25 Ways to Find Affordable Housing

By Jamie Cattanach · July 22, 2021 · 8 minute read

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25 Ways to Find Affordable Housing

Finding a nice place to live when you don’t have a lot of money to drop on rent each month can be challenging, especially in certain cities. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck in Mom and Dad’s basement for the foreseeable future.

With a little extra effort and some clever search techniques, it may be possible to find a place that fits your budget and also makes you happy.

So before you settle in at home, or jump on a place you really can’t afford, you may want to check out these tips and tricks for finding a cheap rental.

How to Find a Cheap Place to Live

Check out our 25 strategies for sussing out a space you can not only afford but actually want to live in.

1. Searching Craigslist

Craigslist may be an oldie, but it can still be a goodie for finding affordable housing options. You can filter your search by putting in your maximum price on the left-hand side of the screen. You may also want to check out the “rooms & shares” category to find a place with roommates.

2. Browsing Zillow

Zillow isn’t just for home-buyers–it can also be a great resource for renters. You may want to download the app and also sign-up to get alerts on apartments in your area that are in your price range.

3. Asking Your Friends

Digital listings aren’t the only way to look for a great new place. Your friends can also be a great resource for figuring out where the best apartments are, especially if you know they’re not spending an arm and a leg on their living situation.

4. Asking your Friends to ask Their Friends

You can expand your word-of-mouth circle exponentially by asking your friends to ask their friends for intel on available and affordable housing. You might also be able to find folks who are actively looking for a roommate or someone to take over their lease.

5. Checking PadMapper

PadMapper ’s tagline–“Making Apartment Hunting Suck Less”–is on point. Searches on this site are quick and easy, and their verification feature can also help you avoid too-good-to-be-true housing scams, which can be a problem on some other sites.

6. Teaming up with a Pal

If you find out that a friend is also on the hunt for new digs, you may want to consider joining forces and finding a place together. You’ll not only be able to split the rent, but also the cost of food, supplies, and furnishings.

7. Hitting the Pavement

Whether it’s by car, bike, or even on foot, you can often learn a lot about the local rental market by touring the neighborhood. You might spot an appealing apartment complex you never noticed before, or see a “For Rent” sign on a multi-family house or single-family house that has a room, mother-in-law suite, or garage for rent.

Recommended: Single Family vs. Multi Family House

8. Keeping an Eye on Apartments.com

Apartments.com is a comprehensive apartment rental resource. In addition to helping you find a rental, you may also be able to use the site to sign your lease and even pay your rent.

9. Keeping an Ear out at Work

Your coworkers might have insight into where the best local housing rentals are, or even know of someone who is looking for a roommate. You may, however, want to proceed with caution before moving in with a coworker (depending on your roles, living with a colleague could potentially cause awkwardness at work).

10. Using Bungalow

If you’re open to sharing a living space, along with expenses, you may want to check out Bungalow . The platform, which is devoted to helping people find affordable co-living arrangements, can help match you with roommates who have similar living preferences.

11. Moving to a Cheaper City

If you live in an expensive city and your work allows you to relocate–or you’re on the hunt for a new job and a change of pace–you might consider moving to one of the more affordable cities in the US. A cheaper city may not only have lower rents, but also a lower cost of living in general.

Recommended: Cost of Living Index by State (2022)

12. Searching Rentable

Rentable (formerly ABODO) is now available in over 300 cities and makes it easy to search local housing options in your price range. In addition to price, you can apply a wide range of other search filters to help you hone in options that might work well for you.

13. Looking in a Less Trendy Neighborhood

Want to stay firmly put in your current locale? Even moving a mile or two can make a big difference when it comes to your monthly rent. While you might not be as close to your favorite bars and restaurants, you could end up having more money to actually spend in those places.

14. Hopping on Hotpads

In addition to helping you find rentals in your preferred location, HotPads will also suggest options in other, similar neighborhoods that you may want to consider. This can potentially yield deals you wouldn’t have looked for, or found, on your own.

15. Checking out Local Bulletin Boards

Yes, bulletin boards are still a thing–even in the digital age. Next time you’re at a local coffee shop or other popular hangouts, you may want to poke around and see if there is a corkboard—you never know what you might find being advertised.

16. Poking Around on Reddit

With all the social media options these days, it can be easy to forget about Reddit. But it might be worthwhile to go to the subreddit for your city. You may be able to write a post asking if anyone has tips on where to look for nice, affordable apartments. (You may want to first check the rules in the sidebar to make sure such posts are allowed — every Reddit community has its own guidelines.)

17. Reaching out to Facebook Communities

Your favorite local Facebook community might be able to provide some insight on where to find the best affordable housing. If the group is focused on a shared interest, you might also be able to find a potential (and like-minded) roommate within the community.

18. Looking During the Winter

Moving in cold, miserable weather may not be ideal. However, you might be able to score a more affordable apartment during the winter months, when there is typically less competition for apartments.

19. Trying Trulia

With over 35 search filters, Trulia is another apartment search site that is worth checking out, especially if you’re a pet owner. The site highlights whether or not a rental is pet-friendly right on the listing’s thumbnail.

20. Considering a Job that Comes with Housing

One affordable way to live in the city of your choice is to find a job that offers free or reduced-priced accommodation, such as being a building manager/superintendent, park ranger, hotel worker, groundskeeper, nanny, or live-in caregiver.

Recommended: Ways Employers Can Help Employees Buy New Homes

21. Accessing Apartment List

Apartment List not only lists apartments for rent in all 50 states, but also offers a handy “rent calculator.” You can input where you’re moving, how many bedrooms you need, and your monthly gross income (before taxes), and the site will help you find apartments for rent in your area that will work with your budget.

22. Checking Walk Score (Especially if You Don’t Have a Car)

Walk Score can be a valuable resource for renters who don’t have (and don’t want to have to buy) a car. The platform gives every property listing a “Walk Score” to make it easy for people to evaluate walkability and access to transportation when choosing where to live.

23. Posting Your own Classified

Prefer to be in the driver’s seat? Rather than just responding to ads, you might want to consider placing one on a free platform like Craigslist. You can give potential landlords or roommates more information about yourself up front, which could lead to a more fitting (and affordable) living scenario.

24. Considering a Sublet

If you’re looking for a short-term rental, or you’re not averse to potentially having to move again, you may want to consider a sublet. Going this route could help you find a nice place at below market-value rent, since the owner or original renter may be under the gun to find a replacement.

25. Getting out of Town

If you live in or near a major city, and you’re committed to a more affordable living situation, you may want to consider heading to a more rural area. Housing can be substantially cheaper in, say, South Dakota than it is in San Diego. The rise of flexible and remote work is making escaping the city more achievable.

The Takeaway

Finding a nice, yet affordable place to live isn’t always easy. To increase your odds of success, you may want to use multiple online rental platforms, network with friends and coworkers, be open to different locations, and even walk the streets of your target neighborhoods to scout out opportunities.

As you search for hidden gems, you may also want to start saving money to cover your start-up expenses–which could include the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. That way, when a great deal comes your way, you can jump on it.

Looking for a convenient place to start building your housing fund? SoFi Checking and Savings® is a high yield bank account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save all in one place.

Start saving for a great new place with SoFi Checking and Savings.

Photo credit: iStock/KTStock

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