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Moving in the Dead of Winter? A New Study Finds It’s the Best Time for Bargains

If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, the last thing you might want to do is head out in the freezing cold looking for a new apartment. However, a new study by Dwellsy indicates January and February are actually the best months of the year to secure discounts on rentals as well as moving expenses—no matter where you live.

Jonas Bordo is the CEO and co-founder of Dwellsy, a national rental platform with more than 13 million residential listings for apartments, condominiums, or single-family homes. “I’ve been a landlord and a renter for much of my life, and I can tell you that in the winter time, landlords are desperate to get their places rented, since there are way fewer people looking then,” he told The Epoch Times. “Sometimes you can save as much as 10 percent on the monthly rents if you agree to move in during the winter.”

According to Bordo, vacancy is the biggest expense for landlords, and instead of allowing a property to “sit,” most are open to negotiating with renters, especially the smaller property owners or management firms. In addition to lower monthly costs, renters can also negotiate for things like parking spaces, amenity fees, utility costs, or  longer leases.

Dwellsy’s recent study found that rents typically peak in August and September, when most people start looking for a new place to live. “People tend to start looking in the spring, summer, and fall, but they forget about the winter,” added Bordo.

Because winter is one of the least popular times to move, rents typically hit their lowest price point, before returning to the peak rates for summer and early fall. “One of the biggest secrets in the apartment rental industry is that rent levels are seasonal,” said Bordo. “In many markets, an apartment that’s $1,000 in August might go for $900 in January. That will save you $1,200 over a year.”

As a result of receiving that lower rent, explained Bordo, renters can benefit year after year. “Chances are, you’ll be signing a 12-month lease, which means when it’s time to renew, you’ll be starting the process in January,” he said. “If you stick to this pattern, you’ll be lowering the big expense of rent for the long term.”

Another advantage of winter relocation is less competition from other renters. Even in the warmer climates in the South and West, renters typically tend to avoid relocating just after the holidays. “Landlords also tend to be less busy during the winter and will have more time to show you the rental, so you don’t have to rush through it,” said Bordo.

Bordo notes that moving companies are generally way less expensive in the winter, since business typically slows down then. “I know no one wants to carry boxes in icy weather, but movers can be dramatically cheaper in the winter,” he said. “During the winter months, movers also seem to have more openings on their calendars.”

Epoch Times Photo
A moving van at work in New York City in the snow. (Courtesy of Piece of Cake Moving & Storage, NY)

Piece of Cake Moving & Storage, based in New York City, provides services throughout the greater New York metropolitan area, as well as nationwide. CEO Voyo Popovic told The Epoch Times that winter moves offer not only reduced rates but more booking availability as well. “Professional movers have plenty of experience moving safely in winter’s inclement weather and know how to navigate through colder conditions safely for you and your items,” he said.  “However, you will need to anticipate the probability of travel delays due to traffic, road closures, and even serious winter weather.”

Popovic reminds clients that they are also responsible for ensuring that the pickup and drop-off locations are safe. “During a winter move, the most pressing safety threats are snow and ice. Navigating a wide, heavy piece of furniture on a moving trolley down a narrow driveway is challenging enough in summer conditions, let alone when it’s covered in ice and narrowed by thick snow,” he said.

For larger moves, Popovic recommends using a professional mover, all of which are required to have a federal identification number from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which can be verified online. “Customers should also check the moving firm’s insurance, including certificates of insurance, which are mandatory for many apartment or condo buildings,” he added.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows that rental vacancy rates in 40 states experienced a tighter rental market in 2021 with less rental housing available. In New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, vacancy rates were 4 percent or lower at the end of 2021. However, 10 states in the Midwest and South had vacancy rates of 8.2 percent or higher. North Dakota had the highest vacancy rate, with 13.3 percent, and Alabama came in second, at 11.7 percent.  Fast-growing areas in states such as Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and South Carolina showed declines of 8 percent or more in vacancy rates.

The National Mutli-Family Housing Council, part of the National Apartment Association (NAA), reports there are 21.3 million apartment homes nationwide occupied by 36.8 million residents. The organization estimates a need for 266,000 new apartments annually. “Apartment demand is growing, and the industry needs to keep up,” the report states. “However, producing enough new apartments to meet demand requires new development approaches, more incentives. and fewer restrictions.”

“Every rental market experiences unique fluctuations and intricacies that shape conditions, including housing availability and demand,” Nicole Ryan, NAA director of public affairs told The Epoch Times . “Whenever renters or potential renters begin the search for their new home, market conditions should be considered alongside budget, desired location, amenities, and other housing preferences.”

No matter what time of year someone decides to move, Bordo recommends asking landlords a few simple questions, such as: Who is responsible for apartment maintenance? What additional fees are involved? What, if any, utilities or parking spaces are included? Can I bring my pets? Are there “quiet hours” that need to be observed? etc.

Potential renters also need to review the condition of the apartment, the age of the appliances, water pressure, locks, and sound from nearby apartments. “Remember, rentals can look very different from what model units or listing photos would have you believe,” revealed Bordo.

Heading into 2023, Bordo believes people will continue to relocate from the larger, higher-priced metro areas across the country. “I think we’re going to continue to see a trend of moves to resort-like small cities along the coast where the weather is warm, but the cost of living is still affordable,” he said. “With the persistence of remote work, a lot of people are now finding they can live anywhere in the country and they’ll keep looking for their most affordable options.”

Mary Prenon

Mary T. Prenon covers real estate and business. She has been a writer and reporter for over 25 years with various print and broadcast media in New York.

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