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How to Find a Short-Term Rental Apartment

By: Davina Ward
June 10, 2021

Apartment hunting is a challenge on its own. However, it can be even harder when you're looking for more flexibility with your lease term.

Your best option? A short-term apartment rental.

One of the biggest draws of a short-term lease agreement is that it doesn't require a long-term commitment. However, short-term rentals come with significant advantages as well as drawbacks.

That's why it's essential to do your due diligence on short-term rentals before making a final decision. Not sure where to start? Don't worry! Here's everything you need to know about short-term rentals.

What are Short-Term Rentals?

A short-term rental is an apartment that has a lease that's shorter than the typical 12-month lease. Generally, short-term rentals are intended as a stop-gap for renters who prefer not to commit to a long-term lease.

Common lease lengths for short-term rentals are three or six months. However, there are even shorter lease terms, like month-to-month apartments.

Although long-term lease agreements allow for more stability, many renters are looking for more flexible accommodations. However, flexibility comes at a price.

Short-term leases are typically more expensive than a 12-month lease. Think about it — a landlord would likely prefer 12 months of consistent rent payments versus just three months.

Pros and Cons of Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals certainly have their advantages. However, it’s important to have a full picture of what they can offer you before making a final decision.

In short, it’s crucial to inform yourself about the pros and cons of short-term lease agreements. That way, you can avoid finding yourself in an unstable housing situation. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of short-term rentals.

Pros of Short-Term Rentals

  • Added Flexibility: If you’re looking for a short-term rental, it’s likely because you want the flexibility of a shorter lease term. Short-term lease agreements free renters from the commitment of a year-long lease.
  • Explore a New Area: If you’re moving to a new state and want to get to know the area before making a long-term commitment to a home, a short-term rental is a great option. It’ll also give you a great opportunity to search for jobs in the area. You can attend interviews in person.
  • Furnished Apartments: Short-term apartments often come furnished. This will save you the hassle of moving furniture when you move in and when your lease term is up.

Cons of Short-Term Rentals

  • More Expensive: Short-term rentals will almost always have more expensive monthly rent than a 12-month lease. This is because landlords have to offset the loss of 12 full months of rent and the time it takes to find another renter if you end your lease. As a result, you can expect higher rent prices for these rentals.
  • Harder to Find: Short-term leases aren’t always offered for the same reasons stated above. They aren’t as lucrative as long-term rentals. Landlords have to find new tenants more often. They also have to turn the apartment over. You’ll have to spend some time looking for a short-term rental. They might not be readily available.
  • Moving More Often: Shorter leases means moving more often. Moving costs can add up quickly, and moving is generally a stressful experience. Not to mention, you’ll have to apartment hunt all over again.

Is a Short-Term Rental Right For Me?

Short-term rentals make a ton of sense for certain situations. If you're moving to a new city and want to get a feel for the place, a short-term rental will allow you to live there without making a long-term commitment.

Additionally, students attending a university outside of their hometown who want to stay near campus look for short-term rentals that will accommodate their school schedule. But even if you don’t fall into any of these categories, a short-term rental might still be your best option.

Whether or not a short-term rental is right for you will depend on your circumstances. If you need a temporary home and have the budget to cover the higher price of a short-term rental, then you’re already past the biggest hurdles.

How to Find a Short-Term Rental

It can be difficult to find a short-term rental. And there are so few of them, you’ll likely face competition during your search.

So, it’s imperative to have a good search strategy. Use the following steps during your search, and you’ll be able to find your temporary dream apartment in no time.

1. Call the Leasing Offices

Short-term leases aren’t always highlighted on a property website. However, a quick call to a property’s leasing offices will reveal whether they offer short-term lease agreements.

Inquire about units that have been vacant for a while. These units are currently losing income for landlords. As a result, this may provide an incentive for them to consider a short-term rental agreement.

Remember, most properties prefer the security and stability of a 12-month lease over a short-term arrangement. So, you might have difficulty finding an available unit.

2. Look at the Nitty Gritty

Found an apartment you love on Apartment List? Look out for details on lease length in the nitty-gritty section. To make things easier for renters, this section highlights the important lease details that a prospective renter needs to know. Here you'll find information on lease length options, as well as important details like the application fee and pet policy.

The Short-Term Rental Application Process

Generally, the short-term rental application process is similar to the long-term rental application process. However, it can vary depending on the landlord and the lease length.

Your prospective landlord may thoroughly scrutinize your application or skip the process altogether and hand you a lease agreement.

Regardless of your experience, it's important to know what to expect during the traditional rental process. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the apartment rental process.

1. Complete the Application

Your prospective landlord or property manager will provide you with an application to fill out.

This is one of the most important steps in the rental application process, as it provides all the information necessary for your prospective landlord to screen.

With the information you provide in your application, your prospective landlord will determine whether you are a good fit for the apartment unit.

Be sure to double-check your application before submitting it, as an incomplete application could remove you from consideration.

2. Pay the Application Fees

You may be required to pay a rental application fee when applying for an apartment. This is especially common in competitive markets.

Landlords typically require these fees to cover the cost of running your application through tenant screening software or pulling your credit report.

If you want to avoid rental application fees, you'll need to keep a look out for units that don't require them. Additionally, you could narrow your search down to include rent specials.

If you find a short-term rental unit advertised as a rent special, you may have the rental application fee waived as an incentive to encourage more applicants.

3. Explain your Situation

Again, many places prefer having tenants sign 12-month leases. So, you might have to do some convincing. Beyond inquiring about units with lengthy vacancies, explain your situation to the landlord. If you need a short-term rental for work, you might be able to convince a landlord.

4. Come Prepared

If you've found a great apartment and can rent it through a short-term lease, you shouldn't waste your chance! You’ve got to come prepared and ready to seal the deal.

When it comes to your application, be sure to fill it out completely. Review it for any mistakes or errors. Have rental history, pay stubs, and bank statements ready to go for when you need them.

5. Provide Proof of Income

Landlords want to ensure that you earn enough to cover the cost of rent, so they'll ask that you provide proof of income.

Typically, landlords look for prospects with pre-tax earnings of at least 3xs the monthly rent.

Proof of income comes in many forms. Generally, landlords will require up to 3 of your most recent pay stubs as proof of income.

If you are a freelancer or don't receive your earnings in a traditional way, you may be able to provide bank account statements to show that you are gainfully employed.

You may also use your 1099 tax form to show your earnings from the past tax year. Ask your landlord which documents they would prefer!

Landlords can't complete a credit check without your express permission.

They may require you to sign a waiver or include the clause in your application that gives them permission to perform a credit check.

They'll perform a credit check to get a better understanding of your credit history and your financial habits.

Generally, a landlord will look for a credit score of at least 650 to rent.

Similar to credit checks, landlords must get your permission before conducting a background check.

A background check will include several details about you, such as criminal records, education, addresses, aliases, and more.

The background check is meant to ensure that you are not hiding any negative details about yourself.

Additionally, it gives a landlord enough information to determine whether they will be comfortable renting to you.

8. Find a Cosigner (If Needed)

If you do not meet a landlord's income requirements or you have a poor credit history, you may need to rent with a cosigner.

Generally, a guarantor or cosigner is a close loved-one who agrees to cover the cost of rent in the event that you are unable to pay it. They typically don't live in the apartment with you.

That said, a lease co-signer can be a roommate with whom you share the rent responsibility, which means that you'll be on the hook if they can't pay and vice versa, unless you've rented your room alone.

9. Provide References

Rental references give your landlord a chance to assess your character and examine your history as a renter.

You may ask your previous landlord or property manager to serve as a reference. They'll let your prospective landlord know about your habits, payment reliability, and more.

That said, not all prospects will have a rental history. If you're among those prospects, you can ask a supervisor, professor, or mentor to serve as a character reference for you.

It won't be as impactful as a landlord or property manager's assessment, but may be enough.

10. Pay a Security Deposit

Typically, a security deposit is equal to one month's rent. However, this can vary depending on your state's laws and the unit you want to rent.

For example, in California, a landlord can charge a security deposit of up to two month's rent for an unfurnished apartment and up to three month's rent for a furnished apartment.

Your security deposit will be used to cover the cost of repairs and cleaning, should problems arise once you move out. Otherwise, your security deposit will be returned once your lease term ends.

How to Find Short-Term Rentals Near Me on Apartment List

Using Apartment List to find short-term rentals near you is simple. We make it easy for you to find your dream apartment, regardless of your needs.

When you’re setting up your Apartment List renter profile, you have the option to add the duration of a lease you’re looking for. You can also add the location you’re interested in moving to.

You’ll then be able to search for apartments based on the lease length and city that’s right for you!

Final Thoughts

A lot can happen in a year. There can be so many changes that it can be difficult to predict the changes you'll experience in just 12 months. That said, committing to a standard long-term lease isn't always the best option.

A short-term lease can offer the flexible living situation that you’re looking for. Just be sure that your budget can handle the cost of a short-term rental. Prepare for your search and make sure you have a good case to plead to your prospective landlord.

To get started on your short-term rental search, just our quiz!

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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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