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Finding an Apartment on a Budget

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Renting an apartment is often a cheaper alternative to renting or buying a house. But sometimes hidden fees and surprising moving costs can make a move to an apartment break your budget. How can you find an apartment if you're on a a tight budget? Follow these tips to find an affordable apartment.

Save money on your move

One way to cut costs when searching for a new apartment is saving money on your moving expenses. Make a moving budget and factor it into your first month's rent and apartment living expenses. Don't be fooled into thinking you can afford a unit but then be in debt after paying for the move.

Here are some tips to keep your move within your budget:
  • Only use full-service movers if you must. These movers do everything for you, but they charge the most for their services.
  • Use recycled packing materials.
  • Rent a moving truck and drive it yourself.
  • Sell items that you don't wish to move with you.
  • Make your load as small as possible.
  • Don't buy or move redundant items that may be included in the unit or coming from a roommate.
  • Move off-season, i.e. not in the summer.
  • Avoid moving on weekends or the end of the month since these are competitive moving times.
  • Buy insurance if you're moving valuable items. Don't buy insurance if you aren't worried about anything breaking or being stolen.

Finding cheap apartments

The internet is the best place to start when searching for apartments. The great thing about internet searches is that they are free. Do a general search for apartments in your target area or go to a site like Craigslist or to for a more formal search. 

Be wary when searching through Craigslist. Research and screen the sellers and you just may find a good deal, but going in blind can be dangerous.

You should visit any neighbourhood you may move into before committing. Try to set up a meeting with a possible landlord, as well. You can get a better idea of the rental's value and even negotiate with the landlord.

Ask landlords the following questions:
  • What utilities are included?
  • What furniture/appliances are included?
  • What maintenance/repair services are available, and what will they cost?
  • Any history of vermin?
  • Any special rules?
  • What are the rules regarding roommates?
  • What are the rules regarding subletting?
  • What is the duration of the lease?
  • What needs to be done to get the security deposit back?
The answers to all of these questions will help you determine if the apartment really is affordable on your budget.

Concessions for the sake of frugality

Finding an apartment on a budget can be a game of chicken. How cheap do you want to go before the apartment's condition becomes too poor? Where is your line? It depends on what you're comfortable with and that is up to you. Here are a few factors that will drive an apartment's cost down to consider:
  • Location- If your apartment is in Toronto, it's going to be close to many jobs and points of interest. You're going to have to pay for that location in the rent and in taxes. If you get a unit in the middle of rural British Columbia, your taxes and rent will be considerably cheaper, but you need to budget for the costs of further transportation. Consider where you want and need to go when choosing an apartment and if the travel costs will make up for the taxes and higher rent.
  • Crime- High crime areas will usually have units with cheaper rates. If you're willing to risk it, you can save a lot of money by renting an apartment where most people are afraid to stay.
  • Facilities- Units with access to amenities like laundry rooms, pools, or a handyman will usually cost more. If you can manage without these things, you can save money.
  • General "niceness"- Some apartments can be rented for cheap if they're in an old style or have cheap or old furniture and wallpaper. If you don't mind cleaning up a bit and some aesthetic ugliness, you could move into a cheap unit.
  • Landlord issues- Some landlords are not too fun--they could have silly rules, provide little maintenance, or just be generally confrontational or creepy. If you happen to find a landlord who is undesirable to others or who has just thrown out a tenant, you could be able to rent from him at a discounted rate, provided that you can deal with his nonsense. 

Cutting costs

There are a few more ways to make your move to your apartment fit within your budget:
  • Move with roommates. You can split the costs of rent and a number of shared items that need to be brought/bought for the room.
  • Don't hire a broker unless one is really needed.
  • Get tenant insurance to financially protect yourself after the move.

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on October 27, 2014 - Moving Expert
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