[Living Abroad] Apartment Hunting Tips on a Budget

I have always dreamed of studying abroad for a master's degree. As I'm looking for scholarship opportunities, I'm checking not only the program details but also the living expenses in the area. I would imagine that a considerably big portion of my budget would be for my housing needs. In this post, I'd like to share with you some tips for apartment hunting on a budget, just in case you're thinking of moving in the near future.

Finding the ideal apartment requires taking into account your budget, commute, personal preferences, and other needs. Let's go over the things you need to know about finding an apartment that fits your budget.

1. Establish a rental budget

Be realistic with your budget. Ideally, your monthly rent payment should be 20-30% of your expected income (or expected allowance, if you're going for a scholarship). This guideline will help you avoid paying more in rent than you can truly afford.

Websites like Zumper can give you a good idea of the running rates in an area. I've looked at Los Angeles, for example, and found that the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, CA is currently $2,050, which is 2% less compared to the previous year.

Tip: Consider renting with a roommate. For example, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $2,050 and $2,795 for a 2-bedroom apartment. Finding a roommate and splitting the cost of the bigger apartment would mean over $600 a month in savings! Not to mention, you can save when splitting utility bills, furniture, and other housing expenses.


2. List your non-negotiables

Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your quality of life. Take a moment to think about what you appreciate and what you can't tolerate.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Your commute time (should be near the university for students or place of work)
  • Whether it is smoking or non-smoking
  • Distance to the nearest subway or bus stop
  • If you want to live somewhere calm or busy
  • If you need a stove, oven, dishwasher, elevator or on-site laundry

3. Specify your ideal location

Start exploring the city's neighborhoods to see which ones would be the greatest match for you. Make sure to examine the location, mood, and activity level of the area you pick. These characteristics will have a significant impact on how much you appreciate your current living arrangement.

You don't want to be 45 minutes away from the next grocery shop, 30 minutes away from the nearest park, or unable to complete work due to the weekly neighborhood block party on the street below.

Tip: Consider living outside the city. Oftentimes, renting in the suburbs of a city rather than the city itself may sometimes result in lower rent prices without sacrificing proximity to the metropolis. 

4. Look into middle-floor units

The cost of renting a unit on the lower or upper levels of a building is usually greater. This is due to the fact that people like beautiful views and want quick access to their homes.

You may save a lot of money if you're prepared to put up with a less-than-ideal view and use the stairs/elevator.

5.  Work in exchange for an affordable apartment

Believe it or not, there is the option to live rent-free. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, one of which is going the home-sharing route and move into an intergenerational house and assist out in exchange for a place to stay. You can also get free housing as a student as a Resident Assistant.You may also try finding a job at a hotel, hostel, or dormitory in exchange for working at the property. 

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  2. They can't vouch for the genuine state of the vacation rental property, the benefits/burdens of the area, and so on.

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