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Apartment Hunt: Online Search Tools and Sites

By August 31, 2011

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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

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?