While renting requires less immediate cash and fewer obligations than owning a home, that doesn’t mean that it’s cheap or easy, or that it comes without strings attached. In fact, finding—and keeping—a good rental can be pretty difficult, especially if it’s your first time. But if you know what you’re getting into beforehand, you have a better chance of finding a good place at a good price.
Before you start looking at places to rent, it helps to get a sense of the money you’ll have to lay out. The real estate section of a local paper or websites like craigslist.org are good places to find the going rental rates. Try entering “available apartments” for a particular geographical area in your favorite search engine.
You’ll probably find a wide range of prices in most areas, so it’s natural to wonder how much you should be paying. After all, while rent will probably be your biggest single expense, you don’t want to get locked into paying more than you can afford. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t want to spend more than 25% of your take-home pay on housing, but in a lot of high-demand urban areas, you may find yourself having to give up closer to 35% to 40%.
Looking for a place to rent can be trying, especially when you’ve got limited time and money. In many places, opportunities come and go quickly. So you’ll want to take advantage of ways to streamline the process. But do so wisely—some ways of finding housing are more expensive than others.
Asking around among family, friends, and other people can’t hurt. You can never tell who might know of something opening up that you can slide into easily without having to pay heavy fees. If you’re working, see if your company has a bulletin board where coworkers might post sublets or leases you might be able to take over. College alumni clubs and websites are another great place to find these kinds of leads.