Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

18 responses to “Where to Search for Rentals in Seattle”

  1. masaba

    I had a situation about a year ago that made me wonder about equal housing laws.

    When my wife and I were dating, we looked at a home in Phinney that we wanted to rent. When we told the owner that we wanted to rent it, she said, “Well, we have several other people that are going to look at it today and we will get back with you.” I asked her if we were the first to view the house because I was pretty sure that the law would back me up in that if someone is offering a rental for X and I offer X to rent it, then they must rent it to me if my background check looks clean. This woman wanted to “show” the rental to a bunch of people, then select the tenant that she thought would “work the best.”

    It hacked me off for a few days, but I figured it wasn’t worth my time to really do anything about it. She rented it to someone else, and I definitely didn’t sweat it since we found a similar place for a little cheaper within a few days.

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  2. laxtosnoco

    Great advice all-around. The last two times I’ve looked for rentals I started with craigslist and big property management company searches, but eventually found places through a for-rent sign while driving to tour other properties. For whatever reason, the non-advertised places always seem to be cheaper and nicer.

    If you’re searching for a place and not using RSS feeds you should re-evaluate; it makes identifying new properties much easier and the good places tend to go fast.

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  3. softwarengineer


    I heard from a professional tennant a good idea that helps the landlord too: Offer them a verbal [or written] stability lease.

    Landlords clearly don’t want bad tennants and higher rent rarely pays for damages and empty units; so make a deal with ‘em….don’t raise my rent and you get the stable “Tim” and his family for years, that keep the place from ruin and pay their rent on time.

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  4. Eastsider
  5. Joel

    Best thing about the new place that we found is the property manager. An actual real-life, honest-to-goodness property manager. Someone who cares about the house and not just a monthly rent check. Someone that knows land-lord tenant laws, or at least knows that they exist and where to look them up.

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  6. Joel

    Aboda and Winderemere Northwest properties are already on the MLS. I bet Jim Kennedy’s and MacPherson’s listings are also on the MLS. I think Brink and T-Square have all of their listings on HotPads. The other two might have listings that aren’t found anywhere else. Good finds!

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  7. Bella

    Looking for “For Rent” signs is definitely the way to go – people who put up signs generally do so before doing Craigslist, if they do anything else at all, thus there is less competition.
    Another way to win – get your credit report before you even go to look. Make copies of it for the landlord, that you can hand to them when you meet, should you decide you really want to live there. That way they have a good idea of whether or not you are qualified, and it shows that you are organized, prepared and responsible, and therefore, a good choice.
    Additionally, if you can, offer to give them a deposit on the spot. Being able to hand them money right then and there, again, shows that you are responsible and it saves them worrying about whether or not their new tenant will need a lot of time to scrape up all the $$ you need to move in. At least that gives them something as a starter fund.

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  8. redmondjp

    Good advice, Bella, although I disagree with you on paying a deposit on the spot unless you are SURE that the individuals you are handing the cash over to really are the legal rentees.

    There are plenty of rental scams out there where somebody else pretends to be the owner (of an empty house, say a foreclosure), places an ad on CL, collects a bunch of deposits from potential renters, and then disappears.

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  9. Bella

    Good point, @8. I guess the only time I had the opportunity to do that and was prepared to, the landlady lived next door, so I was pretty sure that when they pulled out the keys, locked up the rental and then pulled ‘em out again to unlock their place, they were probably really who they said they were.

    Of course, don’t pay in cash – pay with a check you can cancel – and always get a receipt!

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  10. robroy

    We answered an ad for a house for rent just north of Factoria mall back in 2000. When we got within a block of the house we saw a sign for another house for rent. We viewed the one we had come to look for and then viewed the other.

    We ended up renting the one the sign pointed to. We are big fans of this, especially since the signs are all over the place now. No doubt about it, a lot of people are trying to rent their houses.

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  11. Jimbo

    Congrats on the new diggs and thanks for the info!

    Just curious if you wouldn’t mind sharing what your monthly rent is vs. what your ownership costs would have been had you bought. Also, what part of Bellevue?


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  12. John

    Many landlords don’t follow the equal housing laws. It is their properties after all. Who wants to rent to someone who looks like a slob or smells like crap? Unless the place is already a dump…

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  13. Joel

    The place we found is in College Hill. As for comparing to buying, that’s kind of hard. Zillow put the value of the house at around $540k, but I think that’s way too high. Here’s a house in the same neighborhood. Almost the same size house and lot and built the same year. Overall the house and yard look a little nicer, but it is backed up to 140th which is a busy street. I think it would be fair to say their values are roughly the same.

    At $510k, 3% down 6.25% FHA loan would be $2045/month for principal and interest. Assume tax benefit is offset by property taxes. Maintenance at 1% of purchase price or $425/month. $55 per month more than renter’s insurance for homeowner’s insurance. It comes out to $3525/month. That’s more than double our rent of $1600/month. Even if the place is overpriced by $60k and I overestimated maintenance by a lot I’d still have to pay over a $1300/month premium to buy.

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  14. shawn

    I got a nice condo rental from craigslist, advice from Tim. But CL is hard to sort, so get a CL reader, that helped me a lot. With this condo I get more space for less cash.

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  15. Advice from a landlord

    The Tim: Great advice. I only advertise on craigslist and signs. One rental we had went on signs alone. Signs are a little frustrating, though, because the callers are often dead-end (neighbors, curious lookie-loos). I’m starting to post the craigslist ad with the sign to screen out the most common questions so only serious inquirers will call. Very strong interest still…100+ callers for a very charming Ballard duplex 2 bed/1bath at a reasonable rent.

    Masaba @ 1: The law doesn’t specify that landlords have to take applicants first come, first served. A landlord can legitimately sort through applications to see who presented the best overall package in terms of employment, rental and credit history before making any offers to any of them. They just can’t discriminate based on protected classes.

    softwareengineer @ 3: Good advice. We like long term tenants too. We keep rent low and turnover down.

    Bella @ 7: From the landlord’s perspective, seeing a person’s credit report when they walk in the door screams “desperate” and makes me wonder if there’s something shaky the applicant is trying to smooth over, like “I don’t have a job yet.”

    The best possible applicant will have verifiable income, good employment history, happy landlords that verify good rental history, great credit, and no criminal background. I can overlook credit if the employment and rental history are strong, because it speaks to me loudly if someone shows me they can afford the place, keep a job, pay their rent on time, and take care of the place…that tells me what our relationship will be like with this tenant.

    Make sure you and your roommates have already discussed what kind of housing you are looking for and are in agreement. I have had too many groups of 3 or 4 roommates look at a house and waffle back and forth over whether they want it or not and, in the end, these people usually back out of any application or screening process. I’d rather deal with people who know what they want.

    You should be prepared to completely fill out an application and pay the credit report fee on the spot. You’d be surprised at how many people treat it just like dating and say they’ll call you when they take a blank application and walk out, but if they don’t leave money and a completed application I never hear from them again. I absolutely do not begin processing an application if the fee has not been paid. No way. Step 1 of the process is checking credit, and I get charged for every credit report I ring up.

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  16. Ben W.

    Definitely check out next time. It’s the craigslist listings displayed on a google map. Really great stuff, I’ve used it for my last 3 moves.

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  17. It’s a Great Time to Rent | Seattle Bubble — News & discussion about real estate & the housing bubble in the Seattle area.

    [...] another new site to add to your list of where to search for rentals in Seattle: Zillow. Zillow announced yesterday that they have added rental listings to their [...]

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  18. Megan

    I’m sure everyone has heard this already, but just for more anecdotal evidence- there really are lots of scams on Craig’s List so just be careful. I emailed about a property today that seemed too good to be true, and it was. The landlords were “missionaries in Africa” and the rent was so low (about half of expected) because they “just wanted to find someone to treat the house as if it were their own and weren’t looking to make money”. Not shockingly, they thought I sounded like a good renter and only needed me to western union them $600 security deposit and they would mail me the keys and rental agreement. Thankfully my IQ ranks above dirt.

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