It’s On – Students Begin the Hunt for Next Year’s Apartment

Published on October 1st, 2012
By Jennifer Oppriecht

Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were moving into your apartment?  And now, only three weeks later, the mad hunt has begun for next year’s apartment?

It’s true:  Lease Renewal Season is upon us.  It’s the time when Current Renters are asked to renew their leases, and Prospective Renters start searching for coveted downtown Madison apartments.

If you’re new to the Madison apartment scene, this can be a pretty intense time.  People get pretty excited about choice locations.  In fact, we’ve had people sleeping out in front of our office so they could get the first crack at their preferred apartment.

So you’re either a hunter or the hunted in this game of high-stakes renting, but what are the Rules of the Hunt?  Let’s break them down, so you can be sure to get the apartment you want:

Rules of the Hunt for “the Hunted” (Current Residents)

Rule #1:  You want to stay, renew today.
It’s the only guaranteed way to get your apartment for next year.  Why?  Because renewals are beyond the control of your landlord.  We touched on this cold, hard truth earlier this year in a Smarter Renter post, but the explanation bears repeating.

First off, you need to understand that renewals are determined by demand.  Property owners don’t control when people start requesting to rent an apartment – all we can do is try and meet the needs of renters.

Believe us, owners would love to rent your apartment right back to you.  But we don’t have a guarantee you’ll be back next year unless you actually sign a renewal lease.  The only way we can assure the property will be rented is to give it to the first person who puts in a request.

Rule #2:  What goes around comes around
If you were one of the renters out early looking at places last year, you can expect to receive that same kind of treatment in return.  People are going to be after your desirable location, so you can expect your landlord will be asking you to renew relatively soon.

Rule #3:  You’re not going to have a lot of time to decide if you want to renew.
It’s not a requirement that landlords notify you your apartment will be going on the market or offer a renewal (Steve Brown Apartments does, except in cases where remodeling or other extenuating circumstances exist.)  If a landlord does notify you, you probably won’t get a lot of time for your decision.  Decisions will probably be expected in 5-10 days.

Rule  #4:  Talk to your landlord, even if you’re not sure about renewing.
Let us preface this by saying that all landlords are not created equal, and some may not care at all about your future plans.  Some, especially benevolent ones who write helpful blog posts, want to do their utmost to get you to stay with them as residents.  They will do their utmost to get you into another apartment of theirs if you choose not to renew your current location.

Communication is the key here.  Talk to your landlord.

Rule #5:  If you’re in a desirable location, you can renew and likely sublet if plans change.
If you really like your place, but you’re not 100% sure you’ll be in Madison for the entire year, you may want to consider renewing.  You live in a desirable location, and chances are very good you’ll find a new subletter.

If that situation arises, again, talk to your landlord.  They may have a list of subletters eager for a room.

Rules of the Hunt for “the Hunter” (On the Prowl for a Rental)

Rules of the Hunt #1:  If you’re new to the renting game, you need to do some research before you start out. We recommend you check out our First Time Renter’s Guide.  This is a complete overview of how to rent an apartment for the first time in Madison.  There’s a lot of great info in it that can help you hit the ground running.

Rules of the Hunt #2:  You don’t need to wear camouflage.  
The “Hunt” is just a metaphor.  Don’t get carried away.

Rules of the Hunt #3:  Downtown is ground zero.
Downtown apartments are hot commodity.  Just how hot?  A building like Lucky Apartments can rent over half of their apartments the first few days they go on the market.  The first few days.

Most downtown owners have waiting lists for their properties as early as November.  Believe us, things are going to start heating up real soon.  The closer you get to Langdon and the UW campus, the hotter it will be.

Here is a photo taken from the Steve Brown Apartments satellite feed.  625 Langdon Street (Noted with the letter “A” below) is the epicenter of all heated search activity, with demand lessening as you extend outward.

Rules of the Hunt #4:  If you want to live in a hot spot, then start networking.
If your goal is to get into a highly cherished, downtown space, then reach out to any friends who live in that area.  They may be able to give you one of their slots if they’re not staying.

Residents of Steve Brown’s Gold Key Apartments, for example, are given a “Black Card”, which they can pass along to friends.  The Black Card allows people to get priority over other renters.

Rules of the Hunt #5: Check apartment resource services, but go straight to property owners for the most current listings.
There is a wide range of listing services for campus area apartments:  MoveinMadison, Madison Campus & Downtown Living, Badger Apartments, Campus Area Housing Listing Service, Craigslist, etc.  These are good, but they’re not the most efficient way to find apartments that haven’t been renewed.

Naturally, as property owners, we’re going to advise that you go straight to the owners, but in this case, it’s true.  We have the most current information on what’s available, and in this high stakes hunt, timing is everything.

The Hunt is on, so start thinking about next year.  Remember one last suggestion: It’s okay to wait, too.  Each year, thousands of students find their ideal apartments during the spring semester.  If you do want to be kept up to date, subscribe to Smarter Renter, and we’ll keep you posted on what’s going on as the Lease Renewal Season kicks in.

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