Last-Minute Apartment Rental Tips

don't panic over last-minute apartment rentalsOne day, Tanya Alison got an urgent phone call from a friend in need of an apartment rental. "She was moving here with a husband, a dog and two cats in less than two weeks," Alison explains from her Brooklyn apartment. "She was flying in for twenty-four hours and intended to use the ones in which she wasn't asleep apartment hunting."

New York City, with its 2.8% vacancy rate, is decidedly one of the nation's most expensive (and difficult to navigate) markets for apartment rentals, according to Forbes Magazine. So Allison's friend had her work cut out for her.

Finding the right apartment rental, even in the coldest of markets, definitely takes time. But finding one at the last minute is hardly impossible, if you know where--and how--to look. Here are some expert tips for landing an apartment rental in record time.

1. Be Prepared: "Set up appointments with a broker in advance if you can," suggests Nina Miller, a broker in Chicago, Ill. But do your own homework, too, checking apartment rental listings on AOL Real Estate,, or even Craigslist. That way you are certain to have a few options that you have already vetted for price point, location and necessities (like buildings that allow pets.)

2. Create Time: Just because you don't have time to find the perfect apartment rental now doesn't mean you can't make time later. "Subletting can be a great way to inexpensively extend the time you need to figure out the best home for you," says Miller. A lot of subletters need someone to move in right away and will give you a good deal to do so. With the money you save, you can put your personal items in storage while you slowly and deliberately find the perfect apartment rental.

3. Get Some Help: If you know people living in the city to which you are moving, enlist their help in finding you a great apartment rental. Yes, this is a huge request to make of someone, so be specific. For example, ask a friend to help you by going through your list of potential places to weed out shady blocks or hard-to-get-to neighborhoods. If you ask them to go see a couple of rental apartments for you, you owe them dinner. If you ask for more than that, you might want to think about offering to babysit their kids/dogs or housesit over their next vacation.

4. Choose a Shorter Lease: "You can always ask the landlord for a shorter lease if you are truly unsure about the last-minute apartment rental you're choosing," says Miller. "Some are more than happy to go down to six months and in some cases, month to month, especially if the neighborhood is on its way up." That way everyone wins: You get more time to find the best space for you, and the landlord can collect some rent until the popularity of the neighborhood matures and then increase the asking price accordingly.

5. Use the Time Crunch to Your Advantage: Housing managers are anxious to collect rent as quickly and as regularly as possible. "You actually might end up getting an even better deal than you would have if you were hunting weeks before your move-in date," notes Miller. So be clear that you are ready to move in right away--and start paying rent right away--and see if you can finagle a few bucks a month off rent or some other perk you might otherwise be unable to leverage.

6. Couch Surf: Obviously this is a worst-case scenario, but if you're taking finding a rental apartment down to the wire, you need a back-up plan. Have an idea about what you are going to do in the event you do not get everything signed on the dotted line in time for your desired move-in. It will take the edge off of the inevitable frantic nature of your search.

7. Look for People Looking to Rent Spaces Quickly: "It might sound obvious," says Miller, "but people looking to rent quickly should look for people who are looking to rent their space quickly." In an already complicated world of apartment rentals, sometimes its easy to forget that for every last-minute renter, there is a last-minute owner. When you bring the two together, it can be a truly harmonious thing. Many websites posting rentals devote a section to people look for renters right now, so find them and call ahead.

Tanya Allison and her friend combed the streets of Brooklyn looking for homes in the correct price range, taking into account her pets and general living needs.

"At the end of a very long day we found a place that would take my friend, her husband and their menagerie," says Allison. "I am not sure I want to see her for a while," she adds, laughing, "but we did it, so happily she will not be crashing in my guest room."

Still trying to decide which is right for you? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you no matter whether you choose to buy or rent:

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Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Get property tax help from our experts.
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