Reply to "Moving to Seattle"

Evan Murnighan posted:

Hi All!  Just joined and really excited to be here!

Not sure if anyone has any thoughts, but I'm moving to Seattle (lived here 30 years ago - things have changed just a bit ).  I want to rent a house and have spent about 6 hours looking at various property management sites as well as the usual Craigslist, Zillow etc. with no luck. Does anyone have any good suggestions on a good resource (or resources) that worked for you?

Thanks so much!!

Mr. Murnigan,

Finding a rental in Seattle these days is about three things, really. While these might be part of rental-hunting pretty much everywhere, WHAT these things mean is different in Seattle than some places:

1) MONEY (of course). There is an awful lot here, and that skews everything. Those blessed with plenty of it can live close to downtown, in anything from 300sq.ft. micro-efficiency “apartments” to lavish multi-million dollar homes with jaw-dropping views and prices. Those not so elsewhere, generally. How much you can afford dictates:

2) LOCATION. Duration of commute to major employers, and the ability to see water from a residence dictates much of a rental’s perceived value these days. Hence, the longer it takes to get to major employment centers like the South Lake Union tech hub, Microsoft campus in Redmond, or the sprawling Boeing facilities, the cheaper the rent is, usually. And if you can see so much as a big mud puddle from a residence, expect to pay more. There are exceptions, in some of the areas I list below.

3) SPACE. The dollar-to-square footage ratio increases alarmingly the closer you are to anything generally desirable location-wise, like a major employer, waterfront areas, or boutique shopping and restaurant concentrations like Fremont (also a Google campus), lower Queen Anne, 1st & 2nd Avenues in the Belltown area and near Pike Place Market.

Answer these questions for yourself:

How much can I afford per month? Be realistic, and stick to your budgetary guns. Being house-poor is practically a fashion statement for working-class (read: non-six-figure-earning) folks here. Holding fast to a realistic budget will steer you away from trouble as you search, so be adamant!

Where do I expect to have to be, on a daily basis? And do I need to see the water?  Commuter, know thy commute. Be honest about your transportation resources and options. People often think they can get anywhere on a bike, forgetting that we’re as hilly as San Francisco and miserably rainy half the year. Also, if the budget doesn’t allow for that dream sunset over Elliott Bay with the Olympic Mountains in background, reassess.

What are my space requirements? If it’s just you and you’re not a hoarder nor require space for a dance studio, consider adapting to a smaller space. This will give you more options, especially if you need to be close to the action. If you’re a family man, want to have chickens or a big garden, or even just want quiet and privacy, you are going to need to look outside of the city and endure the commute that requires...unless you’re flush!

All that said, there are still interesting little communities within reasonable distance from the city that have remained mostly off the radar of the techie-yuppie crowds. Look to the foothills and mountain communities, like Carnation, Duvall, Fall City, Black Diamond and North Bend, and ferry-commuting island towns like Bainbridge, Clinton, Langley, Oak Harbor, and Vashon. These remain mostly quaint, quiet, clean, and much overlooked by inpatient millennials and urban hipsters, and they can offer good value and elbow room too!

A couple notes: Pets can make finding a place more difficult and hellishly expensive, with many places (especially corporate hive apartment complexes) charging huge deposits (often non-refundable) and adding insult to injury with “pet rent” as well, IF they allow pets at all. People also complain about “car rent” here, especially downtown, because many apartments do not give the tenants a set parking space with their apartment. Instead they “lease” the garage or lot space to the tenant for exorbitant rates, $200-$300/month or more! Watch for some crazy HOAs too. 

Lastly, I’d not discount Craigslist as a tool for your rental search, unless you’re looking for corporate apartment hive stuff. Those guys market themselves in many ways, Craigslist being only one, and most offer almost exactly the same thing anyway. I prefer to rent from private individuals, so Craigslist has been invaluable. It’s all about search terms and settings. Take the time to enter your rent limit and housing type at least, toggle the pets button if you have them, and use search words like “view” or “yard” to get closer to the mark. 

Hope this helps! Cheers, 

Brian Cito