Timing a Move Based on Rent Trends

Renters are often at crossroads when choosing the right time to move. To help clarify the decision-making process, RentHop released an analysis of the best and worst months for relocating across 10 U.S. cities.

Owning a home is more expensive than renting, and therefore, the latter is a far more popular and accessible option. Still, renters must take into consideration a variety of factors while looking for an apartment: what kind of home to search for, where should it be located and when to make the big move. While there are not many things lessees can change about the first two, the timing is more often up to them—unless the landlord’s eviction notice is already pinned on their door.

Most people choose winter over summer when it comes to renting, due to a combination of factors: Students migrate to multifamily communities in the summer, while cold winter weather discourages most people from looking for apartments. A recent study from RentHop analyzes rental trends in the U.S.’ 10 biggest cities in order to highlight the best and worst times to rent.

According to the study, rents are lower between December and March. Due to higher average rates, one should avoid moving from May to October. The difference from one- and two-bedroom units averages 3.9 percent and ranges from 2.4-5.4 percent for one-bedroom apartments and 2.3-5.8 percent for two-bedroom units. Rents are highest in September, when the students’ moving season peaks. In December, rents tend to average all-time lows.

Seasonal differences by city

New York has it all—a diverse population, high seasonal temperature variation and plenty of universities, making the city a cradle of opportunity for recent college graduates seeking jobs. Rents are lowest in February, and they increase gradually from May to August. The difference in prices ranges from 5.3-5.4 percent. The opposite trend prevails in Los Angeles, where the weather is usually warm: Rents in the City of Angels increase between May and September, and they start to decrease in November, reaching an approximate 4 percent peak-trough seasonal difference.

Chicago is far more balanced, and the difference in prices is more pronounced among two-bedroom apartments. Rents are highest in September and October and lowest in March and April, due to the city’s long, harsh winters (3.2 percent and 5.8 percent seasonal difference for one- and two-bedroom units, respectively). Dallas and Houston are pretty much on the same page. In both cities, the slow season lasts from November to February, while rents skyrocket as soon as March, in Dallas, and May, in Houston, until August. The high- and low-season differences for Dallas stand at 3.6 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, and at 3.9 percent and 4.3 percent in Houston.

Washington, D.C., follows the northeastern trend: Rents increase between April and May, peak in June and decrease beginning in September. The best time to look for an apartment is from January to February (3.1 percent and 3.5 percent peak-to-trough seasonal differences, respectively). In Philadelphia, rents peak in May, while the slower season starts in September or October. The trough in rental prices begins between November and December (4.6 percent and 3.8 percent seasonal differences, respectively).

Miami recorded more moderate differences in rents, with prices reaching an all-time high in July. Starting in October and ending in February, rents decrease slightly (2.4-2.5 percent peak-to-trough seasonal differences). Same goes for Atlanta, where rents start climbing in May and peak in September, then decrease in November (4 percent and 2.3 percent peak-to-trough seasonal differences).

At the end of the spectrum, we take a look at the Boston–Cambridge, Mass. area, where there’s a delayed increase in rents, which peak in August or September when students start moving. The best time to look for a new home is in January or February (3.4 percent and 3.8 percent peak-to-trough seasonal differences, respectively).

Graphics courtesy of RentHop