In a previous post, we looked at the best search websites for apartments and rental properties. Obviously, a very thorough search prior to signing a lease is key to finding a cheap (but livable) apartment. There are many more methods, however, for saving on what, for most folks, is their biggest monthly expense. Listed below are the top five tips.
1. Buddy up: The most obvious and the most effective method of saving money on rent is to find roommates. Of course, it is best if you can find a good and trusted friend to share a rental property with; otherwise you can search on Craigslist or Roommates.com.
2. Beggars can’t be choosers: Don’t be overly selective about the area you choose to live in; average rental costs can differ drastically from one block to another. Location drives real estate costs, so you will obviously be forced to pay a premium to live in very nice or trendy areas. Establish a minimum (in terms of amenities, safety, and overall pleasantness of a location) that you are comfortable with and then work from there. Also, be sure to consider older buildings—as long as they’re run by competent management, they should still be in good repair, and are in general cheaper than newer buildings.
3. Search early and search often: As a sort of corollary to the job application rule ‘apply early and apply often‘, it is a great idea to search for apartments months in advance of renting one, and also keep up your search on a very consistent (even daily) basis. This is because some desirable property (including property that’s desirable for its location and relatively low cost) is only on the market for days (at most), and this is especially true for in-demand cities described as “seller’s markets,” such as San Francisco.
4. Carefully consider all costs: Be sure you don’t fixate exclusively on the monthly price tag of an apartment. Consider the costs (or benefits) that come attached to that price tag. For example, some apartments include utilities rolled in to the cost of the rent. Also, if you’re considering moving to a city with a strong public transportation system–one which doesn’t demand the use of a car–then it’s worth weighing the costs of living in the city (where rent is likely more expensive but where ditching a car would save a lot) versus the costs of living in the suburbs (where the rent is likely cheaper but where a car’s expenses would dent your budget).
5. Sign a longer lease: If you are certain you’ll stay somewhere, or if there are light penalties for breaking a lease, consider signing a longer lease at a fixed rate; that way you’ll be unaffected by potential increases in rent.
If you can think of other great tips for saving on rent, please feel free to shout out in the comments below or on the discussion forum!
Photo by: Steven Damron via a Creative Commons attribution license