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For Rent by Owner Apartments: How to Find Them [Guide]

June 28, 2022

You’ve likely come across the term “for rent by owner” during the process of finding an apartment. These apartments may not look any different from a traditional apartment rental unit, but there are key differences between the two.

It's essential to know the difference between traditional apartment rentals and for rent by owner properties. We've got you covered!

This guide will explore for rent by owner rentals— explaining what they are, how to find them, and what you should know before renting them.

What Are For Rent By Owner Apartments?

For rent by owner properties are rental homes that are privately rented out by the property owner. These differ from traditional apartments, which are rented out by property management companies.

These types of rentals are most commonly found in single-family homes, duplexes/triplexes, and condos.

Additionally, you don't need to work with a leasing agent to rent a “for rent by owner” apartment. Instead, you’ll work directly with the landlord and communicate with them throughout the rental application process.

Be aware that renting a “for rent by owner” apartment unit is distinct from subleasing an apartment or renting a condo. Although the concept is similar, renting a condo usually requires the renter to abide by HOA bylaws, maintenance is handled by professionals, and condos are typically located in more modern buildings with amenities.

How to Find For Rent By Owner Apartments

Searching for a for rent by owner rental is a different process than typical apartment hunting. You'll have to be deliberate about your search. Here are a few ways you can find privately owned apartments for rent near you.

Social Media and Craigslist

If you prefer to keep your search digital, check out social media platforms and Craigslist to find your next home. Facebook housing groups and Craigslist's "For Rent" section are good tools to find private landlords.

Landlords choose to advertise on sites like Facebook and Craigslist because they are free, they are targeted, and they work. Better yet, you'll likely be able to contact the landlord directly through the Facebook Messenger service.

Browse Your Neighborhood for "For Rent" Signs

For rent by owner apartments can usually be found through less formal avenues. You may just have to take a stroll around the neighborhood you're interested in and keep an eye out for "For Rent" yard or window signs.

Rental Listing Sites

You can find for rent by owner apartment units on rental listing sites like Apartment List. However, they are a bit harder to find than typical apartment rentals. Keep your eye out in the property description on listings to see if they're being rented out by the owner.

Websites for Vacation Rentals

You may not find a 12-month lease here, but vacation rental websites are a great place to find short-term or monthly privately managed rentals. Check out VRBO or RentByOwner.com to get started!

Contact your Network

Asking around your network is a great way to find your next home. As we mentioned, these rentals are not often found on typical apartment listings. Private property owners are likely just looking for one renter, so they don't have the same advertising needs as a large apartment complex.

Benefits of Privately Owned Rentals

There are tons of benefits to renting a unit listed as for rent by owner. Here's a breakdown of the most significant benefits of renting a “for rent by owner” apartment.

Different Types of Homes

Apartment complexes usually don't sell their units, so for rent by owner rentals will look a bit different. You may be looking at single-family homes, condos, or townhomes that are privately owned. Depending on your situation, these may be the perfect home type for you. For example, dog owners looking for a backyard may prefer a rental house as opposed to an apartment in a large building.

Flexibility

As your relationship with your landlord in a “for rent by owner” apartment unit will likely be more personal than with that of a property management company-run unit, there's more flexibility involved. This is especially true if you have rented with the same landlord for an extended period and have been an outstanding tenant.

Depending on your landlord's personality, you may have leniency and flexibility regarding things like month-to-month leases and pet-friendliness.

You may also have more luck if you're renting with a low credit score. Larger complexes often require a certain credit score for tenants. While not guaranteed, you'll have a better chance of landing a privately-owned rental if you have low credit since you'll have more open lines of communication.

Potentially More Affordable Rent Rates

You may end up saving money on your rent price when renting directly from the property owner.

You're unlikely to be buying into a unit with tons of amenities, such as pool access or on-site gyms, so the rental rates may be lower. Additionally, there are usually no fees to pay to third parties such as leasing agents, property management companies, or landscaping services.

They may pass these savings down to the renter, which can be helpful if you're renting in a high-cost-of-living city or on a tight budget. You may also be able to negotiate rent down by opting to handle lawn care, shoveling, and general repairs on your own.

Easier Communication

When your primary point of communication is your landlord, submitting a maintenance request can be as simple as sending a short text.

You won't have to wait for your email or phone call to go through the property management company that manages yours and hundreds of other units.

Drawbacks of Privately Owned Rentals

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to renting a unit directly from the owner. It's important to consider these drawbacks before settling on one of these listings. Here are the cons of renting an apartment that's “for rent by owner.”

Lacking Amenities

If you're a fan of luxury apartment living, then you might think twice about a for rent by owner rental. You're not going to find the scores of apartment amenities that you would in a larger apartment community or complex.

However, you should still find a rental home with common amenities like A/C and an in-unit washer and dryer.

Maintenance Requests May Take Longer

While it may be easier to make a maintenance request by contacting your landlord directly, there's no guarantee they will handle your request quickly. (Looking at you — garage door that's been stuck open for two weeks.)

In some cases, your landlord may be limited by a third party's schedule. In others, they may prefer a DIY approach to maintenance which may not always be the best approach. Either way, there's always something to be said for having a handyman on staff.

Harder to Find

For rent by owner rental homes are harder to find, as owners don't often advertise on large apartment rental platforms.

That said, be prepared to put a lot more effort into your rental search. Condo and rental houses are scarce in general, so take walk around your neighborhood for "for rent" signs. Also, get in touch with your local network to see if anyone is renting out their space.

Your Landlord May Live On-Site

This practice is relatively common, especially in duplexes or triplexes. In this scenario, your landlord typically collects rent from the additional tenants to cover the mortgage payment.

That said, while your landlord benefits in this scenario, not many renters would like their landlord to live upstairs. Even the most respectful renter may be nervous about playing music too loudly or inviting friends over with the landlord so nearby.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Landlord

It's a good idea to bring a list of questions to your potential landlord that addresses relevant topics and concerns. You can and should ask your prospective landlord these questions before moving forward to rent the apartment. Since they are the private owner of the unit, they should have a clear answer to each of the following:

  • How do maintenance requests work?
  • What's the typical timeline for a maintenance request to be addressed?
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms?
  • Will I be responsible for covering the utility bills, or are the utilities included in the rent?
  • How do I pay rent?
  • Are there any house rules I should know about?
  • What's the guest policy?
  • What's the pet policy?
  • Where do I park my car?
  • What are the lease length options?
  • When's the move-in date?
  • Is the location bike-friendly and walkable?

Renting an apartment from an owner-landlord isn't all that different from renting an apartment under a property management company. However, there are some significant differences that you should consider before making a final decision on the matter.

It's important to start with your apartment preferences and work your way up from there. That way, you'll find a selection of apartments that meet your needs first. Afterward, you can filter to find one that best suits you.

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DAVINA WARD
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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