Now, I am a firm believer in getting a deal in a rental. I’ve learned that in addition to the fluctuations in the overall rental market, there are deals to be had depending on how long a particular unit has been available for rent. For example, an apartment complex I called told me that they do a “one month free” promotion on apartments that are still unrented on the “available by” date. All it takes is a phone call (and a sweet voice) to find these gems, even when the entire building is managed by the same company!
Because most deals are time sensitive, I recommend getting some apps downloaded on your smartphone. I used four apps: Hotpads, Zillow Rentals, Trulia Rentals, and Padmapper. I also scoured Craigslist daily at work (oops!), on my phone browser, and at home on my computer. You’ll find out that many of the listings will overlap, but it still makes sense to spread your time/usage among the several resources.
Here’s my take on the apps I used:
Hotpads – Very user-friendly and based on a section of a map when you type in your desired location. You can also switch to a list view of the listings, but I solely used the map function so that I could keep an eye on how far from the Metro station I was getting. (The layout is very similar to the map view on Craigslist.) I also liked that this app differentiates between houses/rooms in houses/townhouses and apartments with house icons and apartment building icons. My favorite part was that it highlighted out the listings I already clicked on so that I wouldn’t waste my time clicking on the same listing multiple times. Hotpads includes listings from both individuals and commercial rental companies. This was my app of choice!
Zillow and Trulia – First, make sure you get the “rentals” version of these apps! These two apps are very similar and I also used the map view of these apps. With these apps my favorite feature was that each listing had the price under the spot on the map where the rental is located! The advantage to using these apps in addition to Craigslist and Hotpads is that some landlords and companies don’t want to list on Craigslist. For example, you may be missing out on some condo rentals, so there is distinct advantage to using a variety of apps.
Padmapper – This was my least used app, and it is the most like Craigslist in layout. I really only used this in lieu of Craigslist on the browser on my phone.
I recommend setting the parameters with your rent limit with the target location so you’re not wasting too much time clicking on listings that you actually wouldn’t consider. I had my rent limit set $100 higher than my target to see what was out there; I recommend this as well. For example, your max rent might be set at $1200, but you’d hate to miss the perfect apartment listed at $1225. Finally, do not use the contact functions available in the apps! It’s not likely you’ll hear back quickly enough, as it may be routed to the lister’s email associated with their user account for that particular app; use the contact information provided within the listing itself, instead of the in-app contact box.
The advantage of using a variety of apps is the ability to view not only listings from the traditional management companies, but rentals from condo owners and subletters. Keep in mind that subletting doesn’t always mean short-term; sometimes someone signs a lease and gets a job elsewhere with 11 months left in their lease! Do save the units that you want to go back to. There were many times when I forgot to do this and could not find the unit again. I got to a point where I would take screenshots in addition to saving the listing within the app! This was overdoing it and simply resulted in an accumulation of screenshots and not much else; just save the listing in the app.