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How to Find a Nice Home at a Reasonable Price

No matter where you live, you want your house or apartment to feel like home. You may not want the responsibility of homeownership at the moment or perhaps you aren't in a position financially to purchase your own home. No matter the reason, finding a good rental property that is reasonably priced can be challenging.

Here are some tips to finding a place to live that comfortably fits into your budget.

  • Affordability. Your main objective should be to find an apartment or rental home that you can afford. Financial experts recommend that you spend no more than 36% of your monthly income for rent and other debt payments. If your rent and other bills take up too much of your budget it will force you to give up other things you enjoy (such as eating out). Don't be "house (or apartment) poor". Go over your budget and determine what you can reasonably pay for rent. If you have trouble finding anything in your price range, consider getting a roommate to share the costs.
  • Location. Consider carefully the area you want to live in. Ideally, you should choose an apartment that's close to work and also is near all the shops and stores you generally go to- such as groceries, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc. This cuts down your travel time to and from work which can save you on gasoline costs also. Check to see if there is public transportation nearby. Many apartment complexes are being built around green spaces and retail shops. This allows residents to walk to places they want to go.
  • Be willing to negotiate. Always ask about possible discounts. Some apartment companies offer "move-in" specials. Also, you can sometimes get a lower monthly rental price if you sign a longer lease. Investigate all of your options.
  • Furnishings. Ask your family if they have any furniture or appliances you can have to decorate your new place. Also check with friends. Check Craig's List for used furniture sales. Discount and outlet stores usually carry a wide variety of furniture and home products at bargain prices.
  • Utilities, telephone, and cable. Be sure to ask if any utilities are included in your rent amount. When you contact the utility companies, see if they will waive the connection or transfer fees (tell them you're considering using a competitor- this should encourage them). If you bundle services together, such as cable and internet, you usually get a better rate. Don't waste money on a landline if you basically use your cell phone for all calls.
  • Understand your contract. Be sure you read and understand all the terms of your rental agreement before you sign. Your contract should include how long you are renting for (six months, one year, two years, etc.), how much notice you have to give if you decide to move, how much of a deposit you are giving (if any), the rules about subletting, and any pet policy. If your landlord has agreed to do certain repairs or upgrades, be sure it is written specifically into the contract. If you have any doubts or questions about the leasing company, contact your state Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Consider your safety. Make sure you have reliable deadbolt locks on all doors. Check to see that windows can be locked and secured. By law your apartment has to have working smoke alarms and many apartment complexes also have sprinklers. If your rental place doesn't have a carbon monoxide detector you can buy one at most hardware stores and large retailers. It is recommended that you purchase a small fire extinguisher and keep it in a cabinet near your stove.
  • Carry renter's insurance. Unfortunately when you live in an apartment, a fire or flood can happen in someone else's apartment and spread quickly to your place. The damage from this can ruin your personal possessions so having adequate renter's insurance is a must. Before you call an insurance agent, take a complete inventory of your belongings and estimate the replacement value of everything. This will give you a good idea of how much coverage you need. Many insurance companies offer discounts for multiple policies, so if you already have auto insurance contact your insurer and ask about any discounts to add renter's insurance.
  • Be a good tenant. Keep your rental place clean and quiet. Always pay your rent on time. Take care of the property like you would if you owned it- you'll have a much better chance of getting your security deposit back if you do!

Take the time to investigate all your options. With a little extra effort, you can find a good apartment at an affordable price to call "home".