Renting in DC: How Do I Find a Rental in DC?

There are a few different methods for finding a rental in DC. You could go to an apartment complex or building which has a leasing office and rent directly from them. They will show you the different floor plans and the availability.

If you are interested in renting a house or townhouse or even a condo from a landlord/owner, there are a few ways you can find these homes. If they hire a Real Estate Agent to help them rent their home, it will be posted on MLS and syndicated out to several other websites. If they did not hire an agent and they posted it themselves, it may be on Zillow, or hopefully on Hotpads, which is a great source of rentals.

Who Pays for the Agents on DC Rentals?

If you find a rental on your own that is not listed with an agent – you are typically working directly with the owner. If you find a rental through us, there is often compensation provided from the landlord.

Our policy is to receive 50% of the rent. We see 25-50% typically offered and we will let you know on each property you want to see if you will need to make up the difference.

How Early Should I Start Looking for a Rental in DC?

You don’t want to start too early. Most landlords sign leases that require 30-60 days notice for their current tenant. Typically 60 days in advance is about right. If the property is vacant and available sooner than 1-2 months from now, it will be noted in the listing.

How Much Money Will I Need to Put Down on the Lease?

If you are renting at a leasing office, the amounts vary, but typically a deposit of around $500 or more if your credit is less than perfect. If you rent with a Real Estate agent, these rentals typically require the first month’s rent, a security deposit which is also equivalent to a month, and any prorated rent. Sometimes the prorated rent, pet deposits and move-in fees (if applicable, and usually only on buildings) are not due until the day you move in.

Price Questions

1. Can you negotiate a price with the landlord? Can you get a discount for multi-year leases?

Usually no. There is high demand for rentals here. Sometimes a landlord will give a small,  $50 discount on signing a 2 year lease. We are still seeing rentals with escalation clauses

2. What can you get for the money?

If you are coming from CA or NYC then you will think it is cheap here! Otherwise you will think it is expensive. Single family homes are $3500 and go up from there, a one bedroom runs from $1900-3000 (Mostly low to mid $2000’s.) If you want to be walkable to metro, you are going to pay a premium.

When Should I Go to a Leasing Office?

Generally, if your credit is not good – think less than 650, the managed buildings can often make exceptions or work with you. Most homes listed with a Real Estate Agent will require an annual income of 40x the monthly rent.

If you don’t need a lot of space, or you like the neighborhood or amenities of the apartment complex, then definitely rent from them directly.

What is the Process Like?

  • Application fees are anywhere from $35-100 per person and everyone over 18 must apply, regardless of it they are on the lease.
  • Owner landlords typically want 1 year+ leases, unless they specifically advertise being short-term friendly, but that is not very common.
  • When it comes to This area is not pet friendly
  • At your move-in inspection, take photos. Document everything so you aren’t charged for damages that were not yours.
  • Properties move fast. If you see something you like, you need to go within 1-2 days to tour.

How Can I Maximize My Time During Showings?

Rule as much out online as you can. Photos make many homes look much better than they are. Look at the location, size, amenities and make sure they all work for your needs.

Don’t expect landlords to make changes. If a home has carpet, and you want it removed, the landlord is not going to do this. Although people have asked, it’s highly unlikely to get major renovations. If you want to paint, expect to do it yourself or at your own cost, and expect to be required to return it to the prior condition before you move in.

If you have done your homework, plan to see about five homes. If you have looked at 10-15 homes in person and still haven’t found a match, you need to revisit your search parameters to figure out what isn’t working. Unfortunately, finding a rental here is so competitive that you need to move quickly and decisively.