Many years ago when I first started renting apartments, I would look for the cheapest rent, sign the lease, and deal with whatever came while I was living there. I thought I was getting the best deal because I was paying less rent than most people I knew - but that wasn't always the case. Over the years I've learned that there are a lot of ways to spot a great apartment (and find a good deal.)
Now that I'm a seasoned renter, I know to look at the overall cost of renting an apartment. First I start with the price of the rent. I view several apartments and find three to five with good rent prices. Next, I compare the other costs, like utilities, cable TV, Internet, and condo fees. If a rental includes some or all of the costs, it typically ends up being a better deal than other places with cheaper rent and no included utilities.
The bottom line - think big picture and factor in all of the costs.
The size and condition of an apartment should factor into the price. For example, recently saw a one bedroom apartment for $800 that was about 550 square feet. I also saw a two bedroom apartment for $850 that was 750 square feet. While the rent on the one bedroom was cheaper, I'd get more value for my money paying a bit more to get a larger size.
I also look at what the rental has while I'm touring the place. For example, an apartment with an included washer and dryer can save you a bunch of money over the course of a lease. When I rented an apartment without a washer and dryer I spent about $20 a week plus the cost of gas dragging my clothes to a Laundromat. Now that I have my own washer and dryer, I spend significantly less and don't have to waste my day in the Laundromat.
Management and Maintenance
I live in an area where maintenance isn't always a given. Some landlords never make small repairs, ask the renter to take care of the lawn, and don't maintain the building well. I once rented an apartment where I ended up either fixing small problems myself or paying someone to do it. Over the course of the year, those costs added up. Now I look for apartment complexes with on-sight maintenance staff. I save myself the headache (and the cost.)
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