Renting apartments sight-unseen?

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Topic: Renting apartments sight-unseen?

Real Estate October 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Renting apartments sight-unseen?

A friend is trying to rent an apartment in the Columbia Uptown, but they won’t show it to him because the tenants are still living there (60 days notice, so the apartments won’t be vacant until December).  The leasing agent says that folks normally rent these apartments sight unseen, said there’s no other apartment in the building to see, and told him to look at the virtual tour online — which is nice, but a 1br instead of the 2brs he’s looking at, and is surely one of the nicer and more newly renovated apartments in the buildling.  Is this a thing that people do?  Any suggestions?  Apply, hope he doesn’t have to put down a deposit or front more than the application fee until the apartment is vacant, and then forfeit the fee (and 2 months of searching) if the apartment is a dump?
Also, anybody have any opinions on the Columbia Uptown, that area and its safety (14th and Fairmont), or live there and want to show us their apartment in exchange for beer?

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OP: $400 nonrefundable resevation fee applied to first month’s rent.

I’ve heard about the reservation fee for this place. The rents seem very reasonable for the area, but that fee made me leery. Seems like a good way to make some money while people wait for months on end for a place to open up.
Would love to hear more about the Uptown building, the management, quality of residences, etc.
Also, why can’t they show the apartment even if people are living there? Landlords do this all the time when people are not re-newing. Of course, they need to usually notify the tenants with 24 or 48 hours advance notice, but it’s not a controversial thing to do. Seems suspicious to me.

I’ve rented an apartment sight unseen. They did have a model one-bedroom that I was able to tour, but I was getting a studio so I wasn’t sure if it would be the same. My apartment actually ended up being much nicer, with an incredible view of the city that the other one didn’t have. I may have gotten lucky though. Nevertheless, it’s not that unusual in large buildings. 


The first apartment I rented in DC (12th and M) was rented more-or-less sight unseen.  They were renovating our unit when we visited, so it was plywood floors, studded walls, etc.  They showed us a unit that was a different size from ours, but recently renovated in the same fashion.
Everything went fine, but this was from a pretty respectable management company.  If I recall correctly, we put down security deposit and one month’s rent advance.

Can’t comment on the building (I toured it once in search of a roommate, and it was fine, but I know nothing about the landlords, etc.), but the area’s great. I’m a single lady who has often walked home at 3am from 14th and Irving to just around this intersection, and I’ve never experienced any problems.
Potential red flags for your friend to consider:
–there’s a playground right next to this building, and it’s very loud during daylight hours. Depending on what floor the apartment is, I can see this being an issue for someone who teleworks often/enjoys sleeping in until 2p on Saturdays.
–14th Street itself is very loud. Ambulances, buses, people, etc. I’d try to get a window facing east for some semblance of peace
–Columbia Heights in general is a very diverse and busy place. This apartment has a lot of great things within comfortable walking distance, but with great things come many different kinds of people.
As for renting an apartment sight-unseen, I’ve…sort of done that. Our current apartment was being renovated from the earthquake and was, quite frankly, a disaster when I saw it. I just had to trust that the management would do a good job. They definitely did, and I love living in my current building and have no problems with the management company (Bernstein). Try researching the management via yelp, etc. and be on alert for red flags.


I actually rented my apartment there sight unseen, and I’m very happy with it. I too toured an available apartment, but decided to wait for an opening on a higher floor since my move-in date was flexible. If you can swing it, the view from higher floors is totally worth it. The finishings in the apartment I toured were exactly the same as my apartment. You should clarify this, but I also believe that my deposit check was held ( not cashed) until my actual move-in date. My only regret was not being able to see the layout in person beforehand to help with furniture planning.��All of the apartments are pretty small, and althoughI saw a 2br on my tour and planned for my downsizing, I still ended up having to get rid of furniture I thought I could fit.

This is my first apartment actually run by a management company, so I have nothing to compare it to, but my experience with the staff and the building itself has been nothing but great. Very timely maintenance ( usually within an hour of requests), and knowledgeable/ helpful answers to all of my questions and concerns.��

Sometimes this is a red flag for a scam, especially if the pictures look a little too good to be true. If it’s someone claiming to be the owner and not a reputable management company, it’s highly suspect and whatever your friend forks over in cash could just be…..gone.



It’s weird. The building population is actually pretty homogenous in that most people are young. I’d guess most people are in their 20s and 30s. I’ve seen very few people older than this and no children to speak of. Everyone seems friendly though, and I’ve met lots of neighbors on the elevator and in the laundry room. The apartment I wanted was available about 3 weeks after I��originally planned to move in, but I had inquired about an apartment about 1 month before I was planning to move in, so it was about ��a 2 month wait for the particular apartment we wanted. There were others on higher floors available before then, however since we were so flexible, we waited for a specific floor and floor plan. As for your last question, I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, but I knew the date I was allowed to move in when I gave my deposit check ( which, again, I don’t believe was cashed until I actually moved in). There was an application fee that was processed when I applied, and I got timely notification of my approval in writing

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