primarily suburban with a hint of urban flavor," he said. "The area is terrific for singles and young professionals as it is less than 10 minutes away from the nightlife of Clarendon, Ballston and Old Town."

Although the current average sale price in Shirlington is $577,129, condo prices vary widely, from as low as $150,000 to as high as $1 million, according to May Metropolitan Regional Informational System statistics.

"It's terrific for first-time homebuyers who want to live relatively close to D.C. without having to pay an arm and a leg to do so," Eichenlaub said. The area does lack a Metro station however, which is a downside. "Street parking can also be a frustration at times, as the local population seems to be growing quite rapidly," he said.

If Metro access is important, then the Clarendon area might be a better bet. "Clarendon has a lot of condos, but you also have townhouses and single families within a few blocks," said Kuhn. "Oftentimes a single person or couple will purchase a condo and then move up to a townhouse or a house."

The current average sale price for the Clarendon area is $537,713, with the majority of condos in May listing for more than $300,000.

The neighborhood offers access to two Metro stops on the Orange Line, Clarendon and Courthouse, both offering commutes of less than half an hour to the District. But you don't have to venture too far out to find nightlife. Clarendon and Courthouse each has its own scene, with bars and a diverse selection of restaurants.

Like Clarendon, Pentagon City also has easy access to a Metro station, but this area is centered around a mall, the Shops at Pentagon City, rather than a walkable urban street. It also doesn't have quite the nightlife of Clarendon and Shirlington, which can be fine if you are looking for a quieter urban setting.

Pentagon City also tends to cater to renters rather than homeowners. "You actually have a lot of apartments right in Pentagon City," said Kuhn. "Then it's bordered by residential areas."

The current average sales price for the area is $558,444.