Traveling The Backroads

Moving To Seattle: How To Rent An Apartment

December 5, 2016

This is a series about moving to and living in Seattle for the first time. Read this to discover what you need to know about moving to Seattle and finding resources once you arrive.

If you are one of the 130,000 people expected to move to Seattle in the next 10 years, let me be one of the first to welcome you to the Emerald city under the cranes –– and to becoming a Seattleite! As a continuation of my creativity, community and coffee post, I wanted to delve into the housing market in Seattle.

By no means is Seattle a cheap city, the economic growth fueled by companies here has sent rent and housing prices soaring. But compared to Los Angeles or New York, Seattle is considerably less expensive due to the fact that the city is still growing, food costs are lower and because you take home more of your pay (there are no state taxes on personal income nor is there tax on basic food).

The latest research numbers show that the average rent in the city center is about $1800 for an apartment and $1350 outside the city for same size space. I actually would say that an apartment in the heart of downtown is going to cost you closer to $2300 (with no parking) and something in a slowing becoming desirable neighborhood will cost you about $1500.

5 Resources To Find Apartments In Seattle

Finding an apartment or even a house that is cheaper than the median rent cost can be done. Most likely, you will have to compromise on square footage to get into the life-in-seattleneighborhood you want. Want to live in Capitol Hill and spend less than $1500? You can find a studio. Want to live in South Lake Union with a parking space for under for $2100 all in? It’s achievable! Here’s how:

  1. Visit Before You Move: Before you accept a job offer or move for any reason, visit the city first and make sure that you check out multiple areas in order to see where you may best fit. The U District is very different from Ballard, South Lake Union (SLU) is very different from Interbay. Never move sight unseen. I personally spent my first six months here living downtown on Westlake and 8th Avenue in SLU because I fell in love with a building I visited three times during the week I spent here looking. I explored Belltown and Pioneer Square as well. After about a month, I realized I should have gone further in seeing more areas than I had in my initial five-day trip. So take your time and search! Airbnb a place and hit the city.
  2. Craigslist is your best friend: The first place to look for apartments and housing of any sort is of course – Craigslist! Sublets, condo by individual landlords and highrises that are part of major developments all wind up here. Larger buildings often run specials and launch them here versus advertising them on their websites.
  3. Check the neighborhoods: The next best thing to do as you scout the housing on craigslist, is to look around the neighborhoods you are interested in on foot. Some of the best units are not advertised beyond a sign in the yard. Many regional management companies also put signs in their resident yards and they have websites with more listings, also not found on craigslist.
  4. Trulia for Rentals, Zillow for houses: Given the fact that Trulia and Zillow are based here, use them as a resource. If you are looking for established developments they work extremely well when you are on the go. Trulia is better for apartments, Zillow is better for houses.
  5. Check HotPads and Rent Jungle as well: If you are looking for harder to find places in Beacon Hill, Georgetown, the Central District or anywhere else that’s starting to get hot. I often find that HotPads and Rent Jungle have tapped into other platform APIs and can pull listings that I don’t find other places. They are worth a check because many well-priced gems will stand out immediately.
  6. Google Like A Native: A simple search for the area you are looking to rent in, combined with the terms “property management” will bring up a Google Maps feature showing where these companies are located. If you don’t know the area, use “Seattle” as your general location term. Clicking on map locations and getting to their websites often reveals really affordable listings (studios under $1095, one bedrooms under $1295, and two bedrooms under $1695 with affordable utilities) that you would only find walking through a neighborhood.)

While the cost of housing is one the rise, renters are by no means priced out of the market. It just takes a little bit more research to find what you want to fit your budget.

Other Housing Search Tips

Before I conclude this post, I think it is also important to note negotiation and rising neighborhoods are a big factor in choosing where to live. 

Negotiate with landlords: As you search, make sure you price compare buildings and save the ones you like best. If you are going with a larger leasing company, you can use the nearby pricing to help sweeten the incentives your new digs may be offering you. All bigger companies offer you concessions such as one or two months free or no deposits if you work for Amazon or Microsoft. They want to fill apartments so do not sign blindly.move-to-seattle

Consider lesser known neighborhoods: Like anyone moving to a new place or city, you probably want to be in the heart of the action. While it is great, Seattle is small and that feeling can wear off faster than Los Angeles or New York. I would recommend looking outside the city center areas as well. Columbia City and Beacon Hill to the South are getting hot. They are also located off the train lines and you can easily access the city. You can also go north to Mountlake Terrace or Lake Forest Park. Recently my assistant and her boyfriend found a two bedroom right on Lake Washington for $1600 and had two free parking spaces. Not being city-centric saves you hundreds of dollars per month that can be put into outdoor adventures or new hobbies, I promise you will develop.

The Eastside rocks too: After my short stint in Seattle, I moved to Redmond. As a girl who loves wine, horses and exploring, this was a no brainer. I live in a brand new building that is a short walk to everything I need day-to-day. I drive my car less (because I wanted to keep a car) and I spend $500 less per month living here versus South Lake Union. The Eastside is a pretty awesome place as well. If you work on that side, I highly recommend you  live on that side unless you want to 1-hour plus commute, tolls, and additional parking fees.

Overall, assess the amenities you want in your new home. Seattle’s metro area gives you the ability to try living in a way you haven’t lived in other cities. Whether you want to live in a state-of-the-art high rise or you want to test your inner urban gardener in a small house with land outside the city and commute to work, it is all doable. Happy Housing Search!