When to find an apartment

Last September my friend Sarah asked me: "When is the best day to find an apartment in Seattle?"

My buddy John suggested it would be around the 10th of the month, since Seattle's Landlord-Tenant laws dictate that 20 days notice is typically required to terminate rentals. This seemed like a reasonable guess to me, though I imaged there could be an increase towards the end of the month, and possibly a sharp drop at the 1st of each month.

I couldn't find any studies on the topic via Google (please point me to them if you find any!) so it was time to generate some data. I recorded the number of apartment listings for "Capitol Hill" four times a day (7AM, 1PM, 7PM, 1AM) over four months.

Here is the obligatory figure:


  • No "best" day to find rentals in Capitol Hill every month was found. This is due to longer timescale variations in the number of listings.
  • Holidays (particularly Thanksgiving and New Years) marked low points in rentals. Nobody wants to move over a holiday weekend... 
  • There was a bump around the 10th each month, except October. The bump is what John predicted.
  • I posit that the lack of an October 10th bump (in fact it showed a dip!) may be due to academic schedules. Lots of UW students live on Capitol Hill, and UW starts school the last week in September. Much of the rental market is probably tied up then.
  • The number of Ads varies according to time of day. More rentals are listed at 7PM, fewest at 7AM. 
  • I'm left with lots of questions about the long-term trend in rentals, which anecdotally from this figure I'd say is increasing (Probably the brilliant folks at Seattle Bubble can say more about this. Check their great blog out if you find this kind of stuff interesting, I've been a long time reader)
  • I also could have (read: didn't) recorded the average price for rentals. That would have been super neat... Someone should do that... oh well!
So Sarah, to finally answer your question, the best time to look for an apartment is in the evening on the 10th of the month, particularly December 10th-12th, but definitely not October 10th.


  1. I suggest renters look for available rentals at least 3 months before their contract of lease expires. This way, they will have more time to search for potential rentals and check it out for themselves.

  2. This is a really cool study that you took on and I'm surprised a real estate agent didn't try something like this sooner! It MUST be tested out in other places to see if there's any correlation across different neighbourhoods and districts though. But excellent work that I think everyone will find useful!

    1. Thanks! I'd love to do a bigger followup. I think academic researchers have been given access to study craigslist data archives before, and scraping such data would be fairly trivial.

      One can imagine a wealth of information that could be gleaned... studying gentrification, evolving rental prices and availability, predicting land value changes... when you think of the incredible listing of all of our junk that gets put on CL, it's an amazing possible dataset to study

      See some of the comments here:


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