An assertive approach tempered with realistic goals will help streamline the process and ease your stress levels.

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Finding affordable housing is a tall order in Seattle. For all its beauty, quirkiness and career opportunities, the city’s cost of living is exorbitant. And thanks to a booming economy, low inventory and an increasing population, prices have nowhere to go but up. According to Zillow, the median monthly rent within city limits was $2,000 in April, and prices are expected to increase by 3.5 percent over the next year. If you feel lost in the process, here are a few ways to help you navigate the market.

Begin assertively

Leisurely browsing isn’t the best option if you’re intent on beating the rental market competition. “When something great and within your budget pops up on the market, the early bird gets the worm, at least with rentals,” says Jamie Pagel, a Seattle-based real estate broker. “As a renter, you need to be ready to go preview the rental, have your deposit and references handy, and submit the application as soon as possible,” Pagel says. Practice assertiveness by presenting yourself as a reliable tenant. Do your research. Landlords are likely to notice — and appreciate — the effort.

Consider the pet problem

Whether you have a furry friend or are interested in adopting one, pets can spell trouble for prospective renters. “Landlords are not big fans of pets, and for good reason,” Pagel says. A host of issues come with allowing pets into a rental property, including damage to the home, noisy behavior, and pet dander that can prove hazardous to neighbors and future renters — all of which a landlord may prefer to avoid. She suggests holding off on adopting a new pet and leaving your existing animals with friends or family.

Be realistic about your budget

Living within the city limits requires a certain realism when it comes to budgeting, and Pagel stresses the importance of flexibility. “The closer you are to downtown Seattle the more you should expect to pay, and if you can commute you will find your monthly budget will go further,” she says.

For Michaela Stubson and her fiancé, Tyler Ostrowski, even searching for an apartment in the suburbs has been financially challenging. “Our current struggle is that a one-bedroom apartment in the Bothell area costs at least $1,500 a month, not including utilities or a parking spot,” she says. “As a soon-to-be-newlywed couple, that’s not ideal. We’ve found that places are more affordable if they are past north Everett or Kent.”

Michaela Stubson and Tyler Ostrowski
Michaela Stubson and Tyler Ostrowski

Indeed, moving farther from the city might be the most economical choice, and Pagel suggests thinking in terms of urban development and future accessibility. “With the Link light rail coming soon, there will be a lot more options for renting and commuting,” she says. While you may not be able to swing the cost of a downtown rental, it’s worth it to consider other neighborhoods and Eastside suburbs that offer more space for a better price.

Work with a professional

Renting can seem like an informal arrangement compared to the concept of a 30-year mortgage, but real estate agents are prepared to help you find a home — whether you’re buying or not. According to Pagel, working with a rental company or broker can streamline home search process. “You will get credible information and they can take you to tour more than one home at a time,” she says. And, bonus: Unlike buying real estate, renters typically aren’t subject to fees. “The property owner usually offers a small fee to the professional for connecting the property and the renter, so you don’t need to worry about paying for the service,” Pagel says.

Renting in Seattle poses a unique set of hurdles, but the process is manageable with the right approach, one that Stubson takes in stride. “It can be pretty stressful, but it’s interesting and good to do the research on what we do and don’t want.”

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