Help finding an apartment in Seattle
February 24, 2013 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a list of neighborhoods I'd consider living, a list of amenities that I consider necessary and/or negotiable, and a $ amount in mind per month. How can I make the selection process move along more quickly than the Craigslist Method?

I see this kind of question pop up from time to time related to other cities, and it seems like while the general answer is "Craigslist is The Way," I know there are property management / apartment brokers in some areas. I imagine there are such services in Seattle to support all the tech transplants (of which I am not one), so I'm looking for suggestions if you have any. FWIW, the neighborhoods I know I dig include Greenlake, Greenwood, Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Phinney Ridge.
posted by DuckGirl to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have found all of my (super fucking awesome) apartments in Seattle using Padmapper. It is a lifesaver, seriously. And apartment hunting here is not so stressful to warrant paying for an apartment broker service.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was a tech transplant. Part of the relo package was a rental agent assistant person. She was useless. Sure, she had access to the database that only real estate agents get access to, but every single one of the places she took us to / told us to consider were also online on places like craigslist. We ended up subverting her and finding our own place (on hotpads, of all places ... totally unexpected). I would NOT pay for those services. Just use craigslist.

One thing we knew we wanted to do was to rent a condo. You get a nicer place for the same rent as an apartment (cheaper in our case). And you live next to people who actually give a shit about the building since, you know, they own. I'm in capitol hill in case it matters to you.
posted by kthxbi at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2013

Honestly, I really do think Craigslist is the way to go in Seattle, more so than other cities I've lived in. The only other way I've found places here is word-of-mouth.

However, you might try some of the neighborhood-specific real estate agencies, many of which do rentals as well. You may luck into something they haven't put up on craigslist yet.

BTW, the market in Seattle is not as crazy as some cities, but it can get pretty tight in places like Ballard. The place I found through craigslist was super-cheap, and I pretty much only got it because I happened to see the listing right after the landlord posted it, and I was the first to put in an application. I lost out on several other places solely because other people had put in applications before me. So you do need to be on the ball.
posted by lunasol at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2013

I second Padmapper and Craigslist; those are the main sites on which apartment listings are placed. You can also check the sites of a few apartment communities (here are a few that I can list off the top of my head):
-Harbor Steps
-Equity Apartments

I'd highly suggest coming out here and renting a place on AirBNB and start searching locally. There's a lot of stuff to look at and stock tends to move really fast (especially in Queen Anne).

If you know someone who works at Amazon or MSFT, they have email groups where people put up their places for rent (you might have some luck asking friends to check those groups).

Keep in mind, most stock tends to show up around the 10th of the month because Washington State requires tenants to give their notice to vacate 20 days before the end of the rental period.
posted by touareg at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2013

I used to be an apartment manager in Seattle. I never put up listings until the place was vacated and move-in ready, and never before the tenant moved out, because they might give notice and then end up staying, so the advice about things going up on the 10th due to laws about notice are hogwash, IME. However, it might take about 10 days after tenants vacate to turn over the unit, so.

And I never put listings up anywhere but Craigslist because I never needed to. So if you decide to use some other service, know that if you're not looking at CL you're missing listings.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:50 PM on February 24, 2013

Lifelong seattle resident here, only ever lived in rentals. The short answer is, you don't. I'll give some advice though, Lets see...

-some people like pad mapper, I think it's useless. It very often shows less than half of what Craigslist shows for a given area. Craigslist is basically the index here.

-when you get to a place to view an apartment, ask the person showing you if they have any other units about to open up that aren't listed yet. One of the coolest places I ever lived wasnt even on the market yet, and I basically just agreed to wait a slightly extended time to sign a lease and lock it down. The answer to this is generally yes a lot more often than you'd think. Sometimes they even manage other nearby buildings. I've had friends go and look at an ok place, and be taken to be shown a nearby place that was awesome for only 50-100 more a month and just hasn't been listed yet.

-I like the airBNB idea if you can't just crash with someone you know here. You won't get anywhere that's a remarkable deal or a perfect fit while also being a decent price without having boots on the ground IMO. Every time I've found a place that jumped out at me and made me say "I want to live here!" It was swamped. It's not San Francisco/Brooklyn/NYC bad yet, but sometimes it really feels like they're working on it. I've been at places that once you saw them in person were depressing with deceptive ads and still had people heaping on applications and jumping at the landlord like puppies just because of the location. I haven't been to a single scheduled viewing where I didn't arrive to their being a bunch of other people in years.

-There's also a bunch to be said in those area for just cruising and looking for "for rent" signs, especially on smaller or older buildings. There's quite a few places in Seattle that seem to never bother to do more than put up a sign. Sometimes this rules too, since several of these places I've seen(or heard about) were well below market rate rents while also being awesome, and/or having unusual cool perks like a cheap furnished studio in the building friends visiting from out of town could rent by the night, etc.

-Most importantly, be prepared to inexplicably blow a place or two. As in find a place you like, fill out all the paperwork, get told you're accepted on the credit check/bla blah blah pending some kind of sign off by the owner or management company, then just ignored. This has happened to me more than once where I "succeeded" and then was just ignored like a first date gone wrong. I've heard of this happening to other people, but inversely never heard of it happening in other nearby northwest cities.
posted by emptythought at 3:10 AM on February 25, 2013

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