How do I determine the cost of renting an apartment?

The cost to rent an apartment can vary wildly depending on where in the country you are moving, and whether you are moving to a big city or a small town.

In a given metropolitan area, average rents can vary widely. So the best way to determine the cost of renting an apartment is by searching local apartment listings on sites like Researching what is on the market, and what landlords are asking for rent, is the best way to get a true view of the market.

Property management companies can also be a source of valuable information regarding the cost of renting and they can help you determine the up-front costs of renting.

These costs vary depending on the specific market. In some places, particularly in big cities like New York, where apartments are in high demand, landlords will ask for several months of rent upon the lease signing. A security deposit that equals at least one month's rent, plus first and last month's rent, are often required.

Don't forget to factor in transportation, parking and utility costs.

But in markets where landlords are having trouble renting out their properties, look for benefits like one month of free rent or other perks. These are called concessions and are common when landlords have empty units on their hands.

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How do you find an apartment broker?

There are thousands of rental property management companies out there and looking for the one who will help you find your new home can be a daunting task.

Start on the Internet. Almost all modern-day apartment management companies have Web sites, or at least list their apartment rentals on the Internet. A good way to find those sites are through larger, national Web sites that allow you to search for property managers by geography.

A property management company's own site can tell you if they specialize in the type of apartment you are seeking, whether you want to live in a luxury high rise with a view, an affordable studio near a local college or a three-bedroom in a quality school district.

If you know where you want to move, visit or call property managers in that neighborhood or town. Often, they specialize in certain areas, although you will occasionally find property managers who cover a wide geography.

Alternatively, you can find a property management company through apartment listings; if you see an apartment that appeals to you, chances are the company that shows one apartment also has access to similar ones.

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How do you find an apartment?

There are thousands of Web sites featuring apartment listings on the Internet. The best ones will make your search easier by providing ways to search by monthly rent, location, whether you want a furnished or unfurnished apartment and amenities. Really good ones -- like -- will also provide you with links to information about the area in which you're searching, and will provide information about local schools.

Another way to find an apartment is by first finding a property management company you like. They can show you apartments that they manage in your price range and in the area where you want to live. The Web is a good place to find property management companies, as well. Most have their own Web sites and list their services on multiple sites on the Internet.
If you can't afford to live alone and don't know people you want to live with, roommate search engines are common on the Web.

Also keep an eye out for flyers hung up in local colleges or talk to friends and see if they know anyone who is also looking for a roommate.

If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, like a short lease, search the Web for opportunities to sublet an apartment. That can give you increased flexibility and you'll occasionally find discounts for taking over someone's lease.

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How do you rent an apartment?

Not sure how to rent an apartment? First, determine your budget. Most economic experts recommend spending no more than one-third of your income on housing. While that's not always possible, it's a good number to keep in mind.

Next, write down your wish list. Do you need a parking spot or do you need to be near public transportation? How far are you willing to commute to get to work?

Do some research on the typical up-front costs of renting an apartment in the area you are looking to move to. Those costs could be nil, or they could be equal to several months of rent. Check out Web sites that contain local apartment listings; they will often detail the up-front costs.

This information will help you narrow down the neighborhood in which you should look for an apartment. Seek out a neighborhood or town where your needs are met, and where you can afford to live comfortably. will let you search by amenity. Do you have a cat, or need a parking spot? The search option will also allow you to narrow down the apartments by price.

Start looking at apartments and be sure to take notes and pictures, if possible. This will help you remember the apartments accurately and make the right final decision.

When you choose an apartment, be sure to read your lease cover-to-cover before signing. Most metropolitan areas have organizations devoted to tenants' rights, who can answer any questions, too.

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How do you rent an apartment with bad credit?

Renting an apartment isn't as easy as showing up, paying a security deposit and signing a lease. Most landlords do a credit check before they will rent an apartment. If you have established, good credit, you'll be signing your lease in no time. But even if you have bad credit, or no credit, there are still ways to convince a landlord that you will be a good tenant.

  • If you can, throw some money at the problem. Most landlords already ask for at least two, and sometimes three, months worth of rent up front: security deposit, last month's rent and sometimes first month's rent. It can add up, but if you can afford it, offering to pay another month or two of rent can go a long way to sooth the landlord's fears that you won't pay your rent.
  • Show your potential landlord you can afford the apartment. Bring out your pay stubs to show that you have a healthy, steady income.
  • Get a co-signer. If you have a relative with good credit, who is willing to co-sign, most landlords will be willing to rent to you. A co-signer is someone who agrees to assume responsibility for your rent in case you default. Remember, that means if you don't pay, your co-signer will have to.
  • Be up front. According to a Washington Post article on renting apartments, it's a good idea to tell your potential landlord about any problems they might find on your credit report before they see it. Then present potential solutions.

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What should you ask when renting an apartment?

It may be an apartment rental, but remember, it's going to be your home. Be sure you have all the information before you sign your lease. You should ask your landlord or apartment broker the following, but feel free to ask additional questions if you have specific concerns.

  • What is the policy if you have to break your lease?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Is there parking available?
  • What is the penalty if you pay rent late?
  • How quickly does the landlord respond to maintenance problems?
  • Are there laundry facilities in the building? How much do they cost to use?
  • What kind of security does the building have? Is there an alarm system, security doors or bars on the first-floor windows?
  • What is the incidence of break-ins and other crimes in the building?
  • What are typical utility costs? Are any utilities included in the rent?
  • Is the building cable- and Internet-ready?
  • Does the landlord intend to do any work in the apartment while you'll be living there?
  • Will you get interest on your security deposit or last month's rent?
  • Who do you call in an emergency?
  • Will you be able to renew your lease after it expires?
  • What are your responsibilities to the maintenance of the apartment or building?
  • Where is the fuse box? Should you change the fuse if the power goes out, or should you call someone?

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What are some tips for renting an apartment?

Whether you intend to live in your new apartment for a year or a decade, there are many ways to make your search easier and to make sure you enjoy life in your new home.

  • Use the Internet in your search. It will allow you to compare more apartments for rent, and will help you get familiar with pricing and available amenities. Web sites like can show you multiple apartments for rent in many areas of the country.
  • Decide whether to use an agent or find an apartment yourself. Agents usually charge a fee, but can expedite the search by showing you multiple apartments in several hours. The Internet can be a helpful tool in finding an agent.
  • When looking at apartments, make sure you see the actual unit in which you will live. According to the Tenant Union at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- one of hundreds of tenant unions across the country -- even though all units in a building may have identical layouts, the conditions could vary.
  • Many tenant unions or associations have landlord complaint records. It can be a good idea to check those, where available, before signing a lease.
  • The University of Illinois Tenant Union also warns against signing a lease for an apartment that is not yet complete.
  • Get renters insurance. It is often affordable, and it's important to protect your personal property.
  • Look into local landlord tenant laws.

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