Apartment Hunt: Online Search Tools and Sites

I have a couple of go-to search tools for finding apartments but I’m always looking for better, easier, and more helpful search tools — especially if it gives me a direct path to an excellent find. This week I took a look at apartment search tools and local sites and started a list.

My staples over the years have included Craigslist and PadMapper. For as long as I can remember Craigslist has been my golden standard. Maybe I like it because I understand “how it works” and it provides me the basic information I need to complete my search. It helps that the service is free and, most importantly, I know that if something is listed on Craigslist then it is available (unless, of course, it is a scam or rented quickly).

I like PadMapper for the same reasons but also because it plots listings on a map, pulls from Craigslist and other listing services, and it makes a valiant attempt to tell me whether the rent is high or low compared to other units in the area. I’m not sure that last is accurate at all, but I appreciate the gut check and that it does some sort of math for me.

Padmapper Apartment Hunt: Online Search Tools and Sites

Of course, there are other sites and tools out there so here’s my start on a list. Feel free to help me out with suggestions or critiques if you have ‘em.

Apartment Search Tools
I encountered one big issue with some of the older generation search tools: while they are a free service, the sites often require you to provide an email address to access the listings or get availability info. Personally, I’m happy to provide an address if I’m sending an inquiry directly for a specific property for which I already know availability and price but giving contact info to use the search tool or access basic information is a deal-breaker for me.

  • Rent.com – Requires email to search. Exit.
  • ApartmentGuide.com – Requires email to check availability. Exit.
  • Trulia.com – The rental listings on this site were a pleasant surprise actually. You have to provide email to contact the landlord but all the basic information is included; specifically, availability, price, days listed, and description/photos of the property. It pulls from multiple listing services so I like how it shows the source for the listing as well.
  • Zillow.com – Same here – pleasantly surprised by this search tool and for many of the same reasons. At first blush, the layout of the information is easier to scan than on Trulia which I appreciate, but it’s not as readily apparent what the source for the listing is. I’ll have to do an in-depth smackdown some other day.

Local Listing Sites
The biggest challenge with the local sites is they are limited in selection. That’s usually because they are sites for a specific real estate or management company. And some sites aren’t the best at keeping up-to-date on whether the units are available or not (if they tell you at all).

Well, whatever, here are a few local sites I’ve come across (and this is by no means a comprehensive list):

…and probably a whole lot more that I’ve missed. Finally, there are the dedicated sites for individual apartment buildings of which there are far, far too many to list.

Now you tell me, what am I missing? What is your go-to apartment search tool?

About katrina
  • Guest

    Have you used SeattleRentals.com? It’s a local listing site that has a lot of apartments and I like it because of its easy to use search tools. In my experience, if you can view the listing, then it’s available, so I don’t end up getting excited about a place that rented the week before I saw the ad. Plus, you only have to enter your information if you want to email a property owner, but they have a phone number in each so you don’t even have to do that enter that info if you don’t want to. 

  • katrina

    Oh yeah, I’ve spent some time on SeattleRentals.com before – thanks for the reminder! Added.

    I also vaguely remember a luxury apartment site but can’t remember the address. And I totally forgot to include classifieds like Seattle Times and The Stranger — does anyone use classifieds anymore?

  • Michaelmmckay

    the easiest search mechanism I have used is Google.  Type Apartments for rent into the search bar, along with the neighborhood or zip code, and everything is mapped out with a preview when you scroll over it.  Remarkable, really.