Apartment Chat

Rents May Be Moderating, but Do the Math

By Sara Gebhardt
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page T11

Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.

Q Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but apartment rates in the District seem to have stabilized, with top-price buildings offering two months' free rent. Also, there seems more of a range, with some as low as $760 and others near $900. -- Washington

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A Rates are not skyrocketing at the moment, but they're not necessarily going down, either. Washington remains a competitive market with relatively high rents, but there are always opportunities to find good deals if you work hard enough.

Also, where you see deals offering free rent, you should look a little closer and do the math to see what the monthly rent would be if you averaged in the incentive.

I am very afraid that with the rent increase that will occur when I renew my lease, I will be priced out of my apartment. Is there anything I can do to secure my current rate? I tried when I signed the initial lease, but they told me it would increase anyway. I don't make a lot working for a nonprofit and cannot afford to move. Any advice? -- Gaithersburg

Talk to your landlord and make a case that you are a model tenant. Offer to sign a longer lease, as a landlord would rather have a reliable known quantity than a new tenant.

My lease is up at the end of July, and I want to move. First, when is the appropriate time to start contacting places? I have called a few already, and they all say I am too early. Second, are some months better than others for availability? -- Bethesda

There's a lot of turnover all the time in the D.C. area, especially at the beginning and end of the summer, as interns and students come and go. Generally, you can identify buildings where you would like to live as early as you want, then inquire whether there's a waiting list for apartments.

You aren't necessarily too early, but you are likely to have more concrete options as your moving date approaches, say, two months beforehand.

Is it impossible to find an apartment in a decent neighborhood in the $650 to $700 price range? -- Temple Hills

No, it is not impossible. If you are willing to live with roommates, you will have a better shot at finding something in that price range. Also, look at studio apartments. You will have to do a lot of legwork to get such a good deal, but it has been done.

Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com.

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