With housing prices on the rise and lenders still reluctant to approve buyers for mortgages, many families are discovering the need to find more affordable housing options. While apartments have always been a popular choice, today finding one in a good neighborhood, in close proximity to work, at a cost you can afford, can be a real challenge.
There is increased scrutiny of tenants in the screening process which now commonly includes credit checks, background checks, income verification, and calling friends and families as a reference. Fees to cover the cost of this screening can add up if you must apply for multiple housing options. The results of the verification process will often determine deposit requirements.
Income thresholds can range from three times your gross monthly income to 40 times your annual salary, depending on where you want to rent. Credit is another sticking point for many applicants. While landlords do not expect perfect credit, it is a factor in many approval processes. Your goal is to secure a nice apartment in a place you want to live. Their job is to reduce the risk of a tenant who will not pay or will damage the property. The sometimes arduous process can make it difficult to secure the apartment of your choice. Smaller companies and independent landlords often have less stringent requirements than larger operations.
Fortunately, there is an increase in online resources to help with the search.
Craigslist is extremely useful when looking for a place to stay. Craig Newmark created Craigslist in 1996 for the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the website has extended to a global reach. Now virtually every mid-size US city and larger has dedicated Craigslist listings to market and find whatever you need. Housing is an independent section and offers a way to connect potential renters with landlords for single family homes, apartments, and rooms for rent. They even offer a section for roommate searches.
You can filter the search to narrow the options. Some of the filters you can use include price, the number of bathrooms or bedrooms, square footage, zip code, access for wheelchairs, pet-friendly, and so forth. The website is free to use and free to list so there is no quality regulation in place. If you find a place of interest, contact the person via phone or email and negotiate from there. The company does not offer any guarantees or assurances and only acts as a platform to connect mutually interested parties. It is your job to screen landlords and avoid scams.
Zillow began as a website for home buyers and provided a way to estimate a home's value by tracking recent sales prices for houses within a given neighborhood. As Zillow increased its reliability and web presence, it expanded its market to include rental properties. Today, consumers can conduct free searches of available apartments or single family homes in nearly any zip code in the country.
The benefit to using Zillow is the ability to narrow your search efficiently. The website offers important information about neighborhoods and advice on finding the best location to rent or buy. It is an excellent option for those moving to a new or unfamiliar town or city because you can gain detailed information about individual neighborhoods. It also shows ratings of local schools and highlights areas of interest.
Before the expanse of the internet, Apartment Finder was a magazine listing rental apartment, much like real estate companies listed homes to purchase. While the Apartment Finder magazine is still available, due to the transition of technology and faster pace, it is also available online and in app form, for the most up to date information.
The website and app allow you to locate apartments in your desired location by city or zip code. You can see the neighborhood and often the actual apartment. Companies listing properties can list pictures, images of the floor plan, and videos, including a 360-degree camera tool giving you a complete look at the rental. The virtual tour of the location saves time while offering a more realistic view of the place. In addition to the visual walk-through, you will also see the layout of the apartments, photos, and detailed information.
The tool is free for potential renters to use and those listing properties pay a fee for the entry. The advantage of this service is, due to the fees, you find high quality apartments and more quality control. The downside of Apartment Finder is that it is used mostly by professional companies, which often have stricter rental processes in place when screening tenants and leave less room for negotiation.
Rentometer is a website which allows you to compare rental rates across areas. Both renters and landlords can use the site to decide what rent is right for the area. Rentometer analyzes the area in which you are looking and helps you determine if the price is right. To use the website, you put in an address, and it searches through current listings to give you an average and median rent for the area. You can adjust the parameters as far as the radius and age of listings used for the calculations. The numbers include both homes and apartments. The upside is that you get a feel for what you can expect to pay in a neighborhood. The downside is that it does not distinguish between apartments or homes. It also does not consider amenities or the quality of the rental.
As a rental specialist, HotPads gives you a combination of services. The focus is on major metropolitan areas, and there is a verification process for quality control. You may vet properties based on price, the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or the acceptance of pets. You can also search for apartments by listing type, including subletting or renting a room. Further breakdown your search among apartments, condos, townhomes, duplexes, and single family homes.
Finding an apartment can be stressful and time-consuming. Using the above websites will help you narrow down your options and compare properties before a physical visit. Each website offers free services to those looking to rent and will help you find the most affordable option for your next move.