Where to Search for Rentals in Seattle

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Seattle Bubble regular “perfectfire.” Thanks for taking the time to put together such a useful guide! Also be sure to check out this related post from February: How To: Use Craigslist & RSS to Find a Great Rental

My wife and I just signed a contract on a rental house after searching for about a month. It was stressful and difficult because the rental ad space is so fractured. There are smatterings of listings all over the place. Some listings are at several different places, some at just one. A lot of listings aren’t deleted when the house is of the market. The biggest source of listings has an awful, awful search experience. A lot of landlords want to hide the location of their house for some reason.

Anyway, I have a friend that is also looking for a rental house so I sent this email advice to them.

Go to Apts/Housing for rent, type in “Bellevue” as your search criteria, put in you min and max monthly rent and select a minimum number of bedrooms and hit search. You’ll be presented with a list of recently listings. Scroll to the bottom of the page and there will be an orange icon that says “RSS”. Click on it and you’ll be given a view of those listings in an RSS feed reader. There should be an option to subscribe to the feed. Once you are subscribed you can check the feed every so often for new listings. I checked it 4 or 5 times a day because the good deals go fast. I hate craigslist so much. They have a field for whether the place allows cats or dogs, but they don’t even require listings to put in a location so you get tons of listings that are in Bellevue, Redmond, Renton. Which means it is in Renton (take the least desirable of the locations they list and that’s where it is).

Craigslist Housing Wanted:
Craigslist has a “housing wanted” section where you can put up an ad requesting a place to live. 19 times out of 20 responses will be for houses that aren’t even in the area you specified (“My house isn’t in the boundaries you might want to consider my house in Olympia.”) and 3 out of those 19 will be starving real estate agents trying to get you to buy an overpriced debt trap. However, I did get a response from someone that said they wanted to rent their house out but were afraid of renters not taking good care of it so they had it up for sale, but since we sounded so nice they would consider renting it to us. The house was way bigger and nicer than we could ever afford and I told them so, but it got me thinking. Equal housing laws prevent landlords from denying housing to people based on certain criteria. By not putting up an ad and only shopping the house around to certain people seem to be good tenants the landlord can have whatever biases they like possibly without violating any laws. One time we viewed a house just before 4 single guys viewed it and the owner said he would much rather rent it out to us, but he really has no choice due to the laws. So by putting up an ad you might be able to snag a nice house for a good price.

This is this is the site that the Seattle PI and Seattle Times refer you to for rental listings. Put in your search criteria and hit GO. Above the search results there will be an RSS icon so you can subscribe to these search results too. This site has very low volume so I only checked it once a day.

Another rental search site. Do a search and subscribe to the RSS feed. I only checked this one once a day.

This site aggregates searches from several different sites including NWapartments and I think HotPads so you could just use Oodle and not check the two above, but I was paranoid that I wouldn’t see new listings as soon as they were posted so I still checked them. Again do a search and subscribe to the RSS feed. I checked this once a day.

The Bellevue Reporter refers you to this site. Search and subscribe to the RSS feed. It is very low volume and even includes some commercial property.

Windermere Property Management:
Their site just searches the MLS like any other real estate broker’s site, but their searches seem to find properties way before other sites even when other brokers are the ones that listed the property it will show up on Windermere first. Also they have this neat search here where you can draw a box on a map rather than just specify “Bellevue” (which comes up mostly with properties in Lake Hills and south of I-90) so your search results will more often than not be actually in the ward. Additionally, you create an account to save your search in and you can have them send you email whenever a new property matches your search criteria.

This is how we found the house we’re in now and we were the first to contact and view 4 or 5 houses this way. When you are viewing a listing there is a button for “Contact Information” however if Windermere isn’t the listing broker it will just give their office number which you can call and they’ll tell you who the listing agent is and what their number is. If you want to be really fast (since they aren’t the listing agent they don’t care much so they may not get back to you as soon as possible) you can look at the bottom of the listing and it will say “This listing appears courtesy of: Skyline Properties NW”. Then you can contact the brokerage directly and hopefully they will be more motivated to get in touch with you as soon as possible. The bonus of finding a house through the MLS is that it means they have a property manager who (hopefully) has a clue and so you probably won’t have to deal with the owner who is usually dumber than toast.

Protocol Property Management:
Some property management company that doesn’t use the MLS and has an awful static webpage of listings that they update daily. This is really low volume, but if it shows up here it probably isn’t showing up anywhere else. The way I found this (and another independent property management “company” that I subsequently lost) is I saw a listing on craigslist that linked to pictures or more info on their website. When I noticed their site was for a property management company in the area I bookmarked their listings and started checking it regularly. If you ever see a listing that is linked to a small company make sure to bookmark it because it’s likely that they usually don’t list their homes anywhere but their obscure unknown website so you’ll have first (and only) dibs on anything they list.

Coldwell Banker Bain Property Management:
They have an MLS search, but it’s not as good as Windermere’s but some times their listings have more visible information that Windermere’s. Most notably they show the “Cats and Dogs” field. You can search and then bookmark the results page and then check it once in a while, but it’s not going to have anything a Windermere search doesn’t find. They also have a “Featured Properties” section with some (usually expensive) listings that don’t seem to be listed on the MLS at all. I checked this once a day even though it never had anything worthwhile on it. I just checked right now and there’s 3 times as many properties on it in Bellevue as I have ever seen so it looks like the selection is getting better.

Drive around:
If you have a specific area you want to live in you might want to try driving around and noting “For Rent” signs. Not much selection but there are a few that don’t seem to advertised in any other way. Also tell your friends that you are looking and if they ever see anything they can tell you. We told people at our church and word spread around pretty quickly. We got 3 or 4 tips from friends that we wouldn’t have otherwise found.

One of my friends suggested this. We only did it once because it requires buying something and the one time we did it, there was only one listing in it near our area. I think most ads in the newspaper are also on NWapartments. It’s possible though that some old folks don’t know of the internets and still think the paper is the way to advertise. If you find something in there maybe you have a good chance of being the only interested party.

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About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.