Affordable Apartments for College Graduates

June 3, 2009

Once you graduate from college, finding an affordable apartment that suits your financial needs and budget is essential to properly starting off your working life. Finding the right apartment can be a daunting task, so here are some tips to help you pick the right apartment to fit your budget.

Calculate Your Rent Budget

Generally, one-fourth of your take home pay is a safe estimate for the rent price range you should be looking for when renting an apartment or house. If you find that all of the apartments or houses you are looking at exceed 35% of your take home pay, consider living with a roommate or looking in a cheaper area. Although roommates can be annoying, one good thing about splitting the rent is that it can help you save up an emergency fund and pay off college debt faster.

Know Your Apartment Needs

Doing your research before you start looking for an apartment is vital to finding an affordable and safe apartment. Don’t compromise safety for cheaper rent if you can help it, sites like and can give you a feel for the average rent prices in an area.

Take a close look at what features are most important to you. Is two bathrooms more important to you than amenities such as a pool and a clubhouse? Would you rather have a washer and dryer than upgraded kitchen appliances? With the power of the internet, doing your own research is much easier than ever before.

I typically don’t recommend using a rental finder agency, many of them will charge a finders fee for work you can do on your own. Of course if you are relocating to an unfamiliar city, especially an enormous one like moving to New York City, then it might be beneficial to use a rental agency.

Knowing what features you want in a particular area is essential before you start looking at places. Remember, landlords and leasing agents are sales people, so they will do what they can to make their rental seem like the perfect place for you, that’s why you need to know what you want. Then, you control the situation, not the agent.

Finding Affordable Housing

Craigslist. It is now flooded with many commercial apartment complexes, but you can still find independent landlords soliciting their rental properties for lower prices.

The outskirts of the city. If you are willing to commute a little bit to work, more family oriented areas will offer lower rent prices. The hip, young area of town will typically ask for the highest rent prices.

Mother-in-law suites. Some homeowners build these suites on their property to house family members to take care of them. These suites become vacant from time to time and many homeowners take advantage of the space by offering to rent it out. These apartments are hard to find, but they sometimes offer great deals on price.

Saving Money on Apartments

Negotiate the rent down. This can be an option if you do some research and find that the landlord is having problems renting out the apartment.

Offer services for lower rent. I know many people who get cheaper rent because they offer to mow the lawn, make maintenance repairs, or offer professional services to the landlord.

Look for new complexes. Many new complexes will offer rent promotions to fill up all of their units. Avoid amenity rich complexes since you will be paying for the developers cost to maintain the property and the common areas.

Housing costs will probably always be your biggest fixed monthly cost throughout your life, so stop focusing on how many lattes you are drinking. Saving money on your rent could result in thousands of dollars in savings per year!

 This post on finding affordable apartments for college grads is part of a series on personal finance for college graduates.  Some of the other topics covered include auto insurance for grads, budgeting, health insurance after college, buying renters insurance, and credit card tips for grads.


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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2 Responses to Affordable Apartments for College Graduates

  • PD

    Craigslist is definitely not the way to go anymore when searching for an apartment. Depending on the market, it is very difficult and you come across many unscrupulous brokers and agents.

  • JB

    graduate programs are an excellent way to start your career, but there is so much they dont teach you about how things work.