When Is the Best Time to Start Your Apartment Search?


There are many factors determining the ideal time to start your apartment search, depending on your definition of "ideal," and the city you are renting in. When looking for housing, a little bit of strategy can go a long way. Read on for tips on timing your housing search.

Looking for Value

Most Americans move between the months of May and September. The warm weather makes moving easy, and the academic school year means many students are signing a new lease during the summer months. If you are looking for a deal, take the opposite approach. Targeting your housing search towards the colder winter months when the market is slower will help you snag a great deal on an apartment.

Fewer people moving means that fewer tenants are competing for the same properties. Basic econ teaches us that less demand drives prices downward. Not only do property managers list rentals at a discount between October and April, they are also more open to negotiation. With fewer prospective renters, landlords are desperate to fill units and may be swayed to drop the monthly rent a hundred dollars or so, or throw in a few perks, like free parking, to sweeten the deal. The market is especially weak, and therefore, renter friendly, in December and January, because no one wants to move during the holiday season. Swoop in to snag the best deals on rental property.

Pro tip: offer to sign an 18 month lease in exchange for discounted rent. This is appealing to landlords because an 18 month lease allows them to put the unit back on the market during the busy summer season, when they can fetch higher rents.

If your main priority is saving money, winter is the time to look. You may be schlepping boxes through a snowstorm, but you can easily save a thousand dollars or more per year.

Looking for Choices

If your main priority is finding your dream rental, start your apartment search in the summertime when the market is flush with choices. May to September are the most popular times for landlords to list rentals, targeting college students moving off campus for the year, and recent college grads relocating for a new job. If you want to see the full spectrum of rental options your city has to offer, start keeping your eye on apartment listings at the beginning of May. A bonus: unloading a U-Haul is also a lot more pleasant with a warm summer breeze.

Summer apartment hunting has its drawbacks however. With so many people on the prowl, rental prices are at their highest, and landlords are rarely open to negotiation.

The hot rental market also means properties are being snatched up left and right. These peak months are no time for an indecisive apartment hunter. If you are looking for a place between April and September, be ready to make a snap decision. Be prepared with your application, credit score, references, security deposit, and first month's rent in order to lock down the apartment of your dreams.

Other Factors to Consider

The timing of your search will depend on the city you are searching in. In areas with hot real estate markets like Los Angeles and New York, it is not uncommon to secure an apartment a week or two before the move in date. However, if you are hoping to live in an area adjacent to a college campus, you will need to plan ahead. Because university housing closely follows the academic school year, most students secure their lease months in advance. If you are hoping for a May move in date, start checking the listings in February. Looking at an August lease? Keep your eyes open as early as May, lest your dream apartment pass you by.

For most renters, the best time to begin the search is a month and a half before their ideal move-in date. Most leases require a 30-day notice prior to move out, and landlords will start listing their properties as soon as their tenants give notice. A six-week timeline gives renters plenty of time to see all the options available that month, weigh their choices, and pass their credit check before the first of the month.

Willing to play it fast and loose? Waiting until a week or two before the end of the month could help you land a great deal as landlords scramble to fill their properties. Even during the slow season, the housing market tends to move pretty quickly, so be proactive in your search and be ready to commit when you find the right place.

In summary: looking for an apartment in the winter will give you the best bargains, but the fewest options. A summer search will give you a plethora of choices, but also throw you into a fast paced, competitive rental market with higher prices. Your ideal apartment search timeline will depend on your priorities. Happy hunting!

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