What you pay for your apartment and how fancy it is depends on your negotiation and deal-finding skills. However, before you negotiate anything, you've got to decide what you're looking for in your rented space. Read on for six steps to help you find an apartment for the lowest possible rental rate. (Are you confused about whether you should rent or buy? Read To Rent or Buy? The Financial Issues.)

No. 1: Seek Web Help in Picking Features
If you don't know what features are available in your area, try exploring the websites of online apartment locator services. You can search for apartments based simply on whether you want a one- or two-bedroom apartment or by other features. It's a great way to find out both what your pad will cost and what neighborhoods have the features you want.

No. 2: Avoid Choosing a Home Based on Perceived Value
You can get a great deal on an apartment with vaulted ceilings and an island kitchen, but the neighborhood may not be what you're looking for, or it's missing other things that topped your list of desired features. Don't make the mistake of renting an apartment because it seems like a good deal according to someone else's needs but not a good deal based on your needs.

No. 3: Call a Locator in Your Area
Look online or in a physical phone book for numbers for apartments in your area.

  • Call at least two and ask about which rental communities and neighborhoods have the most features that you want within your price range.
  • Ask about specials. You may be able to find an apartment that would normally go for $1,000 a month for $800 per month.
  • Because the locator will get a commission if you choose a property he or she recommends, make sure the locator calls ahead to see if the two to three properties you like have the best units available.

No. 4: Always Call a Community Before Visiting
Before you visit a property, call before visiting to get a quote on prices. Once you are on the property, the leasing agent may hope to wow you with features, but on the phone it's all about the numbers. Compare the figures you received from your locator with the number you gathered from online and local apartment locator services.

No. 5: Tour Properties in Person
While virtual tours can be found on most apartment complexes' websites, there's no substitute for visiting a community in person. Websites will provide an idea of what the community and interior look like, and should be used as an initial screen. Walking around your potential new neighborhood and apartment will give you a better feel for the location, Also, don't limit the search to one property; visit at least two, so that you have a comparison.

No. 6: Reevaluate Your Feature List
During the very first step of the process of finding a fabulous new place to live that's also easy on your wallet, you developed a list of what features that are important to you in and around your new home. You should have also decided what you are willing to pay for them. Now that you have at least a couple different properties to choose, see if you still hold the same values. Adjust your list accordingly as to what each feature is worth before doing your final comparisons of cost versus home value.

Summary
Once you know what you want and what it will cost, sit down and think about your choices in the following two ways:

  • Look at your actual budget. Consider whether one apartment would leave you with more money left over.
  • Evaluate an apartment's worth based on the sum of values you haves assigned to the features from your list. Make sure the actual rent you pay is within reason for what you can afford.

Knowing you have an actual value for what's important to you will enable you to make a decision on where you live based on your own needs instead of a community advertisement.

For other ideas on affording your rent, read Easy Ways To Cut Rental Costs and Are You Ready to Rent?

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