Looking for an apartment in Los Angeles—a big city with low inventory—can feel like an overwhelming if not impossible task. It’s certainly time-consuming.
In this tight market, our preferred way of finding a pad is to walk or drive around a neighborhood in search of “For Rent” signs. It’s a good method, because not that many people do it.
Most apartment-seekers use rental websites and apps, which draw lots of eyeballs, i.e. competition. But apps do have a big advantage: They can help control for variables, like needing a parking space or a pet-friendly policy. Narrowing down results can make your search shorter and less painful.
We picked seven popular apps with high rankings in Google Play and the iTunes Store, then tested them.
They’re all free, but they have different strengths and features. Some, for example, offer extra filters so you can tease out apartments within driving distance of a certain location, like your workplace or university.
If you want or need to use an app to find a rental in LA, consult the list below.
Apartment List’s app takes the initiative, asking questions about how much you want to spend, where you’d like to live, and how you get to work, then uses the answers to filter listings.
The app presents a crop of potentially suitable places that meet all the set criteria, while also getting real about the compromises many people have to make when looking for an apartment. It does this by also including in your results some apartments that have everything you want but cost a little more, or are out of your desired neighborhoods.
Unlike some apps, that ask for your apartment qualifications immediately upon being opened, this one opens onto a map of tons of of rentals. The streamlined interface is no-frills but has detailed filters, allowing users to sift through the vast sea of listings for standard apartment desires, like air conditioning or parking, but also goes deeper to allow searches for something as specific as senior housing.
HotPads seems to have a ton of listings. That could be because of how the listings are displayed, but either way, the app does display a lot of information on the listings that it holds. It doesn’t look flashy, and it doesn’t ask you a ton of questions, but, repeat, it has a lot of listings. You have to take the initiative to fill out filters.
Another very stripped-down interface, Rent.com’s app has kind of an odd way of initially showing listings that makes it appear as though there aren’t many—but zoom in for a pleasant surprise and plenty of search results. The app also has a function that lets users draw a freeform shape and then search within those areas.
Trulia has the best-looking app—it features large images of the apartments that are available while also managing to have space to display all the buttons and functions needed to navigate the search returns. It also offers a filter that shows listings close to Metro stops, but it appears to only apply to rail stops.
Zillow has a pretty on-point “drive time” feature that allows you to filter out listings that are more than a certain amount of time in a car away from a certain address (your office, your kid’s school). It also has a very good scrolling feature that lets users easily flip through the listings in an area instead of having to tap on each one individually on a map.
Zumper’s search filters are standard, but the app tells you when an apartment is a deal in terms of the neighborhood’s median listing price for similar apartments. Zumper also uses color-coding to denote which listings on the map are relatively new, and which have been around for a while. If you’re on the hunt for an extended period of time, that can help cut down on seeing the same listings over and over.