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Rental Report: Where Do I Start My Search?

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 12/17/2013, 10:50am  ET

Rental Report

Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

One statement we hear more often than most is, “I don’t know where to start.”

Moving to a new town is overwhelming and moving to D.C., where apartment hunting is like a competitive sport, can be downright exhausting. With so many choices, an apartment search can quickly take on a life of its own where the next apartment looks just like the last.

Before you hop in the car, or spend countless hours researching on the internet, take a minute to sit and really think about what is important to you in your next home. By outlining your priorities, you can establish a strategy to narrow down your search and minimize wasted efforts.

When helping renters find a home, we generally like to start by breaking an apartment search into three categories: price, quality and location. You can usually expect to get two of the three, and renters need to decide which two factors are the most important to them.

Location – Location is a great place to start because it is often the most important to the renter before they discuss price. Each person has different interests and tastes, and identifying these helps us to guide people to the right area. A friend might say, “Chevy Chase is great because you will be really close to D.C.” Chevy Chase is great, but if the renter is someone who prefers a more urban environment, then Chevy Chase might not be the best choice. Why not try Bethesda, where you can still hop on the Metro and be in D.C. in just a few stops?

Price – This isn’t always secondary, but people are often willing to go up a little in price in order to get a better location, especially if they factor in proximity to Metro/bus or major highways, walkability, and the quality of life. But with the average price of a 1-bedroom apartment in Bethesda hitting $1,800 or more, some renters are going to have to compromise on something, as that is not a reasonable budget for many people.

Quality – When we talk about quality, we don’t necessarily mean being doomed to a dark, windowless basement. Quality includes size, amenities, and, of course, finishes. Giving up new appliances and a pool might afford the renter a bigger apartment in a better location within his or her budget.

As stated above, we prefer that our renters narrow down a few neighborhood choices because most neighborhoods are going to have a variety of options of varying quality at varying price points. But try to be open to suggestions as well. There may be a few similar areas that you have not thought about that have more options that come closer to your ideal apartment. Enlisting help of an agent may help you hit the apartment trifecta: Price, quality AND location.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.