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The Best Way to Find an Apartment in a Competitive Market

Updated on April 24, 2014

What is the best way to find a rental in this market?

Here are a few places to take a look at when you begin your search to find a new place to live.

  • Craigslist – A bit of everything in this online classified ad website, however users should tread with caution as many postings are often fraudulent or have misleading information about the listings.
  • Zillow – While originally a home buyer focused site, Zillow has many rentals listed and the panning map feature offers one of the best user experiences you can have if you’re not familiar with an area, or looking for a place near a specific location.
  • Trulia – Similar to Zillow, but with a more traditional property list view for easy printing if you’re going to hop in the car and drive around.
  • – One of the first apartment search websites, the real value here is that users can submit reviews of properties they have lived in, so you can get firsthand experience to learn if a place is going to have a lacking management or a noisy party neighborhood.
  • RedFin – similar user design to Zillow and Trulia, but with a focus on owning your own home rather than renting.

But using the right online service isn’t the only challenge awaiting potential renters out there.

Below are some of the top items to consider when you need to look at beating out the competition.

Don’t Wait Till The Weekend

Get a jump on the listing! Many units rent immediately, so don’t fool yourself by thinking you can wait to preview a place when you’re free on Sunday afternoon. Chances are, it will be gone by then. So carve out the time in your schedule, and take that long lunch during the week to meet with the landlord.

Use Technology!

All of the listed webstes above have mobile apps you can use n both iPhone and Android phones for when you’re on the go. Not only can you customize your search and browse on the go, in many cases you can sign up to receive real-time notifications as soon as something new hits the market.

References Aren’t Just for Jobs

Many places, especially luxury locations, will require a minimum of three references, if not at least one from a current residence, so have your list ready. Make sure to include complete names, addresses, phone numbers, and even emails for your references.

Have Money Ready

Most popular living locations will want first and last month’s rent on top of the security deposit (which can be up to 1 ½ months’ rent in some markets). In San Francisco, for example, the move-in amount for a 1 bedroom at 2,800/ month would be close to $7,000 up front!

Go On Credit Patrol

Make sure to check your credit before you go apartment hunting. Now is the time to try and get any mistakes taken care of and that any delinquencies are at least 3-6 months in the past.

Ask Questions

You don’t want to move into a new apartment only to find out it doesn’t have laundry facilities on site. Ask about the building, other tenants, the management company, and who pays for utilities like: sewage, water, gas and electric? How many parking stalls or spaces are assigned to units?

Tell us what you think!

Which of of the above websites or apps do you use the most?

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Got additional tips?

Sound off below on what has really helped you land a past or current rental!


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