What it takes to Rent an Apartment in Seattle

I was curious the other day about what it takes to rent an apartment commutable* to downtown Seattle right now (September ’17). I dug around on Craigslist, and here’s what I found.

How much are people paying for apartments in Seattle?

If you want to rent in Seattle, it will cost you. On average, a 1-bedroom costs $2000 a month. A fully furnished 1-bedroom in a downtown highrise with a gym goes for around $3500. An older apartment in Lower Queen Anne, with no washer dryer and no parking, goes for around $1500.

How early are apartments posted?

Most apartments on craigslist are available within a week of being posted, there are some that are posted a month in advance or more, but not terribly many. This means that if you’re looking near downtown, you’ll either have to convince your landlord to hold the apartment for you, or pay for a few extra weeks. That is, unless you’re willing to risk finding an apartment at the last minute.

How fast are listings being rented out?

Eight days on average. The median age of a post on Craigslist is one day.

Most listings are deleted in less than three days.

This probably has more to do with how property managers advertise listings than how quickly rentals move. Property managers at larger complexes repost their listings daily, deleting their old listings (thanks Suzanne for helping point this out). If we ignore all listings deleted within two days, the median life of a rental posting is eight days.

So if you see a place and you like it, move fast. And if you’re a landlord and no one has shown interest in your listing more than a couple weeks, it’s almost certainly priced too high.

*I defined “commutable to downtown Seattle” as within three miles of 98101. This includes Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Belltown, SLU, Downtown, Pioneer Square, Eastlake, Madison Valley, Sodo, part of Beacon Hill, etc. You can definitely find cheaper housing further away and still be commutable to Seattle, this was just my arbitrary definition.

Finding Off Campus Student Housing in Seattle

Here are some tips for finding off campus housing in the Seattle area. It’s based on interviews we did with former and current students UW following our housing survey earlier this summer.

When should I start looking?

Early, especially if you’re looking off campus, the housing market in Seattle is hot, landlords start “pre-leasing” in January or even earlier for housing for the following school year if you’re looking off-campus.

Where can I find listings?

What can I expect to pay?

It depends a lot on what kind of place you want. But, based on our survey, you should be able to find a room near UW for $500 – $800 a month. If you want a whole place, expect to pay much more.

I found a place I like online, now what?

Landlords usually want you to pay an application fee or a deposit. But there are a lot of scammers on Craigslist, and other online platforms, see here and here. The general advice is, don’t give the property manager any money until you’ve seen the place in person.

I can’t visit in person

Are you an international student, or transferring from out of state? If so, verify your listing with Roomlet before you hand over any money to the property manager. We’re here to protect you from scammers. Our service verifies that the listing is real and that the poster has access to the property.

About Us

 

Roomlet verifies rental listings. We verify that listings are authentic, that the poster is who they say they are, and that they have the ability to rent out space in their posting.

Renters

If you’re looking for a rental, you know that there are a lot of fake rental listings out there. They intend to steal your identity, and/or your money. If you’re relocating, it’s even worse. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not when you can’t visit the listing. Click here to read: 2017 Bay Area and Seattle Student Summer Sublet Research.  

Landlords

If you’re a landlord or a subletter, you’ve probably had potential tenants change their minds as soon as you ask them for any personally identifiable information. Verify your listing with us, so you can get more serious and trustworthy leads.

2017 Bay Area and Seattle Student Summer Sublet Research

  • Scammers make relocating hard
  • Student subletters are finding tenants offline instead of online a large percentage of the time
  • The UW summer sublet market is hot, so it should be easy to find tenants with a good posting
  • Landlord approval/support makes subletting much easier for students
  • Most listings are up within two months of availability, with many posted last minute
  • Students are paying between $500 and $800 per month in rent in the U-district

We posted two surveys this summer. The first was targeted at interns moving for summer internships, mostly in the Bay Area. We targeted the second at students subletting their rooms for the summer, mostly in the Seattle area. These surveys attempt to get at what the problems these two groups of people face and we learned a few things that are shared here.

Finding temp housing is hard

We surveyed 132 interns, mostly in the Bay Area, who were looking for housing for summer 2017. What we found was that, unless you were provided corporate housing, finding a place to live over the summer was hard. This seems obvious, after all the Bay Area is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. But we thought that having a housing stipend would help, and it did, but not much. Here’s how hard people without stipends rated finding housing on a scale of 1 – 5, with 1 being easy and 5 being very difficult:
barchart showing how difficult it is to find housing without a stipend
And here’s how hard people with stipends rated finding housing:
barchart showing how difficult it is to find housing with a stipend
Our survey indicates that price and location are very important, but by interviewing participants, we found something even more important. Trust.

Tenants are worried about getting scammed

Almost all of the interns we interviewed said they ran into multiple scammers. By scammer, they meant someone who did not have a real listing, who was after their money and/or identity. This is the problem that Roomlet will attempt to address.

What does the sublet market look like at the University of Washington?

Tinna wrote a great article here about the steps one should take to sublet a room. Here, I’ll stick to talking about the major takeaways from our subletting survey.

Many people are finding tenants offline

We only advertised our survey on Facebook, so it was no surprise that 54% of successful subletters said that they had found tenants through Facebook groups. What was surprising was that the second biggest source of tenants were offline friend referrals and social connections at 29%, followed by Craigslist at 10%.

It’s a seller’s market

Listings get a lot of interest, 53% of successful subletters received five or more responses for their listing. But on average only two of those people got to see the listing before it was let.pie chart
Most successful subletters took less than 15 days from when they started looking to find a tenant.pie chart subletter time to find tenant

You’re more likely to sublet if your landlord is supportive

Over 60% of successful subletters had some help from their landlord. Usually, the subletter finds a tenant, and then passes him or her off to the landlord to do a background check, get on the lease, and pay rent.

Security Deposits

Subletters didn’t tend to charge a security deposit to tenants, 54% charged nothing, the rest charged one month’s rent. This may or may not be justified, depending on how risk averse you are, since 93% of subletters reported no damage to their units.pie chart

When to post/when to look?

Most people, 66%, are posting within two months of when a room is available for move-in, with a surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, large percentage posted last minute or less than a month from when the listing is available.
pie chart

Pricing

Average rent in the UW area (for one student) is somewhere between $500 and $800.
pie chart

Everything You Need to Know About Sublet Your Room

Summer is upon us, and many students are struggling to figure out how to sublet their rooms. Apparently, nobody wants to pay double rent, and the subletting process can be as painful as finals. Based on our survey of 180 students, mostly from the University of Washington, 52% of you who have never sublet before, would sublet if it were easier. Based on conversations we’ve had with many of you who are in the process of subletting, here is everything you need to know about subletting your room.

Step 1: Make sure your landlord is on board.

Most landlords are okay with a room being sublet as long as you can find them a trustworthy tenant, but you should always check with them first, and make sure you get this agreement in writing. Your landlord will probably want the tenant to complete the same application process you did and add their name to the lease or a sublet agreement.

Step 2: Create your listing

A picture is worth a thousand words. A room with a nice photo is more likely to rent out than a room with a messy photo. Think about how you would perceive these two rooms, one that is tidy, with a made up bed; another one with unwashed socks all over on the floor and moldy pizza. Even if all the other features of the rooms are similar, people are more likely to choose the one with the staged photos. Imagine you’re going to post these photos on Instagram (yes, I mean add more light sources if necessary and add some filters).

(Photo source: ROOM DESIGN INSPIRATIONS)

(Photo source: Pinterest)

Step 3: Set the price

Take a look at how much other listings are going for in your area. Be honest about whether these units are more attractive or less and set your price accordingly. The less time you have to find a tenant, the more you’re going to have to lower your price. Most of the participants in our survey found a tenant in less than two weeks. If you still haven’t been able to find a tenant in two weeks, consider lowering your price.

Step 4: Learn how to market your sublet

After you have all these nice photos of your room, you need to start advertising like a pro. What do you think of a long paragraph compared to a brief list of information? It is definitely more straightforward for your tenant to catch key information if you list your room in the following format:

Looking to rent! – A Furnished Master Bedroom From 5/16 – 9/1.

  • Price: $800 (not include utility)
  • Location: 1234 56th Ave, Seattle WA
  • Size: 400 sqft for the room, 1300 sqft for the entire unit
  • Description: the Main bedroom in a 1b1b apartment. 2nd floor. Includes 2 friendly and easygoing female roommates.
  • Transportation: 10 mins walk to UW
  • Appliances: Wifi, Dishwasher, Dryer, Microwave, Oven, Refrigerator, Washer
  • Nearby: Grocery store, restaurants, shops, bars, movie, etc.
  • Parking: $100/mon.
  • Safety: The apartment is managed by UDistrict Square Apartments
  • Deposit: $200 (if needed)
  • Message me! 987-654-3210

Step 5: Spread the word

When you have your nice photo and description done, it’s time to spread the word. Here are some platforms that you should post on.

Craigslist

Craigslist is the most well-known and most active rental/sublet marketplace, which means that scammers also flock to this platform. You should be careful about the leads you get from Craigslist. Please read 5 Tenant Screening Scams and How To Avoid Them.

Facebook Groups

Find housing swap groups like University of Washington (UW) Housing, Sublets & Roommates on Facebook. Many schools have their own housing pages.

Word of Mouth

Just ask your friends. Let them know that you are subletting your room. If any friend’s friend is looking for a summer sublet, then that’s perfect. Also, it is safer to rent to a person that you have a connection with than just a random person online.

Step 6: Chat with the tenant

Once you post your listing, you’ll start getting questions from people who are interested in your unit. Just like when you shop for shoes, your room will not be their only option. Chatting with different tenants and answering the same questions can be annoying. In order to save time, create a “My Listing FAQ.” Anytime someone asks you a question, add that question to your FAQ so that you can send it over to anyone else who is interested in your listing.

Frequently Asked Questions – A cozy one bedroom close to UW

  • Do I have roommates?
    • Yes, I have two other female roommates. They are both quiet and clean.
  • Is the room furnished? If so, what furnitures does it have?
    • Yes. It is all furnished. I have a queen size bed, a desk, a TV and PS4
  • How far is the apartment to UW campus?
    • It is 15 minutes walking. Or you could take 72, 57, 11 buses for 2 stops.

Step 7: Verify the tenant.

You’ll want to pick a tenant is qualified to rent the room. Qualified means a clean criminal background and the ability to pay the rent on time. Oftentimes your landlord will want to do this part. The most common steps are to get a copy of their credit score, get copies of their most recent paystubs or offer letter, and do a criminal background check.

Step 8: Doing the showings

Be honest. if your oven is broken or your neighbor parties every Friday night, tell your tenant in advance. You don’t want to receive complaint messages or calls in the middle of your vacation from your tenant.

Do not do the showings yourself. Do it when your roommate is at home or you have a friend with you.

Step 9: Sign the paperwork

Make sure everything that you guys agreed on is on paper. For instance, whose responsibility if the TV is damaged. As mentioned previously, if your landlord approves your sublet, they’ll probably have a document for them to sign.

Step 10: Help your tenant to check in

This is very close successfully sublet your room. Go to CVS, get a nice card, write something like: “Thanks for subletting the room! Hope you have a lot of fun this summer!” This is a nice touch, and I’m sure, will make your tenant’s day.

If you can’t help your tenant check-in in-person, let say you’ve already left town, you can use a key exchange service, KeyCafe for instance.