One Man's Alaska

Renting in Alaska is very hard

September 2, 2010

Trying to find a good rental unit in Wasilla, Alaska is one of the more difficult things I've ever attempted. I suppose if you're willing to pay $1,500 or more per month things are a little easier, but the under-$1,000/month rental market is an extremely competitive battle.

The first hard part about renting in Wasilla (or Anchorage, for that matter) is that there are very few apartment complexes here. Most units are duplexes, fourplexes, and homes for rent, with a few apartment complexes scattered here and there. So you're not dealing with any organization; you just have to keep working craigslist and several other Alaska rental websites, move fast, and be ready to make a decision fast.

The second hard part is that there are very 1- or 2-bedroom rental units in the under-$1,000/month rental market that you actually want to live in. With anything under $1,000/month you know you're going to be making some compromises. Neighborhoods are much worse than others, the unit itself is probably in bad shape, or you're going to be miles from civilization. Shoot, this spring I was looking at several units from $1,100-1,200 per month, and there were compromises with those as well.

The next problem you run into is that if you find any sort of rental for under $1K/month, you run into an extremely competitive battle. I'm lucky, I work from home, and I thought that by looking for a new place to live during the week I'd have an advantage, but when I went to look at a fourplex unit today, the real estate person surprised me by telling me we weren't going out there alone -- another couple was coming to look at the rental unit at the same time.

Yeesh, talk about uncomfortable.

We tried to make light of the situation, but we both clearly wanted this unit, so all I could do was play the game. After looking at the unit we both went back to the office and filled out credit applications. Because I didn't have all the paperwork with me that was needed (I assumed they would just run a credit check, but they wanted a tax return or recent paystubs), I had to leave and come back. I'm sure that couple that this was an advantage for them, but the way I look at it is that they're a young, unmarried couple, with low income jobs, and I can pay for a year's lease today. I know who I'd rent to, but that's me.

How this Wasilla, Alaska rental process works

Because I came back to the real estate office later when it was quieter, I asked the woman at the office how this works. She said she runs the first credit check, organizes everything, and gives it to "the boss." The boss then meets with the actual owners of the fourplex, and by sheer luck, they'll make a decision tomorrow. It turns out the rental agency normally meets with rental unit owners on Thursdays, and that being tomorrow, I hope to get an answer tomorrow or Friday, though of course that answer could be "no."

Rental units and 30 days notice - Bad timing for me

Since I didn't get an answer today, this leaves me in a bad situation. This Wasilla fourplex rental unit isn't available until October 1st, so the timing was almost perfect. My plan was for me to rent the unit, then give thirty days notice to my current landlord tonight. If that had worked, I wouldn't owe them any more money. But with this delay, I can't give thirty days notice at my current rental unit, so I may now need to pay as much as an additional month's rent, which is extremely irritating, and expensive.

Because of this, I'm going to an Open House in Palmer, Alaska tonight. Palmer is about thirty minutes down the road from my current location in Wasilla, but they are both about the same distance from Anchorage. Palmer is technically only about fifteen minutes from Wasilla, but my apartment is on the opposite end of Wasilla, so it's fifteen minutes to downtown Wasilla, and fifteen minutes more to Palmer.

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