At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.
To rent or to buy — that is the question.
When we think of renting, we picture someone living in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, but did you know that the average size for an apartment in the United States is roughly 887 square feet, or that the average rent payment per month is $1,343 as of January 2023? That’s a lot of money for such a small space, especially when the median mortgage payment is $1,627 per month on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, according to 2021 reports.
So, why would someone choose to rent when they could buy a home for a few hundred dollars more per month (in some cases, a mortgage payment may be less than renting)?
There are a plethora of reasons why someone would choose to rent a house rather than buying one. The primary reasons they choose to rent include not having enough money for a down payment (34%), having low income (31%), and their credit score isn’t high enough (30%).
Even though you may not be interested in owning a home right now and prefer renting, you don’t have to continue to live in such cramped quarters. Renting a house gives you the perks of owning (more space, a yard, and privacy, to name a few) without needing to worry about making repairs or being stuck in the same place for decades.
If you’re wondering how to find rental homes, you’re in the right place, because we have a few great ways you can find a house to rent.
How to find rental houses near you
1. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members
Sometimes the best way to find a rental is to ask people in your social circle if they have any leads. Perhaps someone will know of a sublease or someone who needs a roommate.
“There are people out there who will sublease a rental without getting the okay from their landlord. In a sublease situation, make sure their contract allows subletting. If you don’t check it, you could move in and two weeks later be kicked out,” Emeric Szaley, a top-selling real estate agent who works with 78% more single-family homes than the average agent in his area in Indiana, warns.
2. Check RentMLS.com
RentMLS.com is a website where you can search for houses for rent — sometimes, you can find homes that are rent-to-own if that’s something you’re considering. When you use this site, you can input a variety of search criteria, including:
- State and city
- Type of tenancy (rent, lease, or rent/lease)
- Type of rental (senior housing, military housing, timeshare, student housing)
- Type of property (single-family home, condo, townhouse, and so on)
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Rent price range (daily, weekly, monthly)
You can sign up for an account with the site and create a House Hunter search agent. To do that, you’ll need to choose a state you want to find a rental in and then follow the on-screen instructions. Once you’ve filled in your search criteria, your “agent” will automatically notify you if and when there are any matches.
3. Use a rental listing sites
Much like RentMLS, rental sites like Apartments.com, Rent.com, and Zumper.com can be a great way to find rental houses. You’ll want to use the main search feature to look for houses in your area. Then you can adjust your search criteria based on the basics as mentioned on rentals, but you can also use other filters, including:
- Lease length
- Pets allowed
- Income restricted
- No security deposit
- What amenities are included (if any)
4. Hire a real estate agent
A real estate agent isn’t just knowledgeable about buying or selling houses — they can help you find a rental house in any area (sometimes they are the only way to find rentals in metro areas). You could find a real estate office that also offers property management services. An agent could look at the properties they manage for a vacancy or even ask other offices for leads.
Another great thing about hiring a real estate agent is that they have a lot of connections. So while their office may not have vacancies, they may have clients moving but don’t necessarily want to sell their home.
5. Browse your local newspaper
We may use the internet 99% of the time for everything, but that doesn’t mean the newspaper isn’t completely obsolete. People will still use the local newspaper for advertising homes for rent. What’s cool about using the newspaper is that you aren’t just limited to your local paper.
Let’s say you want to move across the country and you’re researching rental properties. You’re probably going to use online tools to find houses, but you can also use national newspapers like The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, NY Daily News, and the Daily Press.
6. Drive through the desired neighborhood
Sunday drives aren’t just for sightseeing! The next time you’re out for a drive, take a lap around the neighborhoods you’re interested in; you could find “House for Rent” signs.
This works well in college towns, near hospitals or shopping centers, public transportation hubs, and even tourist destinations (near the beach, the mountains, theme parks, and the like).
7. Use social media
Social media is a big part of our lives, and it’s likely to stay that way. As of January 2021, there are approximately 175 million Facebook users in the United States alone.
Of all of those members, there’s someone in your area who wants to rent their house. You can find these rentals by joining a local rental group or the local community group (over 10 million groups!) and the marketplace.
When you’re in these groups, you can make a post asking for leads or browse the group using the search feature. To find rentals on the marketplace, you can use the “Categories” tab and look for the “Rentals” category or use the search feature.
Note: You need an account to access the groups or the marketplace.
8. Try Craigslist
Craigslist is the ultimate classified ad site, but it doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. That doesn’t mean every listing will be a scam; you just need to be hyper-vigilant and keep an eye out for red flags. Some examples of red flags to watch out for include:
- Low prices or large security deposits
- No address listed
- Only an email address listed as contact information
- Wanting cash to tour the listing
9. Check local bulletin boards
If you don’t want to sign up for a Facebook account and you don’t want to try weeding through ads on Craigslist, the next best thing is bulletin boards. Almost every post office, library, community center, or grocery store will have a bulletin board where residents will post ads for various things, including houses for rent.
However, we recommend that you practice caution when inquiring about these ads, both for the sake of your safety and wallet.
10. Negotiate with an owner of a vacation rental property
You can find some hosts who will offer monthly discounts, but if you try to book a rental during an “off” season, you may be able to contact the homeowner directly to work out a deal. This won’t be a long-term solution, but it could give you a few extra months to find something more permanent.
Knowing how to find rental houses is half of the battle
When we hear the term “American Dream,” we think of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision of the “pursuit of happiness as having decent housing, a good job, education, and healthcare.” Presidents Harry S Truman, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton supported this vision, and for 44.2 million people, homeownership isn’t necessarily a viable option, so they rent. Having decent housing shouldn’t be an unattainable dream — it should be a right.
The biggest challenge of finding a rental home is knowing how to find rental houses that fit your budget, are in a safe location, and have the features and amenities that are most important to you and your family. There are millions of rentals out there, not just houses. If you’re unable to find a suitable house, you can tap into other great options, such as apartments, condos, townhouses, and even mobile homes.
It doesn’t matter what kind of structure you live in; the only thing that truly matters is that it’s something you can call home.
Header Image Source: (Isabella Teixeira / Unsplash)
- "Average monthly apartment rent in the United States from January 2017 to February 2023, by apartment size," Statista (March 2023)
- "The average monthly mortgage payment by state, city, and year," CNBC, Liz Knueven and Molly Grace (September 2023)
- "Reasons why non-owners currently do not own a home in the United States in 2022," Statista (September 2023)
- "Apartment rents are on the verge of declining due to massive new supply," CNBC, Diana Olick (September 2023)