Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding Low Cost Rentals

I have often been asked, how we seem to find our low cost rentals and when Get Rich Slowly polled it's readers on how much they spend on rent or mortgage it did let me see that we tend to get by paying far below average amounts.

First no we do not have to sleep below the bullet lines! I have often seen houses in the Flint, Michigan area selling for a few hundred up to a thousand which screams if you can not move the house RUN FAR FAR AWAY!

To be honest I despise big cities, although they may provide many more job options, dining out, shopping and homeschool groups and activities, not to mention public transportation but they are also noisy, polluted and full of high crime. I am a country girl and always will be and a big city life is just not for me.

So the first thing is we find small rural areas that have some job opportunities. Moving around a lot has showed us no matter where we end up we find what we are looking for, even if we have to check craigslists and online papers daily for up to a month. IT WILL SHOW UP.

We know what we are willing to pay, anywheres from $300 to $500, preferably from experience in the $400 range for our size of family.  This sets the whole bar when we search, we only look at the places in our price range and do not even bother with ads of a different price range.

We lived in a 1600 sq. foot 4 bedroom apartment in the Calumet Michigan area for $400 a month which included heat. That is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the Keweenaw for anyone who is not familiar with that area. A charming historical area with copper mining history, a few ghost towns even and a wonderful engineering college in the larger yet small near by town of Houghton. Heard of Michigan Tech?

The apartment was huge, spacious and in a great location , what we had to sacrifice for that $400 a month? We had to live with an October to May very cold winter with an average snowfall of 30 feet a year. Hiking and waterfalls however were fabulous, food prices well those were pretty high as was gas prices but still fared a lower cost of living when rent prices were factored in. Lake Superior was always within a 10 minute drive  or 20 minutes depending on what beach you were headed to even if it was always too cold for the adults, the kids loved it.  Winter was LONG LONG and then some and cabin fever was a given every year come February tempers were sure to be easily set off.  We lived in that area moving tons of times for almost always the same amount in rent for 10 years!

North Carolina also proved a great place where we secured a place from craigslist with a 2 week notice of what date we would arrive is she held it for us.  $425 a month for a 2 bedroom trailer in a rural part of North Carolina called Denton about 50 miles south of the triad area. We lived there for a year on an acre with open yard, woods and creek. The weather was AWESOME all year except the night a wall of 30 tornado's that ripped through, the Upper Peninsula really never sees tornado's so this freaked the kids out so bad as the only thing they knew was the Upper Peninsula.

Work was totally absent as that was right when the economy bottomed out and there was not a job to be found the whole year we lived there, we made our money with scrap metal.

Also the rural area we lived at was  near a slate mine quarry which slate was even abundant through the creek, the kids could not even enter the woods until January due to all the poisonous snakes......we happened to be in a prime habitat for them and even had to fight snakes off from our chickens!  While we could practically garden all year, we had to watch out for and deal with rattle snakes, coral snakes, copper heads, black widows, brown recluses, ticks, fleas, wormy parasites, chiggers, lice, mites and Jerry Springer neighbors.

Central Michigan is pretty rural and heavily agricultural still so in small towns is possible to find cheap rentals a little out of town. Parts of Northern Michigan too.  Do not count on anything for high speed Internet or a great phone service in these areas however! Known as dead zones and no carriers to be found in some instances.

For a quick reference list when looking for cheap rentals ( they are out there!)

1.) Set the price you can afford, for some this even means pick a rental cost you can swing even without work!

2.) Know that there will be trade offs for finding cheap areas in small rural places, can you live with what these might be? critters, food costs, lacking in decent jobs....cultural shock differences?

3.) Locate small rural areas at least half an hour from a town of at least a 3,000 to 6,000 population and at least an hour from really large city areas.

4.) Look at online newspapers and craigslist daily until you find what you are looking for.

5.) Contact the owners

You may be suprised to hear, we have moved several times in this manner and we only had a small photo on craigslist to go off of. The first one, was found on an online newspaper and we did not even see a photo of that one.

We are lucky, we almost always move on 2 week short notices and have found wonderful landlords that take our word over the phone to hold the place. The most they ask for is a previous land lords phone number.

Moving this way we have

Only secured our places taking each others word for it that we will be there when we say with money in hand.

We never have filled out any paperwork ahead of time, we were always gauranteed the place prior to arrival.

We have never sent any money or checks in the mail, we always hand deliver cash on arrival.

Many have thought us taking huge risks doing this, but we have always been lucky, we give and mean our word and the landlords or ladies we find are good on their word, perhaps it is the small town rural mentality, but is has worked and over the past 13 years, we have never paid more than $475 a month for rent, many times heat was included.