Getting an Apartment: The Next Step of Adulting

As a second year undergraduate student at Seattle University, I’ve lived on campus for what is thus far my entire college career. It wasn’t by choice; the school actually requires it (except for certain stipulations), but all in all, I don’t mind. Dorm life has served as a sort of transition experience, like adulting with training wheels; it’s taught me how to live with another person, how to be responsible for my residency, and introduced me to concepts like leasing, deadlines, and accountability. But as I near the end of my second year and approach my third, I feel ready to take the next step of independence: renting an apartment.

 

I’m lucky in the fact that my younger sister and I actually agreed that we wanted to move in together. A friend with whom she was going to move in was growing flaky, and so living with each other where we know the other’s financial situation helps to provide some extra stability; wondering whether or not my roommate will pay rent on time isn’t something I have to worry about. But setting my excitement aside, the journey to find affordable housing for two in Seattle (in a safe-ish location, nonetheless) has left me with some worthwhile insights.

  1. 1. Use verified sources

    When I was first thinking about apartment hunting, I began to see all the “Leasing now!” signs that litter the sidewalks of Capitol Hill. I was taking pictures of phone numbers, referring to their websites, but what frustrated me was how little information I could actually get. I had no sense of sizing or pricing, and it felt like I was blindly groping about. The idea of using craigslist was not an option for me because I require an amount of reliability when searching for something as serious as my future living space. I hit the jackpot when my sister recommended I use apartments.com for the search. The website does its best to verify all of the apartment and housing listings on its site, but it also reminds you to be wary of unverified listings to avoid to be scammed. It was incredibly helpful to be able to see listings in a specific area and filter my search with various criteria, such as how many bedrooms I was looking for, how many bathrooms, my price range, etc. You can even get as specific as whether or not there’s laundry on site for the building. I kept my primary results saved with the “favorites” feature so I could easily return to them later. You don’t need to necessarily use apartments.com, but I recommend something similar to it.

  2. 2. Keep organized

    While the “favorites” feature was helpful, I couldn’t see all of the information in one space and thus couldn’t compare and contrast my findings. So for the first time in my life, I willingly used an excel spreadsheet--and wow did I love it. I ended up organizing everything, listing information like the address, the rent, if utilities were included or not, the total rent including utilities, if laundry was on-site, if there was wifi, the square footage, the application fee, the security deposit, and a blank section to list tour dates. I cannot stress this enough: do not underestimate the power of taking the extra step to organize. If you’re someone who loves organizing information, get ready for the time of your life.

  3. 3. Check out the surrounding area ahead of time

    Before I scheduled any appointments to tour, I actually went ahead and took a Saturday to explore some of the neighborhoods around properties I was interested in. It was ridiculous how quickly most of my results were removed from my list. One property that I thought was nearly perfect was located in a distant suburban-ish neighborhood by train tracks with nothing else nearby. Another property was located in a really traffic-prone area, and I knew that if I was going to be commuting to school, that wasn’t going to work very well for me. Doing this saves you some time in that you won’t spend 30-40 minutes touring a building you know you won’t be applying for because the neighborhood doesn’t quite cut it.

  4. 4. Give yourself plenty of time

    The biggest thing for me as I was doing this was to know what my time frame was going to be. While school wouldn’t start up again until September, my mother reminded me that we would probably want to secure something in early- or mid-summer because of leasing cycles. Having that “deadline” in mind, I started to casually begin my search in late January. I was compiling information, ruling out results, figuring out my budgeting, etc. etc. and having the time to do that meant I wasn’t feeling rushed or stressed. When you rush, you leave yourself prone to signing on to what is not your best option or making mistakes that bite you in the ass down the road. Giving yourself enough time also applies to when you tour places. We found a day in which my sister was free and I didn’t have class until later in the day and began our adventure in the early/mid morning. Our first tour was a total bust; they had leased their last available apartment and didn’t bother to call me, so we showed up for a pointless tour. But in having extra time, we were able to spontaneously tour another building that fit similar criteria; it happened to be our second choice. We toured that building, fell in love, and spent the next few hours grabbing a security deposit, application fee, and filling out the preliminary application work. And finally, we were told it would take about 2-3 weeks for them to process it all. If we had been in a rush, that might not have worked for us, but because our time frame was so comfortable, we were able to do it and still have time available on the chance that we get rejected.

As I’ve been undertaking this next step, many of my peers have been, too, and the information that I compiled--while no longer as relevant to me--turned out to be really helpful to them. As an RA, I have also been exposed to the other side: students feeling anxiety around getting on-campus housing, not knowing if they’ll be forced into more expensive housing due to Seattle University’s chronic over-acceptance, feeling frustrated that their leases are overlapping and they’ll either need to pay double rents or experience a window of homelessness or uncertain housing conditions. And it’s given me a lot to think about.

 

A lot of this speaks to a serious housing crisis erupting not only in Seattle but in many urban areas. Wealth accumulation and the movement of big businesses into cities are pushing people out and in a way that’s detrimental and disruptive to many people’s lives. And it’s sad. It’s frustrating. Part of the thrill of growing up is getting to grab onto those “adulting” experiences, but I never quite expected to be confronted with the urban injustices this soon. Seattle is changing, the city is changing, and it’s changing faster than people can accommodate. So as you read through my insights, know that they don’t necessarily fully consider the changing landscape of city living. All I can say is best of luck to you and your search for housing, and may your journey never interrupt your pursuit of knowledge, work, and wellness.