Renting a home can be confusing, and knowing when to start home hunting can help you snag a better deal. The real estate market tends to by cyclical and seasonal, so paying attention to these cycles will give you the best chances of landing your dream rental.

So, while a variety of personal factors must be considered when choosing the best time to rent an apartment such as cash flows and urgency of a move, a potential tenant may also benefit from waiting to rent at a time when rental rates are lowest, if possible.

  • Apartment inventory is higher between the months of May and September given the high turnover during these months. Rental rates are also high during the summer months. 
  • The lowest rental rates are found during the winter months, notably just after the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season—January to March months, as demand is lowest then. 
  • An apartment search should begin at the end of the month prior to the target move month.

Inventory is Highest in the Summer

The busiest rental-moving period is between the months of May and September because a number of life changes tend to occur in these months. For example, many high school graduates are leaving home, and college graduates are seeking real estate close to where they will start their careers. Also, warmer weather makes for more convenient loading and unloading of furniture.

Renters looking for the best options should plan to move between May and Sept. and renters looking for the best prices need to target Oct. to April. 

These life and weather changes during the summer season mean a much higher turnover rate. Thus, finding an apartment is easier, and there is a wider selection of apartments to choose from. However, precisely because the summer season sees the highest levels of rental activity, demand for rental space is extremely high. This boosts the cost of rental fees, sometimes up to double what might be negotiated during the off-peak seasons of winter and fall. Also, with the additional demand, the quest for the perfect apartment leads to higher-than-normal competition for the same space and forces individuals to act fast to lock in an apartment.

Winter is Best for Savings

The lowest rental rates are found during the winter season, particularly right after the Christmas-New Year's holiday season. Demand is typically at its lowest at this time of the year, when fewer renters are interested in moving. Individuals renting between the months of January and March typically find the best rental bargains. However, low levels of moving activity and turnover typically mean that it is more difficult to find exactly the type of apartment you would like at this time.

How to Apartment Hunt

Once a target moving season has been determined, narrow the choice down to a specific month. For example, consider that the target move month is August. The ideal time to begin the search for an appropriate apartment is at the end of the month prior to the target move month; so, in this example, begin the apartment hunt during the last two weeks of July.

While this tactic may seem somewhat last minute, it is optimal because the majority of renters have leases that expire at the end of a month or within the first few days of the next month. Renters that are about to leave vacancies will have given or will be giving, their 30-day notices during this time, and individuals are apt to get the first choice of available space if they begin their apartment search within that time frame.

Individuals willing to take a gamble or who have the flexibility to move on a moment’s notice could employ a different apartment-hunting approach. Waiting until the second week of the month to move can prove lucrative as landlords trying to fill vacancies become more eager to secure new renters.

The Bottom Line

The best time to rent depends largely on an individual's circumstances with respect to desired housing, price, and moving flexibility. Individuals most concerned about having the best options in apartment living should target May through September while individuals focused primarily on price should target October through April.