How Far in Advance Should You Start Your Apartment Search?
Timing is everything in life, love, and . . . apartment hunting. Summer is the most popular apartment hunting season, especially for first apartments, but how long does finding a new apartment actually take?
Do you need to give yourself a week or a month to find a place you can call your own (or, you know, your own with 2 other people)?
The answer is that it really depends on what city you are looking at.
In Chicago, for instance, you should start looking anywhere from 4-6 weeks out. People plan better there and you’ll find a better deal. That said, Chicago has a relatively high vacancy rate, so if you show up 2 weeks out, you’ll still be able to find a place – it may just not be as perfect.
New York, on the other hand, has a ridiculously low vacancy rate, hovering around 1%.
As a result, NYC landlords/current roommates hold all the cards. They can put up a place a two weeks out and know they can find someone to take it. So, places rarely start being listed more than 4 weeks out. In New York, the ideal is often finding a sublet for a month or two while you search for a permanent location. Alternatively, you could try to find a nice friend who would let you stay for 2-3 weeks while you search.
The best test as to how far out you should be looking is to check out Craigslist now and see when the listings are for. If it’s late May, are the current listings for June or July?
If you’re feeling skittish, you can also try posting a housing wanted ad for your desired timing. Those work sometimes. . . and it could always be your lucky day! Otherwise, just try to take your apartment search with a big batch of patience. You’ll find a place, for sure. It just may not be on your ideal schedule.
Here’s a poll we did a couple of years ago (before hackers forced us to drop our polls!) It told us that two thirds of first apartment hunters found their place withing three weeks. Let us know what’s been your experience.
|How long did it take to find your first apartment?|
|Less than 24 hours||8%|
|a couple of days||16%|
|two to three weeks||32%|
|four to six weeks||14%|
|more than six weeks||22%|