How to Score an Apartment in Portland, Oregon. Or any other tight rental market.
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Being an apartment manager, I see the torture that potential tenants go through when they are trying to land an apartment here in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Portland really is beautiful…when it’s not pouring rain – which is most of the time. Apartments are expensive and good values are hard to get. Oh, and we have no jobs here and the traffic is worse than LA. If you think I’m trying to dissuade you from moving here, you’re right. Whatever glory you may have seen on Portlandia, it does not exist here. But by all means please do come and visit! We LOVE visitors!
Yes, I am a Portland native. I had to stop myself from continuing on there. If you’re also a native – you probably know where I was going next 😉
Apartments go pretty fast here. My record is 30 minutes. That means that from the time I posted the ad on Craigslist to the time I had a couple sitting in my office filling out the applications, it was almost exactly 30 minutes. Now they almost never go THAT fast, but within hours of posting is not uncommon. The competition for good apartments in this town is as fierce as heck. The crappy and/or overpriced ones are easy to get.
So how do you beat the competition? Well, I’m just about to tell you. You lucky devil. These truly are the keys to the kingdom…
If you are looking for an urban apartment on the middle to low end of the price range, use Craigslist or PadMapper to search for apartments. (If you live outside of North America or the UK, you don’t have PadMapper. There may also be a better website than Craigslist for apartment listings in these areas. You’ll have to do that bit of homework on your own.) Padmapper is great because…it’s a map! If you know the areas you want to focus on and/or avoid, this is super helpful as you can easily see all the “pads” available in any area.
PadMapper pulls it’s data from Craigslist as soon as it’s posted, so don’t worry about missing anything. Craigslist is great because the listings are so easy to read. Both websites allow you to enter search criteria such as whether cats or dogs are allowed, but Craigslist makes it MUCH easier to enter your price range. PadMapper pulls data from other sources as well – such as ApartmentFinder and ApartmentSearch. These types of websites are geared more to suburban and higher-end complexes where glossy photos help “sell” their lush grounds and/or amenities. Being an urban apartment manager, all I’ve ever needed to use is Craigslist for my listings. And most of the plush and/or suburban pads are listed there as well. Just starting your search? Look EVERYWHERE. PadMapper will send you email alerts matching your criteria. Sign up for that business right away.
So that’s where and how to look. How often should you look? In a hot market, if you can, refresh your browser every 15 minutes once you are ready to pounce. I’m dead serious. Otherwise, search as often as possible. The apartment of mine that went in 30 minutes is the best one we have in the whole place. Don’t miss out on a gem!
How do you get prepared to pounce? Make copies of your driver’s licence (or other photo ID) and your two most recent pay stubs. Have your current and two previous addresses (if you have that many) written down along with the manager’s name and phone number for each. Also have your vehicle information written down. That way, if you’re cruising around town and a hot one pops up on Craigslist, you can zoom over there and put in your application.
They way I play it, the first paid and complete application gets first right of refusal on the apartment. The application must be 100% complete (meaning all supporting docs, etc.) before payment can be made for the application fee. This means, if you see an apartment I’ve listed, you can call me and say, “I’d like to put in an application” and if you submit a complete application and pay the application fee (this can be done via phone and internet) – it’s yours before you even see it. You’ll have 48 hours from the time the application is approved to pay a $200 reservation fee, so you better plan to see it pretty quick or make a blind decision.
Some properties may require you to see the apartment first. I don’t require this from my out-of-town applicants so I think it’s unfair to require it of my in-town applicants. If you see a listing that makes your heart jump, call the manager and ask if you can apply over the internet and/or phone RIGHT NOW. If you end up not liking the apartment, you won’t get your application fee back, so chose wisely. But this is the ULTIMATE way to get that sweet pad before someone else does. Most folks don’t even THINK of applying before they see the apartment. And if you come across a manager who won’t let you do it, ask them what they would do if you lived out of town and had nobody who could see the apartment for you? Would they refuse to rent to you? If so, you probably don’t want to rent from them anyway.
And THAT, my friends, is the best trick in the book!
If you’re looking for an apartment, I wish you the best of luck. Although you’ll want to consider your commute when looking for a new place, remember that where you live – your neighborhood and your apartment itself – is what matters most.