I'm a bit of a nomad. I tend to move into a new place every one or two years. I like the possibilities that a new place gives you. And all of that moving had a big benefit - I've learned a few money saving techniques along the way. In fact, in the past five years, I've always managed to find a better deal than my last place. Here are my three favorite ways to save money when I'm apartment hunting.
Don't Forget the Deposits
When I'm hunting for a new apartment online I get tunnel vision. I open ads, scroll through the photos and then go straight to the price of rent. Over the years, I've learned that this can be a costly mistake. I actually do better considering the full cost of moving in, which for me is the first month's rent, a security deposit, and a pet deposit.
Now I look for landlords offering discounted or waived deposits. For example, last month I saw a $850 a month apartment with an $850 deposit and a $300 pet deposit. The next day I looked at a similar apartment for $850 a month, except the landlord had reduced the deposit to $500 and waived the pet deposit. While I would probably get some of my upfront costs back when I moved out, I would save $650 off my move in costs by choosing the second apartment.
Average the Utilities
Cheap rent isn't always the cheapest cost of living. Finding an apartment with all or some of the utilities paid can end up cost less overall, even if the rent is cheaper.
For example, in my current apartment I pay $850 a month in rent, plus all of the utilities. My electricity and gas costs about $95 a month and my water and trash service costs $65. So I spend about $1,010 a month in housing costs. My neighbor also pays $850 a month in rent, but her water and trash is paid by her landlord. Her housing costs are only $945 a month - $65 cheaper than what I'm paying.
Factor in the Cost of Features
Not all features in a rental property matter enough to me that I would pay for them out of pocket, but some are a necessity. For example, I live in a major city where parking is scarce. I used to pay $55 a month for a private parking space, but when I moved my landlord agreed to pay for the space. It doesn't sound like great deal at first, but I saved $660 in a year this way.
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