Jump to content

Apartment Searching Sites


Recommended Posts

Hello everyone,

So I'm just curious what sites you guys are using for your apartment searches. I'm currently using a mix of craigslist and apartments.com to get price ranges and find a good place to live. I've used various sites before, but often times they are unreliable and usually either have outdated listings, or have listings that are simply untrue, so I'm very skeptical about using random sites for my searches. I have found apartments.com to be the most reliable from all my previous searches/moves in my own city, but I am trying to expand and look at other sites that might show me more listings than this site. 

Any suggestions will be helpful! Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I mean, as reliable as anything else. It's not like Apartments.com actually screens adds. 

By and large, your best bet is to run a wide search, expect a lot of fake adds, and winnow those down by actually calling the places. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

In addition to fake ads, some markets move very very fast and an apartment may be rented out within hours of the ad post. In many cases, the ad poster posted ads in tons of places and there's no easy way to take all the ads down as soon as the apartment is rented. So, the best practice is to always call as soon as you see an ad you like and inquire about it, set up a viewing etc. The ad is only valid at the date/time it was posted.

In addition to the above good suggestions, I've used PadMapper to get a good way to visualize ads from Craigslist and other places at the same time. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yea, Zillow is one of the better sites in my experience and tend to have better stock than Craigslist in my college town. The market is very fast where I live especially for reasonably priced units within walking distance of the university so I second the recommendation to call immediately when you see something you like. I also follow up via email if I cannot reach someone through calling.

I have also tried Trulia - they are like Padmapper as they aggregate listings from other sites.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been trying to use Zillow, but it appears it's primarily for finding roommates or housing with other people (a lot of offers for 2 to 3 bedrooms for $1,000 which makes me assume it's a 3 bedroom house with a room for rent). I'm looking for my own place, so purely apartments not houses/apartments with rooms for rent with other people. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@samman1994 I've personally not seen a lot of room listings on Zillow at least in the location I've been looking, so maybe make sure those aren't just really good deals? That's not to say the location you are looking in couldn't have room listings on Zillow those but that hasn't been my experience with Zillow when I've used it for a couple different locations. They could also maybe be scams though I don't see scams as much on Zillow as I do on Craigslist.

One thing you could try on Zillow is to use their filters. You could filter Zillow to specifically only show 1 bedroom apartments since it sounds like that's what you're looking for and that could maybe remove those that are room listings.

Link to post
Share on other sites
52 minutes ago, FishNerd said:

@samman1994 I've personally not seen a lot of room listings on Zillow at least in the location I've been looking, so maybe make sure those aren't just really good deals? That's not to say the location you are looking in couldn't have room listings on Zillow those but that hasn't been my experience with Zillow when I've used it for a couple different locations. They could also maybe be scams though I don't see scams as much on Zillow as I do on Craigslist.

I agree with @FishNerd  I haven't seen that many rooms for rent in a house/apartment either on Zillow.  I typically only see that on Craigslist.

7 hours ago, samman1994 said:

I've been trying to use Zillow, but it appears it's primarily for finding roommates or housing with other people (a lot of offers for 2 to 3 bedrooms for $1,000 which makes me assume it's a 3 bedroom house with a room for rent). I'm looking for my own place, so purely apartments not houses/apartments with rooms for rent with other people. 

For what it's worth, that would be market-rate for a decent-sized 2 bedroom or small 3 bedroom house/apartment in my college town. So yes, it's possible to get the whole place to yourself at those rates if you are moving somewhere with a low cost of living. 

Usually on Zillow it has a short blurb about the place so it should explain if it is a roommate situation or not.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, samman1994 said:

I've been trying to use Zillow, but it appears it's primarily for finding roommates or housing with other people (a lot of offers for 2 to 3 bedrooms for $1,000 which makes me assume it's a 3 bedroom house with a room for rent). I'm looking for my own place, so purely apartments not houses/apartments with rooms for rent with other people. 

FWIW, I've recently found many properties for $1200 for a 3 bedroom house. A house does not imply that it is shared. And a house may be cheaper than an apt is because it doesn't have community features to upkeep. A house is also more likely to be quiet because you have fewer neighbors. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Warelin said:

FWIW, I've recently found many properties for $1200 for a 3 bedroom house. A house does not imply that it is shared. And a house may be cheaper than an apt is because it doesn't have community features to upkeep. A house is also more likely to be quiet because you have fewer neighbors. :)

This whole discussion on housing cost is hugely dependent on where you are living. I'll be moving to where the typical one bedroom apartment is $1200 and up. I would imagine a 3 bedroom house there is more like three grand. And that's not even close to the prices in New York or Boston. If a 3 bedroom house is only 1200 I can only imagine how wonderfully cheap a one bedroom apartment is!

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bibliophile222 said:

This whole discussion on housing cost is hugely dependent on where you are living. I'll be moving to where the typical one bedroom apartment is $1200 and up. I would imagine a 3 bedroom house there is more like three grand. And that's not even close to the prices in New York or Boston. If a 3 bedroom house is only 1200 I can only imagine how wonderfully cheap a one bedroom apartment is!

A one bedroom apartment in the area is 800-900 on average. This house was an incredible deal. The point being that there are good deals to be had where you don't have to share the space with anyone.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@SkunkStyle77, I don't know that there is a safest site in that situation. All of them will have scams on them. Your best bet might be to try to find housing resources which are exclusive to your university (e.g., on a university intranet which require a university log-in for access), since that likely means scammers don't have access.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The price for housing for 1200 is a "steal" if it's an actual house. Most apartments range from 800-1100, with luxury apartments ranging from 1100-1700 (for Studio/1Br). So say a 3 bedroom house for 1200, would be really good if it's just you. But, it does seem like one of those too good to be true situations (although I'm looking at this from an LA/Southern California perspective, where you would never ever find a deal like this, so I don't know if the rest of the country is different). 

In terms of not getting to see the apartment beforehand, I find yelp and apartmentratings.com to be incredibly helpful since, while I will be doing tours, due to the distance of the school and time off work, I'll only have 2 days to tour all the apartments I'd like (so I really need to narrow down my list to a handful of apartments). These reviews will usually tell you how the apartment is, does the building have any issues, noise, management, etc. In fact, outside of just looking at the building/rooms, a tour can be very deceiving if you don't know what to look for, because they always show you their best stuff (that is usually not going to be the stuff you get). Yelp is a reliable site for reviews, and I've found apartmentratings.com to be pretty reliable as well. Google reviews are good too (although they usually won't have a lot of reviews for apartments). I have found reviews from apartment rental sites though (i.e. such as apartments.com) to be unreliable and overall contradictory for the most part from other review sites (i.e. multiple 5 stars on apartments.com but yelp has 2.4 stars from over 50+ reviews). 

No apartment is going to be perfect, and it's difficult to gauge how reliable any reviews are since everyone is different (some people aren't really bothered much by noise, some people are very sensitive to it, so while they may say the apartment building is noisy, it might not really be that noisy in reality). I'd say find out what is important for you and single it out in these reviews. For me, noise is incredibly important, since I am very sensitive to it. So if I find even one review where they discuss thin walls, I immediately cross the apartment of my list. But if I find reviews saying management isn't the most responsive, or the pricing can be a bit unreliable, or people don't pick up after their dogs, I let those things slide. So find what's important for you, and narrow your list of apartments down that way. This also includes pricing/sq footage vs. said reviews. How much do you really care about management, sound, cleanliness, etc. How much are willing to pay for it? Again for me, I am sensitive enough to noise, that I am willing to pay over 50% of my stipend for a broom closet as long as it's quiet.

So these are all things I would keep in mind when looking for apartments and reading reviews, especially if you won't be able to take a tour of the place. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, samman1994 said:

The price for housing for 1200 is a "steal" if it's an actual house. Most apartments range from 800-1100, with luxury apartments ranging from 1100-1700 (for Studio/1Br). So say a 3 bedroom house for 1200, would be really good if it's just you. But, it does seem like one of those too good to be true situations (although I'm looking at this from an LA/Southern California perspective, where you would never ever find a deal like this, so I don't know if the rest of the country is different). 

The rest of the country is very different! I lived in SoCal too, that housing market is ridiculous (not the worst in the country but it's up there). Most of the USA is not like this.

22 minutes ago, samman1994 said:

In terms of not getting to see the apartment beforehand, I find yelp and apartmentratings.com to be incredibly helpful since, while I will be doing tours, due to the distance of the school and time off work, I'll only have 2 days to tour all the apartments I'd like (so I really need to narrow down my list to a handful of apartments). These reviews will usually tell you how the apartment is, does the building have any issues, noise, management, etc. In fact, outside of just looking at the building/rooms, a tour can be very deceiving if you don't know what to look for, because they always show you their best stuff (that is usually not going to be the stuff you get). Yelp is a reliable site for reviews, and I've found apartmentratings.com to be pretty reliable as well. Google reviews are good too (although they usually won't have a lot of reviews for apartments). I have found reviews from apartment rental sites though (i.e. such as apartments.com) to be unreliable and overall contradictory for the most part from other review sites (i.e. multiple 5 stars on apartments.com but yelp has 2.4 stars from over 50+ reviews). 

Like you said, reviews are not reliable I also had to visit apartments within a few days. My strategy was to see as many places as I can, so there were a few things that were absolute red flags but as long as it didn't have those and met my other conditions, I would schedule a visit. Online reviews are sometimes paid (e.g. landlord saying, "write a good review and we'll take $50 off your rent this month") and well, some people just have very different perspectives/standards. I find that reviews are only useful when I know the reviewer personally so I can calibrate what they say with what I know about them. I've visited tons of friends who rave about their apartments and while I'm sure they do really love their apartments, it would be something I'd never rent myself!

Be sure to insist on seeing the actual unit you are renting though, not an "example" unit or a "show" unit. If the rest of the place looks okay, I might be happy with seeing the "show" unit in detail but at least quickly walking through the actual unit to be rented. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Be sure to insist on seeing the actual unit you are renting though, not an "example" unit or a "show" unit. If the rest of the place looks okay, I might be happy with seeing the "show" unit in detail but at least quickly walking through the actual unit to be rented. 

If you can - I know two large apartment complexes that I rented at in two different cities, they didn't allow people to see the actual unit that you would end up getting.  I think it partly was because they didn't quite know which tenants were going to get matched up with which units.  Both times it worked out okay for me that the show unit and the actual unit were very similar.

So ideally, you would get to see the unit. I guess I also won't be too surprised at larger complexes if they didn't allow this.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/29/2018 at 12:31 PM, SkunkStyle77 said:

Perhaps it's a bit naive, but if someone doesn't have the chance to visit an apartment before moving there, like an international student, what's the "safest" website to use? Zillow seems nice, but one never knows.

Could you get on-campus housing?  It might be more expensive - but hopefully much easier than trying to do this from afar.

If that is not possible, I would ask for recommendations for specific apartment complexes from current graduate students in your department. 

I have also known friends who have asked for Skype tours of apartments from property managers when they can't visit.  I personally have never done that though and I can't see that working in my current college town because the market is too hot, but perhaps that could be an option if the property manager is willing and they still have a bunch of units that they are trying to rent.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@TakeruK Are you telling me to rent a house is cheaper than renting apartments in other parts of the country? Also, that's why I only read the bad reviews, and if I'm okay with those, then I proceed to schedule a tour. Again, there are a few key factors one needs to keep in mind with those, and what they define as "red flags". I.E. For me, a red flag is noise. I know for a lot of people, it is not the most important factor. 

I have rented over 10+ areas here in LA, and almost none of them have had the actual room I'd be staying in available to show me. They did have model rooms, and rooms that were unfurnished but ready to rent (which I am assuming is what you mean), but none of them were the one I would actually be staying in since the tenant theoretically was already living in the room I would be moving into. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just gone through the process of finding somewhere to live on the other side of the country, I'll chime in with what worked for me.

I highly, highly recommend finding a way to visit apartments in person--I know I've gone on lots of apartment showings where the unit looked different/better online, so seeing things in person makes all the difference. I'd also recommend talking with current students, if you can--see if anyone's looking for a roommate, ask about companies or parts of town to avoid, find out how livable the stipend really is (if you get one). 

I looked at Zillow, Craigslist, etc, but had the most success with my university's site for off-campus housing, which allows management companies to post listings for properties that would make sense for undergrads, grad students, and faculty/staff. I was able to filter results by price range, proximity to certain parts of campus, company, etc, which was a great starting point. As someone moving from a major city to a much smaller college town, it was helpful for me to become familiar with the primary management companies in the area and what people think of them--once I came across a promising company, I just went through listings on their website, which is how I found the place I ended up with (which I really like!). 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The other thing to do if you absolutely can't visit (or it's just not feasible to) is to see if someone that is already there can take a look for you, or ask around for recommendations of good landlords/reliable management companies.

Just chiming in on housing costs... I pay $750 a month for a 2-bedroom house on half an acre. Almost all of the livable apartments in the area are more expensive. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

In more than one place I've lived, renting an apartment and renting a similar sized house were the same price or within $100 of one another. Recently, I lived in a 2bd/2ba townhouse which I paid the same amount for as friends who were renting 3bd/1ba or 3bd/2ba houses in the same town. So it is entirely possible @samman1994 that the prices you're seeing for houses are real. This is one of those times where it really makes sense to reach out to current students to get their sense of the housing market.

If you absolutely can't go in person and can't find anyone to tour for you, my advice is to find a convenient AirBnB/Homeaway listing which you can get to in late July/early August and then use as a base while you scout for a more permanent option.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/29/2018 at 11:31 AM, SkunkStyle77 said:

Perhaps it's a bit naive, but if someone doesn't have the chance to visit an apartment before moving there, like an international student, what's the "safest" website to use? Zillow seems nice, but one never knows.

Consider using an apartment locator with good reviews in the city you're moving to. It is a completely free service (because the apartment gives them a cut of your first month's rent), and they can be helpful. The only downside is they won't look at apartments for you that aren't willing to work with them (pay them). This means you can potentially miss out on some good deals. However, they will try their best to match your requests and find a place you'll be happy because it is beneficial to make their clients happy. Plus they can do much of the vetting on your behalf. They'll even go to the complex, take a tour of a current unit, and take photos for you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, samman1994 said:

@TakeruK Are you telling me to rent a house is cheaper than renting apartments in other parts of the country? 

Well, renting a house is probably still more expensive than renting an apartment, but if you consider $$ of rent per square feet, renting a house could be cheaper (see @rising_star's post). What I meant though, was that the prices of SoCal is not reflective of the rest of the country. Where I lived for grad school, 1bd apartments can go for 1400+ and 2bd are 1600+. But in other places, 1bd can be as low as 600 so it wouldn't be surprising at all to see a house for 1200.

22 hours ago, samman1994 said:

Also, that's why I only read the bad reviews, and if I'm okay with those, then I proceed to schedule a tour. Again, there are a few key factors one needs to keep in mind with those, and what they define as "red flags". I.E. For me, a red flag is noise. I know for a lot of people, it is not the most important factor. 

I find bad reviews unreliable too. I've read reviews for places I've lived in and some of the reviewers either had a very different experience than me or have very different standards than me. Although I guess in your case, if you are at the extreme end of noise sensitivity then it makes sense that even any mention of it would be a good reason for you to go elsewhere!

22 hours ago, samman1994 said:

 

I have rented over 10+ areas here in LA, and almost none of them have had the actual room I'd be staying in available to show me. They did have model rooms, and rooms that were unfurnished but ready to rent (which I am assuming is what you mean), but none of them were the one I would actually be staying in since the tenant theoretically was already living in the room I would be moving into. 

Weird. We looked at 20+ places in total during our 5 years in LA County and every single time, we were able to see the actual unit for rent. Sometimes we had to insist, they might make some excuse about why they want to just show us the show/demo/example suite, but they always relented and showed us the actual unit after we press on the matter. This was also true for the many other places we rented elsewhere in North America.

Sometimes it's an unfurnished, uninhabited unit. But most of the time, someone was still living there because there is a 30 day notice to vacate in California and we often responded to ads as soon as they are posted so the tenant was still living there for another month. The landlord has the right to request access to the tenant's unit (with 24 hours advance notice) for the purpose to showing the unit to potential renters and it's part of all of our lease agreements. We had several couples look at our place when we were moving out too. So, it's all part of the standard rental practice. Most good landlords set up appointments with us to view the unit days in advance and therefore notified their tenants accordingly.

However, we did encounter some situations where the landlord failed to notify the tenant. For example, there was one place where the landlord let us in and we surprised someone who was still asleep (they were working night shifts). We felt very bad that we woke them up but ultimately, it was a red flag against the building manager for not complying with proper rules (and a hint of what may happen to us if we rented from them). Similarly there was some places that refused to show us the unit at first because they probably didn't notify the tenant. In the end, they had to knock on the tenant's door and request entry at the last minute. Theoretically, without 24 hours notice, the tenant could refuse entry but no tenant wants to do that when their security deposit hangs in the balance. So the tenants all say yes. We also considered this as a mark against renting that particular place.

In the end, we feel bad about inconveniencing people when we see their unit, but that was the landlord's responsibility to minimize their troubles. In addition, I would never sign a lease and pay a deposit for a unit I have not seen with my own eyes, personally (unless it was a month-to-month thing, but almost all leases are at least 1 year initially and 1 year of rent is a ton of money to promise without seeing the unit itself).

Link to post
Share on other sites

@TakeruK Well I'd be planning on living on my own, so my comparison is a studio/1br vs. a house (although in a lot of cases for the apartments I"m looking at, these are almost the same). So thank you everyone for the insight, I will definitely start looking at these houses for rent in more detail. 

I have am not a light sleeper, but extremely sensitive when it comes to falling asleep. Even car doors can wake me up, and then I have to go through the cycle of falling asleep again. My main issue is actually psychological. I.E. I develop some type of PTSD where I become very sensitive to any type of sound (even car doors slamming), and am constantly afraid of trying to fall asleep only to jump awake at neighbohrs suddenly walking or yelling really loud next door/upstairs. This means that even days when they aren't making sounds, I am in the fear that they will, and it just causes a lot of unnecessary stress. So for me, any comment that says they hear their next door neighbhor, or that the walls are thin, are an immediate no no for me. There are a lot of nice concrete steel apartments that are basically like hotels, so you should hear no to very little noise. Also, the more you pay for your apartment, the more front desk/management is actually willing to listen to you and care about your complaints. 

As to the final point, yeah once they told me the tenant is living there, I always just said okay. Didn't really want to walk in and disturb the tenant. From my experience, the room you see and the room you get are relatively the same (in terms of how thin are the walls, what does it look like, how is the wiring, how do the breakers look, how is the design, etc.). Most of the time, the apartment you move into will be cleaned, maybe even have carpet replaced, any holes in the walls and whatnot patched and fixed, walls probably painted as well if need be etc. The room you see from the previous tenant might look like a trash can, but that doesn't mean it'll look like that when you actually move in. Then again, management might not even care and won't do anything to fix the room, then again the room you see has furniture covering all the things that probably need to be repaired. You just have to guage management from the reviews and hope they do a good job. My biggest concern is seeing a room in the physical building that I would be moving in (if multiple complexes), because that's the thing management cannot fix. If the building is old and insulation crap, they can't fix that. If outlets are in awkward places, wiring funky with lights not working or just plain old wiring meaning bad connection, or breakers old enough to bust as soon as you have more than 3 appliances on, those are things they can't fix. If the plumbing is rusty and old, the windows thin or poorly sealed, and the A/C old and functioning poorly, these are things they can't fix (not without replacing everything which is a pain if you currently live there). I try to guage apartments based off the actual building itself and managements ability to actually care about how it's rooms look, not what the exact room that I'd be renting looks like. 

 

Edited by samman1994
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.