With the cost of home ownership so high, more and more people are choosing to rent these days. Apartment living has its advantages, including having things like maintenance and repairs handled by the landlord. It’s also a good option if you don’t know how long you’ll want to live in a particular area. I’ve lived in a number of apartments over the years, some nicer than others, but all were affordable. When you’re ready to move, whether you’re changing locations or just changing buildings, there are a number of ways to save on an apartment.
First, you want to make sure that you can find a rent within your budget. It’s recommended that you spend no more than 30% of your post-tax income on housing, but the numbers can vary depending on your situation. Get an idea of what you can spend, and then you can begin looking around for homes that meet your criteria.
Remember, everything is negotiable. Ask about special deals and discounts, or straight up ask for a lower rent. If you plan to stay longer than a year, negotiate a multi-year lease with a rent discount. You’ll benefit from the lower guaranteed rate and the landlord benefits because they know they don’t need to find a new tenant at the end of the year. Also, make sure you negotiate utilities as part of your rent when you can. This includes things like heat, hot water, and trash removal.
Improve Your Credit Score
In the months before you look to move, check your credit score at free sites like CreditKarma. If your score is lower than 720, you may want to take some steps to increase your score. Better scores increase your chances of getting the apartment you want and can give you some leverage in negotiations as well.
Make the Competition Work for You
If a fancy new complex just opened up, check the older developments nearby that may be hurting from the competition. They may have special deals or be more amenable to negotiating.
Take Advantage of Specials
Developments often offer deals like the first month’s rent is free. See if you can get that discount applied over the course of the year. For example, if your monthly rent is $1,000, instead of the first month free, see if you can get the monthly rent changed to $917. You’ll pay the same amount over the course of a year, but when it comes time to raise the rent, your increase will be based on the lower amount.
Get a Roommate
Two bedroom apartments don’t cost twice as much as one bedroom units, so get a two bedroom and a roommate to split the costs. If you decide to go this route, check carefully for compatibility, and decide in advance on everything from how costs are split to whether overnight guests are allowed. Make sure you’re both on the lease (or have a sublet agreement) just in case anything goes wrong.
Trade Side Jobs for Lower Rent
If the landlord isn’t on-site, they may be willing to exchange reduced rent for odd jobs around the property, such as cutting grass. This depends mainly on what kind of apartment or house you’re renting, but see if there’s something you can do to help out and save money at the same time.
Know How to Pay
Find out if there’s a discount for paying the rent in cash, getting it direct debited from your account, or even paid in advance. If you pay in cash, always get a receipt! Otherwise, see if you can pay via credit card and get cash back rewards or travel miles. Only use credit cards if you’re a responsible spender and can pay off the bill in full each month.
Read the Lease
All that fine print you don’t want to bother with? Read it to make sure you know all the rules and don’t end up with fines or losing your security deposit. The rules can be about drilling holes in the wall, painting, having pets, or a number of other things, so when in doubt, ask.
Moving Day Responsibilities
Before you turn in the key for your old apartment, make sure it’s spotless with a thorough cleaning, or have a service clean it. You want to do everything you can to make sure you receive your full security deposit back. After it’s cleaned out, take photos to prove the condition you’re leaving it in. Next, take photos of your new place before you’ve moved in. You’ll want these photos to document the condition of your home in case you’re blamed for that hole in the wall or crack in the window. It’s also a good way to be sure you alert the landlord to any repairs that need to be made.
While you may have furniture and décor from your previous home, if you’re looking for additional furnishings or need to replace what you have, try asking around first. Family and friends may have items in good condition that they’re looking to offload. And don’t forget about sites like Freecycle where you can find goods at no cost. Otherwise, check out your local thrift shop for household items you can use.
Purchase Renter’s Insurance
Yes, it will cost some money, but you’ll gain protection for all your belongings that could save you big time in the long run. If you already have it, don’t forget to notify them of your move.
Make Use of the Amenities
If you’re fortunate enough to have nice amenities such as a fitness room or pool, you may be able to forego your gym membership and save money that way.
Save Money with Referrals
If you like your new apartment and you know others who are looking, many landlords have referral programs to pay you (or discount your rent) for recommending family or friends.
Be a Good Tenant
Of course, one of the best ways to save is to simply be a good tenant. Landlords are less likely to increase the rent if they have a reliable, responsible person already in place. Tenants who break rules, create problems, or don’t pay the rent on time will likely find a rent increase as soon as their lease is up, or worse, no renewal at all. Don’t be that guy.
Housing tends to be the largest expense in our budget, so saving money there can make a huge impact. Plus, once you negotiate your rent, you won’t have to do it again until your lease is up. Take advantage and set yourself up for financial success.
Do you rent? What are your tips for saving money on an apartment or home rental?