If you live in a large city and/or on one of the Coasts, it’s likely that your greatest monthly expense will be the cost of your rent. If you’re serious about saving money, pinching pennies helps but pales in comparison to minimizing your mandatory monthly expenses. Therefore, it is going to pay enormous dividends to carefully seek out an apartment that is relatively inexpensive but in an area that enables an acceptable quality of living. The Internet offers some fantastic tools for seeking out these apartments; below are 3 of the best.
Padmapper is a Google Maps mash-up that allows you to easily filter listings by price, bedrooms, bathrooms, types (full lease, sublet, room-share). You can even see any given listing’s “Walk Score” as calculated by walkscore.com. Many (but not all) of the listings are drawn from Craigslist, meaning you’ll probably see a mix of great deals and silly scams; if you bookmark the former and ignore the latter, you could end up with an amazing deal.
Apartment Ratings has real reviews, although you’ll occasionally spot a few that sound as though they were written by an apartment’s management team. On the flipside, almost every apartment will have negative reviews, and while many negative reviews should instill caution, it’s important to recognize that review aggregators suffer from what statisticians call sampling bias: the websites tend to attract people who are most upset, and their issues may or may not be legitimate causes for concern.
Apartments.com is, as you might imagine given its name, the de facto standard for apartment-hunting websites. While it does boast impressively detailed listings (many of which include 360-degree photos of apartment rooms), its listings skew toward the well-established and well-advertised apartment complexes—thus, by limiting your search to this website, you risk missing out on potentially great deals that you might find on Padmapper/Craigslist or Apartment Ratings.
If anyone else has found great deals via other websites (or even print listings), feel free to discuss in the forums!