Brick Underground's guide to rental apps: StreetEasy, HotPads, Replay Listings, & more

By Austin Havens-Bowen | December 9, 2020 - 4:00PM 

Brick Underground tested five of the most popular apartment rental apps to make your apartment hunt easier—even during Covid.

Adina Uneputty/Flickr

Rental apps streamline your search for a New York City apartment, enabling you to narrow down the places you need to view in person. That’s important as the Covid infection rate rises in NYC, making it a good idea to limit your movement around the city.

These apps also help you wade through the record number of listings on the market as well as the record level of concessions, like one or two months of free rent that landlords are offering now in order to fill the many vacant apartments.

If you’ve used a rental app in the past and didn’t like it, you should know that many of these apps have become more sophisticated. Most have integrated virtual or video tours so you can get a better sense of an apartment before putting on a face mask and viewing it in person. Apps like StreetEasy now display net and gross rent, which gives you a better understanding of the rent you pay each month if the landlord is offering a concession. With some apps, like HotPads, you can request an application or apply directly via the app.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post was published in October 2019. We are presenting it again with updated information for December 2020.]

Brick Underground tested the most popular apartment rental apps by searching for similar apartments across NYC to see which are the best suited for finding an apartment in this competitive city. We evaluated apps with the following checklist: 1) customizable features, 2) map view, 3) features that are helpful during Covid, and 4) neighborhood information.

Read on to find out which app offers features that suit your apartment-hunting needs.


Recent updates/features: The most recent update allows you to view broker-exclusive listings.

How it matches up against our checklist: 

  1. You can customize your search by answering three questions about your preferred neighborhood, price range flexibility, and how many bedrooms you need.

  2. The standard view is a list, but you can change to a map view by toggling list/map.

  3. 3D tours are available for some listings.

  4. There’s a tool that lets you customize your commute from the address, see nearby schools, and who has viewed or inquired about the listing. 

What sets it apart? You’re able to request an application for a prospective apartment directly through the app. They also have a tab that tells you how many people have recently viewed or inquired about a listing.

Who should use it? If you’re competitive and want to know who else is looking at the apartment you’ve been eyeing.

Pro Tip:

To rent an apartment in New York City, most landlords require you to earn an annual salary of at least 40 to 45 times the monthly rent. If you don't—or if you’re an international employed person, self-employed, non-employed with assets, retired, or an international student or a U.S. student—you’ll need to find a guarantor for your lease who earns at least 80 times the monthly rent and lives in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Or you can turn to Insurent Lease Guaranty. Accepted at more than 4,700 buildings across the city representing over 475,000 apartments, Insurent Lease Guaranty is a quick and easy way to get the apartment you want. Click here to learn more.

Trulia Rentals

Recent updates/features: The most recent improvements were performance related and bug fixes, but they have integrated 3D tours.

How it matches up against our checklist: 

  1. The most customizable feature that we discovered is the “draw” feature where you draw a boundary on a map using your finger, similar to the website version.

  2. Map view is standard—which updates the results of your search as you navigate the map, preventing you from having to start a search over when changing areas.

  3. 3D tours are available for many listings, and it flags these with “3D” on the map so you can sort through them. However, the link takes you to their website to actually view the 3D tour.

  4. There’s a feature called Trulia Neighborhoods that gives you intel about a neighborhood with original photography, drone footage, and crowd-sourced local knowledge.

What sets it apart? The local info feature offers useful info, especially during Covid because if you’re spending more time in your neighborhood, like how walkable the apartment is to restaurants and if the area is dog friendly.

Who should use it? If you want to get into the nitty gritty of your next neighborhood. 

Zillow Rentals

Recent updates/features: Map search filters were recently improved.

How it matches up against our checklist: 

  1. The app lets you save your search and get updates such as price cuts. 

  2. You can toggle between map and list viewing options.

  3. There are reminders of Covid precautions for in-person tours and the option for Zillow 3D Home tours and video consultations with brokers.

  4. The listings show nearby schools and an interactive map with nearby amenities such as grocery stores and there’s stats for the zip code.

What sets it apart? The app highlights local laws for the LGBT community, such as housing and employment protections, at the bottom of listings.

Who should use it? If you want to make sure the apartment is priced fairly to others in the area, or want to see average stats for the zip code.


Recent updates/features: You can now add partners if you want to request a viewing or ask a question with your roommate or significant other. 

How it matches up against our checklist:

  1. StreetEasy allows many customizations when setting up your account profile, including your desired move-in date, making your apartment search specific to your preferences. 

  2. The standard view is a list that matches the aesthetic of StreetEasy’s website, but you can opt for a map view.

  3. There are 3D and video tours for some apartments, and a filter if you prefer to only see apartments with virtual tours. The app also displays net-effective and gross rent for apartments offering concessions.

  4. You can check out how long your commute will be from an apartment by adding a destination directly in the app. You can also see nearby schools, map views, and similar apartments.

What sets it apart? You can filter listings with 3D and video tours and see available time slots for in-person viewings. 

Who should use it? If you want to see concessions and gross rent without doing the calculations yourself or prefer an overall idea of the apartment, building, and neighborhood.

Replay Listings

Recent updates/features: Replay Listings recently partnered with RentCity to share their RentCity score and user reviews to share building information like crime rates, violations, and noise complaints.

How it matches up against our checklist: 

  1. When you set up your profile, you can set your max rent, apartment size, move-in date, and preferred neighborhoods for search optimization. 

  2. There is a separate tab for map view, which makes it easy to toggle between list and map view.

  3. Listings show video tours by default, instead of photos, which are recorded by the broker.

  4. Replay Listings highlights building amenities and there’s a map of the neighborhood.

What sets it apart? Video tours are at the forefront of the app, which makes it easier than other apps. You can also call, text, or email the broker directly from the app.

Who should use it? If you’re all about video tours instead of photos.


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