The best time to rent an apartment depends on what you value. It's determined by whether you prioritize saving money or choosing from the broadest range of available apartments. It's also influenced by the terms of your current rental agreement, regional trends and availability, as well as your personal time commitments and cash flow.
Even though deciding when to move is deeply personal, there are a few key factors that will guide your timeline. By understanding the general trends in rental rates and availability and analyzing your own life and rental market, you'll be able to make the most informed decision.
When is the best time to rent an apartment?
Determining the best time to rent an apartment depends on your primary objective. Most renters fall into two camps. They either want to save as much money as possible or choose from the widest variety of homes to find the best match. Choosing your primary focus — options or affordability — will guide the rest of your decisions and shape your moving timelines.
It's possible that you can only have one over the other, so do some soul searching to make sure you make the choice that aligns with your long-term goals. Prioritizing a lower rent payment makes sense if you're on a strict budget, paying down existing debt or saving up to meet your next financial goal. If you or your roommates are recovering from financial instability, health problems or a job loss, it makes sense to emphasize saving money in order to build up a financial cushion.
But if you have some flexibility in your budget, renting when there are the most options on the market might be the smarter way to go. This is especially true if you want to live in a certain neighborhood or enjoy a particular floor plan or amenities. The more specific your goals, the more options you'll need to see.
Rent in the summer for the best selection
If you want the greatest variety of homes to choose from, moving between May and September is your best bet. Parents and college students time their moves for when school isn't in session and many renters want to take a summer vacation before moving their household. Most Americans move during this time period.
As an added bonus, the warm weather doesn't present any major moving challenges like a winter blizzard might. Although residents of hot and humid states probably wouldn't describe summer moves as terribly comfortable.
Since turnover is high during the high-demand months, renters will have many options. Just be aware that more choices also means more competition from other renters.
Getting your dream apartment in a hot rental market requires pre-planning. Decide your budget and wish list in advance. Bring all required documents to showings, so if you see something you like, you can act fast. If you don't, another renter will.
Rent in winter to save money
If saving money is the primary goal, winter is the best time to rent an apartment. Apartment turnover is much slower between October and April, so property owners and management firms are often more willing to negotiate to fill their vacancies during the slower winter months.
If you're really out to save, move during the chilliest months when everyone else is in full nesting mode. Studies from major metropolitan areas show rental rates are lowest between December and February. Savings average between 3 percent and 5 percent, although the rate will vary by city and state
Just remember that when there are fewer units on the market, you'll have fewer choices. You might have to sacrifice the desired neighborhood, floor plan or a particular amenity in order to save money.
You might be able to find additional units and still get a good deal on an apartment in a neighborhood with higher vacancy rates. Neighborhoods with lots of new apartment construction or numerous signs or listings will likely have more inventory.
Determine if (and when) you can actually move
Choosing the right priority (saving money or finding your dream home) is important. But it's useless to go too deep into planning mode until you know the terms of your current lease.
It can be tempting to break your lease if you find the perfect place or a great deal. But it's risky. You're breaking a legal agreement, which could result in a lower score on your credit report. Your landlord might require you to pay the remaining months on your lease. You could also face legal fees and forfeit your security deposit.
Review your original rental agreement to see how breaking a lease will be penalized and decide if it's worth the risk. If the document mentions subletting or early release, you'll have some flexibility.
If not, speak to your landlord about possible solutions. You might be able to break your lease for a fee or be released from your contract if you can help the landlord find another tenant for your apartment. Going month-to-month until you're ready to move is another smart strategy.
Location key to the best time to rent an apartment
While it's helpful to know the national trends for average rental rates, location matters. Rates will vary depending on your state, city and even the neighborhood you want to call home.
Apartment Guide's Annual Rent Report analyzed data from all 50 states and 90 percent of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. to determine general trends in rental rates for studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Looking at the reports can help you determine rental trends for your city, state and even your apartment size.
Consider cash flow and commitments
Moving is a major commitment. It takes time, money and energy. And very few of us do it alone. Pick a time to move that works well for you, your family and your support system.
For example, you might save money on an apartment by signing a lease for December or January. But if your friends aren't available to help you move, the cost to hire a moving company could eat up the money you saved on rent before you even unpack.
If budget is your primary concern, you might want to time your move to coincide with a time of increased cash flow. Using graduation money, a holiday bonus, a long-awaited raise or your tax refund toward a deposit or the first month's rent is an easy way to take a little financial pressure off and give your budget some wiggle room.
You should also consider your time and stress levels. While it's great to finally find your dream apartment, if the move-in date is too close to when you're due to have a baby, train for a new job or start college, it might be too much to handle at one time. The apartment needs to be worth your time and energy.
Customize your moving timeline
When is the best time to rent an apartment? Whenever it works best for you and your unique situation. By examining your own priorities and financial situation and analyzing local and regional trends, you'll be able to make the choice that's right for you and your household.