Seattle apartment owners offer freebies to fill apartments

SEATTLE -- If you are searching for an apartment to rent in Seattle, now may be the time to do it.

Some experts say Seattle is approaching a peak for apartment units available. That means renters could see savings, but it could also mean incentives as well. Some apartment owners and developers are offering things from gym memberships to free rent, just to get you to sign a lease.

“Now we're seeing a lot more units coming online in the central Seattle market area,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist for Windemere Real Estate.

According to Gardner, the most recent stats from 2017 say in Seattle, developers have added 4,000 apartment units while 10,000 are slated for completion in the near future. That means, he said, for the first time in a while renters have options.

“Because we’ve seen such a substantial amount of new supply, it’s become remarkably competitive, far more competitive since before the recession,” he said.

According to the Seattle Times, 26% of all apartments in Seattle are sitting empty.

“It’s a lot easier to find something now. But you’re still dealing with high rents that have pushed a lot of people out. It’s not great, but it’s a lot better than it had been,” said Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times business reporter.

For an apartment owner or developer, that's not a good thing. Which is why you may be seeing more apartment owners give you more incentives to get you to sign a lease.

“You can see things like two months (free) rent. Some people have been offering free Amazon Echos, free Uber credits, “ said Rosenberg. “Some people have been offering Costco memberships, memberships to gyms. Some of these places are trying to out-do each other now.”

And there’s more.

“We’re also seeing concessions in terms of parking. Developers are offering free parking for a brief period of time,” said Gardner.

But more importantly, what will it do for rental prices? Will you see a drastic drop?

Not so fast, said Gardner, who added that owners will rely on handing out more concessions, like free rent, or keeping rents the same for tenants looking to renew their lease.

“I think it all depends when your lease comes up, how full is that building? If you're still at 60-70, even 80 percent, then I think the tenants are in a more powerful position to negotiate either lower rents or effectively keeping the same rents they were paying before,” said Gardner.