After spending the last few months looking for a new apartment to rent, I have learned two things: 1) Rent in Seattle has skyrocketed and 2) Everyone is looking for a new apartment to rent.
I went to an open house where 20 other people were milling about, blatantly sucking up to the elderly landlady. After filling out the application and touring the place, I wanted to leave. But no one else was leaving. So I had to stay. Because everyone else was staying. In the end, I didn't get the place.
And I am not the only one having this experience. Seattle's Ian Shuler and his girlfriend finally just rented a place after a year of searching.
"Oh, it's awful. You're like, I'm going to be smart and get to this house 20 minutes early and there's already 20 people there and they're all talking about their strategy. Seattle is filled with beautiful Type-A personalities. Everybody knows what they want and they're so competitive. And it takes, honestly, that that kind of personality, I think, to be on top of it."
Jessamyn McIntyre spent her summer apartment hunting.
"It's out of control! I don't understand the Amazonites or the Googlites and all these people are descending upon the city like locusts. I'm expecting a call back. It's like going on Match.com and putting your line out there for dates and nobody calling you back."
There is a reason for this madness. Seattle Rental Group's Kim Reidy:
"This last eight months or so we've been seeing so many of the big employers bringing in people. We're seeing about 800 people moving here a month, for just relocation. Not to mention the people who are already looking for places themselves, that are locals. So it's become quite competitive."
She says the average price for a 650 square foot, one bedroom, apartment in Seattle, not including parking or utilities, is $1700.
"I would say in the last year we've seen probably rental prices go up about two to four hundred dollars, depending on the age of the building as well as area," Kim says. "Anything in new construction, you really can't get into a one bedroom for under $2,000. People are coming here from all over the country and we're getting into the top five most expensive cities."
Kim says people are going to great lengths to make themselves look desirable.
"We're seeing a lot of people now putting together family resumes, resumes for their pets. Just to kind of try and make them more competitive in the rental market, for a landlord, to stand out. So they'll put together a nice package explaining where they're moving from and how much they're making. Maybe a cover letter."
Even Jessamyn jumped onto the landlady brown nosing bandwagon.
"I bought one woman a plant because I wanted to rent her house. I thought that it would go so beautifully on the porch. She never called me back. I followed up so many times! I called and told her how lovely her house was. Yeah, I bought her a plant. I hope her new [renters] killed it."
Ian says it's hard to know what a building manager is looking for.
"We play games. Does it sound bad to say 'my girlfriend?' Should I say 'my partner?' Should I just say that we're getting married? 'When are you getting married?' And you have no plans for that. So it's funny, you play all sorts of games. Who are we when we walk into this house here?"
Normally I sniff at all the new, high rise apartment buildings going up around the city, unhappy with the homogenous architecture and the fact that my favorite coffee shop in the old, brick building was knocked down in order to build it. But now that I know how little supply and how much demand we have for housing, I'm feeling like these new buildings are our only hope for keeping rent affordable.
"There's one building in Capitol Hill that rented 45% of the building before they even opened their doors for occupancy," says Kim.
Kim says Capitol Hill is by far the most popular neighborhood, and with many new projects on the way, Ballard is hot on it's tail. She says West Seattle and more northern neighborhoods like Greenwood are still more affordable.
There's also a program called Homes Within Reach that gives big breaks to rent in new buildings, if your income qualifies.