Renting a new apartment — and especially moving from one apartment to another — can be a stressful and expensive process. The apartment search is enough work on its own, but that still leaves you with the work of packing, moving, unpacking and setting up utilities at your new home like electricity and Wi-Fi. And then there’s the common problem of owing a new security deposit before getting your old one back.
But if you have control over the timing of your move, you can save yourself some money and stress by signing a new lease during the off-peak season. In most North American cities, that’s between October and April.
The Downsides of Peak Moving Season
There are a few reasons why May through September is considered peak season for new rentals. School is out for summer, which means families with children can move without interrupting the school year, and recent college graduates are moving all over the country to start new jobs.
Because demand for rentals is at its highest during the summer, competition for coveted apartments can be intense. You may need to act quickly to sign a lease in popular neighborhoods. The peak demand also means that landlords can charge more expensive rates and require additional deposits.
But there is one key advantage to moving during this season: large selection. With most leases turning over between May and September, there are constantly new apartments coming onto the market. During the winter and spring months, new listings trickle in at a slower rate.
Strike While It’s Cold
When you shop for a new apartment during the off-peak season — especially during January and February, the slowest months — you have real purchasing power. The selection may be a little picked-over, but landlords who have vacancies will often be highly motivated to find tenants.
You can take advantage of this opportunity in a number of ways, including haggling on rent, asking for more flexible lease terms or requesting specific repairs or upgrades as a condition of signing a lease. As long as your requests are within reason and there’s no competition for the apartment, you may have a real chance of sweetening the deal.
And since you have energy choice here in Texas, there’s yet another silver lining to moving during the colder months: you can lock in a low fixed rate on electricity. The price of electricity fluctuates along with demand, and nothing drives that demand more than air conditioner use during our steamy summers. But during Texas’ mild fall and winter weather, fixed-rate electrical plans, like our You Got This 12 plan, are based on some of the lowest rates of the year. Make your move during the off-peak season and you’ll still be saving on rent and electricity by the time summer rolls around.
Timing Is About More Than the Month
Even after you’ve chosen your ideal moving month, there’s still the question of when to start shopping. And there are distinct advantages to shopping both at the very beginning and the very end of the month before you move.
Let’s say you want to move in March. If you start shopping aggressively on February 1, you’re likely to find lots of fresh listings for apartments that will be available on March 1. You may find competition from some other early birds, but searching at the beginning of the month can help you maximize your selection during these slower off-peak months.
There’s also another strategy — if you save your search for the last week of February, the landlords you meet will probably be desperate to find a tenant and avoid a lost month of income. The selection is smaller and the stakes are high, but you’ll have greater leverage as a potential renter. You may be able to knock a few more dollars off your rent by waiting until the last minute.
It even makes a difference what time of day you do your searching. Many property managers begin their day by posting new online listings, so you can expect lots of fresh opportunities between about 8 and 10 a.m. If you want the pick of the litter, start your apartment searching days early.
Happy apartment hunting!