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How to Find a Home for Rent: Best Home Rental Sites and More

Couple analyzing house documents before buying new house
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If you want to rent your next home, you may wonder how to find houses for rent. It seems that there’s an endless number of rental listing sites for apartments, but homes can be a bit tougher to find. Fortunately, there are several sites that aggregate listings, allowing you to search for the rental home of your dreams. Here’s an overview of the best home rental sites for 2021.

The 7 best home rental sites and apps of 2022

The best home rental sites allow you to search in different ways, based on various criteria. For example, you might be interested in a specific ZIP code or only want to look at homes with at least two bedrooms. Some sites even let you search for particular amenities, such as a washer and dryer or a balcony.

1. Apartments.com: Best overall

Apartments.com is a well-rounded online option that really caters to both the renter and the owner. The site advertises that it is “renting made simple” and we think it really is. Search the area you want to live in and then compare the available apartments, houses, condos, and townhomes with in-depth filters like Lifestyle, Move-in Date, Ratings, Square Footage, and more.

Why it’s good for renters: This is a one-stop-shop for every step of the renting journey. You can compare prices and amenities and then apply online, sign a lease, and pay your rent from any device.

Why it’s good for landlords: The site provides owners with the ability to manage their property all online: Listings, applications, screening, lease generation, payment collection, tenant management, expense organization, and maintenance tracking. 

2. Zillow: Best for location-based rental searches

Launched in 2006, Zillow is a massive map-based real estate marketplace linking renters and landlords, as well as home buyers and sellers. You can search by city or ZIP code and narrow the results according to a wide range of criteria — like the number of bathrooms, square footage, and the year the home was built. You can also search directly on the map, zooming in to see exactly where each property is located and what’s around.

Why it’s good for renters: Potential renters can research the history of the home they are interested in, as well as the neighborhood.

Why it’s good for landlords: Zillow creates home value reports that are useful for helping owners know how to price their rentals.

3. Craigslist: Best free option

Craigslist can be a great starting point, but be careful. This open marketplace for everything from jobs to services allows free postings and doesn’t vet ads. Meet the prospective landlord in public, take someone with you to tour the property, and ask plenty of questions. Be sure to get a written lease if you decide to rent the home.

Why it’s good for renters: Eliminates the middle man of rental agencies and, with that, the corresponding fees. 

Why it’s good for landlords: If you like to be in control of every facet of the rental process, you run the show on Craigslist.

4. PadMapper: Best for extras

PadMapper is another map-based listing tool that is pretty intuitive and easy to use. It lists a lot of apartments and rooms for rent, so you will need to go into the filters and click on “house” under type. By default, the tool also shows Airbnb properties, so under additional, click on “exclude Airbnb.”

Why it’s good for renters: If you want to find a room for rent within a home or apartment to share expenses this is a good option.

Why it’s good for landlords: PadMapper is an easy way for a property owner to get in front of a large audience looking for rentals in a big city.

5. Zumper: Best startup app for rentals

This app offers long-term, monthly, and vacation rentals, with houses, rooms, condos, and apartments for rent. Their aim is to make finding a rental as easy as booking a hotel room, so they offer services from touring to lease signing.

Why it’s good for renters: The easy interface makes it seamless to browse options, apply, and lease your dream place.

Why it’s good for landlords: Owners can post rental listings, screen potential tenants, and collect rent, all in one place.

6. HotPads: Best for big city searches

HotPads focuses more on apartments than single-family homes, but you will find a reasonable number of homes as well. A particularly nice feature is the ability to input your work location to see the length of the commute by car, foot, bike, or public transit.

Why it’s good for renters: This is a good tool to help you sift through the thousands of options in big cities without wasting time traveling to each location.

Why it’s good for landlords: This is part of the Zillow family, so you have the ability to advertise your apartment building availability and also manage your listings.

7. Rent.com: Best for first-time renters

The biggest strength that Rent.com offers is its robust set of filters. Simply click on the items that are important to you, from hardwood floors to walk-in closets. There aren’t as many rental houses on the site as on some others, but it can be a great solution for those who know exactly what they want.

Why it’s good for renters: It’s comforting to have resources specifically gathered for your particular circumstances.

Why it’s good for landlords: Property managers/owners will be able to list openings on Apartment Guide, Rentals.com, and Redfin when they work with Rent.com.

How to find houses for rent, step by step

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Step 1: Choose your neighborhood

All of the best home rental sites let you search by ZIP code, not just by city. To eliminate homes that aren’t where you want to be, research the city in advance and narrow your search to one or two select ZIP codes.

Step 2: Go to your chosen website

Go to whichever website you want to search and enter your selected ZIP code. Depending on the site, you’ll need to specify what you want to search for, such as rentals, houses, or both.

Step 3: Use the filters

Take a moment to play around with the filters. At a minimum, you probably know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want, and how much you want to pay each month. But the best home rental sites also let you filter listings according to amenities, such as an in-home washer and dryer, as well as whether the home is pet-friendly. The more specific your search is, the more likely you are to find the home of your dreams.

Step 4: Read the listings

Read each listing carefully and take a good look at the photos. While most apartment complexes list floor plans that tell you exactly how big each room is, most home rental listings do not. But paying careful attention to the listings can give you a pretty good idea. You may also find personal deal-breakers, such as stairs or no backyard.

Step 5: Check another site

Even the best home rental sites don’t list every available property or every detail of each home. It’s worth trying two or three sites for the most complete listings and information. You’ll still need to tour your favorites to see which you like best, but a thorough search of a few sites will help you create a reasonable shortlist of homes to visit.

The bottom line

Finding a rental home can be a bit more complicated than finding an apartment, but there are several websites to help you out. Visit a few and play around with their filters to develop a list of homes that are worth visiting in person.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best website to find houses for rent?

It depends on your priorities. The most complete listings are usually found on the local MLS, while sites such as Rent.com and PadMapper have creative filtering options.

Is renting a house expensive? 

Not necessarily. It depends on the neighborhood. Some cities, such as New Orleans, have lots of single-family homes for rent, and prices are competitive with apartment complexes. In other places, such as parts of New York City, stand-alone rental houses are scarce and highly expensive.

Is renting a house from Craigslist safe? 

It can be, but you need to take steps to protect yourself. Always meet in a public place and take someone with you. Ask a lot of questions and get everything in writing.

Are rental houses pet-friendly? 

Many are, but not all. Use the filters on your chosen home rental site to search for homes that accept the size and type of pet you have.


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