Are you looking for a place to rent? Here are six excellent avenues that may lead to your dream rental home or apartment.
A woman in New York City occupied the same two-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village for more than 60 years. When she passed away in March of 2018, her rent was $28.34 per month.
You’re not likely to find a deal that good, but today’s highly competitive rental market works in your favor. In 2016, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, 36.6 percent of U.S. homes were occupied by renters. Of the millennials surveyed, 65 percent were renting. If there are more renters than ever, there are bound to be some terrific properties at affordable prices.
According to Lance Macon, a seasoned real estate executive with Metro Home Managers in Washington, D.C., approximately 90 percent of renters start their search on either Craigslist or Zillow.
When it comes to the U.S. rental-housing market, Craigslist is recognized as the largest exchange for real-time information. There’s something in just about every neighborhood and price range on its digital bulletin boards. Since most homeowners and apartment landlords can post for free, there are amazing deals to be had.
Here are some tips to make your search less overwhelming:
- Start with the map feature. You can eliminate at a glance any areas that are 90-minute commutes from where you work.
- Create a spreadsheet broken down by criteria like size, neighborhood, price range, schools, transportation, and other considerations. Leave plenty of room for notes.
- Don’t forget to bookmark your favorite pages.
- Search at least once every day. If you see something you like, respond quickly.
Macon suggests using Craigslist and other online boards as a starting place, but he advises doing a more in-depth investigation into specific neighborhoods.
This site is one of the most comprehensive for apartment rentals, but the majority of its listings are large complexes. If it’s a charming garage-turned-studio you’re looking for, you may be out of luck.
In addition to standard criteria like price and number of bedrooms, Apartments.com has an impressive range of filters to narrow your search:
- Special categories such as student housing, military, or income-restricted
- Listings with virtual 3D tours
- Length of commute by any method of transportation
- Listings that show pet-friendliness by the type of pet
Details on specific neighborhoods are limited, but the map view highlights complexes with vacancies. You can indicate your preferred borders and neighborhood amenities on the map. Also, take advantage of special promotions and other incentives by renting a place through Apartments.com.
This exhaustive search engine for rental properties across the U.S. was acquired by Zillow in 2012. Along with the basics, there are some unique features and a surprising amount of information:
- Ability to search neighborhoods and amenities by keyword
- Map overlays showing proximity to public transportation and bike lanes
- Information on how long a property has been listed and level of interest
- Ability to search only for listings with multiple pictures
- More than 90,000 ratings and reviews for neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and individual units
Trulia is also owned by Zillow. Since it partners with community-based sites like EveryBlock.com and SpotCrime.com, it has some of the most current, neighborhood-specific information you’ll find about schools, commutes, local businesses, and crime. You have the ability to view results in list, map, or grid format.
If you’re part of the LGBT community, a new feature will help you understand nondiscrimination laws in areas you’re considering.
Both Trulia’s Android and iOS apps earn high marks for ease of use.
Ask an Expert
It never hurts to ask for a Realtor’s opinion. Even if you’re not ready to buy, agents who have vast knowledge of the market and specific neighborhoods may spare you a few minutes. One could steer you toward areas that typically have rental homes or steer you away from apartment complexes known for heavy partying or criminal activity. An agent may know someone who’s moving and open to renting out their vacant house.
Alternatively, there are relocation specialists in larger cities. Many offer tours around town and are authorized to show rental properties. They can also help with the hassles of relocating on a tight deadline:
- Arranging movers
- Helping you find schools or child care
- Helping you ship your pets
- Arranging to ship your vehicle
- Arranging for utilities
- Referring you to medical, dental, legal, or other types of professionals in your new neighborhood
If your specialist is paid a commission by the property company, landlord, or various vendors that you’re referred to, you won’t pay a cent for relocation services. You can find a specialist by contacting a certifying agency such as Worldwide ERC.
Drive Around in Desired Areas
The Internet is a powerful tool for knowing what’s available and finding deals but make a point to see for yourself.
Start with the area in which you most want to live. Collect flyers from houses with for-rent signs in the yard. Stop into local groceries and small businesses to check for notices on bulletin boards. Visit apartment leasing offices in person. Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time results in a waived application fee or free month’s rent.
Be sure to read current online reviews by residents or talk personally with tenants you run into on the property.
If you come up empty with your first choice, head for other areas that have a lot of listings. Try to visit at different times of day. Sit in your car at various locations and people-watch. Eavesdrop for an hour in a neighborhood cafe. Try to imagine yourself living in the area. It won’t take long to pick up good or bad vibes.
Finally, be sure to do your homework on rental scams. As with anything else in life, trust your instincts when a deal sounds too good to be true.