The next time you plan to rent a place, do some legwork online. This site is a great resource, for example, but there are a wealth of other great resources out there, some of which are just listings of rentals, while others can help you get a feel for comparable market rent in an area. There are also websites that can provide you with helpful pointers on common renter issues, helping to make your move as painless as possible.
CraigsList.org – This is generally the most used website for rentals. It is easy to query for properties and it's free for landlords to post in most cities. It also gets more than 20,000,000,000 page views per month according to The New York Times , so it's clear that nearly everyone knows about it and uses it. However, the main issue with CraigsList.org is that it doesn’t map the results nor allow a landlord to keep a posting well-displayed until the unit is rented. Therefore, you might miss a rental that was listed a few days ago because it will likely be buried under the dozens of newer rental postings.
Zillow.com , Trulia.com , and Realtor.com – These are a few of the main "for sale" housing websites in the U.S., but these sites also have rental properties listed on them. They are very well advertised and carry lots of listings, pictures, and mapping of the properties. The mapping features on Zillow.com and Trulia.com are particularly useful because they allow you to easily view exactly where the property is located. In addition, the listings stay live as long as the owner desires, so there is lesser of a chance that you will miss a unit that's available for rent.
RentoMeter.com and FinestExpert.com – Both of these sites are handy for determining comparable market rents. They were set up for use by landlords to estimate what rental rate they should ask, and for use by renters to determine what amount they should pay. RentoMeter.com is simple to use and shows comparable market rents for you to review, which can come in handy when you're shopping around. FinestExpert.com is slightly more difficult to use because it was really created for real estate investors, but it has extraordinary comparable rental information if you are willing to do a little work to learn the information it can provide and how to use it.
HotPads.com & PadMapper.com – Both of these sites provide good mapping of rental properties for your review. They both make it easy to view a full map of the area you are interested in, and then pull up the information about the properties within that area with just a fewclicks of the mouse.
WalkScore.com – This site is a little different because its main purpose is to tell potential renters or owners about the neighborhoods in which they may want to live. It assigns a score to each property, depending on how easy and convenient it is to live in an area if you choose not to use your car. Basically, it calculates a score of the area based on the efficiency and availability of the bus or rail service, the number of restaurants that are within walking distance, and the quality of the parks and schools.
RentLaw.com – This site has good information for landlords as well as for tenants concerning tenant and landlord rights. It covers all the states, laws, forms, etc. If you need some advice, this is a great place to start.
As you can see, there are lots of good rental information available, for free, contained within this site as well as the ones listed above. The next time you plan to look for a rental, test out some of these websites so you'll know what rental rate to look for, what neighborhood you'd like to live in, and maybe even the exact unit you'd like to rent.