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Looking for a Lower Cost of Living? Consider Renting Your First Place

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Despite the “American Dream” being a house, yard, and white picket fence, more and more Americans are reluctant to go further into debt with a house mortgage, especially if they’re already saddled with credit card debt and student loans. And as people continue to flood into city centers, apartment living is becoming more and more popular. Standards are also rising for apartments — fewer people in the newer generations are willing to live in dark, cramped, pest-infested complexes, yet are also looking for a lower cost of living. Newer apartment renovations are often totally gutted first and replaced with new appliances, floors, and hardware. There are many advantages for those who choose to rent instead of buy — many apartment dwellers cite having more freedom and control over their living situation, enjoying an ease of living — for example, your landlord is generally responsible for any major repairs or exterminations — and not being under crippling financial loans.

Americans On the Move
Americans have always been a restless bunch, constantly expanding outward. Now in the modern era, cars, trains, planes, and more make it simpler (and faster) for us to move anywhere, in search of better opportunities or a better standard of living. Almost 36 million Americans move annually — a little under 10% staying in the same state, a little over 1.5% moving to a different state and around 0.3% moving to a different country. Just over 30% of renters move per year and the average American (despite renting or buying) will move around 12 times over the course of their life. Just about 15% of those who moved cited wanting a better (or newer) home or apartment and half of those who moved did so in the summer.

So Who’s Choosing to Rent and Why?
While apartment living is really for all ages, many young people (especially in their twenties and thirties) are choosing apartment living over purchasing a home these days. Most are coming out of college or university with serious debt and entry-level jobs. They haven’t started a family yet and don’t need the space of owning a home. An apartment suits them just fine. In 2014, the Census ACS data showed that just under 37% of households rented. Rent is typically cheaper than a home mortgage payment — although, again, it depends on where you’re renting. The average gross residential rent in the United States was $934 in 2014, says the Census ACS survey. The average home mortgage payment was upwards of $2,000.

Moreover, apartment living can be attractive to people, since a landlord takes care of many of your repair needs and has a responsibility to keep the apartment in a fit and livable condition. They also usually take care of waste removal and recycling, snow removal, and yard maintenance. Of course, you need to care for the apartment as well, but much of the big picture maintenance they’ll take care of. Some landlords may also pay for heat and hot water, which are two big expenses. Gas, electricity, Internet, and cable are mainly the renter’s responsibilities, but those don’t add up to too terribly much, as opposed to heat and hot water.

What Should I Keep In Mind When Renting: An Apartment Guide

Don’t take prices at face value. If you see an incredibly cheap apartment with plenty of apartment amenities, it could be everything it’s promised. It could also be in a bad area, lack grocery stores, entertainment, or other attractive features around it, or be in a more remote location that would make it difficult for you to reach your job, friends, or other obligations. Apartment safety is key, especially if you’re living alone. Always check a place out in person first, before signing the lease, and read the lease carefully. Get a second opinion if something feels off to you.

Make sure you have all your ducks in a row as well — do you have enough for the down payments, a guarantor if you should need one, proof of employment, etc.? Be as prepared as possible when looking at places, so you’re ready to sign that lease when you find the perfect space.

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