Like the for-sale housing market, the rental market is booming. But in hot markets like Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Austin, TX, and other major metropolitan areas, the struggle to score an apartment is real. So real, in fact, that the number of apartments in New York, NY, and other booming markets like Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA, has been steadily increasing in the past year — a trend that is expected to continue.
“Multifamily housing construction — which overwhelmingly ends up as new rental housing — has been relatively high compared to historical averages. Much of the construction activity has been in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, which should help ease the pace of rent increase. That said, rents have rapidly outpaced incomes since the recovery began, so any relief is likely to be consolatory news to renters, but new supply is on the way,” says Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s Chief Economist.
For now, snagging that cute studio apartment with views of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building might be a teeny bit difficult because, well, supply versus demand. Demand is high; supply is low. With that in mind, here’s how to score an apartment in six of the country’s hottest rental markets.
Don't Miss Out
Subscribe for house hunting tips, hot new listings, and real estate must-reads.
* A valid email address is required.
* That email address is already in use. Please log in to update your email preferences.
* Something went wrong. Sign up with a valid email address to continue.
Los Angeles, CA: Rent near the coeds
Perhaps surprisingly, Los Angeles, CA, is not the most expensive place to rent an apartment (that trophy goes to places like New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC). But it is, however, pretty difficult to rent an apartment regardless of the cost — Hollywood-adjacent apartments like those at 1600 Vine, pictured above, get snapped up pretty fast. Luckily, LA is surrounded by major colleges and universities — hello, UCLA and USC — and that’s where your search should start.
“Search in proximity to areas near college campuses. Rental properties in these areas tend to have faster turnover rates than other neighborhoods,” says Markus Canter, CEO of St. James + Canter Luxury Real Estate, a company within Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Los Angeles. Plus, these rentals tend to be not only decently priced but also located in fun, vibrant college neighborhoods with major transportation nearby.
Nashville, TN: Go new (or go home)
As in Charlotte, NC, and Austin, TX (see below), the rental market in Nashville, TN, is brimming with new apartment complexes offering attractive amenities in fantastic locations. Case in point: Aspire Midtown, which opened in downtown Nashville this month. And while you may not be neighbors with country music stars Keith Urban or Carrie Underwood, you could find yourself in a one-bedroom in the same building as a blossoming songwriter. (Which is just as good, right?) Keep your eyes peeled for leases in new buildings.
“Nashville is currently at the forefront of an impressive push to accommodate more renters, as homeownership rates are historically low,” says Merrill. “Nashville plans to see more renters enter the pool in the near future, and the city intends to meet their demands. Those looking to rent in Nashville may be better off waiting a couple of months until the new inventory is made available. At the very least, new additions to the rental market will drop prices and competition.”
Chicago, IL: Face the (cold) front
It’s no secret: Chicago is freezing during the winter months, with that whole lake effect and all. But the weather isn’t the only thing that freezes up. When the temperature drops, so does the demand for apartments, while supply remains about the same. That’s why September through March is the best time to pounce on a lease here.
“Those looking to find an apartment right now are in luck, as colder temperatures coincide with more leverage: The tenant pool is much smaller at this time of the year,” says Merrill. “Landlords are unlikely to risk the burden of a winter-long vacancy and are more inclined to offer attractive terms to avoid such a scenario.” Translation: You’ll have a better shot at landing a Chicago apartment in a building like MDA City Apartments. With an on-site market, indoor and rooftop movie theater, and sky club, you’ll never need to walk out into the cold.
New York, NY: Get cozy with a broker
We have a feeling the term “a New York minute” was first used in reference to real estate. New York, NY, apartments — especially ones with luxury amenities like AVA DoBro — often get leased within 24 hours of going on the market, so having a real estate agent or apartment broker on your side who knows the building management, leasing agent, or landlord can be a huge bonus for you.
“Building managers are more likely to pick up a phone call from a real estate agent they have a relationship with than calls from the general public, which they are inundated with,” explains Janine Acquafredda, an associate broker with House-n-Key Realty in New York. “They assume we have the candidates screened and prequalified. Same goes for a real estate agent calling another real estate agent to get access to their listing. Working with a broker oftentimes gets you access to an apartment two days before everyone else, which could mean the difference between scoring the apartment … or not.”
Austin, TX: Think shiny and new
Austin, TX, is not only booming with single-family home and apartment sales, but it’s also a hot spot for rentals. And while the demand isn’t as intense as it is in places like NYC (Austin’s vacancy rental rate has steadily increased over the last decade), it’s enough that you could lose an apartment if you don’t act fast — or smart. Your biggest advantage as a renter in Austin is the prevalence of new buildings, like SkyHouse Austin, which has been open for a little over two years, and even apartment buildings that aren’t fully constructed yet.
“The Austin market is booming right now, so apartments are leased fairly quickly,” says Stephanie Neilson, an apartment locator in Austin. “In order to find the best availability in Austin, choose a brand-new apartment. Generally, new apartment communities in Austin will begin preleasing before the units are available. With Austin’s growing population, it’s wise to prelease an apartment at least two to three months in advance of your move. You’ll also receive significant rent concessions and other incentives when you lease early. The newer communities have lease-up goals they’re trying to meet and are willing to give huge incentives to get more tenants.”
San Francisco, CA: Stretch it out
San Francisco, CA, is notorious for its high rent prices, high demand, and low inventory, which can make landing an apartment in hot neighborhoods — like the Wilson in SoMa — pretty difficult. That is, of course, unless either you have seriously deep pockets or you know how to negotiate the right angle.
“The high price of rent in San Francisco may be unavoidable, but if you want to give yourself an advantage over the competition, I recommend negotiating a longer lease,” says Merrill. “Landlords will prioritize those that intend to stay longer [over] those that may move in a month or two. The threat of a vacancy, especially in a market with rents as high as San Francisco, will make long-term tenants all the more attractive.”