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Best Ways to Find a Rental: 7 Platforms to Look for Your New Place


[Updated: May 19, 2020] Jan 26, 2020 by Aly J. Yale
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If you're on the hunt for a new place to rent, there are countless places you can look. From HotPads and PadMapper to general real estate platforms like Realtor.com, the options are endless. Heck, you can even head to Facebook for local listings.

So which one should you use for your rental search? Let's look at the pros and cons of each.

HotPads

HotPads offers apartment and house listings throughout the U.S. You can even search for sublets, corporate housing, rooms for rent, and senior, military, or student housing. Its keyword feature lets you include other must-have amenities you want in your search, too.

Pros Cons
• Lots of search filters.Includes bike lane and transit map overlays.

• Lets you use custom keywords in your search.

• Includes way more apartments than houses, so if a single-family home is your goal, you may want to supplement with other platforms.

PadMapper

PadMapper is a free tool that offers listings across the U.S. and Canada. It's map-based, so you can easily see where a property's located and whether it fits the bill for your commute, desired amenities, etc. The site includes homes, condos, apartments, and single rooms.

Pros Cons
• Has a favorites features so you can save the best listings.

• Map-based, so it's easy to see if a rental fits the bill for location.

• Automatically includes Airbnb listings, so you'll need to exclude these.

• Filters aren't as robust as on other platforms.

Apartments.com

Despite its name, Apartments.com offers apartment, condo, single-family home, and townhome listings across the U.S. The biggest perk is its huge array of filters, which allow you to filter by certain appliances (A/C, washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc.), furnished properties, and even homes that include utilities. There's also an overlay system that lets you view transit lines, neighborhood boundaries, and local school campuses while you search.

Pros Cons
• Broad range of detailed filters.

• Uses a star rating system to help you evaluate listings.

• Overlay search feature.

• Available in Spanish.

• Includes way more apartments than houses, so if a single-family home is your goal, you may want to supplement with other platforms.

Realtor.com

Despite it being a mostly sale-focused website, Realtor.com does offer rental searches -- for both apartments and single-family homes. The downside is there just aren't that many of them, at least compared to other, more rental-specific sites.

Pros Cons
• Includes Apartments.com listings.

• Has a favorites feature so you can save the best listings.

• You may need to go through a real estate agent to view some listings. 

• Rental listings aren't as robust as for-sale ones.

Craigslist

If you're really on the hunt for a deal, Craigslist can be a great platform to use. Keep in mind, though, that there's no verification or vetting process, so you can't be sure exactly who you're dealing with or what their intent is. If you find a listing on Craigslist you like, make sure you meet the poster in person (and in public) and take along a friend when you tour the property.

Pros Cons
• Lots of low-cost listings.

• You can deal directly with the landlord, rather than an agent.

• Listings include walk and transit scores.

• Listings aren't verified.

• Not available in every city.

• The interface isn't as user-friendly as other options.

• There's potential for rental scams.

Rent.com

This platform offers apartment, townhouse, condo, and single-family home listings -- though much fewer than other platforms out there (particularly townhomes and condos). It does have a pretty robust filter system, though, letting you search for properties with patios/balconies, cable, hardwood floors, controlled access, and more.

Pros Cons
• Lots of search filters.

• Includes renter reviews and ratings on each property.

• Includes a moving center to help you get moving quotes.

• Much fewer listings than other platforms.

Facebook Marketplace

If you have a Facebook account, you can also search for local properties there, including apartments, condos, single-family homes, and townhouses. Though you can view a lot of detail for each property listed, it's not as user-friendly as some of the other sites out there, and it's not so easy on a mobile phone either. Also, if you want to contact the landlord, you have to use your personal Facebook account -- which can be risky.

Pros Cons
• Includes a walk, transit, and bike score for each property.

• Lets you see who posted the listing and see their Facebook profile before moving forward.

• Not as user-friendly as other options out there.

• Requires a Facebook account. Very few feature filters.

The bottom line

As you can see, there are endless places to start your rental search. In most cases, you'll be best served by using a combination of these platforms, as each one offers slightly different listings as well as unique filtering tools.

If you do decide to go the non-vetted route (i.e., Facebook or Craigslist), be mindful as you go about the process. Have someone you trust assess the listing for you, and never go alone to meet a potential landlord. Always meet in public, during daylight hours, and bring a friend.

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