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When to Start Looking for Apartments: 2023 Renter's Guide

September 27, 2022
Knowing when to start looking for apartments can save you tons on moving costs. Use this overview to learn the best times to move into an apartment.

Renters enjoy the freedom of moving on, moving up, and scoring a new apartment when their lease ends. However, there is a sweet spot regarding when to start looking for apartments to ensure a smooth transition.

Not sure when to start your apartment search?

Make the most of your apartment-hunting experience with our best tips and strategies, including identifying the best times to move into an apartment.

Begin Apartment Hunting Months in Advance

If you’re wondering how far in advance to look for an apartment, you’ve come to the right place. After all, you don’t want to wait too long to start looking for apartments, or you may end up settling for an apartment that is less-than-ideal.

90 Days Before Your Ideal Move-In Date

You can start your search three months out, but the availability is likely to change. If you consider how far in advance you can reserve an apartment, 90 days will likely be too far. Still, you can start completing your amenities checklist while looking for a new apartment during this time.

Here’s what to do 90 days out:

  • Determine your needs from wants in terms of apartment amenities
  • Narrow down floorplan options
  • Figure out which rental buildings are pet-friendly (if necessary)
  • Check out some buildings you might want to keep an eye out
  • Begin identifying neighborhoods of interest

60 Days Before Your Ideal Move-In Date

Renters should start looking for apartments one to two months before moving out. If you look too early, the same unit you found probably won't be available. You’d be doing more legwork than necessary. You should know what type of rental you want 60 days out.

Here’s what to do 60 days out:

  • Start browsing listings online
  • Determine which neighborhoods you’re interested in
  • Consider your proximity to work, public transportation, and local amenities
  • Start working on your budget

Of course, sometimes we have no choice but to look for an apartment at the last moment. If that's the case, check out these tips on finding an apartment in one week or less.

When's the Best Time to Start Looking for Apartments?

In a typical year, nationwide, rents increase during the summer and decline in the winter, making rents their highest from July through September and at their lowest from December through February.

While there's no perfect time to move, keep seasonality trends in mind. Here are 5 things you should know about seasonality in apartment renting to help you decide the best time to move into apartment buildings of interest.

12 Things to Do Before Looking for a New Apartment

If you’re wondering when to start looking for an apartment, what’s most important is that you come prepared and ready to pounce on the apartment of your dreams.

1. Determine Your Move-In Date

In figuring out when to start looking for a new apartment, you need to consider a few logistical considerations. Your move-in date will influence almost everything, so it's essential to consider the following when timing your move, including your employment, current lease agreement, and rental industry activity.

Of course, if you need to move asap, these factors may not play a role.

2. Plan Your Budget

Get your budget in order before you start looking for an apartment by following the 50/30/20 rule to begin planning. You can also check out our Rent Calculator to give you an idea of the rent you can afford and show your apartments within your budget in your desired city.

3. Check Your Credit Score

Generally, the minimum credit score required to rent an apartment is 650.

A higher score will typically put you in a favorable position among your competition, while a lower score may reduce your chances of landing an apartment.

4. Consider the Amenities You Want

The right amenities can make or break your apartment experience. Come with a list of priorities from "must-haves'' to "nice-to-haves," such as walk-in closets, hardwood floors, updated appliances, or outdoor space.

If you’re wondering, “how fast do apartments get rented,” note that those with the top amenities go first.

5. Understand How to Apply for an Apartment

Now that you've figured out how far in advance to look for an apartment and how much to budget, the next step is applying. Applying for an apartment requires submitting an apartment application and bringing the required items.

Find out everything you need to know about the apartment application process.

6. Research Average Rent Prices

If you're wondering when you should start looking for an apartment, remember time is of the essence. Knowing when to start apartment hunting can be impacted by rental seasonality.

To get a sense of the average rent prices in your preferred area, check out our average rent reports and National Rent Report.

7. Create a List of Rental Questions

Before you begin touring apartments, you should take the time to prepare a list of rental questions. It’s easy to get distracted when an apartment has all of the bells and whistles you’re looking for, but stay focused by preparing your questions ahead of time.

8. Make a List of Top Choices

When do most rentals become available? Well, it varies, which is why it’s important to make a list of your top choices ahead of time. Having your list ready helps you put one foot ahead of the competition.

9. Inquire About Leasing Terms

Whether you're on a month-to-month or annual lease, check your rental terms to confirm how much notice you need to give your landlord to vacate the property. Then, start lining up appointments to tour apartments one to two months before your lease ends.

10. Begin Touring Apartments

Try your best to schedule tours on the same day and take a day off of work if necessary to get all of your tours done quickly. If you’re wondering, “how many apartments should I tour,” the answer will vary person to person.

11. Prepare All Your Documents

Found the perfect apartment and wondering when should you apply for an apartment? Use an apartment checklist for a smooth transition. Then, prepare all necessary documents, like your apartment application, identification like a driver's license or state ID, previous rental information and address, employment information, and proof of income.

12. Watch Out for Rental Scams

Many renters are unaware of how common rental scams are, leaving their guards down. Check out some tips to help you avoid rental fraud scams during your apartment hunt, such as:

  • Touring apartments in-person
  • Renting from reliable property management companies
  • Asking to speak with current tenants
  • Avoiding rent payments via cash or wire transfer
  • Always protecting confidential information
  • Confirming apartment details before signing a lease

You can't stop rental fraud, but you can avoid it.

Final Thoughts

As a few final apartment hunting tips, read your lease agreement before you sign it, don't be afraid to ask questions about lease terms, and make sure you understand whether you are signing a long- or short-term lease agreement.

Stop asking yourself, “when do apartments become available,” and instead, make the most of your apartment-hunting experience with our best tips and strategies.

Best of luck to you!

Apartment Hunting FAQs

Is 4 Months Out Too Soon to Look for an Apartment?

The general rule of thumb states that you shouldn’t start looking for an apartment until closer to one to two months before moving out.

What is the Best Month to Look for an Apartment?

Given the nationwide rental trends, rents are at their lowest in December through February. That means you should start looking for an apartment as early as October to take advantage of the lower rent prices due to seasonality.

What Time of Year Do Most Apartments Become Available?

You will find the most apartments available during the summer months. This trend is driven by renters with children or new graduates wanting to move when school isn't in session. Weather is also less likely to get in the way.

How Fast Can You Move into an Apartment?

Moving into an apartment typically takes one to two months, but you can secure a rental property in as little as one week.

What Time of Year Are Rents Highest?

The time of year when rents are the highest is also the time when there is the most availability - summer. Because this is such a popular time for people to be apartment hunting, rental rates are at their highest.

What Month Do Most Leases Start?

Across the country, most rental leases start between May and August. During this time, kids are out of school, and the weather doesn’t stop people from moving to new locations.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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
Tristian is a Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, working to create and manage high quality content that is relevant to today's renters. Tristian has a BA in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
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