How many months before move in should you look for an apartment? Moving into a new apartment for rent can be stressful because there’s so much to consider especially if you’re moving out of state, or country. Renters often make the mistake of searching for apartments too late or too early. When is a good time? This guide will tell you the optimal timeframe you should look for an apartment.
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 if there is a lot of apartments available or a limited supply) and your personal preferences. For example, in Philadelphia, most landlords ask for 60 calendar days’ notice from end of lease from renters, so one typically knows the availability of places to rent about 2 months ahead of time. Of course, there could be a variety of reasons why an apartment could become available rapidly (sudden relocation or death to name just a couple). 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 your list, conduct apartment tours, and not feel too rushed.
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 your research 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 typically 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, and then you can easily narrow down your requirements to features that are important such as balcony, walk-in closet, washer/dryer, pool, budget, and more. You might want to start a spreadsheet or jot down on a piece of paper, every apartment community that you find that looks interesting in one column, and then on the other columns, a list of features that matter to you. Put a check mark 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 direct individual community websites, and you might even consider 3rd party marketplaces (of course you should be very 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 Your List
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 your apartment tours
Once you’ve finished your online research and narrowed your list, it’s time to schedule tours of different apartments 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, 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. But don’t wait until the end because then you may end up with something you don’t want in your desperation.