Over the past two weeks, I have seen many, many apartment units in Seattle. After much searching and deliberation, I've finally settled on a brand new apartment in the Belltown neighborhood, and it's spectacular (the photo is above is a view from the rooftop deck). But even though I'm happy with my ultimate choice, this was a long, involved process that I'm not eager to repeat. No place I looked at was completely perfect; each one involved a series of trade-offs that I had to continually assess, as I decided whether or not I wanted to commit to spending tens of thousands of dollars on the property over the course of the next year.
At the end of this process, there were two finalists, each of which I made three visits to, frequently with friends so they could help me evaluate. It's always been weird to me how blithely people approach things like car buying and apartment renting, often committing after a simple 5-minute visit. You're about to spend like $30,000 on this thing that you're going to have to live with/in for the foreseeable future. Why not perform some painfully thorough due diligence?
In order to expedite and organize the process, I frequently shot videos of each location, which was especially helpful when trying to recollect the property later. Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd share a few of them with you. You may find that they provide an insight into the Seattle rental market. It feels kind of weird for me to post these videos, because they contain specific locations in them and I almost lived at some of these places. Alas, they were not to be.
I was initially totally taken with Lawrence Lofts in Capitol Hill. The view is just incredible. However, after a further visit with my friends (seen briefly in this video), they convinced me that the amount of square footage, the total lack of significant closet space, and the open-bedroom format did not justify the asking price of $1975:
Another strong contender was a location called Harbor Steps, located right near the bustling Pike Place market downtown. It is hard to describe how amazing the view is. Breathtaking. The units were also large and spacious. The biggest downsides come from the location; it's located in a sprawling complex with thousands of other residents, and it's right in the heart of one of the busiest areas in Seattle, with tons of tourists everywhere all the time. Parking is also a whopping $210 per month, which doesn't get you your own reserved space. That is unacceptable in my book.
One of my finalists was Citizen apartments in Capitol Hill. Like Lawrence, the apartment complex is totally brand new. I was particularly fond of this unit, which had a ton of space (nearly 800 square feet) and had a decent south-facing view. However, the amenities were not great (no fitness center, with the nearest one half a mile away), and noise from the highly trafficked street below also made the deal potentially unappealing. Parking was $175, slightly higher than in many of the other places I saw, though obviously not as high as Harbor Steps. Nonetheless, I was nearly certain that this was going to be the place until I found my current apartment.
For comparison, here's another unit in Citizen that has slightly less space, but with a courtyard view as opposed to a city view. This unit was $140/month cheaper than the above unit. Is the downgrade in view worth the downgrade in price?
One commenter pointed out that it was "gauche" for me to be occasionally evaluating the property in front of the actual rental agent, something you can hear a bit of in the videos. On the contrary, I think it provided some refreshing honesty. Imagine being a rental agent and showing dozens of people your apartment units for 9-10 hours six days a week (including weekends, when it's most busy). Most people are totally poker-faced about what they think about a unit, and often say nothing until they are talking about it on the car ride home. The process can be frustrating and trying for the agent, who is just trying to do a good job and has nothing to go by. When people are actually honest about their concerns in this process, it's a better experience for everyone.
HUGE THANKS to my friends Sarah, Megan, Audrey, Laremy, and Laura for helping me to navigate this treacherous process. Big thanks also to my rental agent, Kim Reidy, who was an invaluable guide throughout.
Posted by David Chen Wednesday, May 16, 2012 8:02 AM