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How much rent can I afford?
Estimate how much rent you can comfortably pay, even in HCOL areas
Figuring out how much rent you can afford seems like it should be simple enough. But if you’re hunting for an apartment, we bet you’re finding many apartments that you don’t think you can afford. Why? Because the old rule of thumb about spending no more than 30 percent of your paycheck on rent isn’t realistic anymore. Many renters nowadays are paying more than a third of their paychecks towards rent.
According to a report by ATTOM Data Solutions, in many parts of the country, rent is edging up to 40 percent of earnings (pre-tax). And in High Cost of Living (HCOL) areas like San Francisco, LA, New York and Seattle, it’s more like 50 percent — with roommates! To help, we’ve pulled together a quick guide to help you figure out how much rent you can afford and some ways to deal with expensive rent.
How much rent can I afford?
This rent calculator shows rentals that fit your budget. Savings, debt and other expenses could impact the amount you want to spend on rent each month. Property managers typically use gross income (total income before taxes and deductions) to qualify applicants, which is often not realistic.
This rent calculation tool assumes your taxes and deductions are roughly 30 percent of your income. 30 percent is an estimate. Your actual deducted amount may vary.
Rent Affordability Calculator
This calculator shows rentals that fit your budget. Savings, debt, and other expenses could impact the amount you want to spend on rent each month. Input your net (after tax) income and the calculator will display rentals up to 40% of our estimated gross income.
Your after tax (job + side gig) take home pay
Payments to credit cards, loans, auto, etc.
The amount you set aside
Rent, utilities, food, clothes, etc.
You can afford: ?
Based on your income, a rental at this price should fit comfortably within your budget.
You will have ?/mo left to spend.
How much do I need to make to qualify for a one- or two-bedroom apartment?
What does it take to afford a particular rental? According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIC), in 2019, you need to make $22.96 per hour for a 2-bedroom rental and $18.65 per hour for a one-bedroom in most locations. Here’s a quick reference table showing how much rent you can afford by salary.
|Annual gross income
|30% of your salary/month on rent
|40% of your salary/month on rent
High cost of living areas: How to afford expensive rent
If you’re about to pay closer to 40 percent or even more, here are a few tips to help you manage paying higher rent.
Know what you spend and keep track of your spending. And we’re not talking about the essentials like rent, utilities, car payment and insurance. We also mean fun or “discretionary” spending. This is what most people forget to track, and you’re usually spending more than you think.
The best way to monitor your spending is by looking at your bank and credit card statements. Look for a few non-painful ways to cut back. Maybe you can start bringing your lunch to work, cut back on subscriptions or trade in your newer car for a paid-off used car (okay, it might be a little painful but worth it!)
Steps to create a realistic budget:
- Calculate your income, including your job, side hustles and any assistance you receive.
- Add up your expenses (see paragraph above). Don’t forget quarterly and yearly payments.
- Figure out how much you need to budget for savings. Do you have an emergency fund? What about retirement?
- Calculate hidden costs and one-time costs related to moving.
- Then, see what you have left for rent. Once you know how much money you make and how much your expenses are — including how much you want to save — you can figure out what your max budget for rent is.
2. Expand your apartment search area
One consideration might be to expand your search area. You might have your heart set on one neighborhood, but if it’s too expensive, you might need to consider other locations.
If you’re relocating for work, consider living farther away from work and using the extra commute time to get yourself ready for work in the morning and winding down at the end of your day. (Just don’t forget to account for the cost of transportation in your budget.)
If you’re moving because you’re looking for something new, why limit yourself to one city or even one state?
If you work remotely these days, you can move almost anywhere. Just because you want to live in Seattle for the rain doesn’t mean you can’t look at a place like southern Oregon, which has all of the same water with a third the people.
With this change in scenery comes a change in income potential and rental prices that might be a little kinder to your budget. Check out our ultimate guide to finding a cheap apartment.
3. Find a roommate to pay half the bills
Nearly 32 percent of American adults lived in a shared household in 2017, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. And, that percentage is growing. What you lose in privacy, you gain in cost savings.
You need a landlord’s approval before doing so, but having a roommate significantly reduces financial pressure.
For example, let’s say the 1-bedroom apartment rents for $800 and a 2-bedroom apartment for $1200. If you find a roommate and rent a 2-bedroom and split rent down the middle, you save $200 a month on rent alone. You’ll also likely save on utilities, subscriptions and furniture.
To start your search, you can put out feelers through your family and friends to see if anyone else is looking for a housemate.
You can post an ad on various online locations such as Facebook and Craigslist (just be sure to vet your prospects thoroughly and in a public place!). Or, look for a person looking for a roommate. You may be able to find your ideal roommate that way as well.
4. Negotiate your rent
Do your research and check out market rates in the area. Apartment listing sites like Zumper and ApartmentGuide give market rates for most areas. If you find a place you like, but it’s a hundred dollars more per month higher, you may be able to shave a bit off by asking the landlord to match another comparable apartment or agreeing to a longer lease.
Some landlords will lower a lease if you pay three or six months upfront, too. Don’t forget to negotiate fees as well. You may be able to get some waived for the first year or for the lease duration. Or, in the case of a renewal, what upgrades are available?
New cabinets and appliances, a fresh coat of paint or, maybe a recently updated unit is available that’s more suitable for a roommate?
5. Subletting: Rent your space
If you frequently travel for work, have a vacation lined up, or crash at a friend’s place often, think about renting out your unused space.
However, make sure you review your lease agreement beforehand, as some rental agreements prohibit tenants from subletting, as well as the laws of your city, so you’re not illegally renting out your place. If you plan to Airbnb or VRBO your place, make sure you don’t violate your lease agreement.
6. Land a side gig
If you have your heart set on a particular location but don’t quite have the budget for it, increase your income by getting another job, a side gig or side hustle. Companies like Etsy, eBay, Airbnb, DoorDash and Uber have created thousands of part-time jobs allowing people to have a side gig as a digital marketer, designer, pet walker or caregiver.
In fact, according to a recent SunTrust survey, more than half of Americans (54%) reported having a side hustle at some point to generate money, pulling in an extra $8,794 on average per year. Check out a list of Roost’s favorite side gigs to earn extra money.
Create an accurate (and realistic) rent budget
Calculating your budget and making choices about location, lifestyle and savings can get you to an accurate picture of how much rent you can afford each month.
Spending a large percentage of your monthly income on rent can spell disaster for your emergency (and retirement) savings in case of…well, emergency. And, keeping your rental expenses low allows you to put funds into other fun things in your life, from necessities to savings accounts to splurging on the weekends.
Only you can decide what makes the most sense for you and your budget.
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