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Rents have been rising in recent years, with annual price growth up 3.2% in October 2023, according to Zillow. But it may be possible to save on rent, depending on when you begin your search for the perfect apartment.
Generally, the best time to rent an apartment for a lower price is from November through March, when demand is lower. However, apartment hunting from May to September could be beneficial if you want a wider range of options since there tend to be more units available during these months. Here are some tips to help you time your apartment search to find the best deal on your ideal place.
When Is the Best Time to Rent an Apartment?
The best time to rent an apartment is usually in the winter months since that's when demand is lowest. According to the 2023 HireAHelper Migration Report, 41% of all moves happen during the summer months when school lets out and the weather is perfect for outdoor endeavors like moving.
By contrast, only 6% of moves occur during November and December, when rent is typically cheaper. Demand is low during these holiday months because moving is inconvenient during the busy holiday season, and inclement weather can make it more challenging and even dangerous to move your belongings.
Facing less demand from prospective renters, landlords are more apt to lower rents to fill vacancies. You may find a rental price difference of about 5% between the peak and low seasons. Additionally, landlords may be more willing to offer other concessions—like waiving the security deposit or including utilities with the rent—to incentivize you to sign a lease.
And since fewer people are moving in the winter months, it could be easier to book movers. Instead of planning your move around your movers' availability, you could schedule movers to fit your timetable. Another advantage of booking movers during the slow season is that they're not as likely to be rushed, which could mean there's a lower chance of damage to your belongings.
When Is the Worst Time to Rent an Apartment?
The worst time to rent an apartment is generally during the summer months—June, July and August—when demand for units is at its highest. The weather is good and school is out, making it an optimal time to move. With more competition among renters, landlords are more likely to increase rent, and there's less room to negotiate for a lower rent or other concessions.
Similarly, highly desirable units, like those with good locations and exceptional amenities, get snapped up quickly during the highly competitive summer months. As such, you must be ready to act fast. If the rental market is particularly hot, you may have to sign a rental agreement on the spot to secure a unit you like.
When Are the Most Apartments Available to Rent?
Generally, you'll find more apartment inventory during the summer, especially from May to September. As mentioned, more people move during these months, so there's higher turnover and more available listings to consider.
Many renters sign 12-month leases in the summer, and their apartment leases end at the same time the following year, continuing the cycle of new units hitting the market during this season. Unfortunately, there's also more competition among renters looking at the same unit, so you must be ready for higher prices and the need to make fast decisions.
When to Start Looking for an Apartment
It's good practice to start your search one to two months before you plan to move or when your current lease is set to end. This timeline should give you enough time for a smooth move into a new rental and avoid a scenario where you're left without a place to live. Check your lease agreement to confirm the amount of advance notice you must give your landlord before vacating your rental.
You may want to begin your search early if you're in a competitive market or if unique factors affect your local rental market. For example, if you live in a university town, you may want to get approved for an apartment a month or so before students are expected to return for school. Similarly, you may want to start apartment hunting early if you're planning a move to a larger city or highly desirable neighborhood where you'll likely find greater competition for apartments.
Can You Negotiate Rent?
It's possible to negotiate your rent, particularly in the winter months when landlords have fewer applicants to choose from. Remember, a successful negotiation often depends on compromise. Ideally, you'll find a solution that meets your needs while also helping the landlord meet theirs. Following these tips can help you negotiate a better deal and save on rent:
- Research available apartment listings. Before you sign a lease agreement, take time to research your local rental market. Compare prices for similar apartments in the same neighborhoods with the same amenities like parking, utilities and fitness centers. Also, pay attention to how fast similar apartments are being rented, as you're more likely to snag a lower price or another concession if it's likely to sit vacant for a period.
- Make a case for yourself. In a competitive rental marketplace, you'll want to separate yourself from other potential tenants vying for the same apartment. Demonstrate your qualifications to the landlord, such as a strong employment record, good credit and renters insurance if you have it. Submit reference letters from previous landlords or neighbors to bolster your application.
- Aim for a win-win situation. Along those lines, consider what concessions you can provide that would benefit the landlord. For example, you could offer to sign a longer lease or pay several months' rent in advance, if possible, in exchange for a lower rent. You could also offer to take care of yard maintenance, minor repairs or updates.
Strengthen Your Credit Before Applying for an Apartment
Not all landlords run credit checks on potential tenants, but many do. As such, it's wise to shore up your credit before apartment hunting since your credit gives landlords a snapshot of how well you manage your finances and pay your bills.
While there's no industry standard or minimum credit score required, most landlords will want to see that your credit falls in the "good" credit score range (670 to 739) or higher. Consider checking your credit report and credit score for free with Experian to see where your credit stands. If necessary, take steps to improve your credit quickly before applying for an apartment lease or other forms of credit.