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Finding an Apartment: 8 Apartment Hunting Tips on a Budget

March 14, 2016

Anyone that has rented an apartment before can tell you that apartment hunting can be difficult. This is especially true if you have budget constraints. If you need some help before you start searching, here are 8 tips for finding an apartment you can afford.

1. Get Roommates

The best way to be able to afford a place is to get more people in it. You're much more likely to find an apartment in your budget if you can split the rent with a roommate.

For example, an apartment building may rent a 1-bedroom apartment for $800 and a 2-bedroom apartment for $1200. If you find a roommate for a 2-bedroom and split rent down the middle, that's $200 a month in savings! Not to mention, you'll also save by splitting things like utility bills and furniture.

If you don't know of any suitable candidates to move in with, use these tips on how to find a roommate.

Although unit availability goes up during popular moving times for renters, the increased demand drives rent prices up substantially too. Make sure you understand how seasonality affects the rental market.

Take into account where you're looking to live. Are there universities nearby? Areas that are close to colleges and universities tend to experience the highest turnover of renters between semesters, especially during the summer.

Does the weather in your city change seasonally, or is it fairly standard all year round? Renters tend to avoid relocating in inclement weather, so most moves happen during the most weather-reliable seasons of an area (also often during the summertime).

During the "off" seasons, landlords are more likely to give you a deal on rent in order to keep up their occupancy. If you time it right, you'll find yourself in a much better position for negotiating rent with your landlord.

3. Know What Questions to Ask Your Future Landlord

Have your bases covered and know the ins and outs of the property before applying. Does the property charge extra for pets or parking? Pet fees and deposits can run around $500, and monthly pet rent could tack on an extra $15-$50 a month.

The same goes for parking; covered parking is usually a little more affordable (~$40), but garage parking is typically the most expensive, with charges of $100 or more a month in places like Seattle.

Will you pay for your own utility use only, or does the property factor utilities into rent? Do I need renters insurance? Bring a list of questions to ask before renting an apartment to be extra prepared during your apartment hunt.

4. Check Out Brand New Apartment Buildings

Brand new building in your area? Don't assume you can't afford to live there just because it's shiny and new!

Most new properties offer move-in deals like a free month of rent to new tenants. Some offer additional perks too, like parking spaces and full gyms.

Depending on your budget, these perks could make up a large enough cut to make that sparkly apartment perfectly affordable for you. Canceling that $50 gym membership and working out in your apartment building really help your savings.

5. Look Into Middle-Floor Units

Rent prices tend to be higher for units that are either on the lower or higher levels of the building. This is because people love great views, and want easy access to their homes.

If you're willing to have a less-than-perfect view and take the stairs/elevator instead of coming in straight off the street, you could save yourself big bucks.

6. When You Find a Great Apartment, Jump On It

Most people don't realize that rent prices often change daily. If you find a place you love and the price works for you, act quick. Let the leasing agent know you're serious and fill out your application right on the spot!

If you know you've found an apartment that's the right fit, don't sleep on it. Hesitating may result in the rent price going up or the unit being given to another applicant. Take the leap!

7. Negotiate on a Fixer-Upper

Consider committing to a cheap apartment that's under-budget, and make improvements yourself if the landlord won’t cover it. If all the place needs is a fresh coat of paint or a new faucet fixture, these are one-time fixes that will be much cheaper in the long run than renting a more expensive apartment that has all the perks.

If the place is in desperate need of a makeover, take your negotiating skills a step further and make an agreement with the landlord. Offer to pay a lower fixed rent for a certain number of years, in exchange for completely fixing the place up at your own cost.

Depending on how well you negotiate, you'll get a great rent rate from the start!

8. Choose Your Amenities Wisely

In-unit laundry vs. onsite laundry. Renovated unit vs. non-renovated. These choices have costs attached to them.

Most renters prefer having in-unit laundry and living in a nicely upgraded apartment. Those units tend to get snatched up first and have a higher demand, so property owners can afford to raise rents on them.

Choosing an apartment that doesn't have these luxuries might not be as, well, luxurious... but you could get a pretty substantial reduction in your rent cost by opting for the lower-tier units.

Apartment hunting is rarely something people look forward to or enjoy. But with these tips, you can cut down on the unpleasant elements of the search and find the perfect match!

9. Find Listings of Cheap Apartments

Looking for an affordable apartment? No problem! We have a page where you can search for cheap apartments in your area. You can also take our quiz, specify the highest price you are willing to pay for rent, your preferred amenities and commute, and we’ll put together a list of apartments that fit your criteria.

By: Yuki Graviet Knapp
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