13 Unique Ways to Find a New Apartment

By Reagan Miller
Photo by Daryan Shamkhali

Beat a crowded rental market by upping your apartment search game. There are plenty of unique ways to find a new apartment—that don’t involve Craigslist or Zillow—that will give you an edge over other renters and find apartments before they’re listed. Here are 13 of them.

1. Hire an agent

Less common for those in search of a rental, hiring a well-connected real estate agent can help you get in first with picky landlords and see new listings before they hit the market. Find an agent who specializes in rentals or a relocation agent who is tuned into the local rental market.

2. Rental apps

Skip the mass-market sites like Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, and Craigslist (sheesh), and try newer apps. Zumper is our favorite because its new “book now” feature lets renters connect directly with landlords and move through the rental process smoothly and quickly.

3. Walk the neighborhood

A narrow geographic search can help you efficiently search for a great new apartment. Pick the neighborhood you’re aiming for and drive, bike, or walk the streets scouting for-rent signs.

4. Check local bulletin boards

Scan coffee shop, YMCA, and restaurant bulletin boards for rental listings.

5. Use a relocation guide

Check local relocation guides for rental listings or real estate companies for agents who specialize in rentals.

6. Check social

Sleuth social media to spot potential rental openings. Keep an eye out for friends and connections who are announcing a move or are in the market for a roommate. Those breaking a lease or looking for a buddy to split rent are typically looking for quick responses and will often go to social for help in their search.

7. Sleuth Facebook

If you have incredible patience, you can always sleuth Facebook for recent breakups. A breakup might mean a move-out, which might amount to a vacant apartment. Tread lightly, though—you will want to keep your friends your friends.

8. Let your social network know

Let your social network know that you’re looking. Post on Facebook, Insta, and Twitter that you’re in the market for a new rental.

9. Use your connections

If you’re moving to a new city for a job, contact the company’s HR department and let them know you’re on the hunt. They may be able to pass along valuable local contacts or recommend neighborhoods for your search. If you’re moving for school, contact student services, who may be able to do the same.

10. Check graduate school pages

Student service and relocation pages for graduate schools in the area will often include links to local rental listings or rental companies.

11. Place an ad

Place an add in a local paper or art and culture rag advertising your search. Make sure to include your budget, neighborhoods/areas of interest, and whether you have pets.

12. Move during the off-season

Winter months are less popular times for apartment hunters, especially in New York City—few want to bother with the hassle of moving in the cold or around the holidays. By shifting your search to less popular times of year (basically, avoid spring and summer), you can up your chances of landing a great place with less competition.

13. Look for homes that have been on the market for a long time

Scour MLS listings and real estate sites for apartments that have been on the market for more than a year, then contact the homeowners to see if they’re open to renting. Many will have bought a new house by that time and will be looking to avoid double mortgage payments. Win-win.

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