(photo credit: The Modern Agent)
Apartment hunting. It’s probably one of the least fun things to do. Sure it’s fun to take stock of all the different types of apartments out there (Exposed brick! A decorative fireplace! Two closets! Oh my!), but if you’re anything like me (small budget, expensive city), the fun stops there.
Believe it or not, it is possible to find an amazing place in an expensive city—even if you’re on a tight budget. At least that’s what Mukul Lalchandani, broker with The Modern Agent, says.
Here are Lalchandani’s tips for finding affordable rentals in expensive places. Keep these in mind the next time you’re in the market for a new abode:
Avoid condos and co-ops. These tend to have higher fees, says Lalchandani, including broker fees and miscellaneous application fees. “If you go to a rental building, where all the units are rentals, there should be no broker fees, and usually there is only a credit check fee somewhere between $50 and $100,” he added.
Know when to shop. Existing tenants tend to give their notice of vacant apartments at the beginning of the month, so this is when the most inventory hits the market, with the best prices available.
Besides shopping around at the beginning of the month, March through September is the main rental season in Manhattan, adds Lalchandani, which is when most inventory hits the market and new rental buildings open up for leasing. This is a good time to get additional perks, like one month of free rent if you sign a lease early in their opening.
Negotiate. You can usually negotiate the rent in a rental building by at least $50-$100 off the asking price, says Lalchandani. For condominiums, you can try to go higher, to $100 or more. Plus, for a condo or co-op lease, try to negotiate some of the application fees to be shared by the landlord. Since they’re individual owners, they tend to be more willing to negotiate.
Set your focus. If you have bad credit, your best chances are to focus on Condo properties, says Lalchandani. Individual owners are more lenient in accepting bad credit situations, but expect to put down more of a security deposit because of it.
Put your detective skills to work. If you’re looking for an apartment in a certain building, but there doesn’t seem to be anything available in your budget, find out the name of the agent who has done the most recent deals in the building. There are several websites, like streeteasy.com, that show who listed the units in which building. “They’re probably very active with the building, and know of rentals that might be coming up on the market,” says Lalchandani. Since they’re familiar with the building, they could try to negotiate a good deal for you from the beginning.
Go the roommate route. If you won’t settle for anything less than a luxury building, but they’re way out of your price range, consider going the roommate route. “A typical one-bedroom in the city is around $3,500 in the luxury apartment,” says Lalchandani. “If you can convert the living room into another bedroom by putting up a wall and split the rent in two, that’s $1750 per person.”
And trust me when I say—in Manhattan, that’s not a bad price for a one-bedroom.
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.