Are you ready to move? Renting an apartment is a big decision—both for your budget and lifestyle. The real estate market can be volatile and overwhelming, so many renters want to know the best time of the year to rent an apartment to avoid some of the stress of not being able to find a great apartment or having to pay sky-high rent prices.
When it comes to the best and worst times to rent an apartment, there’s no one answer for every situation. It comes down to what you value most in your apartment rental—having options or saving money. Before you start the rental process, consider what matters more to you: having a better selection to be able to secure an apartment with all your desired features or having a lower rent price.
The best time of year to rent also varies based on location, the rental market, and the overall economy. So even though there are some basic principles about the best and worst times of year to rent an apartment, situations can still change.
Here are a few ways to think about the best time to rent:
Best for Availability: May through September
Most people prefer to move during the summer when the weather is warmer and more predictable instead of battling cold weather, rain, and snow trying to move during the winter. Many students and families also want a chance to get settled before the school year starts. For many people, summer is a natural time for transition, especially after graduation and many people starting new jobs. For all those reasons, 70% of all moves happen in the spring and summer, making it the busiest time of year by far for renting an apartment. This is especially true in college towns and areas near universities that have a high population of students.
That means that there is more movement in the rental market during those months. More movement equals more availability and options. And because most people sign 12-month leases, the cycle of summer availability continues. If you find an apartment you love, it is more likely to become available during the summer months.
Summer is the best time to rent an apartment if you want options, but it is also incredibly competitive. Depending on the rental market and your area, you may have to be prepared to move quickly and sign a lease on the spot.
To be prepared for the competition, set a budget and list of important features in an apartment before you start looking. When you are clear about what you want in an apartment and how much you are willing to spend, you’ll be able to narrow down your search without getting swayed by the competition to spend more than your budget.
Worst for Availability: October to April
Because most people move during the summer months and sign year-long leases, many apartments are full during the off-season months between October to April. If you are looking for an apartment in the fall or winter, you will likely have significantly fewer options to choose from. That means you may have to sacrifice key features in an apartment, including the best floor plan for your lifestyle, your desired neighborhood, or the size and age of the apartment. Openings in the winter months tend to only occur when the previous tenant moved in the winter for a year-long lease, if someone broke their lease and moved early, or if someone rented month to month before leaving the unit.
That’s not to say you still can’t find an apartment that meets all your criteria during the winter months, but there will likely be fewer choices, and it may require more time searching. Winter is the worst time of the year to rent an apartment if you want availability.
Best for Prices: October through April
Rental demand is lowest between October and April, meaning that is when prices are lowest. During the fall and winter months, fewer people want to chance the elements of potentially moving during a storm. Plus, many people are busy during this time preparing for the holidays and don’t want to disrupt school and work to move.
Prices tend to reach their lowest points between December and March because demand is the lowest, meaning many landlords and complexes are desperate to rent their units and more willing to lower prices and offer extra perks and amenities, such as a free month’s rent, discounted application fees, or a waived pet fee. Depending on the location, rent prices in these months can be 3-5% lower, which can lead to significant savings over the course of the lease. Specifically, December through March are the cheapest months to rent.
Even though property management companies may not make as much during these low-demand months, it is better for them to charge a lower price than to have the unit sit empty, so they are often more willing to negotiate. That’s when the renters have power to secure a lower price. List prices for apartments are typically lower in the fall and winter, and there may also be some wiggle room. Before you sign the lease, ask if your landlord is willing to lower the rent or throw in extra perks. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Worst for Prices: May through September
Because the summer months tend to have much more movement and changes in inventory, they are also the times with the highest rent prices.
It all goes back to the law of supply and demand—because more people are looking to rent an apartment and move during the summer, the prices are higher. You are much less likely to find a deal on rent between May and September.
Apartment prices depend on the overall real estate market and economy, but expect to pay the highest rates during the summer months. Because more people are looking to sign leases during these months, landlords and property management companies don’t have to lower prices. It can be easy to watch your budget go out the window, but still try to set an upper limit of what you’re willing to spend and stick to it.
What’s the Best and Worst Time to Rent an Apartment?
The best and worst time to rent an apartment comes down to what matters more to you: options or price. There isn’t one time of year that is better in both areas, meaning you’ll either have to choose higher availability and higher prices or lower availability or lower prices.
If you have the choice of when you can sign a lease and start renting, consider what matters to you. Do you prefer to have a great apartment and don’t mind paying higher prices? Rent in the summer. Is getting a deal on rent more important to you than having an apartment that checks all your boxes? Rent in the fall and winter.
The real estate market is cyclical, meaning if you miss one season, the prices and availability will cycle back around during another time of year.
Once you’ve decided the best time to rent an apartment depending on your priorities, plan to start your search about a month beforehand. If you want to move in July to have more options, plan to start your apartment search in June. Similarly, if you want to move in mid-February to hopefully get a lower rent price, plan to start your apartment search in mid-January. Most landlords require their tenants to give 30 days notice before they move, meaning if you start searching around 30 days before you want to move, you’ll have an accurate view of upcoming availability and may be able to score an apartment right after it has been vacated. If you to be the first to see new listings, try checking rental sites and online listings around 9 or 10 am, which is typically right after property managers list new vacancies. With some planning and luck, you may be able to find your dream apartment and be first in line.
Another tactic is to wait until the last minute to rent an apartment. This strategy requires flexibility in your ability to move, but it can pay off for people in the right situation. If a landlord hasn’t secured a new tenant a week or two before the apartment is about to become vacant, they may be more willing to discount the rent. In that case, you can wait until the last minute to sign the lease and get a great deal—but you have to be ready to move quickly. The downside is that you might not have as many options for rentals.
Knowing the best time to rent an apartment depends on what is most important in your apartment search. Weigh your priorities and plan your apartment search accordingly to find a rental property that matches what you want.