We live in a mobile world. There’s no denying it. The trouble is, there are so many apps, it’s often overwhelming … and difficult to find one that doesn’t crash every ten minutes. So, after some consideration, we decided enough is enough: it’s time for us to list some of the best apartment-finding apps available. Without further ado, here they are:
Lovely’s app (iOS
only and Android), which we reviewed last fall, is, well, quite lovely. What gives it an advantage over its competitors is two fold: first, since it’s an aggregator, it has tons of listings from multiple sites (more on this below) and second, its smooth interface is a pleasure to use. Plus, if you open an account with them (free), you get seamless integration between the your online account and the app (with auto-updates no matter which format you’re using it through), and a way to store your “renter’s resume,” so you can keep all your vital data (such as your employment, references, pets) in one place, ready to be emailed to potential landlords. It’s really pretty slick, meaning that Lovely’s app is highly recommended. The only problem is it’s not yet available for Androids. [Editor’s Note: As of December 10, 2013, Lovely’s app is also available for Android]
Hotpads has a cheap-looking website, but don’t be fooled. Its listings are solid, comprehensive, and nearly as good as Lovely’s. It provides images of apartments, shows them on a map, and lets you run filters on your searches. The site is currently under-the-radar, but its most recently updated app (iOS and Android) gets stellar reviews for usability. While there’s nothing particularly fancy about the app, it’s got just what you need – tons of options, easy-to-understand searches, and a glitch-free interface. We’d strongly recommend it.
Realtor.com’s rentals app (iOS and Android) grades out quite well. It has an easy-to-use interface, it allows for searching by image, and it has all the other basics you’d want such as location searches, search filters, and organizing tools. It also allows you to draw on a map and encircle just the area where you want to look for rentals. Haven’t you always wanted to do that!? Based on its interface alone, we recommend it – but keep in mind that it only provides listings from Realtor.com. In large cities, the number of listings is substantial, but not overwhelmingly comprehensive … in smaller places, there’s almost nothing listed, which can be a problem.
Trulia, which is usually associated with home purchasers, has a solid compendium rental listings, and a comprehensive app (iOS, Android, Kindle) that provides all the basics: intuitive listings, quick loading times, and alerts when new listings within your setting appear. While the listings only include those provided by Trulia, the company has a lot of listings, particularly in large cities, including some not found on Lovely – so we’d recommend this app. Try it to see what else is available.
Mokriya Craigslist, the officially licensed app (iOS, Android) for craigslist, lets you use your phone for everything you’d search for on craigslist, including apartments, and it plops them on a map, so you can see where they are. While opinions of craigslist vary from “fabulous resource” to “frightening stalkerville,” everyone can agree that conducting an apartment search using only craigslist is a mistake. In fact, Mokriya’s app seems like it would be more helpful if you were furniture hunting, for example – so check it out – it’s a great app – but use something else for the bulk of your search. This is more of a supplemental app.
Apartment Guide also has an app (iOS, Android, Kindle) that works just like you hope. Searching filters, a clean interface, recent updates, no bugs in the system. That said, like Trulia and Realtor.com, it only gives you listings from its site, in this case Apartment Guide. Which is fine as far as it goes – but you’d be a fool to be searching for apartments using only one listing service, particularly since Apartment Guide’s listings are so, so skimpy. Seriously, compare the number of apartments within a certain radius using Apartment Guide and using Lovely. Lovely has everything AG has, plus, oh, five times more listings. Maybe check out the Apartment Guide app, but don’t depend on
We here at My First Apartment use the Padmapper website frequently. It’s an old favorite, though it’s become outdated. Lovely’s web version does what Padmapper does, but better. And Padmapper’s app? No thanks. Users of the app (iOS and Android) say that it’s buggy and difficult to work with.
Other Key Points
In our testing, we noticed that the big boys like Trulia, Apartment Guide, and Realtor.com had good listings for large cities … and then almost nothing for smaller places (think cities under half a million). We can’t account for why this is, but if you’re looking for a place in a smaller town, use Lovely or Hotpads … they still had a reasonable number of listings in smaller places.
Also, none of the apps listed above were 100% comprehensive … and a large part of finding a great apartment is really searching through all avenues (both literally and figuratively). So even if you use Lovely as your primary app, keep an eye on listings through other outlets. It might be a pain, but in the long run, you’ll be more likely to find your dream place.
Hope this helps; happy hunting! And if you have discovered other apps that you’d recommend, please share in comments.