We all know the struggle of trying to find an apartment that fits our needs, feels right, and is affordable! Searching for hours and hours on end can get discouraging and exhausting. At Apartment List, we believe that the entire renter experience should be as stress-free and efficient as possible, and that the more you know about the rental market, the more pleasant your experience will be. So here are our 8 best tips for finding an apartment you can afford!
Tip #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 affordable apartment on a larger, combined budget than on a single income. For example, this apartment community in Austin costs ~$930 for a 1-bedroom, but only ~$1,215 for a 2-bedroom apartment - that's $300 a month in savings, or almost 35%. Also, you'll likely also save on utilities, furniture, and other charges (TV, internet, etc.), which can add up quickly.
Tip #2: Find out which moving times are most popular for renters, and avoid them.
Although unit availability goes up during popular move times for renters, the increased demand drives rent prices up substantially too. Take into account where you're looking to live - are there universities nearby? Does the weather change seasonally, or is it fairly standard all year round? Areas that are close to colleges and universities tend to experience the highest turnover of renters between semesters, especially during the summer. People also try 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, so to speak, landlords are much 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 (or simply being offered) a cheaper rent!
Tip #3: Know your stuff.
Does the property charge extra for pets or parking? A standard pet fee and deposit will usually run you $500, with a monthly pet rent that varies depending on location. Pet rents in Orlando generally hover around $10-15, but they can be as high as $50 in San Diego. 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.
Some more questions to ask might be, Will you pay for your own utility use only, or does the property utilize RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing Systems)? If you're a conservative water user, you won't want to get stuck paying for someone else's hour-long showers! BONUS: Check to see if the property you're looking at offers military discounts and/or preferred employer discounts. Taking a few minutes to find out these answers and plan ahead can save you a ton of money and time!
Tip #4: Check out brand new properties.
Brand new building in the area? Don't automatically assume you can't afford to live there just because it's shiny and new! Most new properties offer the first month's rent free to all of their new tenants. Some offer additional freebies too, like parking spaces. Depending on your budget, these perks could make up a large enough cut to make that sparkly apartment perfectly affordable for you.
Tip #5: Look at 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. But 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.
Tip #6: When you find a place you like, jump on it!
Most people don't realize that rent prices can change daily. (Our Customer Service Team has seen rents fluctuate as much as $30 in a single day.) If you find a place you love and the price works for you, it could serve you well to express interest, let the leasing agent know you're serious, and even fill out your application right on the spot! If you know you've found the right fit, don't fall into the trap of accidentally increasing your overall financial burden just because you decided to think on it for a while. Take the leap!
Tip #7: Negotiate on a fixer-upper.
Consider committing to an 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 to pay a fixed low 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 and will stand impervious to rent hikes for a few years.
Tip #8: Choose your amenities wisely.
In-unit laundry vs. onsite laundry. Renovated unit vs. non-renovated. 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 awesome reduction in your rent cost for minimal inconvenience!
Apartment hunting is rarely something people look forward to or enjoy. But with these tips, and a great rental listing website, you can cut down on the unpleasant elements of the search and feel like a total boss when you successfully find the perfect match. Armed with these tips and a great team behind you, go forth and reap the results!