What's the best time of the year to rent a home? That depends on what factors are important to you, and how much time you have to act.
People don't always have the luxury of taking their time in renting a house or apartment. They often have to assess a market in a fairly short time and choose the best available option. If you're fortunate enough to be able to plan your rental over many months, you can determine the best time of the year to rent based on your needs and goals.
To start, rank your goals in order of priority. Does a low price trump everything else? Are you willing to pay more for a better location? What are your must-haves and deal-breakers in a home? With your priorities set, look over your desired market in terms of supply and demand. Higher supply in the local market means more choices. Lower demand means less competition for the existing choices.
Typically, more people move during the months when kids are out of school (late spring to early fall) and the weather in most of the country makes moving a bit more pleasant. One-year leases tend to expire in August or September to match this cycle.
More people moving leads to higher rental demand, but can also lead to higher supply if people are moving from one rental property to another. If you need a greater supply of homes from which to choose, late spring to early fall is your best choice because of increased activity.
In addition, a recent Rent Café study noted that your best chance of approval is during this period. The active months of May and June typically have the highest approval rates, near 83% - 84%.
The off-season, which for most markets is late fall through winter, typically has lower demand – especially around the holidays and in the early part of the following year. Landlords who have vacancies during this time may be desperate to fill spaces, and may be open to better deals and negotiations.
As a result, the winter months tend to be the best rental periods for price-conscious renters – although you may have to search harder to find a home that fits your needs. In addition, it may be more difficult for you to get approved for a home or apartment during the offseason – the same screening data that identified May and June as prime months for approval shows that February has the lowest approval rates, 4% - 5% lower than the mid-year peaks.
The off-season desperate-landlord premise can fail in cities where demand may be lower than usual but supplies are lower still. Rent Café found a relationship between high rejection rates and limited apartment supply in cities as diverse as Manhattan and Greensboro, NC.
We recommend starting your search as early as possible – but once you've determined your preferred moving season and your location/price range, intensify your search around one month before you plan to rent, preferably around the beginning of the month and the end of the previous month. Landlords should have more vacancies during that period, and as a result, you are likely to find more homes available to rent. In highly desirable markets, those few days of extra options can make a big difference.
Don't forget about seasonal factors. Renting a home may not be seasonal to the same extent as booking a hotel room, but you still may have a harder time finding a rental home in the Colorado Rocky Mountains during the winter skiing season or a rental home in Florida during prime beach season.
There really is no single best time of the year to rent throughout the nation, since the best time is dictated by what is important to you. The laws of supply and demand make it more likely that the winter months are best for renting a home for the best price in most areas of the country, but you have to assess your local market (or, if you're moving farther away, the market you will move into.)
Regardless of the time of year, your best bet is to check your local market regularly so you know a good deal when you see one, and keep your credit score high so you can increase your chances of approval for any deal that you do find. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.