[NFBWATlk] Looking for some Advice on Apartment- or Studio-Living

Cynthia Bennett clb5590 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 10 21:15:56 UTC 2019

Hi Humberto,

I cannot express how excited I am for you! finding your first job after school and/or training is so difficult. It took me several months. I am so proud of you! How lucky your students will be to have a blind instructor who is a braille and technology superstar as well.

Here is my apartment advice. I have found 3 apartments in the Seattle market which is quite unforgiving so I think these tips will be helpful.

Before you look for apartments, divide your monthly income into thirds. This is the maximum rent you can probably pay without getting someone to cosign your lease. Of course, if you can find something with cheaper rent, that is best, but this will help you knock out any too expensive options. If you would rather rent something mor expensive or if your income is not enough, as many of us in Seattle have gone through, you'll have to think of someone you trust who may be willing to be your cosigner. It is good to have a conversation with them ahead of time and get their agreement. Many people ask family members though I realize this is not always an option. Your cosigner will need to have sufficient income, in other words, the rent cannot exceed 1/3 of their monthly income. If I were you, I would prioritize finding a place that does not require a cosigner. But if you do not have enough credit, your income may not matter and you may need to find a cosigner. Of course, if you have a cosigner, the goal is that you pay rent, but they are responsible for your rent if you do not pay.

Have at least the amount of your monthly income, or 3 times your rent set aside. Worst case scenario, you'll owe first month's rent, last month's rent, and an expensive deposit equal to one month's rent. Application and credit check fee tends to be around $45. You should also keep in mind that moving itself incurs costs.

Learn your credit score. I recommend downloading an app called Credit Karma. The internet tells me most landlords want to see a 620 credit score or higher. Checking your credit score will give you another clue as to whether you'll need a cosigner.

Get a copy of your signed offer letter listing your annual income. You may have to provide this as proof to your landlord.

Start thinking about where you'd like to move. Though some markets necessitate a realtor, I don't think the Seattle and suburb market is quite there. I have never used a realtor. I have however talked to blind people I trust. I have a contact number for a person who has lived in Tacoma which I will give you offline. I would learn the names of neighborhoods with public transportation to places you would like to go. This may also require that you request the person who hired you to get you a school placement as soon as possible, or to get a list of possible placements. I generally want to be in one bus distance from work and in walking distance from grocery stores, a pharmacy, and restaurants. You may have different priorities and some things may be more negotiable for you than others. For example, it's not important for me to be in walking distance from my doctor, but others may feel differently. take some time and reflect on your priorities and then ask questions to the people who live in Tacoma or the places you're considering living in and determine a few neighborhoods in which you'd like to live.

Check Craigslist once per day and make inquiries at all places that look interesting. I usually do a google search for something like "Belltown Seattle apartments rent Craigslist." The first word, Belltown, is the neighborhood within Seattle. Then I use the filters once I have clicked on the google search result that takes me to the page on craigslist. I enter my maximum rent, minimum bedrooms and bathrooms, and check the amenities that are nonnegotiable for me. For example, I only want an apartment with laundry in unit and then I sort the results so those most recently posted are at the top. Be very careful though. Listings like to associate with popular neighborhoods. Read the listing very carefully to learn more about the location and apartment to determine whether you'd like to schedule a tour. There are a ton of apartment search websites. I find Craigslist has a lot of options and is not extremely inaccessible as compared to others. Run addresses in posts by your contacts who are familiar with the area, or perhaps develop a few anchors when you talk to these contacts. For example, I recently found an apartment in Pittsburgh. Once I learned there was a Whole Foods in a neighborhood I decided I could live in, Whole Foods became an anchor. If the listing gave an address, I put it into Google Maps and read the walking distance to Whole Foods. If there is not an address written in the apartment listing, but there is the name of a building, google the building name and you may find an address there. When you reach out to schedule tours, google the building if you can and read the reviews. Sometimes, you may not find reviews of the building itself but a larger management company. Though online reviews should be read with scrutiny, in other words, people often leave really bad reviews but they don't leave really good reviews, and honestly all rental companies are pretty crappy, red flag any really, really bad reviews and knock those places out .

Contact all listings that interest you. a smaller number, like literally maybe 50% or less,  will get back with you. sometimes you can contact a phone number, others, an email address, and even others have online appointment widgets. In these inquiries I have not disclosed blindness. If the appointment widget is not accessible, try to find an alternative way to get in touch like by calling directly and pretend you didn't know about the online appointment calendar if you are asked. In my experience, agents are usually happy to schedule an appointment over the phone even if they have an online appointment selector.

If you can, keep a flexible schedule so when you are called or emailed back after you inquire, you can go to the soonest appointment possible. in les ridiculous markets like those outside Seattle this may not be as important, but I would still try to do this just to be safe. When corresponding to make the appointment, verify the apartment has the amenities the listing says it has. Sometimes listings are misleading. Other times, an agent is renting multiple units and the one in the listing is not the one they will show you. this will help you confirm whether you actually want to make the appointment. I usually begin emails with, I'm corresponding about x apartment, including several details from the listing, the address and unit number if that is disclosed.

When you go to an appointment, try to get a direct phone number to someone or be prepared to ask a passerby or Aira agent to confirm you're in the right place. If I'm given a phone number to someone directly, when Google Maps says I am very close to the destination, I call and at that point disclose my blindness and ask them to look out for me. If they will not give you a direct phone number and instead ask you to dial something on a callbox, you may have to ask a passerby to confirm you're at the building or wing it.

Take someone to appointments if you can or do a video call. This isn't about blindness as much as it is people rent really crap apartments and it is important to get a second opinion.

Be sure to ask things like whether the apartment has been updated, what noises you'll expect to hear, what the person can tell you about the surrounding area in terms of bus stops and businesses, what the terms of the lease are including what is due with your application such as the application fee, deposit, and other fees, how much of your deposit is refundable, and how much the rent is, what bills are included in rent and what are your responsibility to pay separately, how much water and utilities tend to amount to if you do have to pay for them separately,  and whether you'll have to pay the last month up front. Ask lots of questions about the apartment as you walk through to seem engaged and serious about getting honest feedback. Ask to be toured around the common areas, especially the laundry room if laundry is not in unit. Touch the washers and dryers. Some are quite inaccessible. No apartment will be perfectly accessible but getting really hands-on in the apartment will help you decide what appliances you can make accessible, what inaccessible features you'll put up with and which ones are dealbreakers. Ask if anyone else is applying and if not, and if you are interested, be prepared to apply for the apartment that day.

Most apartment applications are now done online, or sent as an inaccessible pdf over email. The process will be at least partially inaccessible but because you don't want to spend a lot of time on this ask a friend to be on the hook to help you.

I love studio living. It is a great way to start out a bit cheaper. If you do not have the responsibility to care for others or host people often, I highly recommend. The more space you have, the more you'll fill it up so I honestly believe studio living has not only saved me rent but has saved me from buying more furniture and accessories.

If you need a cosigner right now or have other extenuating circumstances, priorities tours with individuals rather than companies. I've had some landlords who owned individual condos be flexible with my income once I showed them my job offer letter and savings. On the other hand, companies that rent loads of apartments allow a computer system to judge your eligibility so if you know you will not be determined eligible it's a waste of time and money.

After you sign a lease, procure renter's insurance. This costs me about $130 per year. I have it through State Farm, and renter's insurance is another, albeit shorter, email, but the internet has a lot of information about it. Some landlords will require proof of renter's insurance in which case you'll have to purchase it and send them your policy. If renter's insurance is required, ask your landlord if they have minimum coverage requirements so you're sure to get a policy that complies with your landlord's renter's insurance requirement. If your landlord does not require renter's insurance, get it anyway.

I know this process can seem really daunting. It is stressful. But many people remember what it was like to move. I'm sure some NFB members and our sighted friends could be pulled in to step up. This is not a time to be shy or feel ashamed to ask. This is a time when you need an apartment. Get the help you need in a timely manner.

On that note, if you are considering living anywhere in Seattle I can have a phone call with you  starting next week to talk about neighborhoods. I know the city of Seattle and our public transit extremely well. as you brainstorm what neighborhoods or cities you'll consider living in, feel free to let me know and I can connect you with people I know who are familiar with them.

Good luck!


-----Original Message-----
From: NFBWATlk <nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Merribeth Greenberg via NFBWATlk
Sent: Monday, December 9, 2019 11:31 AM
To: NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Merribeth Greenberg <merribeth.manning at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NFBWATlk] Looking for some Advice on Apartment- or Studio-Living

Hi Humberto,
Congrats on the new job; how exciting.
The ladies have given some good advice and ideas.
I just wanted to comment on the idea of the studio.
I had one a while back; in a senior living place in Pocatello Idaho.
They can be nice, but you have to be creative with storage. Everything is out in the open. The unit I had, had a sliding divider wall. But, I don't know that you would find them in most places. If you wanted to divide off your sleeping area from your entertaining area, you might have to purchase a free standing divider. If you do decide to divide the space it does feel smaller.
>From living here, I learned I don't like living alone. I rather have a roommate (a human one).
Good luck on your new adventures; and Happy Holidays.
Beth Greenberg

On Sat, Dec 7, 2019 at 5:27 PM Humberto Avila via NFBWATlk < nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org> wrote:

> Hello, All:
> I hope you all are having a fantastic evening and weekend.
> I am here with a question and / or a request for pieces of advice if 
> possible.  Here’s my situation:
> Two weeks ago on 11/20/19, I interviewed for a teaching position with 
> a school district near the area where I am doing my independent living 
> training. The interview was awesome and I got a good impression of the 
> people I would be working with ETC.
> But to cut to the chase quickly… yesterday I got a call from those 
> same people that interviewed me that day. I was offered the job 
> working with blind students in the Tacoma School District (In 
> Washington State) and I have accepted it on the phone. What comes next 
> is a matter of orientations, trainings, and the human resource part… 
> all of that very exciting. But well… where am I going to breathe after 
> long, hard, challenging, first couple of days at work? This is where I would love asking my questions:
>   1.  What are some of your experiences with going apartment searching?
>   2.  What are some of your experiences with coping with moving in to 
> a new place and living independently?
>   3.  What strategies and techniques do you use to learn your new 
> environment in your living arrangement?
>   4.  Has anyone rented a studio apartment? What is your experience 
> with this type of living? Any perks, or inconveniences that I have to 
> deal with there?
>   5.  How do you deal with inaccessible materials presented by 
> landlords, as well as leasing terms and conditions, and accommodations?
> Any advice, once again, is deeply appreciated! Sorry for my longwinded 
> email. But thanks for reading, and I sure look forward to hearing from 
> you very soon. 😊
> Best Wishes,
> Humberto
> [JAWS Certified, 2019]<http://www.freedomscientific.com/Certification>
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