Understanding the Rental Market

When people think of housing rentals, they often think of weeklong vacation rentals or yearlong leases. While plenty of short-term rentals and long-term rentals exist, there's a category that falls in between these two options.

Short-term housing: 1-30 days

Short term housing mountain cabins
Short-term housing includes vacation cabins in the mountains. | Photo credit: Erik Mclean

When you're looking for a weekend or weeklong vacation, you'll likely turn to short term rentals. Whether you're browsing Airbnb listings in Valencia or searching HomeAway for a Madrid house that can fit your whole family, these short-term housing options make it easy to find a place to stay during your getaways.

Similar terminology includes: vacation rentals, vacation stays, temporary stays

Mid-term housing: 1-12 months

Mid term housing furnished interior
Lots of mid-term rentals are furnished apartments. | Photo credit: Emily Wang

But what about if you're moving somewhere temporarily? You're not a true renter during a short-term stay — you're a traveler or a guest. Fortunately, the rental market is changing, and more property managers and hosts are offering mid-term leases. The United States is behind Europe in this shift, so it's easier to find mid-term rentals in Barcelona or Lisbon than it is in San Diego or Los Angeles.

Similar terminology includes: month-to-month rentals, monthly rentals, extended stays, long-term stay, flexible lease, sublets

Long-term housing: 1+ years

Long term housing unfurnished interior
Most long-term housing is unfurnished, so get ready to add your own style. | Photo credit: Malcolm Lawson

When you're looking for a place to live more permanently, you're likely looking at rental properties with year-long leases. These leases make sense when you know you'll be in an area for over a year. After all, you don't want to worry about constantly packing up your things and looking for a place to stay. They provide an element of rigidity to your life.

Similar terminology includes: apartment rentals, annual leases, standard leases

The Definition of Mid-Term Housing

Mid-term housing consists of properties leased for 1-12 months (typically 3-9 months) that are often furnished, making them an ideal fit for people working or living in an area for more than a few weeks but less than a year. While mid-term housing is leased monthly (vs. nightly or yearly), the daily rate is typically more expensive than the rate of a long-term rental but less expensive than the rate of a short-term rental.

Who is Mid-Term Housing For?

Students

Students are often moving between off-campus housing and internships throughout the year. While most students still sign year-long leases for their off-campus housing, the increasing popularity of multi-month leases is resulting in more students signing a lease for just the duration they're staying. So instead of renting an apartment for 12 months and subletting it for 4 months during their internship, students are starting to rent off-campus housing for just those 8 months, without having to sublet.

Once students have landed an internship or a co-op work term, one of their next steps is to look for housing. Today, many students are hired for internships across the country or even across the world. Since students are often tied down by their student budgets, lack of furniture, and a start date of the following semester, they often have a difficult time finding a legitimate place to stay. On top of this, many students find that it's difficult to find housing that matches their length of stay — generally three to six months. Mid-term housing fits the bill.

People relocating to a new city

Once someone figures out they're moving to a new city for a job (or just because they feel it's where they belong), it's hard to determine whether or not they'll like their new home. Even more, they probably have no clue what neighborhood they want to live in. This makes sense since cities like San Francisco have somewhere near 60 neighborhoods.

Mid-term rentals allow people, including expats, to get a feel for a city before committing to a particular area or neighborhood. At the end of the rental term, some individuals might decide they'd rather live in a part of the Bay Area besides San Francisco, for example.

Corporations

Rather than put employees and consultants in a hotel room for a few months, many companies opt for mid-term rentals. Some mid-term rentals are marketed as corporate housing, especially in cities like New York and Washington D.C. These types of mid-term rentals typically come with higher prices, since property managers know the companies have the money to pay.

Traveling workers

Whether they're travel nurses, students on rotation, digital nomads, or contractors, many people find themselves working away from home for extended periods. This category differs from corporations since these traveling workers pay for themselves; their company typically does not pay for their housing.

Homeowners in transition

Selling and buying a home are big steps that involve a lot of money. Sometimes, an owner's old home sells before they've bought a new place to live. Rather than missing out on a good offer or rushing to buy a house they don't love, homeowners often move out before they have a new permanent place to settle into.

Mid-term rentals can also give individuals and families a place to stay while they search for their new home. Homeowners often search for month-to-month leases for a rental property so they can have flexibility as they search for their permanent home in the stressful real estate market.

Where to Find Mid-Term Housing

Kopa

As a rental marketplace that specializes in mid-term housing, Kopa enables renters to find mid-term rentals in cities including Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and New York City. All Kopa hosts are verified, and tenants can communicate with their hosts before moving into their place. Kopa also helps people find housemates to live with, which can decrease rental costs. This is especially true if someone is looking for a space bigger than a studio or one-bedroom apartment.

Airbnb

While Airbnb is known for short-term vacation rentals, some Airbnb hosts offer their properties for longer periods. Renting on Airbnb can be tricky since weekends are often booked months in advance, so it's hard to find rentals with long openings.

Real estate companies

Some large real estate companies like Greystar and Avalon offer mid-term apartment rentals. If any property management company doesn't list their property as available as a mid-term rental, it never hurts to ask if they'd be willing to rent it out for your desired stay.

Co-living companies

Co-living spaces range from eight-bedroom houses complete with a living room and pool to rooms filled with bunk beds. Some of these spaces are open to mid-term housing, as the people living in co-living spaces often move and spaces open up for new renters.

Sublets

Sometimes renters lease a space for a year but then need to move out before then. Rather than pay for unused space, those tenants often sublet their rentals to other individuals. Finding a mid-term sublet is a little tricky because dates often have to match up perfectly. Renters have good luck finding sublets on Facebook Marketplace.

Also, renters should be aware of whether or not the sublet is legal. Most leases contain a section on sublets, and not all landlords allow them. A great way to find out whether or not a sublet is legal is to view the original lease agreement. If the current tenant won't provide you with the original lease, it's best to look for housing elsewhere.

What to Look For in Mid-Term Rentals

Lease terms

As with all rentals, it's important to read the lease agreement before signing it. It's better to know upfront whether or not your landlord allows pets or guests. For mid-term rentals, the lease is especially important for figuring out details regarding your length of stay, payment terms, and deposit amounts.

Unlike long term rentals, mid-term rentals can be leased by the full term or month-to-month.

  • Term leases spell out your full length of stay, whether that's three or nine months. If you decide to move before your lease is up, you are still responsible for following the terms of the lease (including paying rent).
  • Month-to-month leases enable renters to renew their lease each month, allowing for a more flexible length of stay. These types of leases tend to be more expensive than term leases.

Furnished or not furnished

Furnished rental beautiful living room interior
Furnished rentals make the move-in process easier. | Photo credit: SideKix Media

Most mid-term rentals are furnished apartments since property managers know that renters don't want to buy or move furniture for a stay of a few months. Even if an apartment is listed as furnished, make sure to ask for up-to-date photos or a tour of the space. You don't want to be spending your time sitting on heavily stained couch cushions or working at a wobbly desk.

In the instance that the mid-term rental isn't furnished, companies like Oliver Space and Cort Furniture provide furniture rentals so you don't have to worry about buying, moving, or selling any furniture or decor.

How to Avoid Scams

Unfortunately, rental scams do happen for all types of rental properties. When you're looking at ads and properties, try to spot the warning signs of a scam:

  • The landlord can't or doesn't answer basic questions about the property.
  • You're told you can't tour the property.
  • The price seems too good to be true.
  • The landlord doesn't want any info about you besides your credit card information.
  • You're asked for money via a wire transfer, cash, prepaid credit card, or another nonrefundable method.
  • You're not asked to sign a lease.

To avoid scams, rent through verified companies like Kopa. When you do so, you're provided with verified hosts, customer support, and secure payments. Kopa also allows you to look at property and host reviews to help ease any of your worries.