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Find Affordable Housing: Tips to Bring Down Rent

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestFind Affordable Housing: Tips to Bring Down Rent
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They say rent should equal 30% of your income, though that's often easier said than done. With rising inflation and skyrocketing rents throughout major US cities, it's not uncommon to fork over nearly half your income for a roof over your head. While the average cost to rent an apartment in the US is over $1700, that doesn't mean you have to settle for it. Learning ways to find affordable rent early on in your life or career can lead to significant savings in the long term. Read on to start renting smarter!

01

Choose your city wisely

Finding cheap rent in SoHo is probably asking too much. While a few tricks down this list might help bring the price down a tad, finding affordable rent in the trendiest neighborhoods will always be an uphill battle.

With the possibility of remote work, spending a few years in one of the country's cheapest cities for renters could mean savings in the tens of thousands over time. Little Rock tops the list in 2023, with an average rent of $983.

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02

Know your market

If you're moving to a new city or shifting to a new neighborhood, it helps to get a lay of the land before signing a lease. This means understanding the average cost of rent, as well as factors such as vacancy rates.

Because a high vacancy rate is a sign that landlords are desperate for tenants, these areas give you the most leverage when negotiating a lease with a potential landlord.

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03

Rent at the right time

Rent prices are seasonal, meaning there's an opportune moment to lock in a 12-month lease. Renting during winter is historically the cheapest, so negotiating a lease during the holidays or into January has the best savings potential if you lock in a long-term price. The holiday spirit factor could also be on your side — who knows!

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04

Hit the streets

Searching for the best online is convenient, meaning more people can do it — and hence, more competition for you. Sometimes, just walking around a neighborhood to inquire about vacancies and rent prices can lead to a fortuitous discovery.

At the very least, you'll get a better assessment of the area to bring to the negotiating table later on.

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05

Search for "lease ups"

Apartment complexes typically offer bonus incentives to prospective renters in their first half year or year after opening. These incentives could include a free month of rent, bonus amenities like storage space, or no-cost applications.

Calculated over the course of a year, these incentives could add up to considerable savings.

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06

Sign a long-term lease

A long-term lease will always be a better option when negotiating a lower monthly rent. Landlords lose money when a unit is vacant, so a long-term lease (say three years or more) represents an attractive security that justifies the lower monthly cost.

Of course, this option demands committing to a place for a longer time frame — unless you can sublet.

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07

Consider paying more upfront

Landlords might be more amenable to lowering rent prices with a higher up-front payment, be it a security deposit or prepaid rent.

Landlords may see this as a sign of financial solvency or might simply prefer the cash flow at one time, for instance, if they need it to finance upgrades to the property or other units.

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08

Barter with services

It will all depend on your relationship with your landlord and overall level of handiness, but it's possible to negotiate cheaper rent in exchange for a little work around the house or property.

Assuming you have the means and the time, this could mean taking out the trash, weeding the lawn, keeping the roof and gutters clean, or even more labor-intensive drywall work to repair the last tenant's damage.

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09

Do your homework with amenities

Amenities can be a significant draw, but be sure to know their real value. Paying less for an apartment without a gym makes sense if the difference is more than an actual gym membership.

The opposite is also true. While an apartment with a gym, dog park, and laundry facility may cost more, it's worth it in the end if you save on subscriptions and transportation to the dog park and laundromat.

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10

Come with good references

A solid list of references does more than make your landlord feel confident that you'll pay on time each month. References that attest to your character and living habits can help paint you as the type of person who will take good care of someone's property or even make improvements.

Approaching potential landlords with strong social proof will make it easier for you to negotiate a lower price.

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11

Look for rent-controlled apartments

Some states allow local governments to control the maximum rent allowed in select apartment buildings. While competition can be fierce to secure a lease, rent prices can be well below the area average.

It helps to maintain a high credit score and superb references to qualify.

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12

Use an affordable housing authority

Local housing authorities and many housing non-profits are experts in finding housing solutions to meet a variety of budgets. These organizations tend to serve low-income residents or families and offer a wealth of financial resources in addition to housing placements.

Alternatively, those who qualify for Section 8 housing can receive rent vouchers from the federal government to subsidize their monthly costs.

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13

Become a caretaker

A great option for retirees or work-from-home types, becoming a property caretaker means living in someone's second home for free (or cheap) and even getting paid to maintain the property. It's an option that demands flexibility, a solid work ethic, and some networking skills.

Bear in mind that people who have vacation homes and can afford a caretaker often pay quite well.

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14

Get a roommate (or two)

The no-brainer on this list finding a roommate is the most surefire way to cut your rent in half—space allowing, of course.

That said, finding a reliable roommate is easier said than done. Particularly if they aren't on the original lease, you could be liable for their unpaid rent or property damage. Use your network and more than a little common sense to choose a roommate you can trust.

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15

Look for sublets

Tenants who need a roommate often do this by sub-leasing (or subletting) a room. This means that you would hold an agreement with a tenant and can likely pay below market rate to fill the unused space in the unit.

Sublets may be common during seasonal periods such as summer vacation for students with a one-year lease. They can be a great stop-gap option for living affordably while searching for something more long-term.

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