From Eliza French. Follow her on TwitterÂ @elizaenbref; email her atÂ eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Living inÂ Borderstan, near some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, often means sacrificing quality for location.
Leaky faucets, linoleum flooring and window AC units are the trade-offs for living within walking distance ofÂ bars,Â coffeeshops, aÂ farmer’s marketÂ and DC’s onlyÂ high heel race.Â Renters, by nature, need temporary housing, but that doesn’t mean we should all be counting down until the day our lease is up and we have another chance to find that elusive perfect apartment.
Renting can feel like a constant struggle in this high-demand market.Â Amy RoseÂ Dobson, editor of DC real estate blogÂ Curbed D.C., explained in an email.”ItÂ is still hard to find an affordable apartment in a desirable neighborhood because there is so much competition and not enough spaces,” she says.
It might not take an expert to figure that out, but it does help to have one say that rental prices might be easing up in the not-so-distant future.”Right now there are over 2,000 apartment units under construction to deliver in 2013 so the tight rental market should see some easing by the end of this year,”Â DobsonÂ added. But, be warned that she doesn’t “see a reversal in the current supply-demand trend anytime soon.”
DC real estate trends confirmÂ Dobson’sÂ view. An August 2012Â artilceÂ inÂ The Washington PostÂ promised a “renter’s respite” Â as thousands of new apartments whose construction had been put on hold during the recession were to be completed by the beginning of this year.Â A recent post onÂ DCÂ UrbanturfÂ noted: “The ever-growing supply of new apartments in the DC area seems to finally be catching up with demand. After years of increasing, rents are now dropping in many parts of the region.”
But, relief may still be a year or two away for some. The same post goes on to say, “rents did not fall everywhere, however. Capitol Riverfront (3.9 percent) and the sub-market that includes Penn Quarter, Logan Circle andÂ DupontÂ Circle [a.k.a. much ofÂ Borderstan] (2.5 percent) showed rent increases.”
Since apartments are still in scarce supply, renters need to be savvy in their pursuits. After the endless hours spent scouringÂ CraigslistÂ andÂ Padmapper, the countless open houses, the application forms and fees, most renters are desperate to finally move in somewhere â€” anywhere â€” before their current lease expires. We have all, wittingly or unwittingly, overlooked a fatal flaw in the apartment itself or with building management that has left us wondering how we ever thought we could live there.
The truth is, you never really know a place until you live in it. But, there are proactive steps renter’s can take to avoid some of the most common pitfalls of renting. Dobson recommendsÂ getting a copy of your credit report before the showing or open house and bringing it with you.”It shows you’re motivated to move in, speeds up the process, and slightly cuts down on the likelihood of your social security number being stolen,” she explained in an email.
Another tip fromÂ Dobson: When you first enter the unit, take notice of any overwhelming air freshener scent. It’s probably being used to mask something much more unpleasant. Once you decide you like the building,Â be on the lookout for unexpected fees when you talk to the landlord or leasing office. It might seem obvious to ask about parking space fees, butÂ DobsonÂ mentioned that less obvious costs, like bike fees and storage, often surprise tenants.
Other useful resources on renters’ legal rights includeÂ The Washington PostÂ classifieds’ F.A.Q.Â pageÂ and the District of Columbia’s Office of the Tenant AdvocateÂ website. There may be no such thing as a “perfect” apartment (although I’m personally holding out hope). Still, knowing what to look for in an apartment and building management make it much easier to find a place you want to call home.