A new apartment: it’s a brand new beginning, a blank slate, and it’s full of opportunity. You’ll meet new neighbors, explore the local hotspots and—who knows—you may love your new place so much that you choose to call it “home” for the next chapter of your life. But first, you’ve got to rent the apartment.
We’ve all heard the real estate mantra “location, location, location.” And it stands to reason that you’re going to look for an apartment that is close enough to school or work, far enough from certain family members, and—if you’re bringing Fido along—walking distance to a dog park. So, you’ve got location down. Now, what about timing? Is there a perfect season to look for your new rental? Are some months better than others? Does the early bird really get the worm and—if so—what constitutes “early”?
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some of the experts on this when I asked them, “What’s the best time to rent an apartment?” and I’m happy to share the good news.
Never a “wrong” time
“Apartment hunters should know that there’s never a ‘wrong’ time to look for an apartment.” Now that’s great news! It comes from Ron Leshnower, who literally wrote the book on apartment living, and has appeared as an expert on CBS News and NBC News and has been quoted in the New York Times “Real Estate Q&A.”
“No matter when you begin an apartment search,” Ron said, “you’ll benefit greatly if you know exactly what you’re looking for and also be prepared to be patient in case the search takes longer than you thought (as it so often does).”
Ron explained that moving season peaks in the summer months: “May is known as National Moving Month because it kicks off the busy moving season, which peaks in July and August. The majority of moves occur from May through September.”
(I’ve found that this is especially true in college towns like Boston, where the 1st of September is marked by a long line of U-Haul trucks parading down Commonwealth Avenue.)
Ron pointed out the advantages of renting an apartment during off-peak times (October through April). There is less competition, which, he says, “is good news if you find your dream apartment.”
More choices in winter
Ron’s observation applies to cities across the country. In Chicago, it seems the lowest prices coincide with the off-peak season. I learned from Jordan Barkley, a real estate consultant with Homescout Realty in downtown Chicago, that winter months can equal lower prices. Jordan said, “The best time to rent in Chicago based on lowest prices is in the fall and winter months, October through April. The best time to rent for the most options is in the summer months, May through September.”
It makes sense, because during the winter there is less demand and it might just be too cold to apartment shop during a Chicago winter!
Trent Zachmann, COO of Renters Warehouse, one of the largest property management companies in the U.S., observed that “most people do not like moving in the colder months.” In the summer, he said, “more available properties means increased competition in the market. Rent is normally higher in the summer so, as far as price goes, winter may be a ‘cheaper’ season.”
Trent noted that the start date for leases varies by location, especially regarding proximity to colleges. “The summer rush is consistent in the Midwest, whereas markets like Florida or Arizona are essentially the opposite. Colleges can definitely play a role on lease terms.” He recommends that students begin their search several months in advance of moving.
Autumn may be the best choice for moving
If you have the luxury of moving in September, lucky you!
Amanda Molitor, representing Protect Your Bubble, an insurance agency, wrote: “Summer is a very popular time to move for families and young people. According to our experts at Protect Your Bubble, families prefer to wait until the summer to make any big moves because they try to avoid taking their kids out of school in the middle of the year. Students are also moving off to college or graduating and moving on to different areas in search of jobs. That being said, one of the best times to move, if none of the previously stated issues affects you, is the fall. Most everybody else will be settled in by then making it easier for you to book movers and other moving-related services.”
Amanda makes the excellent point that renter’s insurance is a very good idea for your new home or your current one.
Amanda is right on about moving in September: it’s not too hot, not too cold, and everyone will be home from summer travels. Your pals will be around to help you move and even throw a great housewarming party for you.
No matter what month you make your move, keep in mind these tips:
- Give yourself as much time as possible to find the place that suits you—as Ron Leshnower noted, it takes time to move
- Tour at least three apartments in each area of your target location (for example, if you are moving to Boston, check out three apartments in the Back Bay, three in Cambridge and three in Jamaica Plain) so you have a good sense of what’s available
- If you find just the right place, but it’s on the small side, you can always consider putting a few things in storage
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