The rental market in East Lansing can be daunting at times, which is why it’s important to be prepared when looking for a house or apartment that best suits your needs.
Three real estate agents in the area offered advice on the best ways to save money while looking for your next residence.
Location will always dictate price, Hagan Realty agent Matt Hagan said. If you live close to Grand River Avenue, downtown, Grove Street or Charles Street, prices will be higher. As you get further from campus, such as near Lexington Avenue, you will find more affordable rent.
Brian Hagan, another agent with Hagan Realty, advised house hunters to not get hung up on a specific street or house and do your research. Being open to looking one block over or one block back might save you $25 a month and you may find the layout or amenities more appealing, he said.
“Affordability is, in our mind, not just the price but it’s what you get for that price,” Brian Hagan said.
Matt Hagan recommends looking at the Burcham area, which is further from Grand River Avenue but still close enough to campus where someone can walk or ride their bike.
In addition, he suggests choosing a spot based on what your needs are. Charles Street and Grove Street can be better for being close to the bar scene. Further areas, like those near Lexington Avenue and Spartan Avenue can be cheaper and away from party-heavy areas, but still close enough to walk. The Flowerpot Neighborhood is close to campus and a quieter area.
EXIT Realty at Home agent Troy Davis suggests looking near the Sanford area, Patriarch Park or Tower Gardens. Slightly outside of East Lansing, he recommends Scott’s Woods — which he said is a fantastic neighborhood that oftentimes has low rent.
“Somewhere that's five, six minutes away would be absolutely fantastic,” Davis said. “It is in Lansing but not East Lansing, but that would allow you to have a much lower rent rate and still be very, very close to all the amenities in the campus.”
Regarding roommates, Matt Hagan suggests that you rent with fewer people because the chances of eight people getting along all year long is not always good.
"From our experience, the fewer people you have living under one roof, the greater the chance of everybody getting along and not having problems whether it be with different lifestyles or collecting money for bills from each other,” Matt Hagan said.
Matt Hagan also recommends that if you’re living with a group, ensure that you have similar lifestyles and set ground rules.
Newer apartments might be more expensive, while older existing apartments further from campus will probably be more reasonably priced, Matt Hagan said. In addition, he advised students to look for apartments that include utilities in the rent.
Design of the apartment is also important.Some older houses have very large common spaces, living rooms and dining rooms which are good for gatherings and parties. But buildings that are more compact and just have the necessary space can be beneficial because you are not heating extra areas, Hagan said.
Other factors to consider
Davis suggests looking at a broad range of factors before deciding on a property. This can include aspects like crime rates.
“(Renters) could go to crimestoppers.org and look up areas of crime and look at the type of crimes that's happening in the area to make sure that they are comfortable with the choice that they made,” Davis said.
Brian Hagan said since there are more options to rent apartments than houses, it’s important to shop around and research the management company, their policies and the lease itself. Some leases can have additional fees or things that might not directly cost money but add obstacles such as lawn upkeep requirements.
Cost-saving after move-in
After you move in, there are plenty of ways to cut costs.
The agents recommend shutting doors and windows, turning off lights and TVs when not in use and turning off your air conditioner or heat system regularly. For Michigan winters, turning down your heat and layering up more can lower costs, and plastic wrapping windows can help you avoid drafts, Davis said.
Opting for a smart thermostat can help monitor usage. While you're away, keep your home at 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit, a comfortable but energy saving amount where you’ll see a difference on your utility bill, Davis said. Be sure not to turn your thermostat completely off during the winter, as the cold can lead to burst pipes which is more expensive than any utility bill.