Housing Info for CSE Grads

Last Updated: May 22, 2016
Maintained by: Carlo C. del Mundo (cdel@cs.washington.edu)

I. Frequently Asked Questions

II. Rent Survey Results

III. Deciding Where To Live

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does a typical CSE graduate student spend on rent per month? (top)

As of February 2016, the mean rent is $981/mo. With utilities, about $1050/month. More details here.

Q: Where does everyone live? (top)

You can access a map of where most grad students live here. The most popular neighborhoods are (in decreasing popularity):

  • University District
  • Capitol Hill
  • Ravenna/Laurelhurst
  • Eastlake
  • Fremont/Wallingford
  • Central District
  • Northgate

Q: What is the housing process like? (top)

You view listings on sites such as Zillow, Craigslist, PadMapper, or aPodment.com and contact the listing agent (or landlord directly). The listing agent (or landlord) gets back to you with a time to visit the listing. Once you visit the listing and would like to move forward with the process, you pay a non-refundable application fee of $40. The application consists of a background and credit check. The agent (or landlord) will filter applications based on the application. If the agent moves forward with your application, you and the agent (or landlord) sign a lease and the keys are delivered to you!

Q: When should I start apartment hunting? (top)

The best strategy is to look as soon as possible. The busiest times usually peaks on August 10th because of the projected move-in date of September 1st. Since UW does not start until mid- to late- September, most of the students prefer to start their lease period by September 1st. Existing tenants only have to give 20 days notice, so landlords are only guaranteed to know about vacancies that far in advance. This means that the best time to look for new places is just after the 10th of the month before you want your lease to start.

It’s typically very stressful as a potential renter. It is a landlord’s market in Seattle meaning that there is a huge supply of renters with limited rental inventory. Each listing receives many inquiries and landlord’s receive multiple rental applications per listing. The window for applying for housing is typically short. Within a week of a rental listing, multiple offers are submitted and selected by the landlord. If you find a place you like, contact the landlord, visit the place, and secure the lease as soon as possible!

Q: What about graduate student dorms? (top)

Graduate student dorms can be found here. Historically, rates range from $850 to $1100 a month depending on the housing configuration (e.g., 1BR, 2BR). It has the benefit that most of the dorms are close to campus.

Q: Where can I find roommates? (top)

Try e-mailing cs-grads@cs.washington.edu to see if others are looking for roommates. misc@cs.washington.edu is also a great mailing list (and typically subscribed to by faculty and staff in addition to grads). The incoming new-grads (at new-grads@cs.washington.edu) is a great place to search for roommates for the upcoming Autumn quarter.

On Facebook, join these two groups: University of Washington (UW) Housing, Sublets & Roommates and Washington Housing.

Q: How do I find the best deals? (top)

You have to monitor rental deals through Zillow or Craigslist. The best deals usually occur during off-rental months (such as December-April). The demand is much lower during this time (but also the supplies dwindle).

Q: What is on the standard lease? (top)

Leases are typically year-to-year, and contracts tend to default to month-to-month, thereafter. It’s very common that after your lease that the landlord may increase the cost of rent.

Q: What is the University Link Light Rail? (top)

The University Link Light Rail connects downtown Seattle to the UW via the Husky Stadium. Instead of having to take the bus, using the lightrail to commute to/from UW is now a viable option. The UW lightrail opened March 2016 and plans connecting the lightrail to Northgate (2021) and other Seattle neighborhoods are in the works.

Q: What is the biking situation in Seattle? (top)

The Burke-Gilman trail is a fantastic way to get around Seattle and to the UW. It is mostly flat and crosses multiple Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, University District, Laurelhurst, and all the way towards Redmond and Woodinville.

If you're not using the trail, you can share the road with the cars. Be aware that the roads in Seattle (especially in Capitol Hill) are particularly hilly!

Q: Could you give me example stories on how grads secured housing? (top)

Here's a few anecdotes from grad students in CSE.

CSE Grad #1: "I remember when I first moved out to Seattle. What I ended up doing was renting an AirBnB with my family for two weeks, calling a bunch of places from Craigslist the first morning I arrived, and signing a lease that afternoon (but the lease didn't start until a week and a half later, so I made full use of the AirBnB). In retrospect, this plan worked out well enough for me, but there are lots of other options (fly out a month ahead of time and house-hunt for a week, find a place for 2-3 months and then house-hunt for a longer-term rental, live in campus housing, etc.), and I'm not sure if any one of them is better or worse than others."

CSE Grad #2: "I started my program during one summer. I subscribed to misc@cs and cs-grads@cs and saw a sublet posting from a CSE grad student. I originally thought $950 for a 1 BR studio was expensive; I came from Virginia where cost-of-living is low. Eventually, I relented and agreed to the sublease without physically visiting the place. I drived from Virginia to Seattle and picked up the keys the Sunday before my first day at CSE. I was extremely lucky -- $950 for the studio was actually underpriced for the apartment as it was modern and had brand new amenities. The location was in Northgate, which is about 5 miles away from CSE. 5 miles in Virginia is nothing, but it turns out that 5 miles in Seattle is fairly far. Living in Seattle in the summer gave me time to scope out a year-long lease and find roommates. I sent an e-mail to cs-grads@cs and new-grads@cs and found two CSE new-grads as roommates. Since two of us were already in Seattle, we scoped out several apartments on Zillow & Craigslist. We eventually signed a lease for a townhome in Central District after house hunting for a month."

Q: Is there air conditioning (A/C) in apartments? What about heating?(top)

Air conditioning is not usually built into apartments or townhomes. To stay cool during the summer, it's common to use a box fan to pull cool air from the outside at night. Most of the heating is forced air; heaters are typically per room or per area (instead of a central furnace).

Rent Survey Results

We conducted a survey on February 2016 for CSE grads and collected rent, rental configuration, and address. For 100 responses, the minimum rent is $400, median $940, mean $981, and maximum is $1860 (numbers are per month excluding utilities). Figure 1 is a box and whisper plot of rent by rental configuration, and Figure 2 is a map of where CSE grads live. You can interactively access the map here.

Fig 1: Box and whisker plot of rent by rental configuration.


Fig 2: Map of where CSE grads live.

Deciding Where To Live

Here’s a few words (from past and current grads) about each of the neighborhoods.

University District

  • Excellent bus access. The University transit center is at NE Campus Parkway. Buses lead to all parts of the city.
  • Only full-size grocery near the Ave is the "sketchy" Safeway (its produce is best given to dying cattle). A larger Safeway and a QFC are nearby in the University Village. Trader Joe's is on Roosevelt Way.
  • It can be nice to be within walking distance of work, but then you're also within walking distance of work.
  • It's actually quite nice to live in the U district, if you're careful. I would suggest living north of 50th Street, as it is much quieter (and still close).
  • I like quiet and so I've stayed away from the neighborhood between 15th and 22nd Ave, and 45th and 52nd St. Pretty much anything outside of that rectangle is fine for quiet lovers and certainly not far for walking or biking. I'd recommend not dropping below 45th St. - it tends to be noisier and more crowded there than, say, above 50th St.

Capitol Hill

  • Quaint. Quiet (if you don't live too close to 15th or Broadway). Lots of character, and community feeling. Cool shops and cafes. Not the U-District.
  • Lots to do on the part of the hill close to downtown
  • Especially vibrant between Broadway and 15th Ave E, north of John St and south of Aloha St.
  • 2 to 4 miles away, and on top of a hill. So the bike rides to school will be a joy, but those back from school are more challenging.

Eastlake

  • Close to campus and easy to walk (~30 minutes). Also easy to bus in on the 70 or 66.
  • Quiet and undergraduate-free (although this might be cause and effect).
  • Good bus access to campus and downtown (lines 66,70-73).
  • Only one small local grocery in walking distance (Pete's Market). To get to larger markets (QFC, Safeway, Whole Foods), you have to take a bus. 66 offers good access to Northgate Mall, if you're into that kinda thing.

Wallingford:

  • Lots of shops around 45th street. Practically a sushi restaurant per block.
  • South Wallingford is more residential and tends to be more expensive. In order to get to shops, you have to head north, which can be a fair walk up the hill.
  • A medium size QFC grocery (regularly shopped at by Dave Matthews) and a Bartell Drugs pharmacy are easily accessible.
  • Parks: Gasworks, Wallingford, Meridian. Wallingford Park has a great playground and a medium-sized wading pool filled every day over 70 degrees in the summer.

Fremont

  • A fun part of town. Lots of shops and restaurants, plus good bus access to both downtown (5,26,28) and UW (bus 31).
  • Where else can you live near both Lenin and a giant troll?
  • One full-size grocery store: the PCC.
  • On Burke-Gilman trail.
  • Fremont Avenue is fairly busy street, so expect some traffic noise even at night. It's not like being on a highway, though.
  • Some reasons why Fremont is awesome: far enough from campus that you can forget you're a student, close enough to campus to bike, two direct bus lines to campus (10 minute ride), beeline to downtown (5 minutes drive, 10-15 minutes by bus)
  • Some reasons why Fremont is not awesome: rents a little higher than other places, may be too yuppie for some, can be noisy.
  • Nearby parks: walking distance to Gasworks on Lake Union, and a new small park in old empty lot on 35th.

Ravenna:

  • Good for quiet. Well within biking distance.
  • Parks: Ravenna/Cowen - playground on the Cowen Park side, lovely walking paths through the ravine by and over a stream. Pooh sticks played here often...

Sand Point:

  • Quiet and out of the way.
  • Convenient access to buses (74 and 75).
  • Magnuson Park

Green Lake:

  • There's this really big lake there that's nice to look at. Seattle's most popular park. 3 mile jogging/biking path.
  • Northeast lakeside: playground, rec. center, boat rentals, ball fields, beach with lifeguard in summer.
  • Northwest lakeside: large wading pool refilled every day over 70 degrees in summer, Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse, public beach with lifeguard in summer.
  • South lakeside: bleachers for watersports (crew, waterskiing, etc.), small golf course.
  • 48 bus to campus (20-25 minutes), 16 bus line to downtown (30 minutes) via Fremont (15 minutes).
  • Public library on the north side.
  • Nearest groceries: Whole Foods (Roosevelt & 65th), PCC (Aurora & Green Lake).
  • A few good restaurants: Rosita's (Mexican), BluWater Green Lake (Bar/Bistro), Green Lake Bar & Grill, Nell's (high end - $$$).

Greenwood (not on map; northwest of Green Lake):

  • Greenwood is a relatively quiet neighborhood, with a mix of young people, families, and retirees.
  • Greenwood has a convenient neighborhood shopping area, with a grocery store, a Fred Meyers, drugstores, a hardware store, and several restaurants. This is also the main area for antique shops in Seattle.
  • Greenwood also abuts Aurora Avenue (aka Highway 99) -- both good news and bad news, since you'll find a couple more grocery stores (Larry's Market is great if you enjoy cooking) and a major bus line here, but you'll also find traffic, seedy bars, and used car lots.
  • If you want to live in Greenwood and you don't like to drive, be sure you are within walking distance of the 48 bus's route down 85th St. -- changing buses to get to the university is a nuisance.

Queen Anne:

  • Rents can range from affordable to downright expensive, but the views are almost always grand.
  • Nice restaurants.
  • Bus access to the university is a bit limited and for some parts of Queen Anne, non-existent.

Central District

  • This is a gentrifying neighborhood. Development from Capitol Hill is spreading into the CD, so you'll find many new housing units (especially along Union) as well as older homes and apartments to rent.
  • There are some new developments in this area for a reasonable amount of rent.
  • If you like walking to school, it’s about a 45 minute walk, and the views are breathtaking! Walking to school means walking through the Washington Park Arboretum.
  • Madrona is very close — one of my favorite study places is a Starbucks in Leschi overlooking the waterfront.
  • Expect at least a 20-30 minute bike and/or bus ride.

Northgate

  • Cheaper part of town, though you will pay more for the noise since Northgate Way NE is a major road (many buses)
  • Being next to the Northgate Mall is nifty, so very easy to go to Barnes & Noble or go shopping
  • Biking the hill to and from CSE improved my endurance. The bike ride is about 30-45 minutes, and is slightly dangerous with Roosevelt Blvd (you bike along the traffic).
  • If you have a car, it's very easy to navigate around Seattle from Northgate