Renting an apartment by searching online is nothing new. Problem is, you can waste your time searching for the right search site. Here are sites to check out, and a couple to avoid.
Apartment hunting is a hassle. Newspaper listings don’t give you enough information, apartment guide magazines are always out of date, and driving around town looking for “For Rent” signs wastes time and gas. Apartment search engines aim to make finding a new apartment easier by showing listings from multiple sites in a single easy-to-read format. But some hit the mark while others miss it by miles.
As a renter, here’s my rankings on these sites from best to worst…
PadMapper is the one site I’ve had the most success with – because you can customize your search results in nearly every way imaginable. The basic search goes by price, number of bedrooms, and type. The expanded search lets you enter in your own keyword or look for pet-friendly spots. But the best feature of PadMapper is the super-secret setting – seriously, it’s a blue bar called “Show Super-Secret Advanced Features.” With this setting, you get a crime map, walk score, neighborhood layout, and mass transit map for each listing.
If you’re looking for a specific type of rental, MyApartmentMap is the site to search. It sorts results by pets allowed, military housing, college apartments, or affordable housing. You can also refine your search within each option – such as choosing cats, small dogs, or large dogs under the “pets allowed” subsection. The listings themselves were the easiest to browse of all the sites. Each listing has a photo and the rent price clearly marked.
If you’re an organizational nut like me, you’ll love the interactive map on HotPads. Each apartment listing appears on the map as a color-coded “hotspot.” Clicking a hotspot pulls up the listing, and from there you can hide the apartment or add it to your favorites. Hiding a listing removes the hotspot, while adding to your favorites puts a star on the map. After sorting all the listings, you’re left with one easy map showing you which apartments you want to look at.
RentLinx does have some cool search features. You can look for income-based, Section 8-approved, handicapped-accessible, and smoke-free rentals. But the site was harder to navigate than the others. And even after sorting by most recent listing, all of the ads I saw were a year or two old.
MyNewPlace is pretty bare-bones. The site does have some advanced search features that will let you sort by rent price or show you pet-friendly apartments, but the available listings are sparse. My ZIP code only showed 27 listings, whereas PadMapper, MyApartmentMap, and HotPads showed hundreds. After searching, the site required I give my email before I could view any of the listings. The signup sheet had a disclaimer that basically promises to spam my email with advertisements from the site. And it adds, “Generally, you may not opt-out of these communications.”
In my area, Rentals.com mainly listed sponsored ads from corporate apartment complexes with a few private rentals mixed in. While the site listed tons of complexes, the listings themselves weren’t all that comprehensive. None of the ads had floor plans, the photos included were mostly of the complex, and the pricing usually said “Varies.”
RentCompare was a navigational nightmare. The site’s two search options – sort by ZIP code or sort by city name – both came back with errors, no matter how many different combinations I tried. When I finally got a search to work, the site required me to sign up before I could see the listings. Sign-up took four separate tries with four separate errors. In the end, I was able to see a few listings with some decent information, but the site wasn’t worth the hassle.
While I tried to cover most of the popular sites, there’s no shortage of others out there. Do you have a favorite site I didn’t mention, or one to avoid? Don’t keep that valuable information to yourself – give us the scoop on our Facebook page!
For more apartment advice, check out…
- Why I’m Still a Happy Renter: 4 Tips for the Apartment Hunt
- 3 Tips to Lower Your Rent
- 6 Myths about Renter’s Insurance – and How to Save