Apartment hunting is not usually something people look forward to doing. It is time-consuming, costly, and sometimes stressful. And to add insult to injury, financial experts recommend spending no more than one-third of your income on rent. For many young professionals living in the city, that seems highly impossible. However, a little information can go a long way. Armed with these tips, you'll be on your way to finding an apartment you love that's affordable.
1. Establish a budget, and stick to it.
If you're apartment hunting on a budget, the first thing you need to do is establish a budget. Doing so will prevent you from getting ahead of yourself and filling out an application for that gorgeous yet highly unaffordable condo downtown.
When determining your budget, be sure to factor in things like utilities, entertainment expenses, transportation costs, etc. You will also want to budget in application fees, moving costs, and security deposits, at least for the first month.
Then comes the hard part. You can create budgets all day long, but the important part is sticking to it. If that means that you have to skip out on dinner with a friend, then so be it. If your grocery category is nearing the limit and you still have a good chunk of month ahead of you, go ahead and put back those wine bottles.
2. Be flexible about which neighborhood you live in.
You may want to live near the center of town, and that's totally understandable. You'd be near the best restaurants, shopping would be at your fingertips, and your commute to and from work would likely be lessened.
Nevertheless, living right in the middle of town can cost you. If you're apartment hunting on a budget, consider searching for apartments on the outskirts of town. Yes, you might have to do a bit of traveling, but if it can save you several hundred dollars a month, it's totally worth it.
3. Do a little research and ask questions.
Which utilities, if any, are included with your monthly rent? Is parking open air or enclosed? Does garage parking cost more? How much is the monthly pet fee? Knowing your stuff will prevent you from having the wool pulled over your eyes mid-lease. Also, if you serve in the military, find out if military discounts are available.
4. Consider getting a roommate.
If you're dead set on living in a certain area, consider getting a roommate. Possibilities really open up when you are able to split the cost of living with a friend or two. Just be sure it's someone you can trust and not a person who will dip out on you mid-lease. If possible, ask the landlord about signing two separate leases. That way, if your roommate doesn't pay his or her portion of the rent, you won't be stuck trying to pay all of it.
5. When you find a place you like, don't hesitate.
Many people don't realize that rent prices fluctuate regularly, so if you find a place you like and is within budget, jump on it. That same unit might not be available tomorrow, and if it is available, it might cost more.
Because it's easy to get overly excited and jump the gun on a place that might not be the best fit — or overlook an amazing deal just because it's not in your dream neighborhood — consider bringing a parent or rational best friend with you while you're apartment hunting. That way, if you find something you like, you can go ahead and fill out an application immediately.
6. Choose your amenities wisely.
Sure, covered parking, upgraded countertops, and in-unit laundry would be great, but these amenities come at a cost. Because newer, more upgraded units tend to be in higher demand, property management teams can raise the rental price at will. However, if you're willing to settle for a few minor inconveniences, such as having to walk down the hall to wash clothes, you could get a pretty great price reduction on your monthly rent.
7. Look for units on the middle floors.
Apartment hunting on a budget? Consider looking for units on the middle floors of your apartment complex. Most people want a view or easy access to their apartment, so apartments on the top and bottom floors can often be more expensive than those on the middle floors. If you're okay with sacrificing a view or walking up a few flights of stairs, you will probably be able to save a few bucks on rent each month.
Apartment hunting is not something we usually look forward to. However, we hope these tips will help you in your efforts to find a place you love that's within your budget.