How Many Months Before Moving Should You Start Looking For an Apartment?

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How many months before moving should you start looking for an apartment? Moving into a new apartment can be stressful because there’s so much to consider, especially if you’re moving out of state, or out of the country.

Renters often make the mistake of searching for apartments too early or too late. So when is a good time? It depends on a number of factors so learn more below.

Plan a Timeframe

The best timeframe to start looking for an apartment for rent depends a lot on the area you choose to live in. For example, it will depend on whether there are a lot of apartments available to choose from and your personal preferences. In Philadelphia, most landlords ask for 60 calendar days’ notice from the end of your rental lease so you should plan to know the availability of places to rent about 2 months ahead of the end of your lease. There could be a variety of reasons why an apartment might become available quickly, for example, a sudden relocation or death. As a practical rule of thumb though, assuming the neighborhood you are looking at has limited inventory, a reasonable amount of time to start your search for an apartment is about 2.5 months (or 75 days) out from when you want to move so you can prepare a list of apartments, narrow it down, conduct apartment tours, and not feel too rushed.

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If you start looking too early, everything that was available then may no longer be available closer to your move-in date, which makes your original search mildly to very unproductive. If you start looking too late, you may be forced to move into something you don’t really want because you didn’t have enough time to find your dream rental.

Start Researching Online

When you are ready, the easiest way to begin is to start your search online. You should look at apartment finder websites and “direct individual community websites”. Direct individual community websites can give you a better idea of the “feel” of each community and you can gather more details this way as opposed to only looking at apartment listing websites.

Searching online allows you to quickly and efficiently cast a “wide net” to see all the apartments in the specific neighborhood you are interested in. Then you can easily narrow down your requirements to features that are important to you such as a balcony, walk-in closet, washer / dryer, swimming pool, budget, and more. You might want to start a spreadsheet or jot down on a piece of paper, every apartment community you find that looks interesting in one column, and then on the other columns, a list of features that matter to you. Put a checkmark next to each column where the apartment complex satisfies your feature request. Write down phone numbers too. Then, when you are done, call each building to confirm features.

Remember to visit a variety of online sources, not just apartment listing websites but also direct individual community websites. You might even consider 3rd party marketplaces so long as you’re careful of scams and illegitimate rentals on third-party marketplace sources.

Generally, you would start your research about 2.5 months or 75 days before you’re ready to move.

Narrow Down Your Options

on apartment tour visual

Now that you have your list, it’s time to force-rank it. You can start by putting a “star” next to each apartment community that stood out to you. Then, look at the buildings you have put a “star” and rank which ones are your favorite. Your rankings can change once you begin the touring process, but it’s good to go in with a rank in mind. If you want to do a comprehensive apartment comparing analysis, you must consider VALLR (Value, Affordability, Location, Lifestyle, Reputation).

Start Touring Apartments

Once you’ve finished your online research and narrowed your list, it’s time to schedule apartment tours so you can view them in person. This is a good way to see the place and picture yourself living there.

On your apartment tours, be sure to look at multiple things like apartment features, safety features, the surrounding neighborhood, landscaping, and proximity to workplaces or public transport. If you have to commute to work, how long does it take and how would you get there? If you have school kids, how far is the nearest school? Consider all these factors during your apartment tours.

The good thing is new apartments hit the market almost daily. Just don’t wait until the end of your lease or you might end up with something you don’t want due to desperation.

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