I remember hugging my parents, slinging the duffel bag over my shoulder, and waving good bye to them as I walked through the security checkpoint in the JFK airport.
In June 2018, I took a leap, booked a one way plane ticket for $350, and moved from my hometown near New York City to Seattle.
I didn’t have an apartment waiting for me when I landed.
I’ve been meaning to move to the west coast for the past five years now ever since my family and I visited California and Seattle six years ago but I was never financially comfortable enough to do so until now.
I’ve always had this infatuation with the west coast.
From the stereotypical images I saw on tv shows and movies of how beautifully tan and gorgeous the people look in Cali, to the sleepy, rainy, and cozy city of Seattle.
There were also the west coast sunsets.
You can’t beat west coast sunsets.
There’s something majestic about seeing the warm orange and soft violet hues on the endless horizon of the Pacific Ocean.
(Not to mention I don’t usually wake up early enough to see the sunrise anyways, but I’m always awake for the sunsets 😊)
“Don’t get distracted, Jack. Get back to the point!” Okay, okay.
Long story short, I’ve been on the financial independence track since the age of 21.
And for the past couple of years, I’ve been working, side hustling, investing, and living way below my means, etc.
This allowed me to have the cash reserves saved up to go on this life journey.
Within one week of landing, I was busy working on my startup and I still hadn’t found an apartment.
I knew I didn’t want to keep hopping from hostel to hostel while semi-looking for an apartment (technically I could, and I met some people who did this, but that’s a topic for another blog post).
So I asked my girlfriend for help. She’s currently teaching English abroad in South Korea.
BUT, she’s way better at searching for things online than I am…lol.
After walking around Seattle for a couple of days getting to know the lay of the land, I gave her certain criteria for my preferred neighborhoods and how much I was willing to spend on rent per month.
She literally got back to me the next day after some digging and gave me a list of apartments all within a 15 minute walk of downtown Seattle.
After reviewing the apartments online, I whittled it down to three.
Two of them were newer and one was from 1908.
The one from 1908 had an open house the next day, so I thought, “Why not attend?” 🤷🏼♂️
I went to the open house with a blank check in hand, just in case I liked it and could put down a deposit right away.
*Spoilers* That’s exactly what ended up happening. The apartment had 4 available listings.
2 studios priced at $795/month. And 2 units that each had 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom, each priced at $1350.
And I could see why the latter were priced that way. They had views of Lake Union, the beautiful lake nestled in the middle of Seattle.
Because the lease specifically stated that I couldn’t Airbnb my place (I wanted to offset my rent), I didn’t want to pay $1350 a month for a view I would barely be looking at, because I knew I would be busy working on my business and not spend much time at home.
So I put my focus on the 2 studio apartments.
They were both $795 but one faced a wall and one faced the south and overlooked a garden.
After the tour, I took five minutes to go over my options.
My gut was telling me that the sunlit south facing unit was a steal in the “overpriced” Seattle apartment market.
How did I know that?
Leading up to the apartment open house, I took many Uber and Lyft rides going around Seattle trying to understand the lay of the land.
Most of the rides were Lyft Lines and Uber Pools so I was usually in the car with other people.
I “interviewed” the drivers and my fellow passengers as much as I could to better understanding the dynamics of Seattle.
In one ride, someone told me that the average apartment in the Amazon and Microsoft employee-heavy neighborhood of South Lake Union was around $1800 a month for a studio apartment.
Of course, I wasn’t looking for apartments there anyways so I didn’t verify their numbers.
To get back to the original train of though: I wrote a check on the spot for a $795 deposit equivalent to first month’s rent.
All that was left was a background test and credit score test. It took 3 days and I passed.
It also helped that I paid off all $12,000 of my credit card debt before coming to Seattle, read about THAT story here.
This helped my credit score look better for the landlord’s credit score check.
So with my apartment secured in the trendy/hipster Capitol Hill neighborhood part of Seattle, all I had to do was wait 1 month until the move-in date…
During this month wait, I was hopping from hostel to hostel (because they only let you stay a max of 7 days per hostel), and one day, I landed in the cheapest Airbnb in Seattle at $35 a night.
It was the same price as a hostel, except there were no free breakfasts nor front desk security.
In this Airbnb, I was talking with a guy who mentioned that he was from New York and moved to Seattle to start a new life.
After some more preliminary questions and probing on my part, I found out he was from the same region as my girlfriend, and he was fluent in Russian, Japanese, Mandarin, and French.
And he was also a biology major like I was in college.
At some point, he mentioned that he was looking for a roommate to help split the cost of an apartment. I saw this as a window of opportunity to potentially work my apartment into the equation.
I asked him how much rent he was looking to pay and he said somewhere around $400-$500 a month. I saw this as my chance.
“Hey bro, I have this apartment I just signed, do you want to be my roommate? The rent will be $400 a month.”
He looked shocked for a second, like he couldn’t believe what I had just said.
“Yeah man, it’s a small studio in Capitol Hill and it’ll be a little cramped, but the current rent is $800 a month and if you become my roommate, we’d each pay roughly $400 a month.”
I was taking a gamble. After all, here was a guy I had only just met in the cheapest airbnb in Seattle and we only talked for a couple hours over a couple of days. But I went with my gut.
He agreed and passed his background check too (so at least he’s not a serial killer or a pedophile) phew 😌
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.
That is how I managed to pay $400 a month in rent to live in Seattle.
- Move to Seattle and live in a hostel.
- Have your significant other find an apartment for you.
- Have enough money in the bank to pay deposit and first month’s rent on the spot.
- Pay for hostels and Airbnb until move in date.
- Find a roomate while hopping from place to place.
- Verify they’re not a serial killer.
- Pay cheaper rent.
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