Find a Place to Rent

Finding the right place to rent requires understanding your budget and needs.

Finding a place to call home isn’t as easy as deciding where you want to live and crossing your fingers that everything works out. You’ll need to take a step-by-step approach to make sure the process is smooth and successful.

Start with Your Budget

The best place to start when it comes to finding a place is rent is your budget. It’s not as exciting as brainstorming amenities or ideal locations, but it will keep you from wasting your time looking at rentals that are completely out of your range.


Most places will require at least the first and last months' rent as a security deposit.


Ideally, you want to keep your rent payment to 25-30% of your net pay—that’s the money you make after taxes and other deductions are removed from your pay. In areas with a higher cost of living, you may need to pay more like 35-40% of your take-home pay. Don’t forget about additional costs like utilities (these may or may not be included in your rent) and security deposits. It is common to require at least the first and last months’ rent as a deposit, so you’ll need to be prepared with that money to secure a lease.

Since prices vary so much, it can be hard to know what cities you’ll be able to afford. This cost of living calculator can be used to compare how much rent you can expect to pay in each location.


Finding Roommates

How can you find the right place to rent when prices are out of budget? Sometimes it’s difficult to pay the cost of an apartment alone. When this happens, it’s a good idea to look into getting a roommate. With one roommate, a nice apartment, otherwise unaffordable, would be within your budget parameters. If you’re looking for people to rent a house or apartment with, using word of mouth can be very useful. If this fails, don’t be afraid to look at websites like RoomsterRoomie Match, or Roomi.

Though social media can also be a good place to reach out for roommate candidates, it can also be dangerous. Always be sure to use precaution when meeting or contacting any potential roomies. Remember to pick your roommate as carefully as you pick your future apartment or house. Having an irresponsible roommate can really impact your bottom line, especially if they tend to eat your food or skip a month's worth of rent.


Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

Before you start your search, it’s helpful to understand your needs and wants. Is location the most important consideration? Commute time to work? Or are you more interested in amenities like an on-site gym or pool? Make a list of your need-to-haves and want-to-haves, so you aren’t distracted by amenities you really don’t need or want but find impressive in the moment.

Keep in mind that you may have to compromise. You may need to sacrifice location, for instance, to gain other amenities and still stick within a budget you can afford. Be clear on where you can be flexible and where you cannot.


When you’re ready to start looking for a place to rent, make sure you have all your documents ready so you can submit an application as soon as you’re ready. You’ll likely need proof of income, employment verification, and references. Some landlords or property managers may require a background check or a credit check.


In an ideal world, you wouldn't want to spend more than 25% of your take-home pay on housing.


If you’re not sure where to start in your search, try one of these options:

  • Network with friends, family, and coworkers. Let your friends and family know you’re looking for a place to rent. They may know of openings or roommates who would be a good fit for you.
  • Scope out the city. Drive or ride public transportation around to areas you’re interested in and look for “for rent” signs. Stop into offices of apartment complexes to ask about availability or for a tour.
  • Contact property management companies. Search websites for local property management companies to view their online listings.
  • Search online. Try looking at online rental listing websites like Zillow, Rentler, Facebook Marketplace,, and


two large apartment buildings next to each other

Illustration: Cristi Cash


  • Check local classifieds. The real estate section of a local paper could be another way to find a rental. A community Facebook page or something similar will have insights into the rental market as well as listing for rental properties themselves.

If you’re searching online for a rental—especially if you are relocating to a new area and looking remotely—be on the lookout for scams. Don’t send any deposit money without a signed lease agreement. Trust your gut; be skeptical of rent that seems unusually low or demands urgency in the process.


Working with Brokers

Some listings may use brokers, who are like real estate agents for rental properties. In major metropolitan areas, using a broker may be necessary to get your foot in the door. A broker is also a good idea when you’re unfamiliar with the area, because they know the best areas and have existing relationships with landlords and property managers.

Keep in mind that brokers don’t work for free—either you’ll pay a fee for their services, or in the case of “no fee” brokers, the landlord or property management company will pay their fee. The latter could be reflected in higher rental or deposit amounts. Just know exactly what costs you’re responsible for before entering any agreements.


Stay Patient

It may take time to find a rental that fits your budget and preferences. But if you’re prepared and patient, you’ll eventually find the right place to call home.


While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

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