Whenever I’m forced to look into moving to another town or city anywhere throughout the United States, I’ve always dreaded the apartment hunting process. Sifting through countless old rental ads in the weekly newspaper is the very last thing I want to do on a Sunday afternoon.
Even worse; making phonecalls, setting up viewings, and dealing with the variety of potential landlords – an assortment of snakes and sleazebags most of the time.
Luckily, the magic of the Internet now simplifies the process of hunting for an apartment. The following top 5 apartment seacrh engines are sure to make your next move significantly easier than your last.
Rating the Top 5 Apartment Search Sites
How do you determine which apartment search sites are the top five? For me, it comes down to to three things – simplicity, features, and results. The site needs to be simple enough so that I can get in and out and do what I need to do without requiring a training course on how to navigate the website.
The website should also provide all of the features that an apartment hunter demands, such as the ability to visually tour apartments or filter search criteria. Most importantly, the site should return the largest number of results as possible.
The following websites meet those basic requirements, and some of them have a few nice bonus features as well.
According to RealEstateRama, the following were the top ten apartment hunting search engines based on the number of times visitors “checked availability” of an apartment on the website.
Popularity is one thing, but as MakeUseOf readers know, features and quality are often far more important than popularity. With this in mind, I tested all ten websites, and have rated the top five apartment search websites based on design, features and ease of use.
#5 – Move.com
Starting off the countdown at number five, Move.com makes the cut with a clean and efficient design.
Move.com lets you search by price range as well as beds and baths, but in addition you can also search by property type as well as amenities and pet requirements. There are article listings under home finance, moving, and home & garden categories.
However, the overall focus of the website seems to be geared toward motivating people away from renting and into becoming a first time home buyer. Two identical sections to the rental search are parallel searches for New Homes and Existing Homes.
The search results included 5 detailed photo listings coming up for Portland, Maine, and all listings including estimated rent prices. The search here is focused on the specific town that you’re looking for, but you can heavily refine that search with the terms listed in the left menu bar.
#4 – ApartmentGuide.com
ApartmentGuide is a very simple, stripped down apartment search where you search by price, beds and baths, property name, or location. The results come up in a clear photo format with a cool interactive map showing where each property is located.
While this site returned fewer results for Portland, Maine (3 vs. 5) than Move.com did, it is still ranked higher due to the fact that the site is devoted to only apartments, and because this website is one of the few apartment search sites that provides a truly interactive map where you can access the listings by clicking an icon within the map.
The site also performs an “intelligent” search for rentals within communities that surround the city you searched.
My favorite feature of the site, however, is the stylish slideshow that’s offered for every property.
This feature alone is a valuable way to get a nice tour of a property well before you take the trip to check it out in person.
ApartmentHomeLiving is the sort of website that you’ll want to visit even if you’re not looking for an apartment. The feel of the sight is light and airy, and the motto says it all, “Live for hot chocolate.”
The search results are nice photo listings pulled from the Apartments.com database, but they aren’t anything to call home about. What makes this apartment search site stand out is obviously the content. There are loads of great features and “answers” about everything to do with moving and apartment living.
In essence this site is like a “souped-up” version of Apartments.com, with a dash of fun thrown in. In the search area, you can even find an apartment based on your personality!
#2 – Apartments.com
Often copied, but still one of the forerunners in the apartment search business, Apartments.com provides greater search features and a better site design than the majority of competitors.
From the very first page, you’ve got a large clickable map for easy one-click apartment searching. Or if you prefer, you can search by typing the location, and also by a whole list of apartment characteristics like type of housing, beds and baths, whether it’s pet friendly, or the apartment and community amenities.
The listings are detailed, with the ability to save results to “favorites,” clear pricing, and many properties offer a “360 degree” tour. Apartments.com is one of the few websites that lists private rental properties as well as large managed properties. In the case of my search for Portland, Maine, the results returned included 8 managed and 2 private rentals.
The site also offers valuable content for renters including sections titled moving center, apartment living, manager center, and landlord resources.
#1 – Rent.com
Rent.com is, by far, the king of the apartment search domain. The site is clearly professionally designed, with a fast and easy initial page featuring a basic search. Unfortunately, to use Rent.com you need to enter your email address. However, I’ve used Rent.com for over three years and have never had a problem with spam through the site.
The power of Rent.com, and the main reason it remains the king of the hill is its extensive apartment database that includes not only managed apartment buildings, but also condos, townhouses and houses.
The bottom line is that Rent.com returns more results than any other site – for my test search for the small city of Portland, Maine, it returned 18 listings.
The listings include large, clear photos and photo galleries, lots of specific details about the apartments, and the price range is clearly displayed on every listing. The “moving center” section of the website offers renters help with transferring utilities and insurance, dealing with truck rentals and storage, and the millions of other details that renters have to worry about during a move.
The Bottom Line
What it ultimately comes down to when you need to decide which site you prefer to use really depends on what you need. If your primary concern is getting the most listings as possible, Rent.com is the first place you should go to. However, if you’re just interested in reading quality articles about moving, or finding advice about how to deal with the process, many of the other sites on this top 5 list fit the bill quite well.
Have you moved recently? If so, did you use any of the above top apartment seacrh engines to find an apartment? Any other ones? Offer your opinion in the comments section below.