Whether you’re looking to move into your first apartment or are an empty-nester looking to downsize, finding a cheap apartment for rent could save you lots of money. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to end up living in a slum, but there are reasonably-priced apartments in good areas. How can you find cheap apartments that are still attractive homes, and how should you evaluate your deal?
First, check your budget
If you find a pleasant apartment that’s rather pricier than you expected, the temptation to cinch the deal, and worry about the outcomes later, is real. How much should you spend on accommodation? Experts say that you should spend no more than 20% of your earnings on rental. Keep this in mind when looking at possible apartments, and remain within this margin if at all possible.
A two-bedroom apartment isn’t usually all that much more expensive than a single-bedroom apartment, and you can expect more spacious living-areas. If you can find someone to share your apartment, you can halve your rental, but beware of the pitfalls:
- Be sure that you can get along with your apartment mate. You will be sharing a limited space, so you need to know their personal habits.
- Lay ground rules for apartment sharing.
- Ensure that they will pay rent reliably.
- Ask your prospective landlord if apartment sharing is permitted.
Look into studio apartments and compact living
How much time will you spend at home? How often will you entertain? You may be able to save a great deal by choosing a smaller apartment. Besides, you’ll find it easier to maintain and clean a small apartment, and you won’t have to spend as much on furniture.
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Know the neighborhood
Although finding a cheap apartment for rent may be a priority for you, you need to feel comfortable with the neighborhood. Check out crime statistics and check proximity to shops, entertainment, and public transport. Insurance may be more expensive in high crime areas, and you don’t want a simple shopping trip to turn into a major logistical achievement.
Are you eligible for a subsidy?
If you have a low-income job, you may be eligible for a US Department of Housing and Urban Development grant. They will even help you to find a suitable low-cost home. However, you may just be a relatively well-paid professional hoping to save a little, and they will not be able to help you if you earn more than a certain amount.
Check your options
If you’re willing to sign a longer lease or pay rental for several months in advance, property owners and their agents are often willing to negotiate price. This is especially true if they know you have found similar accommodation at a lower price.
Hit the suburbs, but factor in transport costs
There’s a significant trend towards no-and-low-commute options, making urban center rentals increasingly expensive. You are likely to find better apartments with more amenities for less in the suburbs. But since you will have to commute, the cost of getting to work and back needs to be factored in.
Nowadays, many apartments come with access to facilities such as shared entertainment areas for residents, gyms, swimming pools and more. Depending on your lifestyle, this can either represent a substantial saving or an unnecessary cost.
If you are likely to take out a gym membership if your apartment does not have a gym, for example, this amenity is likely to be saving, but if you’re not interested in the gym, an apartment complex without this added luxury may be much cheaper.
Absolute value may not be the deciding factor
Costly features and finishes drive up rental costs. If these features aren’t really important to you, you could end up paying more than you need. Before looking at apartments, think about what’s most important.
Check your credit rating
If you have a good credit score, you have a lot of bargaining power as a desirable tenant. However, if your rating is poor, you may struggle to get the apartment you want when other applicants have better credit scores. Know where you stand.
Talk to local apartment locators
Apartment locators are up to date with all the latest rentals available, and may be able to point you towards a good deal. They will know about cheap apartments for rent, and their services often don’t cost any extra.
Look online and be alert offline
Do be aware that online apartment rental sites are not always up to date. You will have to confirm vacancies and prices, but you can also get a better idea of the rental market using these sites.
- Hunt through Craigslist for a good deal.
- Talk to doormen or look for “To Rent” signage.
- If you meet someone who is in the process of moving, find out if their previous accommodation is available.
- Ask friends and co-workers to keep an eye out for available rental apartments.
Rent directly from apartment owners
You will pay more for an apartment rented through agents. Not all apartment owners are willing to work direct, but if you have good rental references, they may be interested. Also, some condos have rental offices on the premises, allowing you to rent directly from the building owner.
Study lease agreements carefully
What does your rental include, and most importantly, what doesn’t it include? If for example, you have to pay extra for parking, you need to factor that cost in. Are there additional levies to pay?
Search at the best time
Most people don’t like moving when the weather is bad, so winter is often an excellent opportunity to find cheap apartments for rent. Rental agents know that the apartment could stand empty for several months and will often be more open to negotiating as a result. In college towns, the end of the academic year is the time to seek a cheap apartment.
Although you can sometimes luck out with a better rate on a newly constructed condo because developers and investors want them fully rented, older buildings are usually cheaper. This said, most of them also have fewer amenities and may cost more to heat or cool owing to poor insulation.
Live with noise and less than attractive views
If you can tolerate noise and a view out of your window that isn’t exactly attractive, you can get an apartment in a good area for less. Do consider this carefully before taking the plunge, as it might become more irritating as time goes on. Can you get used to the environment?
Always inspect the premises in person
Never agree to a lease without a personal inspection. You will be able to see if the apartment really will suit you and whether it is well-maintained and managed.
If you are moving in from out of town, and can’t look in person, try to get a friend or acquaintance to do this for you, and don’t agree to a lengthy lease just yet. A cheap apartment can work out expensive if it isn’t the right one for you, and you have to cancel the contract.
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