Secrets for apartment hunting in Seattle?
September 27, 2014 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in any resources and/or tips you might have for finding an apartment (preferably for rent by owner) in the current Seattle rental market.

Hi! I have been living in Seattle for several years, and am looking to move from a shared house to a studio or 1 bedroom place for myself. When I first moved here I used Craigslist to find a place, with great success. However the rental market seems to have exploded in the past few years, and suddenly Craigslist seems full of spammy ads for crap micro-studios and overpriced new builds. I have also tried apps like Padmapper and Radpad, but those seem to just regurgitate Craigslist stuff with some added property management company listings. I understand this may just be a reflection of what is currently out there for rent, and I may just have to put in the time to slog through it all.

But! I am hopeful there are still decent apartments out there that just never find their way onto these sites, and that maybe there are alternative sources for apartment listings out there that I am not taking advantage of. More local neighborhood websites or blogs? Listings collected by local organizations that may be publicly available if asked for? Good bulletin boards in coffee shops? Just pounding the pavement in neighborhoods I'm interested in looking out for 'For Rent' signs?

My preference is for a mother-in-law apartment, duplex/triplex, or even an apartment above/behind a shop that is rented out by the owner directly, as this is what I have had in the past and it has worked out well. I am also open to short-term sublets, as that would give me more time to find a permanent place. I suspect these types of listings might not make it on to the major listing sites. Or maybe I'm kidding myself and these types of places are really just not out there? Thanks for your help!
posted by aiglet to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there is any secret to it, the market is just crazy (for buying and renting) and luck is a major factor in finding something. There's a ton of different websites listing apartments for rent in Seattle but there's a good chance they all have pretty much the same data and are just scraping it from other sites, ie. craigslist. I would guess your only hope of finding something for rent that isn't posted online would be via walking/driving through neighborhoods you like and looking for "for rent" signs. This might be your best bet for getting a little MIL or apt above a shop. It's an agonizing process for sure but remember, the people that managed to score an apartment in this market were just in the right place at the right time; eventually you will be as well.
posted by bizwank at 3:05 PM on September 27, 2014

Ask your friends. Let EVERYONE in your social network know that you're looking for a place, and what specifically you're looking for. Great places get snapped up before they ever make it to market.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

mollymayhem has basically the only secret. a lot of times i know of a unit being open in my building before they would have listed it.

and, lately, the units have either been empty and refilled so quickly that it had to have been word of mouth, or the new neighbor i talked to saw it posted at say, 11am, and replied at like 11:15, viewed it the same or the next day and moved in a couple days later.

it's become san francisco like with that. Ditto on the "you better have all your paperwork right there".

there's many buildings that never list on craigslist and only ever put up a sign. i also used to live in a place that until after i moved out, had never advertised on craigslist and had just been word of mouth since like, the 80s. One of the top pieces of advice i ever got on this was just "walk around weird side streets of the neighborhood and call EVERY sign"

Or maybe I'm kidding myself and these types of places are really just not out there?

They are, but they basically only ever rent to friends-of-friends or whatever. Everyone i know whose had an odd space like what you described got it because they knew someone. Very rarely have i heard "we just found it on craigslist!". The closest i ever came to having a quirky space like that, was by calling a number in a window and i ended up meeting the like, 90 year old owner(whose son cockblocked me, but anyways).

For what it's worth, the way i got my current last-reasonably-priced-place-seemingly-in-existence apartment was by searching for mis-spellings of neighborhood names, and stuff like "one bderoom" without setting the size or price brackets on craigslist to find improperly and not fully filled out listings. I still had to catch it within an hour or so of being posted, and barely got it. And i think the only reason i did is that the neighbors had no idea it was ready to rent because the previous tenant had destroyed the place and they had drug their feet on restoring it.
posted by emptythought at 3:25 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding Mollymayhem.

When I was really looking for a place, my only hope was this apartment that had a number I could call on the craigslist listing, so I could actually speak to someone and schedule a visit *right then* and not have to wait for someone to email me back.
posted by hellojed at 5:46 PM on September 27, 2014

I live in San Francisco which I suspect is similar to Seattle (although SF might be worse). The best thing that we ever did was move in December. Nobody wants to move in December so there is less competition and the landlords are more flexibl. In the place we're in now (moved December 2013), we even got the landlord to come down $100 on the rent.
posted by radioamy at 6:03 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

. One of the top pieces of advice i ever got on this was just "walk around weird side streets of the neighborhood and call EVERY sign

I've rented in several markets across the US, including now Seattle, and this is the best advice for finding places. Legwork, lots of legwork and looking. Actually on-the-ground looking.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:25 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, consider 'less popular' neighborhoods in Seattle, like Rainier Beach or Othello.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:08 PM on September 27, 2014

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