The thing at the bottom of everyone's to-do list? Moving
It’s my expert opinion that winter is the best time to move in Seattle. I’m going to give you some reasons I believe this and some tips on how you can take advantage of the winter move.
Long before I became an expert on rentals, back when I used to manage an apartment building I noticed something interesting. Apartments do not rent in the winter time. They sit. For months. No matter how many craigslist adds I posted, the phone calls were nil.
Why is this?
Moving in the rain sucks. We love the sun (or at the very least, dry weather). No one wants to think about shlepping their boxes across town in the rain. Well, if you dare to adventure, you could end up with a sweet apartment at a lower rate. That’s right.
There are deals to be had in Seattle.
When apartments aren’t rented, the building loses money. It would behove most landlords to have a full building year round. This is true even if the apartment is rented below market rate. Empty apartments still require maintenance and upkeep. They still have to heat it. When I coach landlords I tell them to make sure their vacancies open in the spring or summer months. This is when you can get the highest rents and have the most number of people looking. For short-term renters, this is your best time to ask for a six-month lease. If you start the lease in January, your apartment will be available again in July. Win-win!
When is the best time to move?
Right now! Start looking today. November, December, January, and February are your target months. The sooner you can start looking, the better. Some business (Amazon) hire in big waves come January, so you will want to act fast. Inventory will be lower than in summer months, but don’t let this discourage you.
How does a landlord entice renters in the winter?
1. Lower rent: I’m not talking about a $500 per month drop but possibly $50 - $100 per month. $50 per month for 12 months is a $600 savings to you. They’ll often offer 1 month free.
2. Added amenities: Is the carpet in your future home at the end of it’s life. It can be replaced. Maybe there are really great hardwoods underneath. Landlords sometimes comp pet fees. They might even be willing to throw in new appliances or parking. In core neighborhoods, parking is going for $150 - $300 per month. Recently, I worked a deal where the landlord was willing to rent an apartment furnished for 6 months, free!
3. Gift cards: A lot of larger buildings will give you bonuses or gift cards for signing a long lease. It still looks like they are renting for a high amount on their books and you get to go on a shopping spree.
4. Longer leases: Like I said earlier, landlords get the best return in spring and summer months. They might be willing to set you up on a 15 or 18 month lease. WARNING - in the City of Seattle, leases longer than 12 months must be notarized. Call me for more info.
How do I cash in on these deals?
1. Be flexible. The best deals are often found where no one else is looking. Your walkability might suffer a little bit, but let's be honest, you’re looking for a deal. Also, the apartment might not be ready on the 1st of the month. Mid-month rentals are hard for most landlords to fill.
2. Look to new construction buildings early. When a building opens their vacancy rate is very high (duh). They have the largest staff they can muster to fill apartments as quickly as possible. Most will negotiate with you. If they won’t, move on.
3. Look for hungry landlords. Watch the market. This one will take some time. When you’re looking for apartments, look for the landlords that post multiple times per week. And look for buildings that come up over and over again. Multiple signs in the yard are your cue to call the landlord and start talking. These landlords most likely have more than one opening. They will often negotiate.
5. Go to open houses. Stick around the open house for a while. Go early and then come back toward the end. If the open is slow, let the landlord or leasing agent know that you know it’s going slow.
6. Ask. This is the biggest one. If you want a deal, just ask. Suggest that the landlord or leasing agent lower the rent or throw in something to make it worth your while. Be courteous, and kind. If someone likes you, they are more likely to give you something (duh). Most property managers are more worried about having apartments filled than the bottom line. This is where you can suggest favorable agreements for both sides.
7. Hire the Rent Guru. That’s right. You can hire me to do the hard stuff for you. I’m a certified negotiations expert and I’m here to help you find the best place for your budget. Anyone can look for an apartment on their own, but sometimes it’s easier with a friend.
There it is. You have all the tips for working the Seattle Winter Renter’s Market. Remember that this is a Renter’s market, if you are looking in the right places.
If you’d like more tips I’m available to talk. Let’s grab coffee or a drink. If you hire me to help you, I’ll pay. :-)