How Long Does it Take to Find an Apartment?

Signing a lease can require as little as your first month’s worth of rent plus an application fee, or it can require your first month, your last month, and a security deposit equal to another month. Once you’ve got that cash (or a plan to acquire that cash), you’re ready to put together an action plan and find an apartment. Here’s how long you can expect the process to take:

Several Months Before Move-In: The Search Begins

Lead Time: The lead time is essentially how far in advance you can (or should) sign a lease for a new place. The fact of the matter is that, depending on the market, you can’t always sign for a new place right when you know you’re going to move.

A great deal of the lead time depends on where you’re searching. In big cities like Chicago and NYC, you can find a place that’s ready literally within days. In fact, in many areas like this, it’s impossible to signs for apartments more than a couple months in advance.

In smaller suburbs and college towns, however, you’ll be able to sign much sooner, and consequently should, as everyone else will be as well. Be sure to research the lead time in the area you’re moving to before you begin hunting, as it will inform you about when you should start perusing places online.

Once you’re ready to start searching, it will still probably take a while. In fact, 56% of respondents to a recent survey said it took more than three weeks to find a new apartment (and a mere 18% said it took less than a week). The moral of the story: Know when you can viably begin, and start immediately.

Online Search: With so many apartments out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. The best place during the preliminary hunt? Online. To find an apartment in cities both big and small, it’s a good idea to start surveying properties online about three months before the big move.

Even if nothing is remotely available to view and sign, you’ll understand what you can expect within the parameters of your budget and get a good feel for what neighborhoods you should aim for. You’ll get an idea for how many roommates you’ll want or need, and you can research areas of the city that are safe and close to fun entertainment options.

Once you’re able to actually  , you can use the Internet to help you find the places you’ll check out for real. The survey showed that 29% of people said they looked at more than 20 apartments online before finding the one (and 20% of women said they look at more than 30). It’s a volume game: The more you can identify online, the more (and higher quality) places you’ll be able to see in real life.

Budget/Resource Check: Now that you’re ready to start scheduling your in-person apartment viewings, you should collect a few materials you’re going to need when you actually apply. Though you can hold off on gathering these until later, good apartments go quickly, so you’re going to want to be ready at a moment’s notice!

One thing nearly all apartments check for is proof of income. Though they may take you at your word or check with your company directly to verify this info, you should bring a pay stub with you to prove you receive regular income.. Don’t worry if your paycheck is directly deposited into your account. You can ask your company to give you paper documentation.

40 to 60 Days Before Move-In: Scheduling the Tours

More often than not, your impression of an apartment can change drastically when you see it in person. Just like most pictures, angles are everything. The pictures you see of a potential property online are usually taken by a professional realtor, who knows how to position the camera and let in just the right amount of light to make the place appear larger, cleaner or brighter than it really is. In fact, 40% of respondents said they look at more than seven apartments before they find one. That’s why it’s so important to check them out in person– though it can be tempting to apply for one immediately if you really like it.

You can group apartment viewings so that it only takes two or three outings in total. Scheduling a few at a time helps with efficiency, but it also helps you spot a deal; if you’re viewing within your budget, you’ll notice how they compare to each other in terms of quality.

If you live far away, it’s best to find a weekend during which you can schedule all of your in-person visits at once– as much of a hassle as that may be. Print out this apartment checklist and take it along with you when you’re viewing properties. It includes questions you might not have thought to ask.

30 to 35 Days Before Move-In: The Application & Approval Process

Once you’ve finally found your dream apartment, it’s time to begin the application process.. The entire process, which includes a one-time non-refundable application fee for each applicant, a credit and background check, and potential references, can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the leasing company.

This can be a frustrating wait, but don’t worry– if you were the first to apply for an apartment, you application takes priority over any that are filled out after yours.

You can find an apartment in as quickly as a month, if you’re super lucky and hunting in a big city, but it’s more practical to assume it will take two to three months in total. Start looking online, make sure you see all your final candidates in person, and try not to freak out and examine all of your credit card bills while you’re waiting for approval. Go forth!

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Rent Editorial TeamAt, our goal is to be the most efficient digital resource to help people find and live in a place they love. We strive to help renters make informed decisions by providing them with valuable information and advice, including money-saving tips, local guides, HD photos and certified ratings and reviews from actual residents.

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