They’ve accepted the internships, booked their plane tickets and packed plenty of summery business casual. Now for the tumult of summer interns about to descend on D.C. comes the hard part: finding a place to live.
“It’s definitely been tough, especially because I just found out I got my internship two weeks ago,” says Alex Bade, 24. “So it’s kind of been a time crunch.”
Bade is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, and when he got the opportunity to intern in his congressman’s Washington office, he jumped at the chance.
Now, he just has to find a rental. “It’s a lot of work,” he says. “Especially being from somewhere that’s completely different. You don’t know the lay of the land at all.”
Bade got a helpful list of suggested short-term housing from the intern coordinator at his future office, “but a lot of those were a little higher priced than what I was looking for,” he says. “I don’t want to be running my bank account dry by mid-July.”
So, like many renters looking to fill gaps between leases, or moving here for short-term job assignments, he’s scouring Craigslist in search of affordable June-to-August rentals. If you know of any, give him a call.
Because it’s a lot of work to find good tenants, most big rental buildings prefer not to offer leases for periods shorter than a year, and charge a steep monthly premium for a shorter lease — the shorter the lease, the more the monthly price rises.
If you’re willing to pay extra for convenience, corporate housing companies such as Oakwood offer buildings full of furnished, short-term rentals with business-friendly perks like room-cleaning. But the high prices usually appeal to people who have a per diem or housing allowance.
Summer interns can also look for dorm-style housing on college campuses. In D.C., American University, Georgetown University and George Washington University all rent out their dorms for the summer. Weekly prices average between $200 and $400, and they tend to get booked quickly.
Furnished places rent for at least 10 percent more each month than unfurnished apartments, says Frank D’Angelo, a sales and marketing associate at Nomadic Real Estate, a property management company that helps owners rent their homes out and find renters. They manage about 500 properties in the D.C. area.
His firm often works with interns, diplomats and people traveling for long-term business projects who want something for three, six or nine months. Depending on the season, about 15 percent of D.C.-area apartment hunters are looking for short term, D’Angelo estimates.
“Most [short-term] tenants are looking for fully furnished — furniture, beds, pots, pans, linens, all of that,” he says. And most prefer to have the utilities included in the price. “They tend to pay a slightly higher premium for that.”
Many of them also prefer to be in more central parts of the city, D’Angelo says, which is why many of the city’s short-term units are clustered in Mount Vernon Square, Judiciary Square and Penn Quarter. “If you’re getting a short-term tenant in from out of town, they want to be downtown in the D.C. that they kind of know of,” he says.
The high prices for short-term housing send many prospective renters looking for sublets or the chance to take over a lease that ends at the end of the summer. Patient and persistent renters can find these on sites like Craigslist, Hotpad, Trulia and Zillow.
Landlords who advertise on those websites often have their pick of applicants to choose from. Stephen Rudolph, who rents out his place each summer when he’s away traveling, advertises his apartment on Craigslist and says he usually gets multiple emails from prospective tenants. “Mostly they’re interns,” he says. “You get a lot of people who need specific dates.”
Whether the dates match up with his own is a key factor in whether the tenant would be a good fit. That’s why it’s important to read the ads closely. “Some of them don’t read,” Rudolph says of the email responses he gets. “They say, ‘I’ll be a great roommate,’ which tells me they’re responding to a lot of listings.”
The other thing he’s looking for in a tenant is cleanliness, though that’s harder to judge. “The worst thing is to come back and find the place has been turned upside down,” he says. Rudolph has had both positive and negative experiences in that regard (“I think he was allergic to soap,” he says of a recent tenant).
But finding the perfect mix of price, location and move-in date can be a challenge. It often comes down to a combination of luck and compromise.
“I realize I’m not in the power position here,” Bade says. “I’m looking for place that’s month-to-month and that’s in [my] price range. I’m not the ideal candidate.”
Paying the price for a shorter rental
Many large buildings rely on computer software to determine how much to charge for leases. The software takes into account the apartment’s past rental prices, current demand and competitor prices, among other factors. Shorter leases will cost more than longer ones. How much more? Take a look.
- Andover House (1200 14th St. NW)
Close to the downtown area so popular with short-termers, this building offers leases of between three and 12 months. Earlier this month, a 680-square-foot one-bedroom was being offered for $2,605 a month for a 12-month lease. The price went up to $4,810 a month for a six-month lease. And renters who signed a summer-long, three-month lease would pay $8,600 a month.
- The Madison at Ballston Station (4400 4th St., North Arlington)
The Arlington apartment building offers leases between two and 13 months. In early June, a 799-square foot one-bedroom was renting for $1,955 a month for a 12-month lease, $1,975 a month for a six-month lease and $2,385 a month for a two-month lease.
- Lyon Place at Clarendon Center (1200 N. Garfield St., Arlington)
Not far from Andover House, this building offers leases between two and 14 months. In June, a 672-square-foot one-bedroom was renting for $2,775 a month for a 12- or 14-month lease. That unit was renting for $2,985 per month for a six-month lease and $3,270 a month for a three-month lease.
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