It’s So Hard to Find an Apartment Right Now

After months of scouring housing websites, my roommate found housing for her summer internship through Craigslist. The apartment looked too nice to be real, with furnished beds and remodeled tabletops. No scam, no delayed response, no safety concerns. She posted on Facebook looking for three roommates. I responded and told her I’d be willing to confirm my spot immediately. Like many young adults in America, I was desperately struggling to find housing. Luckily, the odds worked in my favor.

I’ve read about how the housing affordability crisis is getting worse, with the cost of homes and rent surging in many parts of the country. Rising inflation is also making basic items like food and gas more expensive. For college students and recent graduates with limited incomes, finding an available apartment is just as difficult as paying the rent.

“We’re coming off of this year with an absolutely insane record,” Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List, told me. “Before the pandemic, a typical annual rent growth number was around 3%. It was unheard of for a particular city to have rent growth above 10%.”

Over the past year, Popov said, rents nationwide rose, on average, by 14.1%. In May, for the first time ever in the U.S., the median asking rent for an available apartment was more than $2,000 a month, according to a report from real estate brokerage Redfin. “It was like a game of musical chairs where more and more people were all of a sudden joining in, making it harder to find a place when the music stops,” he said.

I saw this play out during the search for my own housing a month before my internship in San Francisco. On Facebook groups, I messaged dozens of people asking if they had an available room. At every juncture, the price I was willing to pay increased while my standards decreased. I was told that potential options lacked a furnished bedroom or that I could have a bedroom but would have to move out before my internship ended.

The apartment where I ended up was the only one where the landlord willing to immediately sign a two-month subletting lease. But the search process was hard and longer than I expected.

“I was beyond stressed looking for housing, just because I had so many questions about it,” said Caroline Wilson, 21, who is living in New York so she can attend a summer intensive run by the Gibney dance company. “I did turn my notifications on for student housing, just in case something came up. I would go look very often, more often than not, every day.”

At first, Wilson tried to find a spot through different sites, including Airbnb, without success. The prices were higher than Wilson’s $1,300–$1,400 a month housing budget and spots disappeared quickly. After she joined a Facebook group, she found housing through a person who initially declined her application, but eventually connected Wilson with another roommate. Through the new roommate, Wilson secured a bedroom. “Up until the day I put my deposit down, I kept looking and messaging people that would post other things,” Wilson said.

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