How far in advance should I look for an apartment?
November 3, 2005 1:40 PM   Subscribe

How far in advance should one look for an apartment to rent, if seeking both leverage to negotiate and a good selection?

I am moving back to Vancouver in December. I want to start a lease December 15. Some time between now and then, I need to find a place, and to negotiate a lease for it. Since my wife and I are a professional, responsible, non-smoking, no pets, no kids couple with excellent references, I like to bargain hard on rent.

I negotiated the lease for our last apartment about three weeks before the start of the lease. I got a great discount. I negotiated the lease for our apartment before that about 10 days before the start of the lease, and did not get a particularly good discount.

My sense is that, usually, the closer you get to your desired start date, the more negotiating power you have - landlords don't like empty apartments. But inventory dwindles. Is there any optimal time for apartment hunting/negotiating?
posted by meeeeeep to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
This really depends greatly on the market. Your best bet would be to contact a real estate agent in Vancouver - as he/she will be in tune with how the market is.

In some areas, reasonably priced and good housing can be found on relatively short notice, and in others, you may have to start looking as much as 7-10 months in advance to really find something good and get in soon enough on someone's impending/expiring lease.

This sort of thing is entirely market dependent, so any definite answer you get from someone here who is NOT from Vancouver, I would take with a serious grain of salt. I think you should ask an RE agent in Vancouver (here in the states, most RE agents don't charge anything to help you find a place - their commission comes from actual booked sales/rentals)...
posted by twiggy at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2005

I'd say it depends on how much notice tenants have to give before vacating. I've heard 30-60 days, but usually 30. If the landlord doesn't know who's moving out, they don't know how many apartments they will need to fill.

Some apartment complexes have special offers during their low season - like giving a month at half price or even free - if you put down a deposit and reserve a place in advance. That can make a big difference. The best success I had when negotiating a lease was the day of move-in. The place I was supposed to move into fell apart so I had to start my apartment search from scratch. The leasing manager wanted to fill that apartment NOW and I got a good price (about $100 per month off with no deposit required). I wouldn't recommend having all your stuff in a truck with no place to call home, but it worked for me.
posted by coolsara at 1:54 PM on November 3, 2005

My experience renting in Victoria (as a university student) was that you have to be out there as early in the AM on the first of the month before you want to move as you can. Now, this was for September, when there were a lot more renters coming in looking for places. But, in BC, most places require one month's notice, and very often the person in charge of renting the places cannot be certain that any given apartment will be available until that day.

Now, I am not sure about the vagaries of the housing market in Vancouver, but if it is much like Victoria, places in nice areas go fast. Very fast.
posted by synecdoche at 2:32 PM on November 3, 2005

I don't know when the last time it was that you lived in Vancouver, but the market is still seller/landlord. It depends a little on the neighbourhood, though, but there's still more demand than supply.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:38 PM on November 3, 2005

Based on my modest experience, I would put the sweet spot at about 2-3 months. Less than that, you get limited selection, too much longer, you get property managers who don't want their places to lie fallow. I don't think most renters inform the owners more than 3 months in advance anyway.

Me, I like to start browsing the listings at 3-4 months, but just idly.. in case I see a really sweet one. Then, as t-minus 3 months begins, get more serious about it.
posted by Hildago at 5:42 PM on November 3, 2005

I don't know if your experience in Vancouver would be at all similar to what my experience in Chicago is, but I found that there is an outer limit on how early you are able to successfully look for an actual listing, because landlords often don't want their apartments to stay vacant.

Specifically, I really wasn't able to successfully look at actual places I wanted to move into until about six or seven months prior to my move date, and that's on the outside. If you have excess time, I suggest you spend it thinking of itemizing the particular conditions you are looking for.

You're speaking of a different city in a different country, however, so, as they say, YMMV.
posted by WCityMike at 4:19 PM on November 4, 2005

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