Finding your dream apartment can feel like a real slog. There’s hundreds (sometimes thousands) of listings, dozens of neighborhoods, rents that aren’t listed, rules that aren’t clearly outlined… Apartment searching can sometimes feel just as difficult as soul searching. Even the apartment finder websites that are meant to help make the search easier are just as hard to navigate. It’s hard to see the costs and benefits of using Zillow versus Zumper, or PadMapper versus HotPads. (And the fact that so many of them sound similar certainly doesn’t help you tell them apart.)
All of the best apartment rental websites are helpful, but what exactly they’re helpful with differs from one to another. All have listings galore, but how you can organize and request apartments differs per platform. Here are some of our favorite apartment finder websites, with all the details you need to know about what makes them unique:
The Best Rental & Apartment Finder Websites
Think of Apartment List as the match.com of apartment listings: before you can even see what’s available, you need to enter some details about what you’re looking for, all done in the style of a quiz. Depending on where you’re looking to rent, this apartment finder site will ask you questions about your budget, laundry preferences, parking needs, amenities you’d like to see, and more. If you choose to provide your monthly household income, Apartment List will also remove any units your income isn’t pre-qualified for. At the end, they’ll ask you which is most important: price, location, or features? From there, the matches are far fewer than any other site – but they’re far more likely to match your needs.
Straightforward and easy to navigate, Apartments.com is perfect for when you want to search a very specific area’s availability right now. Their polygon apartment finder tool allows you to create a shape of your own, so if you want to live in a certain, very specific area (say, within 5 blocks of your favorite coffee shop, because you’ll die without it), you can do so easily. Another great resource on apartments.com is the Plan My Commute tool, which allows you to enter your work address and set a limit of how long you’re willing to commute by driving, walking, biking, or taking public transit. The tool filters out any apartments that don’t fit within your travel time preferences, making it easy for you to find a great place and a great commute.
Ah, Craigslist, the earliest and most pervasive apartment finder. While it’s always a good starting point for an apartment hunt, don’t expect the bells and whistles of other apartment sites. Your filtering options here are pretty simple: rent price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and a few other preferences. Beyond that, you’re in Craigslist’s not-so-user-friendly apartment search interface, where you’ll probably find lots of spam ads and a few scams, too. If you do want to search for your new apartment on Craigslist, make sure you’re aware of a few Craigslist safety tips and tricks.
Think of HotPads as a good heat map of rentals: it’s a great place to survey the popularity of a given area and get an idea of what’s around. While its apartment search website interface will look nearly identical to the other sites, it boasts some nice perks for once you settle into a place. You can pay your rent at some apartments through HotPads, plus you’re able to schedule recurring rent payments. It’s both an apartment search website and a companion for your days of renting.
Lovely is probably the newest apartment finder website, but don’t let that make you think less of it. Unlike most other sites, its map interface doesn’t bombard you with hundreds of little dots signifying an apartment – instead, it groups them into sub-areas, which you can click into and observe one at a time. The real differentiator here is that Lovely aggregates data from other sites, so what you’re seeing there is not just the listings that a landlord has placed on PadMapper, or on Craigslist, or on Apartments.com – it’s every listing on every site, updating in real time as listings are put up and removed. Another perk? It alerts you with a nice red color when a listing is “fresh,” giving you a chance to send in an application before it’s been on the market too long.
A great resource for those with distance constraints, PadMapper is another mapping-based apartment finder website. Like Apartments.com and Zillow, you can filter what you see on the map here, plus draw a shape to identify a specific, non-circular area. Another unique tool here is their rent selector: PadMapper’s includes a spread of most common apartment prices in the area you’ve selected. It’s a great way to begin your search when you’re not sure how much to budget, making it a perfect apartment finder website for first-time renters.
Where other apartment finder websites will push thousands of apartments onto your interface, Rent.com is the best choice if you need more than just listings: you need guidance. From rental guides to renting tips to searches customized for students, Rent.com shows it cares not just about finding you the place you want, but finding you the right apartment. It’s also one of the few rental websites that includes a separate section for renting houses, allowing you to find that picket fence Victorian you’ve always dreamed of (without the mortgage).
For those looking to rent a home or townhouse, Trulia is the place to be. While other rental sites focus nearly solely on apartments, Trulia’s listings are more houses, with the occasional apartment peppered in. The listings here are more geared towards families (both with kids and with fur-kids), so listings clearly state if pets are allowed and if group amenities are featured. You’ll also find handy maps of each neighborhood that outline nearby grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops, and more, letting you see what out-of-building amenities you can end up near.
Living carless? Then you probably should know about Walkscore. This site ranks each and every listing’s walkability on a scale of 0 to 100, in addition to including basic information like rent, size, amenities, etc. It also provides transit scores and bike scores, and allows you to filter listings by these. You can also filter by walk time, bike time, or transit time to nearby amenities, like grocery stores, car share programs, and parks, making it a carless city-dweller’s dream.
In the world of apartment search websites, Zillow is the gold standard, and it’s probably the one you’ll hear about the most. It has filters galore, and the listing details are above any other site. In addition to a description provided by the property manager, Zillow provides estimates of the apartment’s value and rent over time, as well as rental data throughout the neighborhood, its popularity on the site, and a listing of all schools the home is in the district of (plus their ratings). Zillow is the perfect apartment finder website for the more experienced renter looking for something worth their money – and the details are good for everyone else, too.
One thing everyone hates about apartment hunting? Applications. Every apartment needs you to fill out a custom one just for them: this one requires income details, this one just needs an employer reference, and this one needs both, plus income statements…it’s a mess. This is where Zumper is different from the other apartment finder websites. On the surface, it’s a similar interface to Zillow or Trulia, but the standout is that you fill out an application on Zumper’s site once – and every time you apply for a unit, that same application is sent without you needing to do the extra legwork. It’s your one-stop shop for the entire apartment hunting process.
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