Posted Mar 30, 2016
Tips for Finding an Affordable 1-Bedroom Apartment
Trying to find an affordable 1-bedroom apartment? Here are a few tips that should make the search much easier:
Before you can start looking for your apartment, you need to figure out what, exactly, you can afford. This is going to depend on several factors, but the most important thing to consider when determining rent budget is your income. The general rule is that you should spend, at most, 30% of your income on rent. This means that’s the absolute maximum amount you can spend – not the ballpark number.
Lifestyle should be considered as well. Assume you’ll have roughly the same spending habits in your new place that you do now: Don’t trick yourself into moving into a place you can’t afford by swearing you’ll eat out less once you’ve moved. You probably won’t, and you certainly shouldn’t let your livelihood depend on whether or not you can change your spending habits on a dime.
Remember, you’re not just looking for an affordable 1-bedroom apartment: You’re looking for a good one, too. It’s not really a bargain if the rent is low but you hate everything about the unit or the building. Before you start searching, come up with a list of characteristics of your ideal apartment. Put these in order from most to least important.
When you’re looking at apartment listings or touring units, keep this list in mind – or better yet, keep it with you. The apartment you choose shouldn’t have to check off every box on the list, but it should cover a significant number of them, particularly the ones at the top. This way, you know you’re getting what you want out of the unit.
Expand Your Map
If you’re having trouble finding something in your price range in your ideal neighborhood, look elsewhere. You might be able to find an incredible deal just a few blocks outside of the official edges of the area in which you were looking.
Remember, some neighborhoods come with a couple extra hundred dollars in rent, just due to reputation – look somewhere a little less well-known, and you may have better luck. However, make sure you’re doing plenty of research about any area you’re considering, so you don’t end up in a place that’s not your style or speed.
The time of year you’re looking for an apartment can have a huge effect on what kind of rental rates you find. For example, if you’re in or near a college town, start looking for an apartment in late September. This is well past the time frame in which most students move into their housing for the year, so landlords are likely to have significantly lower rates.
The same goes for winter in cold regions. No one wants to move in winter – the odds are good you don’t, either, but the reality is an uncomfortable move-in day might just win you a way lower rental rate. Any time of year landlords are desperate to fill units is going to leave you with a big advantage in negotiations.
Keep in mind that rent isn’t going to be your only expense in your new place. You’re also potentially responsible for things like heat, gas, water, and electricity. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of which of these costs are on you before you sign a lease – that great rental rate might not look so great if there are no utilities included at all.
You should factor building amenities in as reduced costs. Does the apartment come with access to a fitness center? If so, you don’t have to pay for a gym membership. Other amenities, like concierge service or in-unit laundry machines are worth considering as well, and could mitigate the cost of slightly higher rent.
Remember that list of priorities? Keep it in mind, but try not to get too attached – particularly to the characteristics near the bottom. It’s great to know what you want, but if you let it guide you too much, you might miss out on an otherwise great deal. Make sure you’re keeping perspective on what’s most important.
It’s worth letting potential landlords know you’re willing to be flexible, as well. There are tons of little things you can offer to do that might make the costs of your new apartment a little bit lower – for example, some landlords will waive or reduce the deposit or first month’s rent if you’re willing to move into a unit as-is, and clean it yourself.
Unless you live in a competitive market, you’re going to have a lot of power to negotiate on price. Don’t be afraid to haggle a little bit – even a brief conversation about reducing the rent might lead to you paying significantly less for the unit. It might take a touch of nerve and courage, but it will definitely be worth it.
Not a natural negotiator? Here’s a tip: Have a reason for your suggestion. It’s not enough to say, “I can’t afford that; what if the rent was X?” You have to have a genuine reason not to pay the original amount. For example, you can bring along research that shows what the rental rates are for other units in the area, or you can offer to pay two months ahead at a lowered rate.
Extend Your Lease
One of the simplest ways to convince a landlord to give you a lower rental rate is to ask for an extended lease. Landlords like extended leases – it means they’ll have secured income for a longer space of time. Your promise to stay longer than the typical lease term should be a strong incentive for them to knock the price down at least a little bit.
Moreover, it will secure you that lowered rate for a longer amount of time. Once your lease is up, your landlord can (and nearly always will) increase your monthly rate. The longer your lease, the more time you have with a known rental amount.