Best apartment websites ease rental search

Peter Miller
The Mortgage Reports contributor

Best rental websites

Check out the best apartment websites online if you want a great rental. Filled with information, maps, and numbers, such sites can save you both time and dollars.

Why do such sites get almost 35 million visitors in a single month? One answer is that renting is a huge activity. A second is that these and other rental sites make the searching process easy.

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Best apartment websites & why you need them

Competition for available rentals means you need every edge you can get. Rental sites help you get it.

In recent years, says the National Association of Realtors, the typical owner “was in the home for 10 years before selling – matching the all-time high set both in 2014 and a year ago. Prior to 2009, sellers consistently lived in their home for a median of six years before selling.”

In many areas, this created high demand for a low supply of homes, making it difficult to break into housing markets. So, renters continue to rent. Part of the reason for rising rental rates is that relatively few rental units are being built and the for-sale inventory is tight.

Related: Rental house or apartment (how to choose)

Another reason for the strong rental demand is that it’s become harder to get a mortgage. The Urban Institute estimates that there were 5.2 million missing loans between 2009 and 2014. Why? Because they argue that credit standards were too tight. The result has been more rental demand and higher rental costs.

Fortunately, this has shown signs of easing.

Tips for each site

These and other rental sites can help you find places you can afford and save you time. If a new rental pops up, you can jump on it quickly, which is an advantage in tight markets.

You search using a map, drawing the boundaries in which you want to live. Filter your search by commute time from the rental to work via any mode of transportation.

This site provides extensive floor plans and layouts. You’ll also get virtual tours. Numerous filters let you choose apartment and community features like fitness centers, swimming pools, and waterfront locations.

The site includes floorplans and videos as well as options to filter results. Also offers free moving quotes and rent affordability calculator.

This one is targeted more to buyers, but also has an extensive database of rentals. You can choose by type of community — retirement, off-campus, and short-term housing. Get school grade state test performance data.

Filters include income-restricted housing and rentals with included utilities. Most listings have virtual tours, and the Moving Center helps you get quotes for moving services.

All rental sites have strengths and weaknesses. Try more than one to find your favorite, and then sign up. You’ll receive email notifications when new offers in your strike zone appear.

Why the best apartment websites are useful

While it’s fun to cruise neighborhoods and look for rentals, the use of the best apartment websites will give you a marketplace advantage.

While the “cruise” method has a certain sense of adventure, not all units are marketed with street signs. In today’s world, it can be cheaper and easier for landlords to use the Web. Search the streets, and you may miss the properties you really want.

Related: Renting credit score (You might need a higher FICO to rent than buy)

Go to the best apartment websites and the first thing you notice is how easy it is to find choices. There are tons of them.

You can look by city but a better choice is to look by ZIP code. The reason to use ZIP codes is that they allow you to target areas. For instance, if you want to live near a park to walk your dog you can easily see parks and nearby rental units.

Of course, apartment sites allow you to search for other factors. Certainly, you can look by price and the number of bedrooms. But you may also be able to see whether or not utilities are included in rental rates. Or that modern necessity, free Internet and cable service.

In addition, you can often search for amenities. If you want a pool, social center, or gym the best apartment websites can provide the information you need.

But maybe you don’t want any of these things. Maybe you just want to look at apartments. Since nowhere near 35 million people move each month, you have to figure that a lot of people go to the best apartment sites just for fun. That’s okay. It’s a good way to get ideas and see what’s available in your community — or maybe that fantasy location.

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