7 Tips for Finding a Rental in Today’s Tight Market


What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Vacancies are down and rents are up. Searching for an apartment right now might seem dismal, but here are some ways to improve your prospects of finding a new home.

If you’re looking for a rental right now, you have a few strikes against you.

Strike 1: The availability of rentals has been shrinking. The U.S. Census Bureau says the rental vacancy rate declined from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 7.4 percent to 2011. And media reports from around the nation strongly suggest that trend is continuing. The number of Americans who rent jumped from 34.1 percent of households in 2009 to 35.4 percent two years later, the census survey says.

Strike 2: Rents last year rose nearly 4 percent nationwide, according to The Wall Street Journal. The average American household that rents paid $1,044 per month for a roof over their heads.

Strike 3: Rents often exceed the percentage of income that people should pay and still have enough left over for everything else. The census study said more than 2 in 5 renters spend at least 35 percent of their income on rent, which makes them rent “burdened.”

Less supply and higher demand means that landlords aren’t offering incentives to woo tenants. Gone are the days of offers of one free month’s rent and other enticements to get you to sign a lease.

So, what do you do? Here are some tips for finding a place to rent:

1. Figure your finances

Know exactly what you can pay. Try your best not to be one of the “burdened.” If you can’t afford a place (a deposit and last month’s rent are often required) on your own, think about bringing in a roommate or renting a room in a house rather than an entire apartment for yourself.

2. Expand your search

I picked up the local newspaper the other day and it had only five listings for rentals compared with more than 30 new listings on Craigslist the same day. Just watch out for online rental scams. Also search sites like Rent or ForRent.

Meander through the neighborhoods you like and see if there are any for-rent signs out, but stick to your budget. Gazing longingly at an adorable house that’s way over your price range will only make the places you can afford less attractive. Also, let everyone in your circle know that you’re looking for a place.

3. Find out what’s included

Some rentals say they include utilities, but be sure you inquire deeper. That can mean anything from trash collection to electricity to cable TV. The value of those utilities can vary from a few bucks to more than $100 a month. If you are looking in a location with extreme winters or summers, remember to ask about heat and air conditioning. When I lived in Montana, the charming older house I rented for $500 a month seemed like a sweet deal until I got my first $250 heating bill. Lesson learned.

4. Ask before applying

Where I live in California, landlords charge an application fee of $20 to $40 per person, so make sure you get all of your questions answered before you apply. Some landlords require that you earn a certain percentage over the rent cost, for instance. Make sure you know all of the prerequisites beforehand so you don’t waste your application money.

5. Don’t fall for flash

A gym in the apartment complex may be a great selling point. But, will it only lead to a sense of guilt when you walk by it on your way to the bar or bakery? Will you use the advertised amenities, the cost of which is no doubt computed into the size of the rent? Just because the complex has a spa or an exercise room doesn’t mean you’ll shed your couch potato habits. Plus, there are cheaper ways to exercise.

6. Remember your pets

If you have a pet, finding a place to rent can be extremely difficult. But before you sign a lease for a place that thankfully does, ask about extra deposits and charges. Some landlords collect a nonrefundable fee just in case your beloved trashes the place. Others charge pet rent on top of the deposit. I have paid anywhere from $10 to $25 extra per month for my dog.

7. Where will you park?

In metropolitan areas, parking can be a big concern and it can be costly. Some rentals in San Francisco charge an additional $400 for a parking space. Some of us have probably rented entire apartments for less.

What are your tips for finding an affordable rental? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

💰🗣📰

Read Next: 50 Ways to Make a Fast $50

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,007 more deals!