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Short Term Lease or Long Term Lease: Which is Right for You?

By: Justin Chaplin
March 21, 2019

Everyone needs a little flexibility in their lives, and committing to a 12-month lease isn’t always ideal. Whether you’re just trying out a new city or need a short-term arrangement, there are other options than the traditional year-long lease. A short-term lease could offer a solution, but requires an understanding of the pros and cons.

Not sure where to start? Find out whether renting an apartment on a short term lease may be best for you.

Short Term Leases

Short term leases may have the flexibility you desire, but come with a heavier price tag. Here's what you need to know about short term leases.

Added Flexibility

Flexibility is the main draw to a short-term lease for renters looking for month-to-month accommodations or a term of six months. A short-term lease allows flexibility to take a new position at work, try out a new city, or change-up your living situation when you want more privacy.

Lack of Stability

Renters may enjoy the flexibility of a lease, but the downsides are the lack of stability for the landlord and tenant. Without a long-term tenant, landlords face looming turnover costs and sudden vacancies. You also risk needing to pack up and move again, even if you intended to resign your short-term lease.

Short-term leases may also prove more competitive. Apartment complexes almost always prioritize long-term leases in a healthy real estate market where they can pick and choose their tenants.

Vacation rental sites have made it easier than ever to rent out an apartment, condo, or entire home to turn a quick profit. Although many can offer an ideal short-term lease situation, others could put you in the middle of legal trouble. Some cities have new ordinances that are restricting short-term rentals or making them illegal. You could be left scrambling to find new accommodations without notice.

Expensive Rental Rates

Monthly rates on a short-term lease are almost always higher than a traditional lease. There is more risk involved with a landlord, and higher administration fees to show the apartment and get it ready for a new renter.

However, if you strictly need flexibility, the rent hike for a short-term lease is probably worth it. You could use the added cost and apply it to a nicer apartment with a year-long lease instead.

Fewer Apartment Options

Finding short-term accommodations is a lot of legwork to move-in for a brief amount of time. They’re often difficult to find and are often available as generic, corporate apartments. You’re less likely to enjoy settling into your new home and customize it the way you want before it’s time to pack up and move all over again. Landlords are also less willing to allow for painting the walls or hanging photos during a short-term lease.

Long Term Leases

A typical 12-month lease won't give you the flexibility of a short term lease, but offers plenty of benefits.

Locked-in Long Term

Locking into a long term lease avoids rent increases and comes with its own flexibility. You’re free to customize your apartment, per the terms of your lease, and make it feel more like home. You also don’t need to worry about moving again in just a few months and starting the apartment search all over again. It’s true breaking a lease is expensive, but it’s not impossible to do without a penalty.

Read more about breaking a lease without penalty.

Rental Rates are More Affordable

Traditional, year-long leases are almost always more affordable than a short-term lease. You also build up more credibility and trust with your landlord, which could make for an easy lease renewal and less chance for a rent hike at the end of the lease term.

Easier to Find

Long-term leases are plentiful, especially in cities with multiple apartment complexes and dynamic neighborhoods. It’s easy to find an apartment with the layout you want, from a studio to three-bedroom when you’re open to a long-term lease.

Final Thoughts

A long or short-term lease isn’t necessarily better than the other, and is really contingent on your needs and preferences. Despite the added costs, a month-to-month lease is probably worth the legwork to hunt one down if you place a high value on flexibility.

Ready to start looking for your perfect home? Apartment List can help you find the perfect apartment for a short-term or long-term living situation. Just get started with the quiz above!

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