When Is the Best Time to Start Looking for an Apartment?

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I think we can all agree that apartment hunting takes forever. Even if you have a team of super-speedy apartment experts on your side, figuring out when to start looking can be a challenge. Believe it or not, there is actually an ideal apartment hunting window, and there’s even a logical explanation behind why it’s ideal. “When Is the Best Time to Start Looking for an Apartment?” is a question that we get a lot, so we’re here to bring you the definitive guide to timing your apartment hunt.

RELATED: APARTMENT TOURING CHECKLIST

When is the Best Time to Start Your Apartment Hunt?

The short answer: 10 weeks before your move in date. The long answer: 10 weeks, but if that’s not possible, there’s still hope. When you help thousands of people move each year, you start to see patterns emerge. The common response to this (and what you might be thinking at this very second) is: “But what if I’m a planner?” or “I want to start it now!” 

In less frequent but still common cases, we hear something like “I’m in town for 2 days and I absolutely must sign a lease“ or “AHH! I don’t have time for this!” 

Not to worry! Here’s the full inside scoop and what you can do if you identify with either of the two camps outlined above. 

10 weeks is the magic number to start looking for an apartment!

Why is 10 Weeks the Magic Number?

To answer this, we’re going to do some quick math, so stay with me. Most buildings require 8 weeks’ notice, even if your lease is set to expire on a certain date (Side note: Don’t forget to give written notice or you could face a fee! Read more about that here). 

As soon as they get that written notice, the unit goes “online” and is listed on their website and other apartment listing sites. This means that if you’re browsing 3 months early, you’re not even seeing the units that will actually be available when you’re ready to move in. The units that will actually be rent-able by you are not online yet.  

So how did we get to 10 weeks if we’re basing it on 8 weeks’ notice? You’ve now got 2 whole weeks before your ideal “all units are online day” to scope out buildings that you like, decide on make-or-break amenities, and start thinking about your favorite neighborhood! (This is also the perfect time to get in touch with your AptAmigo rep and start filling them in on your list of criteria.)

Now, you have all your ducks in a row for when the real work starts at T-minus 8 weeks. At that time, units will start popping up that will be available at your desired move-in date and you can start scheduling tours and saving specific floor plans.

What if I’m a Planner and I Want to Start Looking Early?

Great! Start planning now, but don’t fall in love with any specific apartments until at least 10 weeks out. You can research neighborhoods, gather info, make a list of criteria, and start getting a general idea of each building’s floor plan style. 

But whatever you do, DO NOT SCHEDULE A SINGLE TOUR. Even if you’re scoping out amenities, you could ruin a big money-saving opportunity for yourself in the future. Buildings will often offer “Look-and-Lease” specials that could save you a huge chunk of change.

These specials are only valid 24-48 hours after your tour and typically include anything from free parking all year to $1 move-in fees and could even be 1-3 months of free rent. In an effort to speed up your decision, they won’t offer the deal on your second tour. So it’s best to plan in-person tours for a day when you’re 100% ready to sign a lease.

What if I Missed That Window or I Only Have a Few Days to Look?

Sometimes life happens and you find yourself scrambling to sign a lease. In these cases, time is of the essence. Your best bet is to save time by narrowing your scope as fast as you can. Pick a neighborhood that you like and only search within that neighborhood.

That way, at least you know you’ll enjoy the area. Then, condense your research phase by scanning all the buildings in that neighborhood with a listing site (hey, we have one of those!) and single out your top 5-8 buildings. You can get really detailed with our search features and filter based on what direction the unit faces, hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, walk-in closets, and more.  

In our experience, 8 is the absolute max number of buildings you should tour. More than 8 and decisions get harder, you get overloaded with information, and don’t actually end up any happier with your choice than the people who toured 5.

Once you have your list, start scheduling tours and laying out all the buildings on a map so that you can view them in a logical order, and you’re not running around town like mad.  

Or, you could just get someone to do literally all of that for free and spend your time touring apartments like a VIP. It’s a shameless plug, but it’s why we made AptAmigo. We’ve got a super-knowledgeable rep who knows every building in town waiting for your call.

They’ll help you quickly identify your top 5-8 list, schedule all your tours, and even pay for your Uber between buildings on tour day. It’s like having a personal assistant mixed with an HGTV personality, mixed with one of those sometimes-too-honest-but-you-kind-of-appreciate-it friends. 

The Bottom Line

Timing your apartment hunt right could land you one of those awesome 3-month free deals, drop one of those ‘gram-worthy apartments into your lap, and eliminate a ton of stress. Of course, things happen, and sometimes you find yourself over-planning or rushing to sign a lease.

In those cases, it’s best to lean on your team of friendly apartment experts at AptAmigo. We might be biased, but each person on our team has experienced bad apartment hunts and we’re on a mission to make that a thing of the past.

Related: Find out how using an apartment locator works.

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