Tips for finding an apartment you can afford

If you’re looking for an affordable apartment, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

In a recent survey by, an apartment listing website, 88 percent of property managers said rents increased over the last 12 months. Looking ahead to next year, 68 percent said they expect rents to climb by an average of 8 percent.

The number of available apartments has not kept up with demand. According to the latest U.S. census data, the national vacancy rate for rentals dipped to 6.8 percent from April to June, the lowest level since 1989.

In the Treasure Valley, rates have risen about 20 percent across all apartment types since 2012 as vacancy rates sunk to historic lows between 3 and 4 percent.

“Until the rental housing supply catches up with demand, we’ll continue to see this tight, really tough market for renters,” said Niccole Schreck, manager at

To improve your odds of finding a place you can afford, consider these tips.

Search in the off season

The majority of leases are signed from April through August. Delay your apartment search until the winter and you may be in a better position to snag a deal.

“There’s less inventory, but you tend to have more leverage because fewer people are looking,” said Dan Hang, vice president of rentals for Zillow Group, which manages housing search websites.

Hang suggests: In exchange for slightly lower rent, offer to sign an 18-month lease rather than the usual 12 months. That way, the next time the lease is up for renewal it will be during the peak summer season, which should appeal to landlords.

Be prepared

As you’re looking for apartments, have your paperwork ready, including a copy of your credit report, recent paystubs or an offer letter from your employer, and contact information for previous landlords. Also, be ready to put down first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.

“Show the property manager or landlord that you’re serious and not going to waste their time,” Schreck said.

Know the market

Even though rents are rising nationally, market conditions will vary by city – even neighborhood.

Developers trying to fill newly constructed buildings, for example, might offer one month of free rent and other promotions, said Ishay Grinberg, of Rental Beast, an apartment search website.

To compete, landlords of existing buildings nearby may be willing to keep rents steady. “A concentration of new inventory can help stabilize a market,” Grinberg said.

Get a co-signer or roommate

To be approved for an apartment, you have to show you’re a worthy tenant. That generally means having a strong credit score, monthly income that is three times the monthly rent and good references.

Fail to meet those requirements and you’ll likely have to get a guarantor (such as a parent) to co-sign for the apartment or be willing to put down a hefty security deposit.

Keep in mind that a guarantor’s income will need to be four to five times the monthly rent, rather than just three times.

The alternative: Get a roommate.

“You’ll always get a price break on a two-bedroom apartment that you split with a roommate,” Woo said.

The Statesman contributed to this report.