Help us find a place in NOVA
November 13, 2012 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Northern Virginia apartment search 2013: What are the best practices for finding an ideal match for our situation?

I'm mainly asking this because it seems like Craigslist has become much more infiltrated by spam since I last searched for a place to live in 2009 and also because there are a few suggestions I have seen in other posts that I wanted to follow up on. I know there are also a good number of DC-area mefites on here and would welcome any specific intelligence. I already have a good idea in terms of budgeting, neighborhoods, transportation, etc. as I have lived here awhile, so my questions more pertain to specific tactics:

1. My SO and I would ideally like to find a situation where we rent out a portion (e.g. the finished basement) of a single family home being rented directly by the owner. I'm currently in a situation where 4 of us rent out a full single family home and it has been a perfect situation. We pay reasonable rent, have an extremely responsive landlord, and live in a much nicer house with a yard and neighborhood than we could ever afford if we were buying.

I would love to figure out how to replicate the above situation on a smaller scale. What are the best ways to zero in on this specific type of rental in Arlington or Alexandria, where owners might be renting out part of their place? There are certain neighborhoods we really like in Arlington but almost never see rentals listed for on Craigslist, which makes me think realtors might be handling these.

2. I often have heard working with a property management company can work well, but how to choose a reputable one? Reviews online seem all over the place. Does anyone have a specific recommendation or metric for evaluating them?

3. Another recommendation I've read is to find a realtor who has a rental book of business but I guess I have the same questions as #2 in terms of vetting them and anything else I should keep in mind, in terms of getting good customer service.

Any other advice in terms of finding a good rental in the closer in parts of NOVA would be appreciated.
posted by the foreground to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I found my current place - the finished basement of a single-family home which I rent directly from the owner - through Craigslist, and it wasn't the only such property I found ads for there. So there are definitely some people who still advertise rentals you'd consider through CL. And when I looked for a new rental with a realtor a couple of months ago, there were exactly zero such properties shown, although that's anecdata.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:39 PM on November 13, 2012

I like using

You can search the For Rent site, and then further pinpoint exactly what you want, by price, features, etc.

The other thing I'd recommend is walking or driving through neighborhoods you like and look for For Rent signs.

I hate to say it, but it's just not easy. And yes, Craigslist has gotten spamier and scamier as of late.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have no problem with property managers as such but I think they're the least likely to have the kind of stuff you want - people who are just renting out one or two small properties often manage them themselves as well. They're probably slightly more likely to use a realtor than they are to use a property management company, but they're overall most likely to use craigslist, signs, word-of-mouth, or newspaper ads.

I suggest a multi-pronged approach. Do all three. Just be sure to assess any apartment you find through a realtor with as much diligence as you would an apartment you found through CL. Work with multiple realtors. (None of this is NoVA-specific - I've never rented in NoVA - although I do have friends who own rental properties in NoVA, and they advertise them on CL.)
posted by mskyle at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2012 is also a good place to search. When I was apartment hunting in this area I didn't bother for places that were listed for more than 2 days, since rentals go really quickly around here. Padmapper pulls listings from Craigslist but it filters out places that don't have an address or other location information, which weeds out a lot (not all) of the scammers.

There are also a bunch of apartments in Rosslyn, Courthouse, etc that are managed through small real estate companies if you're interested in that kind of thing, but they normally wouldn't do a basement rental.
posted by _cave at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an SFH with a ground-floor bedroom that I've rented, basically the situation that you seem to be looking for, and I've found renters exclusively through word-of-mouth. I don't have a huge sample of other people to go by, but I think that's not uncommon. I've never advertised it, and it's always been rented to friends-of-friends.

If you haven't already, I'd make sure that you've put out feelers through your social network (real and online) to see if anyone has a room that's vacant or will shortly be vacant that they're interested in renting. The more people who know you're looking, the better odds you have of turning something up.

Craigslist seems to serve the bottom and top end of the market (people looking for roommates; whole houses / apts for rent), but there's a gap when it comes to rental-suite situations, perhaps because people renting them tend to be pretty careful/exclusive about who they rent to, I'm not sure. I can't imagine using a realtor or property manager to fill a vacancy like that, but I guess you could try. My suspicion is they won't have much for you though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:10 PM on November 13, 2012

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