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Inside the House

Rob Armsrong, RD House Real Estate and Property Management

By Rob Armstrong | Property Manager in Seattle, WA

Rental Guide: figuring out what you must have and what you definitely don't want in a new place

RD House Real Estate & Property Management has put together a really nice site that serves as a resource for rental house (and apartment) hunters.  It’s called the Rental Guide and is at www.seattlehouserentals.net.  Broken into three main topics, it takes you through tools to “Discover” -prioritizing the features you need, how to make a budget and a really detailed area info page; “Search” with more topical articles and a couple resources to search for available properties; and “Live” with articles and tips about general information- online banking, renters insurance, area information, etc.

The site is new, and it’s worth a look.  So as part of my regular blog series, I thought I’d review some of the most topical articles from the Rental Guide, to give an idea what’s there and how you might find it useful. 

Figuring out what you must have and what you definitely don't want in a new place is about taking the time to carefully consider your wants and needs, and your budget for them, as the first step to a successful search for a new place.  You probably have an idea of the major features you need- bedrooms, bathrooms, size, & location.  But what about others, like appliances, laundry, parking, pet policy, etc.  These are important features that we don’t always consider right away, which means you can spin you wheels tracking down a place, and realize when you get there that it’s not going to work.  Making a good list ahead of time also reminds you to ask the right questions when inquiring and viewing a property.

One good example of a feature that gets overlooked in first glance is a yard.  Some people cherish the extra space and enjoy exercising their green thumbs with gardening and landscape care.  So this would be something they find they really want in a rental home, and would make this a priority to look for.  Others specifically don’t want a yard- they don’t have the time or the inclination to worry about one, and if they did they might just kill it anyway.  This is also something they should make a priority to look for- to make sure potential places don’t have one!  Another example might be the age of the property- some people love old time charm and quirks; others would rather have brand new units with things like a never-had-dishes-in-it-yet sink.  Big difference to consider, and an important question to ask.

A couple of other good tips:

Don’t pick price before features.  The other elephant in the room when talking about a “want” list is budget.  A lot of people I talk to approach this as “I know how much I can spend, and once I find something in that price range, I’ll worry about the other details”.  But consider this: especially in this economy, if you think really hard about what you absolutely must have, and what you absolutely don’t want, perhaps your price range is different than you think it is.  For example, one of the biggest cost factors in a rental is the # of bedrooms.  For example, suppose you’re single and looking in the $1,200 range for a 2 bedroom unit because you want 1 bedroom, or 1 bedroom and a home office (effectively 2 bedrooms).  But what if you could find a 1 bedroom with a dining area or small den that would suffice?  This would save you a couple hundred dollars, which case you’d be looking on the $900-$1,100 price range.  If you think carefully about what your absolute priorities are first, your budget will be better served.

Choose carefully- features affect price. Of course, the flip side of the above is that, yes, every feature has a cost to it, which is why prioritizing them helps.  By choosing the things most basic to your needs, you’ll have a better idea what your bottom line really is, and when comparing units, your decision will be easier.  And, it sets you up for a more realistic search, because if you’re looking for a 3 bedroom in the city with a view and washer/dryer in unit, and your budget is $900.00, you’re going to spend a lot of time looking at units you can’t afford. 

Think of location as a feature, and be aware of general rents for the areas in which you’re interested.  This is really an extension of the above, but some people miss it.  Properties in high demand and desirable locations are more expensive when compared to like properties in other areas.  So, do some checking to see what general prices are for certain areas in order to help you prioritize the rest of your needs for a rental in that area.  You may find a great deal for a 3 bedroom unit with a view in the city, but you’ll be giving up parking, laundry, and size; if the location is a must have an the others aren’t, great,  If it’s not, you’ll want to look in other areas that have the features you really need.

To help you prioritizing your needs, the Rental Guide has a Features checklist that you can print to work from.

Next time, I’ll talk about the next step in the search process- how to create a realistic budget that won’t leave you eating top ramen on Saturday nights.  

About RD House Real Estate and Property Management:  We are a leader in relocation, in-town condo and executive Seattle rental properties, working with Microsoft, Amazon, Fred Hutchison Center, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom and others. Many of our listings have video blogs/tours, and can be found on our website at www.rd-house.com.


If you are a Corporate relocation specialist and in need of help placing clients or employees, please contact our relocation team at (206) 728-6063.

RD House Real Estate and Property Management

Leaders in Property Management

159 Denny Way #110

Seattle, WA 98109

(206) 728-6063


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