When Is the Best Time To Rent an Apartment?

Recent housing market reports have brought welcome news for renters: the rental market seems to be softening, with prices coming down and availability improving across the country. According to data from the rental listing platform Zumper, rents in half of the cities on its list of top 100 rental markets are lower since last year.

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“As inflation eases, migrations slow and a record number of multifamily buildings come online, renters find themselves in a much less stressful situation than a year ago. They have more options and less competition, and prices continue to soften in many markets,” the company reported in its November National Rent Report.

Moving may not be top of mind for a lot of people during winter and the holiday season. But much of the industry wisdom suggests that now is precisely the best time to score a great rental, particularly if you’d like to get it at a great price.

What Drives Pricing

Rent prices are primarily driven by the economics of supply and demand, according to Alexandra Both, a research analyst and real estate writer at RentCafe. “Simply put, it’s all about how many people want to rent in that particular place versus the number of existing apartments plus the units being built,” Both said.

With graduating students relocating, or people moving for new jobs, better climates and other factors, the majority of moves take place in the spring and summer. Apartment List says searches for apartments on its platform are lowest in the winter, and then steadily increase to peak in July.

Only 6% of moves during the year happen during November and December, according to Hire A Helper. That means demand during this period is low — and landlords feel it.

Another factor that has fueled surging rents in the last year is inflation. “As the costs of maintenance, property taxes, insurance and utilities rise due to inflation, landlords may raise rents to cover higher expenses. Soaring inflation typically translates to higher rent increases,” Both said.

While many analyses suggest that the softening is driven in part by a normalization trend following spiking inflation and COVID-19 pandemic-era price hikes, seasonality is a recurring factor that’s more predictable.

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Off-Season Prices

According to Apartment List, off-season rent prices typically fall by a national average of 1.7% from their peak in July, hitting their lowest rates in December and January. Heading into the winter months, the national median price for a 1-bedroom apartment on Zumper was $1,499.

“Traditionally, the winter months are the best time to find a deal on an apartment,” said Zumper spokesperson Crystal Chen. “Many renters prefer to avoid apartment hunting during the holiday season, with the challenges of moving in cold, unpredictable weather while juggling travel plans, so the rental market is much less competitive in the winter than the rest of the year. Property owners tend to price down units to fill vacancies faster ahead of the holidays, as well.”

More availability also means more choices. With prices lower and inventory up, apartment hunters might find that they can afford a larger space in a nicer building or more desirable area.

Other Deals and Perks

It’s not just rental prices that cool down in the fall and winter — it’s also a great time to score move-in specials like free months of rent, free parking or other amenities.

Zillow reported in November that rental properties are now offering more concessions than they have in the past two years, with 30% of its listings hoping to attract new tenants. This year, 43 of the 50 largest markets in the country have more concessions or move-in specials than they did last year. Among listings on Zumper, some 10,000 buildings on the platform were offering rent specials in November — a 17% increase since June.

As for where to find such deals, Zillow suggests looking in cities and neighborhoods where multi-family construction is booming. Salt Lake City; San Jose, California; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina and Minneapolis all topped its list, with around half of their listings offering at least one concession deal.

With demand lower for moving companies, as well, winter is also a good time to find lower rates and better availability from moving services.

Tips for Finding the Best Deal

If you’re planning to move during the off season, Both recommends starting your search as early as possible — at least one month before your desired move-in date. “The best time to start your search is the beginning of the year,” Both said. “This is when fewer people are looking for apartments, and you have more room to negotiate the rent price.”

She also suggests setting a budget and taking advantage of online tools and calculators, such as RentCafe’s Rent Affordability Calculator and Cost of Living Calculator. These can both help determine what you can afford and make your search more efficient. “For a better deal, you could also ask for move-in specials or lock in longer leases. Some landlords might offer discounted rates if you commit for more than 18 months,” Both said.

Other online tools can also help you score the apartment you want in your budget, including saved searches and automatic alerts when prices drop or listings come online matching your criteria. Rentometer allows you to compare your rental price with others in the same market to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. You can even spruce up your application by including a rental resume using easy template tools like Rental Resume, which helps a potential landlord get to know you better.

“Renters can create lists of their favorite properties, save their personalized searches, compare properties, book apartment tours or apply for an apartment just by using their mobile phones,” Both said. “This saves time and makes the process a little more enjoyable.”

More From GOBankingRates

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: When Is the Best Time To Rent an Apartment?

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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