When Is the Best Time to Rent an Apartment?
Whether you’re looking for a new place on the other side of town or the other side of the country, you’ll want to time your apartment hunt for when there’s the best selection—and hopefully the best rental rates, too. The real estate market tends to be cyclical, and the best time to rent an apartment depends on several key factors.
Here’s what you need to know as a prospective tenant before starting your apartment search:
When are the most apartments available for rent?
Supply and demand drive the real estate market. While renters certainly sign leases all year round, the peak season for apartment rentals is April through September. Summer is a particularly busy time of the year for college students and recent graduates who are making the move to be closer to campus or their new jobs. The summer months are also a popular moving time for families with children because they will time their relocation for when school is out.
If you are apartment hunting during this time, you’ll have the largest apartment inventory to choose from simply because so many people are ending their leases. Of course, they’ll also be signing new ones, which is why the rental market can be so competitive, with rents at their highest during this time.
What time of year are apartment rentals the least expensive?
Rent prices are also affected by supply and demand in the real estate market. When there is a higher demand for apartments, rent prices will also be higher. As demand cools for property rentals, the prices will drop lower.
After the peak rental season ends in September, October through March is typically the best time to rent an apartment. Rent prices will be lower—in fact, you. might be able to score a free month’s rent in some markets—but you will not have as large a selection as you would during peak rental months.
Things to consider when renting an apartment in a big city
If you’re renting an apartment in a big city like Chicago, San Francisco, or New York City, the rental market is active all year round. Availability will still be at its highest during the peak season of April through September, though. Rental prices, which are typically higher in big cities than they are in smaller towns across the country, will also be at their highest.
When it comes to finding an apartment in a city or other pricey real estate market, know that no matter when you look, your selection of rentals will be determined by your rental budget. The higher your budget is, the more choices you will have for finding a new apartment.
Renting an apartment in a college town
Moving to a town that’s home to several colleges or universities? You can expect the rental market to be even tighter during the peak season. Sept. 1, in particular, marks the start of the lease term for many students getting settled in for the start of the new school year. Apartment hunters looking for vacancies during the summer months can expect to pay higher rents.
Unless you are heading off to campus yourself, you may want to avoid moving into a college town during peak season. Aside from higher rents and competition and lower availability, moving can be a tricky endeavor with so many students moving in and out of their apartments at the same time.
Does weather play a role in the apartment rental market?
You already know that real estate is seasonal, but the weather itself also plays a role in driving the rental market.
As the temperatures start to drop during the fall and winter months, so does the demand for rental properties in many real estate markets throughout the country. Why? Most renters find it preferable to move in the warmer-weather months. Although fall and winter weather aren’t the same in every part of the United States, in the regions that see snow, ice, and freezing rain in the forecast, more people will be ready to hunker down in their current apartments than pack up and move to a new one. If you’re willing to move during the colder months, this is your chance to find a less-expensive apartment because the demand is lower.
Of course, if you’re moving to the south or other regions with warmer temperatures year-round, the weather is a non-issue. Still, those markets will mirror the peak rental seasons of other markets, regardless of the weather.
How far in advance should you start looking for an apartment to rent?
While you can always begin perusing online listings or scoping out a new location or neighborhood at any time, it’s a good idea to begin an active apartment hunt two months out from when you’d like to move. Why two months? Because current tenants will typically have a 60-day window to give their landlords notice as to whether they’re renewing their leases or moving out.
If you haven’t found an apartment yet and it’s a month out from when you’d like to move in, start focusing on apartments listed as “available now.” These are vacant apartments that are ready for you to move right in—in fact, you’ll likely have some flexibility as to when you can move in. You might even be able to negotiate a lower rental rate, as the landlord will want to fill the vacancy as soon as possible.
Is a one-year lease my only option for an apartment rental?
From a cash flow perspective, a landlord will likely prefer tenants to commit to a one-year lease term. But this is not the only option you have as a renter. Some companies, like Landing, offer short-term rentals where you can sign a month-to-month lease instead of the typical yearlong lease.
Short-term leases are an excellent option for apartment hunters who might be in either one of these situations:
- You are only planning to rent this apartment for the short term.
- You will be renting one place for a short time in the hopes of finding another apartment to move into for a longer lease term
Ultimately, the best time to rent an apartment comes down to your timeline and budget for moving. If you can be flexible with your time, it pays to time your apartment search for the off-peak months when the best rental rates are available. If you can be flexible with your budget, shifting your search to peak rental season will allow you to take advantage of a better selection of apartments.
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