The first place most people will start to look is on the web. Here are some good rental websites to check out:
1) apartments.com- Great website that is easy to use, has good search functionality, and multiple photos of properties. A popular site that has a lot of inventory.
2) hotpads.com- This website allows you to set up very specific search functions. It also has neat tools that tell you the stats of comparable rentals in the area, or whether it is better to rent or buy based on an individual's unique situation. Most of the larger apartment complexes are included in hotpads, however, it is hit or miss with single family homes or smaller multi-units.
Many property management companies around Grand Rapids only post rental listings on their own website. It is a little frustrating as a renter to have to check multiple different websites, but alas, it is the only way to truly find everything. Test out different search terms to find other local websites (ex. "rentals wyoming," or "property management grand rapids", etc).
It is also important to know your rights as a tenant. Is a landlord infringing on your right to privacy? Not returning your security deposit? These websites are great resources for information on tenant rights and landlord responsibilities: nolo.com, rentlaw.com, rpoaonline.org.
The last bit of advice- remember that everything is negotiable. You may be able to get a discount in rent if you sign a longer lease, or maybe they would allow a pet with an additional deposit. Rental vacancies are at record lows right now, so a renter may not have as much leverage as in the past, but there are still things you can do to help your position. Get a recommendation from a previous landlord to attest to your housekeeping and paying rent on time. It can also help to write a personal letter about yourself to provide to a landlord and create a more personal relationship.
Originally posted by Lisa VanderLoo on 11/16/2011