How to find an apartment that fits both your budget and lifestyle
It’s a known fact that rents are up across the board. In Houston, it is estimated by research groups that the number may be as high as 20 percent. This has left many tenants scrambling to find a more affordable apartment complex without sacrificing the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.
Even though the rental market is more challenging than it’s been for years, there are options out there for renters – apartments that offer premier security, attractive amenities and a short commute. The trick is finding such a place, and this guide is designed to help. With these tips, finding that perfect apartment is easier than you might think.
Start Every Apartment Search with a Detailed Budget
Before you can decide which apartments are in your budget, you must determine what your budget is. And the best budget is a detailed budget. List all your current expenses and what your expenses will be following a potential move. Many people like to go by the 50/30/20 rule, which looks like this:
- 50 percent goes to needs – Your needs include housing, utilities, food, gas, car payment, insurance and other debt payments. Once taxes are taken out, the 50/30/20 rules states that you should be able to pay for all your needs with 50 percent or less of your income.
- 30 percent goes to wants – Your wants include entertainment, eating out at restaurants, travel, and all those late-night, impulsive Amazon sprees. After taking out taxes, you should be able to fit this all in with 30 percent or less of your income.
- 20 percent goes to savings – The remaining 20 percent of your money goes to investments like mutual fund and IRA accounts, savings accounts, or any other long-term investments.
Going by the 50/30/20 rule, you should be able to fit your new rent (and move-in expenses) into your needs category without busting your budget.
There’s another, even simpler rule. Landlords and apartment complexes commonly require tenants to make at least three times the cost of their rent. This is to ensure the tenant can comfortably afford their rent month after a month. It’s also a rule you can use to determine which rental is worth a closer look.
In the end, though, mapping out a detailed budget before and following the move will do more than anything else to ensure you don’t end up rent poor and in search of a second job.
Figure Out What You Can Compromise On, and What You Can’t
Now that you know what you can afford, consider what you want from your new home. Are quality appliances a priority? Is a pet-friendly property a must? Do you consider better security at the apartment complex worth spending extra on? Do you need a place close to work so you can minimize your commute? How about a staffed guardhouse that controls all access to the property 24/7/365?
You can do this with amenities, too. What extra things and perks do you need from your new apartment? Does a pool or fitness center matter? What about a dog park? Some communities even offer charging stations for electric vehicles or rooftop terraces, but these are likely to cost extra.
Apartments Close to Urban Centers like CityCentre Or Memorial City Offer Great Life Work Balance
For many, living close to urban centers offering shopping and entertainment venues is a priority. For some, remaining inside the city’s urban boundaries means a shorter drive to work and less traffic to fight through. Plus being able to easily access downtown areas by using Metro facilitates access to museums, sports stadiums, city parks, the zoo and other favorite spots. Urban apartments tend to have better amenities, as well.
The tradeoff is cost. In general, renters pay extra for a downtown apartment packed with amenities. If living in or right around downtown isn’t ideal, then renters can save money with an apartment that’s a little further away, but still close enough to everything. These apartments frequently offer equivalent or better amenities, compared to apartments in a more expensive location.
Westview Forest Apartments is an example, with a Spring Branch location that’s within 15 minutes of downtown Houston attractions, making it an ideal medium between “too far” and “not far enough.”
There are Hidden Apartment Gems in Houston, If You Know What to Look For
When apartment hunting, remember the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying. For example, there are many apartments in Houston that may be of older construction but have extensively updated, renovated units. It isn’t really about the age of the building, but whether the landlord has properly taken care of it over the years.
Before signing a lease, inquire about the last time the complex’s buildings were renovated or remodeled. The expectation is that landlords should renovate apartments every 20 years at the least, and closer to every 10 years if possible. Even if the building’s exterior appears older, a recently renovated unit will be more energy efficient and more functional.
One example of this is installing new air conditioners or appliances. The newest AC’s and appliances are the most energy efficient. Therefore, renting an apartment with recently updated appliances and HVAC systems will give you not only a better overall quality of life – it will save you money on electricity, too.
In addition, look for recent updates to the pool area, the clothes-care center or other common amenities. If you have a furry friend, ask if the apartment community has a dog park. Although most affordable apartments will not have a dog park, exceptions do exist—you just gotta find them! Upgraded/remodeled amenities will give you an idea of how well the property is maintained, which will usually suggest that the property staff will take good care of your needs as a resident, once you move in.
The Right Location, Amenities and Cost: There’s an Apartment That Offers all Three
There are many apartments to choose from in the Houston area, which means apartment hunting can take a while. There are older well-maintained communities that provide excellent value, making them very desirable as well as budget friendly. The perfect mix of location, apartment features and cost can be found, at a price that is affordable even by people whose budget is tight.
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