Advice for tracking down apartment/home rentals for families?

for rent sign in front of apartmentE asks:

A friend of mine is moving with her 15 month old son from Washington DC to Albany, to be closer to her parents (she grew up in Delmar!). She's looking to rent (for the next year or so) a nice, comfortable apartment/house (2-3 bedroom) near a daycare and is currently considering a downtown/Center Square Albany location (near Empire Plaza) or near Delmar - she'll be working from home.
Would you have any tips on how to best locate [an apartment or home to rent] (websites, locations, etc.)? She'll be coming to the Albany area in 2 weeks and then planning to move over the summer so she's got a bit of time (and flexibility) and opportunity to look at different places.
Any advice on renting in Albany area welcome.

E's question points toward a situation that, anecdotally at least, sometimes seems to be a challenge for people around here: finding a good apartment or rental situation for a family with kids. Over the past year we've encountered multiple families with young children who had a tough time finding a rental that met their needs. And we get the sense it's particularly difficult in the city of Albany itself.* Whether it's a case of an actual lack of stock -- or the lack of a good way of tracking down homes to rent -- is a good question. (Also: A few anecdotes doesn't necessarily mean there's a broad problem.)

So, got a suggestion for E's friend? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place or approach can be helpful.
____

* We'll just add a generalized comment in support of the ubiquitous Albany two-families in which the flats are stacked one on top of the other. Most of them have three (small) bedrooms and if you're on the first floor, it's probably not too many stairs for regularly moving a stroller or other kid stuff.

Comments

Your best bet is going to be walking around Center Square to get a feel for where you want to live, and see if there are for rent signs up, and then also checking craigslist. I know there's a nice first floor 2 bed that is brand new (just renovated) that just went up for 1200/mo on Irving St. in Hudson Park cause there's a sign up.

I owner-occupy a two family in the pine hills and I just list it on craigslist whenever I need tenants, it's simple and I get many leads. I'd narrow down the area where you want to be and then check CL periodically. Sometimes local realtors will know of rentals as well.

To piggyback on Jenna's comment, it seems that a lot of rentals are not listed on Craigslist, particularly in Center Square (maybe the renters don't think they need the extra exposure). So visiting the neighborhoods and looking for signs may turn up options the Internet won't.

A suggestion from a landlord --have funds and documentation ready. Some landlords require a deposit plus first and last months' rent, as well as pay stubs and credit score.

Another suggestion--Craigslist has a "Housing Wanted" category. We usually list on Craigslist but have occasionally found tenants through "Housing Wanted." An honest description of who you are and what you are looking for might attract a good landlord.

Another--many of the two family flats are lovely and in family-friendly neighborhoods. However, some of them are in more student-oriented neighborhoods, where norms, circadian schedules, and lifestyles might not be a good fit for a family.

And finally--pets and smoking are deal breakers for many landlords. If either of these apply, options will shrink.

Your best bet is (as people said) to walk or drive around the area you want to live, I would say about 2 months before your move in date.
Also, do not expect that daycares will just have space. I would get on every waiting list in range now, and tour before committing. We looked at a lot of them and ruled +75% out after touring. There aren't a lot of them around downtown / center square.

We have a home in Albany which we list for rent through cozy.co and potential renters can find by searching for rentals on realtor.com. It could be a good match for your friend. Our current tenant is leaving and it will be available soon. We just listed it this afternoon,I don't see it on realtor.com yet but probably by tomorrow.

I know the reader specifically asked about Albany, but if they've been away from the area for a while, they may be surprised to find that Troy is an even more walk-able community for a family with a small child. The Washington Park area is a (beautiful) 10 minute walk from downtown and there are many gorgeous rental units available and parking is infinitely easier (I cringe saying this because I hate the parking complaints about Center Square but as someone who has lived both places, it's true!). Just a quick jaunt on 787 to Albany/Delmar.

We found a nice three bedroom home for rent in the Helderberg neighborhood on Zillow. For some reason we didn't find Craigslist very helpful in our search, but our requirements were pretty limiting (three bedrooms and multiple cats narrows things down quickly). If your friend can walk around the area she's looking at moving to on a weekend evening that would be helpful--living near some of the student rentals in Albany would be a nightmare, and you wouldn't necessarily know it if you were visiting on a weekday morning, for example.

I have a home in Delmar which I list for rent through Kellerwilliams. Your friend can find the details on Zillow now. Since your friend grew up in Delmar and I think she might be happy to live with her kid in Delmar again. It’s a wonderful place to raise kids here. Nice neighborhood and people. My son is turning 18 and we have a great time here.

I disagree with those suggesting walking around looking for "for rent" signs and not bothering with Craigslist. It's not a bad idea, but don't expect every rental to be advertised that way. I have one multi-family building and stopped putting signs out front because I found people refused to write down anything but the phone number. So I would get call after call from people asking "how much" or "how many bedrooms", etc, etc. And then when I told them, they would ask if I had any other units available. I stopped putting signs up and stopped putting my phone number in ads. I list on Craigslist (and other sites) and only provide an email address for contacting me. This way, I can make sure it's worth my effort before I get back to people.
So, long story short, sure, walk around the neighborhood and look for signs, but also check Craigslist and other sites.
I'll also echo the comment about the "housing wanted" section on Craigslist. It's not heavily used by renters, so your ad can stand out. I've spoken to landlords who use this exclusively to find tenants. Worst case, you'll waste 10 minutes writing an ad.

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