Like many D.C. residents, Stephen Korda, 27, isn’t from around here. Since he’s moved around a lot, the thought of putting down deep roots was daunting to the California native. So, after renting a furnished apartment when he first came to D.C. in 2008, Korda was on the lookout for another when he returned to the area in 2011.
“I’m all about the furnished apartment,” says Korda, who rents a furnished one-bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights for $2,000 a month. “Buying furniture just seems like such a permanent thing.”
Every year, people flood into the District for jobs, internships or school — and many don’t intend to stay very long. Even for those who plan to stick around, filling an empty apartment can seem daunting and expensive.
Furnished apartments usually already have the basics — a bed, dresser and nightstand, plus a couch, coffee table and dining table if there’s more than one room. That means an easier move and fewer hours spent fumbling over Ikea directions.
“Moving qualifies as the third most-stressful event in one’s life, after divorce and bankruptcy,” says Blake Van Leer, co-founder and marketing director of apartment finding service Rentals Gone Wild, who has clients who rent furnished apartments. Having one less awkwardly shaped couch to squeeze up a narrow staircase may just take the edge off.
Luckily, furnished apartments are easy enough to come by. You can find them through sites such as Craigslist.org or apartment-finding services, and some buildings offer both furnished and unfurnished options.
The Price Is Right
Typically, furnished apartments cost more than a comparable unfurnished unit, to the tune of an extra $100 a month or more, says Eric Suissa, director of sales at The DC Apartment Co., an apartment finding service (202-600-9500).
“For me, it’s a convenience that I’m willing to pay for,” Korda says.
Paul Broom, 68, who manages a building with four fully furnished apartments in Navy Yard and goes by “Captain Apollo,” says there’s a niche for furnished options, but it can still be hard to find tenants.
“It’s a smaller demand for what I have, but from time to time it comes together,” he says.
Broom’s short-term residence Casa degli Angeli (1026 Third St. SE; 202-460-8583) initially was meant to be a bed and breakfast, but zoning permits didn’t allow it. A furnished room there rents for $1,800 a month, with a minimum stay of three months.
Broom says most renters come from California or other parts of the U.S., but he’s currently got a group of renters from Bangkok, here for a three-month internship.
The Finer Things, for Rent
Furnished rentals can also offer renters the chance to enjoy high-end appointments on a lower-end budget. Matthew Seiler, 28, rents a furnished one-bedroom condo in Dupont Circle for $2,600 a month. It belongs to a U.S. diplomat currently working abroad in Vienna.
“It looks like it could be a Pottery Barn showroom,” Seiler says of his rental. He adds: “If I were to buy everything that’s in this apartment, I’d probably have to spend $10,000 to $15,000.”
Korda also says that the furniture in his Columbia Heights place is more than he could afford on his own. “If I were left to my own devices, I’d be sleeping on a mattress on the floor and buying Ikea furniture,” he says.
Of course, landlords must take steps to protect their belongings. Even though most remove anything valuable or personal from the apartment, it’s not uncommon for landlords to ask renters to sign off on an inventory, Suissa says. That means every dining chair and shower curtain will be accounted for, and the renter could be charged for damage to them.
Korda’s lease agreement had an extensive inventory.
“They were pretty meticulous about it,” he says.
Van Leer recommends taking photos of the furniture to document any preexisting scratches or dings.
“That way when the lease ends, you’ll be able to show the landlord,” he says. “You can kind of protect yourself.”
When renting a furnished place, you certainly may want to be a bit more careful around the landlord’s belongings — read: no flip cup on the antique dining table or red wine near the couch.
But eventually, Korda says, you grow more comfortable with a stranger’s stuff.
“After a few years, it feels like home,” he says.
And if a furnished place is too hard to find, there’s another option: renting furniture from a third-party company. Van Leer says his clients who do so pay anywhere from $300 to $700 month for an apartment-full of stuff.
A complete bedroom set for six months ranges from $150 to $300 a month at Brook Furniture Rental (877-285-7368) and about $300 a month from Cort (888-360-2678), plus an extra fee for delivery and return.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
A word to the wise: If some furnished places look too good to be true, they just might be. In a 2013 post, the Let’s Get the Craigslist Scammers blog reported that a scammer was using photos of a Toronto hotel room in an advertisement for a furnished apartment in D.C. And a 2011 Craigslist ad that went viral advertised a one-bedroom apartment in Dupont Circle for $900 a month that came complete with furniture — and 16 cats. Renter beware!