When Should I Start Looking for an Apartment?

A guide to a time-efficient apartment search.

Team LemonadeTeam Lemonade
When to start looking for apartments

Searching for an apartment can be a daunting task, but knowing when to start looking for apartments can significantly ease the process. Timing plays a crucial role in finding the perfect living space, whether you’re aiming for the best deals, the most availability, or just smoother transitions.

It’s typically recommended to start looking for apartments two to three months before you’d like to move, or about four to six months for out-of-state moves.

Let’s dive into the intricacies of starting your apartment search.

When is the best time to look for apartments?

The ideal time to start searching for your next apartment is usually two to three months before your current lease ends, but the right timing depends on several factors—like whether you’ll be moving locally or out-of-state, and how much advance notice your lease requires you to give your current landlord before moving.

Starting the search two to three months before move-in is the sweet spot for local moves because it gives you enough time to:

  • Explore a wide range of listings
  • Schedule walk-throughs
  • Compare prices and amenities
  • Prepare and submit applications

Should I start the search sooner if I’m moving out of state?

Yes. If you’re planning to move out of state, timing your apartment search can be a bit more complex. When relocating to a different state, it’s advisable to start your search slightly earlier than the typical two to three months before your desired move-in date.

Initiating your search four to six months in advance can give you ample time to plan trips to visit apartments, familiarize yourself with different neighborhoods, and manage the logistics of a long-distance move.

This extended timeframe also allows for careful consideration of cost of living differences, securing remote work arrangements if necessary, and coordinating with moving companies. Being proactive and flexible with your timeline ensures a smoother transition and increases your chances of finding the perfect apartment to suit your new adventure.

Would starting the apartment search one month before move-in be cutting it too close?

Probably. Most landlords only require 30 days notice before moving out, but starting to look for apartments too close to your move-in date can limit your options and increase stress. Sure, some last-minute listings can be found, but they may not meet all your criteria or may be more expensive due to high demand.

Is it best to start looking for apartments as early as possible?

No. Planning too far in advance is not necessarily the best move either.

Jumping in too early for apartment hunting can just lead to frustration—being an early bird isn’t always the best strategy! Since many vacancies available for immediate move-in won’t be open several months down the line, it’s better to time your search closer to your move-in date.

Landlords are less likely to hold a unit for a long period. So, waiting until the optimal moment can save you time and energy.

Imagine finding the perfect place, only to learn it can’t be held for months. That’s why timing is crucial. By aligning your search with your desired move-in date, you’ll have a better chance of securing a spot that fits your needs.

What factors influence when to start looking for apartments?

It's crucial to understand your current lease terms when deciding when to start looking for a new apartment

Seasonal trends in the rental market

The rental market fluctuates depending on the time of year:

  • Summer months: There’s a surge in available apartments as many leases end during this period. However, increased supply also means more renters vying for the same spaces, potentially driving up rent prices.
  • Winter months: Fewer options might be available, but less competition can lead to lower prices.

Lease terms and conditions

Understanding your current lease terms is crucial:

  • Month-to-month lease: Typically requires 30 days’ notice before vacating. This type of lease offers flexibility, allowing tenants to move out with relatively short notice while still providing landlords with a predictable timeframe to find new tenants.
  • Fixed-term lease: Notice periods can be longer, often requiring 60 or even 90 days’ notice before the end of the lease term. Be aware of these timelines to avoid paying double rent or breaking your lease agreement. Fixed-term leases usually offer more stability for both tenants and landlords but require careful planning for any moves or changes in living arrangements.

Job and income stability

One of the most significant factors to consider when timing your apartment search is your job and income stability. Knowing that you have a stable job and steady income can provide the confidence necessary to commit to a lease.

If you are expecting a job change or promotion, it might be wise to wait until your employment situation is secure before starting your apartment hunt. On the other hand, if you have recently secured a new job, particularly in a different location, starting your apartment search early is crucial to align your move-in date with your new employment start date.

Personal circumstances

Life changes also play a crucial role in determining the best time to start looking for an apartment. Significant life events such as welcoming a new family member, planning for marriage, or starting a new academic program may require you to find a new living space that better suits your evolving needs.

For instance, moving in with your significant other might necessitate a larger living space or a location with convenient access to both of your workplaces, while a new job or academic opportunity could mean a need for shorter commutes or more convenient access to public transportation.

Apartment hunting timeline

Make sure to get an early start on looking for your new apartment—typically two to three months for local moves

While the actual apartment hunting process should start two to three months before the move, there are several steps before and after to help ensure a smooth transition to your new digs.

Six months before move-in

At the six-month mark, start by outlining your budget and determining your non-negotiable needs versus nice-to-haves in a new apartment. This phase is about planning and setting the foundation for your apartment search. 

Research different neighborhoods, get an idea of cost of living, and begin to assess what you can afford. If you are moving out of state, this is a good time to research and potentially plan visits to new locations to get a sense of the area.

Four to five months before move-in

Begin to narrow down your list of preferred neighborhoods and types of apartments. This could involve virtual tours and reaching out to potential landlords or property managers to ask detailed questions. 

If you need to arrange for long-distance moving services, start researching and obtaining quotes from different companies. Continue to assess financial implications, such as moving costs, security deposits, and potential changes in your cost of living.

Three months before move-in

This is the time to actively begin your search for available apartments. Frequent rental listing sites, set up viewings, and attend open houses either in person or virtually. 

It’s essential during this period to keep a record of all the properties you are interested in, as well as their respective pros and cons. Look into logistics such as how to break your current lease if needed and start gathering necessary documentation for rental applications.

Two months before move-in

By now, you should have a good sense of the market and be refining your choices. Begin submitting rental applications, focusing on your top picks. Monitor communications with potential landlords closely and be prepared to act quickly if approved. 

It’s also important to give formal notice to your current landlord during this period if you haven’t already done so. Start scheduling mover services or coordinating with friends and family for assistance with transporting your belongings.

One month before move-in

Once your application has been accepted and the lease is signed, start preparing for the actual move. Confirm moving dates and ensure all logistics are in place. Begin packing non-essential items and declutter by selling or donating items you no longer need. Check out our guide on how to pack for a move like a pro, if you’re interested. 

If necessary, arrange for time off work around your moving date. Double-check all arrangements including setting up utilities, internet setup, and any other services you’ll need immediately upon moving in.

Once you’ve signed for your new pad it’s also a great time to buy renters insurance to cover your stuff, making sure to select your move-in date as the policy’s effective date, or to transfer your renters insurance to your new address, if you already have a policy.

Two weeks before move-in

At this stage, confirm all reservations and services for moving day. Finish packing, labeling all boxes for easy unpacking. Begin cleaning your current apartment to ensure you meet conditions for getting your security deposit back. This is also a good time to notify important contacts of your new address such as banks, workplaces, and healthcare providers.

Moving week

In the week leading up to your move, pack a “first-night” box with essentials like toiletries, a change of clothes, basic kitchen items, and important documents. Complete any last-minute cleaning in your current residence and do a final walk-through to ensure nothing is left behind. 

On moving day, oversee the loading of your belongings if using movers, and keep valuable items and important paperwork with you.

Moving day

Ensure all utilities and services are active in your new apartment. Upon arrival, do a thorough apartment walkthrough, documenting any pre-existing damages to avoid future disputes. 

Take your time to unpack strategically, starting with essential areas like the bedroom and kitchen. Settle in and start to make your new space feel like home by arranging furniture, hanging pictures, and familiarizing yourself with the neighborhood.

Looking for more guidance on how to prepare for your next move? Head to our ultimate apartment moving checklist.

5 Tips for timing your apartment search

Peak moving season doesn't only impact the availability of apartments, but also of essential services like moving companies

1. Set alerts and monitor listings

Set up alerts on rental apps to notify you of new listings that meet your criteria. Monitoring listings can give you a sense of the market and help you act quickly when the right apartment becomes available.

Here are the top 7 free rental apps that can help you find your next apartment:

  1. Zillow
  2. Apartments.com
  3. HotPads
  4. Trulia
  5. Rent.com
  6. PadMapper

Before starting your search, outline your priorities such as location, budget, amenities, and lease terms. Knowing what you want can help streamline the process and prevent wasted time on unsuitable listings.

2. Be flexible but decisive

While it’s important to be flexible, being able to make quick decisions can make a significant difference in a competitive market. The real estate landscape often requires renters to move swiftly to secure desirable properties.

If an apartment meets your criteria, such as location, size, and price, be ready to act fast to secure it. Taking too long to decide could result in losing out to other potential renters who are also on the lookout for their ideal home.

3. Time your search for off-peak seasons

Apartment availability can fluctuate throughout the year, with peak moving times often resulting in higher competition and prices.

To increase your chances of finding the perfect apartment, consider starting your search during off-peak seasons, such as late fall or winter, if possible.

During these times, there are typically fewer people moving, granting you more options and potentially better deals.

4. Plan viewings during weekdays

Weekends are popular times for apartment viewings, which can lead to crowded open houses and less flexibility in scheduling. Instead, try to schedule viewings during weekdays when landlords and property managers might have more availability to accommodate your visit.

This can also give you a better opportunity to spend time inspecting the property and asking detailed questions without feeling rushed.

5. Network with local real estate agents

Connecting with local real estate agents can give you an advantage in finding the best apartments. Agents often have access to listings before they hit the market and can provide valuable insights about different neighborhoods.

Attend local real estate events, join community forums, and reach out directly to build these relationships. By leveraging their knowledge and connections, you may discover hidden gems that aren’t widely advertised.

Before we go…

Remember, looking for an apartment doesn’t have to be stressful. With a solid plan, a clear timeline, and a little patience, you’ll find the perfect place to call home. And while you’re at it, why not protect your stuff with renters insurance

Lemonade Renters has your back when bad luck strikes, it protects your personal property and helps cover personal liability costs. Click below to start your free quote.


FAQs about when to start looking for apartments

When should I start looking for an apartment?

Start your apartment search 2 to 3 months before your desired move-in date. This gives you enough time to explore options and handle the application process.

Does the time of year affect apartment hunting?

Yes, the time of year can significantly impact the rental market. Summer months often have more available apartments but also more competition. Winter months may have fewer options but potentially lower prices.

What documents do I need to rent an apartment?

Typically, you’ll need proof of income, a credit check, and sometimes a copy of your driver’s license. If your credit score isn’t great, you might also need a guarantor.

How can I avoid rental scams?

Always visit the apartment in person and carefully read the lease agreement terms before signing anything or handing over money. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, and if a landlord is reluctant to show you the place, consider it a red flag.

What costs should I expect when moving to a new apartment?

Be prepared for the cost of a security deposit, first month’s rent, hiring movers or renting a moving truck, setting up utilities, and purchasing renters insurance (especially if it’s required by your landlord).

A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage and discounts may not be available in all states.


Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.