While we’ve covered the best times to rent an apartment before, it’s time to go into a little bit more depth on the subject. Particularly because October is absolutely, positively one of the very best months to be searching for a rental. Yes, that’s right, now is the time to be looking.
In most locations, the apartment rental market goes through an annual cycle. In the heart of winter, there’re hardly any open units, and there’s hardly anyone searching. It’s dreary, you might find a deal, but you’d have to move in the snow … and there’s almost no inventory, so your choices are severely limited.
In the spring, things begin to heat up (both literally and on the apartment market). A few more listings pop up, though there are also more searchers. Early spring is, overall, a good time to rent, as well. Not too much competition, but decent inventory. However, landlords have a bit of leverage, because they know that summer is coming and they’ll be able to rent to a unit soon, if not immediately.
In summer, everyone’s searching for an apartment. Which means you’ll have lots of inventory to look through – and lots of competition. You’ll also find that prices go up. Yep. Literally, the same apartment will rent for up to $100 a month more in July than in November. It’s simple supply and demand. You’ll also need to act quickly in the summer – if you don’t take a place, someone else will.
In fall, the market is cooling down, but there’s still enough activity to find a nice place. Also – and this is crucial – winter is coming, which is a no man’s zone for landlords. You have the leverage. If a landlord doesn’t rent to you … there may be no available tenants for several months – nobody wants to apartment hunt and move in mid-November, December, January, or even February. So … negotiate. Ask to have the application fee waived, for example. See about lowering the rent. Take some time to consider your options, and insist upon a deal. You’re in the renter’s season.
Fall might be the best time to score a rental, but what are some other strategies?
If you’re in a college town (and not a student) consider starting your rentals at strategic times. For example, if graduation is in May, there is likely a glut of open apartments (or sublet opportunities) starting on June 1. Try to take advantage of this. (Whatever you do, don’t get on the same renting cycle as the students – otherwise you’ll be paying a premium for timing you don’t need.)
Or, if you have some flexibility on when you move (for example, you’re moving out of your parents’ place), consider taking a place where the move-in date is mid-month. And then negotiate that the final month of your lease ends at the end of the month. Many potential tenants won’t want to pay for the odd two weeks of a rental, especially if it means they’re paying double rent (since their current place runs through the end of the month). If you don’t have this problem, and you’re willing to move mid-month, you’ll have far less competition.
Finally, you can always search in winter anyway. Moving in December or January is never fun, and the inventory might be bad … but if you find a sublet opportunity, for example, you’ll likely be the only person interested. You’ll get to move in at your pace … and since it’s a sublet, the move-out date will not be in the winter. And, if it turns out you like the place, you’ll likely get to renew direct from the landlord, on a normal lease. Or, if you’re lucky enough to find a straight rental in December, you’ll likely get a deal – and be asked to sign a six-month lease with a chance for a year renewal, so that the landlord doesn’t have to negotiate a mid-winter lease again when you eventually move out.
In sum, when hunting for apartments, the season matters. Knowing this going into your search will help you understand your leverage, as well as manage your expectations. And both those things will make the apartment hunt that much easier.