Best Sites for Finding an Apartment or Home for Rent in 2020
It’s always been hard to find a new apartment for rent, but in recent years it’s gotten harder. Craigslist has gotten scarier than ever and most of the theoretically “competitive” sites seem to have the same inventory – and often just the big apartment communities. But, happily, there are some new entrants that have a little more variety. Here are the best options we found:
Apartments.com is the most heavily marketed apartment or home for rent site on the web today – you’ll find them every time you search, pretty much anywhere in the country. They have a lot of inventory at the more corporate-owned/operated communities, as well as a smattering of single-family homes and smaller for-rent by owner properties.
Their search is terrific – lots of options to choose from – and they have great coverage all across the country. One of the best, if not the best, in terms of inventory, particularly if you’re looking for high-end apartments.
Some watchouts: they have lots of listings that are very old or just not available, so make sure to look at how long a listing has been up. Also, keep in mind that they’re showing you listings in the order of who paid them the most to show the listing – and those first page listings have big, beautiful photos, so be aware that just because some of their listings have small photos and are on page 17 of the listings doesn’t mean they’re not good options – that might be just what you’re looking for.
There are lots of other listing sites like ForRent and ApartmentFinder that are owned by the same folks as Apartments.com, so if you think you’re seeing the same places on those sites, you probably are.
One of the few independents in the space, Apartment List has similar, though smaller inventory vs. Apartments.com, but a different approach to the user experience than most of the other listing services.
They run you through a process when you come to their site for the first time where they ask question after question about your search, rather than providing direct access to listings like all others do. Once you’ve finished the whole process, they then serve you a selection of listings that match your professed preferences.
For the right person, that could be really helpful. The challenge is that they mostly have big, corporate communities that are willing to pay Apartment List big dollars to be on their service, so they don’t necessarily have something for everyone.
The newest listing site to help you find an apartment or home for rent, Dwellsy has brought a novel approach and rapidly become one of the largest listing services. Their inventory is really broad, with lots of for rent by owner-type properties including single-family homes and 2-4 unit buildings, as well as the big corporate-owned properties.
Dwellsy has a couple of neat differences that you might enjoy. First, it’s the only platform that has true organic search results – Dwellsy shows you what you actually search for, without any sponsored listings. Second, they have a verification program that tells you which listings are verified and which ones aren’t so you know where you need to be more wary and where you can feel safe. Third, they score each listing according to your search, so you can sort by which matches your unique search best.
Of course, Dwellsy has its downsides too. It’s a newer site, so it doesn’t have as many tools as some of the other sites. Plus, while they’ve got more inventory than most other sites, it’s a little uneven, geographically speaking, so there might be a ton of options in your area, and there might not.
Another one of the old school majors, Rent.com is usually the third brand that comes up in your search for an apartment or home for rent.
Rent.com shines in a couple of different ways – it’s more oriented to smaller properties, so while they’re still heavy on the big corporate listings that pay the bills, they have a good selection of smaller and unique properties. If you’re located on the East Coast, they’re particularly strong on inventory as well, while those on the West Coast might find it a little thinner.
Other than that, you’ll find it’s similar to Apartments.com and some of the others: a very well developed, mature version of classifieds on the internet…with all the good and bad that comes with that.
Zillow is the biggest brand in housing and it shows. They’ve got a great site with lots of listings – and, unlike some of the others, their inventory is pretty up to date. It is mostly the big corporate places, but like Apartments, they have a smattering of single-family homes and small apartment buildings. They’re based in Seattle, and that west coast location has made them particularly strong for apartment searchers on the west coast.
Plus, they’ve got the Zestimate, which is one of the best estimates of what you should be paying in rent for each place. And, they’ve been working on some new tools that allow you to apply for multiple apartments through their site (though be careful to make sure the landlord accepts that application) and you can book appointments to visit directly through their site in some cases.
Like the company behind Apartments.com, Zillow owns a ton of other sites too – like Trulia, Hotpads, Padmapper, and the entertainingly named NakedApartments – so be on the watchout for sites that seem different, but have all the same inventory.
Like Apartment List, Zumper has been around for the better part of a decade, but they’re still independent. Also like Apartment List, Zumper has a solid inventory, but not a huge one.
Zumper has a lot going for it, though. They’ve got perhaps the slickest user experience of all of the sites, and they’ve got a bunch of neat tools like “Instarent” where you can see virtual tours, online applications, and others.
So, is one of these for you?
In the search for the right apartment or home for rent, you would be well served by any or all of these sites.
But, what about the real OG listing site – Craigslist? Fraud has always been a problem on Craigslist, but in recent years some pretty sophisticated fraudsters have really taken over, so it’s sadly now impossible to recommend. Just too much risk, unfortunately.
Here’s our summary rundown of the options available to you:
- If you’re looking for a place in a big community with a ton of amenities, then Apartments.com or Zillow are great options, but you’ll find lots of this inventory (and often different inventory) at all the other sites too.
- If you’re looking for smaller places – single-family homes or small apartment buildings – then Dwellsy or Rent are great sites to try.
- For those on the West Coast, sites based there, like Zillow, Dwellsy, Zumper, and Apartment List are great options with the most local flavor and depth.
Good luck finding your next apartment or home for rent!
About the Author: Julia Angelen Joy
Public Relations Consultant and Media Expert
Julia Angelen Joy is a public relations consultant and media expert who has worked with more than 100 small businesses on a variety of corporate messaging, digital marketing, and public affairs programs. She is the owner of Z Group PR, providing publicity and communications services for people, brands, and creative agencies. Julia is an international steward of creativity with extensive expertise in public relations, brand management, and marketing strategies spanning a myriad of industries: Hospitality, Entertainment, Sports, High-Tech, eCommerce, Corporate Retail Operations, Government Affairs, Public Sector, Non-For-Profit & NGO’s, Public Works, Engineering, Environmental, Energy Conservation, and Water Resources. Ms. Joy offers proven abilities in strategic marketing, corporate messaging, traditional and digital communications, and social media marketing and is highly adept at developing vertical markets, identifying business opportunities, creating unique ideas, and building strategic alliances that drive market expansion and generate revenue growth.