Tips on Finding a Cheap Apartment in a New City

Tips on Finding a Cheap Apartment in a New City

Table of contents

Moving to a new city is already daunting enough. You’ve got the job, and now you’ve got to find a place to live. It may seem easy, but there is so much up in the air that it can be overwhelming. There are many reasons that you may relocate for a job— military, healthcare, and teaching opportunities open up, and it is often a nationwide search.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to consider when you are apartment hunting in a new city, how you can make ends meet until that first paycheck hits, and where to go apartment browsing online. If you think it might be easier to buy a house after all of that, we’ll talk about that too!

Key takeaways

  • Consider your needs vs. wants and determine deal breakers.
  • Check the neighborhood and cost of living before signing any contract.
  • Be social, look only within your budget, show up prepared to rent and improve your credit.

What to consider in finding a new apartment

When moving to somewhere different, whether it is just across the state or across the country, there is a tendency to think that we have a fresh start and that we should make the most of it. And while that’s true, there comes the point where often people will sign leases on apartments they could afford from saving rather than what they can afford for the whole term.

Needs vs. wants

One of the biggest factors you have to consider is what you need and what you want. And that can vary from person to person. An example of a ‘need’ could be pet-friendly spaces, within walking distance to work, or even just the number of bedrooms. ‘Wants’ are things that you can live without, though we may enjoy the convenience. Things like dishwashers, laundry, and large spaces or gathering places (pools, on-site gyms, etc.) are all ‘wants.’ The thing about ‘wants’ is that you can always upgrade after the lease is up and you’ve put down more solid roots in your new town.

Income and pay period

This seems as if it should be obvious, but sometimes we forget our income range when we accept a new job. It is important to look at how often you will be paid and how much you make in a pay period. For example, if you are hourly now and just signed a contract to be salaried, you may not get paid every two weeks. You may have to budget for an entire month rather than every two weeks, which can make a big difference in bills and rent payments.

Deal breakers

After considering your needs and wants, it is time to determine what you absolutely do NOT want. This could be things like smoking status or the inclusion of utilities or lease terms. Just like needs and wants, deal breakers are different for everyone. However, it can help you manage your search and filter out absolute no’s places, so you can focus on finding the right place for you.


Another aspect to consider is the neighborhood. A great way to check to see if you want to live in an area is to look up the apartment on Google Maps or Safari to get a feel for what is around you. Maybe you are close to a park, or maybe you’re right next to the freeway. It’s a good idea to find where in relation to everywhere else you could be residing before signing any contracts.

Cost of living

While it may seem strange, it is important to look at the cost of living in your new town. The buying power of a dollar may not change, but the price of goods can. Looking at what you can expect to pay for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread in your new city can help you plan your budget and ensure you aren’t living beyond your means. You can calculate the cost of living from a variety of online comparison calculators, like this one.

Living room in an affordable apartment in the city.

Tips on how to find an affordable apartment

Finding a new apartment can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Not to mention, you can be unsure what is the real deal and what is catfishing apartment edition. Here are some tips and tricks to finding the best apartment for your budget.

Be social

One of the easiest ways to find apartments is to be social, even if you haven’t moved yet. Ask your new boss, join Facebook groups, or find other social networking through your new job or opportunity. This can help you have friends right away as you move in, and you can get an insider scoop of what places are good and not so good.

Only look at what you can afford

You can’t go over your monthly budget if you don’t look above your budget. After you calculate your approximate income, keep those strict parameters when searching for your next place. That way, you won’t be looking at homes that are out of your range and being drawn into a place based on fancy pictures.

Show up ready to rent

If you do a walkthrough tour of your new place, and you’ve decided to rent it, then come prepared with a deposit ready. That way, you can be sure to get in under the advertised rate of rent without waiting a month for an increase in rent. You can also establish rapport with your landlord that way, and they may be more lenient for grace periods.

Improve your credit

Improving your credit may seem like what you want to do when looking to buy a house. And if that’s in the cards for you, just not right now, then you can consider this an early start on that goal. But improving your credit can help you if your prospective place is income-based or looking to take out a loan in advance to cover the lease term.

Plan to move off-peak season

Landlords want people to fill the units. And if you plan to move during the slow times, that can help secure a more affordable rate as landlords try to fill the vacant units. Plus, if you want to hire a moving company, you can save more moving off-season as the demand for their services is less competitive.

Woman checking websites for cheap apartment for rent.

Best websites to look for an apartment


This is more than just a vacation rental place. Airbnb has full-term leasing options as well for those looking to rent. There are probably hidden gems of places on this site, along with the trusted fact that there is a vetting process to post these listings.

There are some websites that look great, and there are some websites that are great. When you’re looking for an apartment online, it can be tough to decide which ones are which. Thankfully, there are a few go-to places that you can trust.


Again, usually, when you think of Zillow, you think of houses. But they have apartments to rent too! And if you’re looking for a good balance between home and apartment, Zillow can help you find a house available for rent. Talk about the best of both worlds!

Now, this website is pretty straightforward, just in the name itself. is your one-stop shop for finding apartments, houses, and more to rent. Not to mention, you can easily compare listings, which can be helpful if you are torn between two apartments.

“Maybe I should just buy a house.”

So after considering all the factors, planning out when to move, and searching the best sites, you might feel completely ready to take on your new city with zeal. If so, congratulations! We wish you the best in this next step of your life!

But maybe, you’re not feeling so lucky.

If you’ve already been through the apartment search, and everything is either not a good fit or just plain not enough, then you’re not alone. Many people are looking into homeownership instead of renting. Mortgage payments can often be the same or even less of a monthly payment than renting. Hero Home Programs™ can help you go from renting to homeownership, even if you don’t work in one of our ‘hero’ fields. If you think homeownership is the next step for you, apply today for free!

Picture of Jacquelyn Sublett
Jacquelyn Sublett

I love teaching and writing on real estate, finance and mortgage topics. I find it fulfilling hearing stories of first time home buyers who we have helped with the home buying process. Writer for the Hero Homebuyer Programs™

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