Cheap rent ANYWHERE on the East Coast
September 20, 2012 6:05 AM   Subscribe

It's a bit of a wide net I'm casting here, but where's the biggest and/or nicest apartment I can rent for under $500 in fairly cool cities in the Eastern half of the USA? Say, anywhere east of (and including) Minnesota to Louisiana. I love NOLA, and I've liked everyone I've ever met from Minnesota...

I'm a writer/filmmaker, so I need space for my equipment and find cramped conditions make it tough to write.

But I can't keep missing all my friends in the USA, and have to move back there. Everyone I know and love most (outside family) lives in New York. Problem is, I'm skint, and can't afford NYC prices.

So, I'd just like to be back West of the Atlantic, and near enough to NYC that I can visit every so often, and they can visit me.
posted by omnigut to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I should say — I don't mind being in an apartment with up to three bedrooms, but they'd have to put up with my work station. It's hard drives, computers and probably quite a large desk, so a shared study/living room is optimal.
posted by omnigut at 6:09 AM on September 20, 2012

You would have trouble renting anything at all for under $500 in Minneapolis, except perhaps the smallest and filthiest studio, and it would get you half of a so-so two bedroom. $500 would probably get you a large room in a shared house, though, which is the route I'd take. There are lots of large early 20th century houses here and a reasonable number of congenial arts types living in them - I'm sure you could find a house where you could store all your stuff in good, easy-to-access conditions. (I live in just such a house, but sadly it is full to the brim right now.)
posted by Frowner at 6:10 AM on September 20, 2012

(I mean, you could pay less than $500 for a room - decent rooms seem to start around $400 including many utilities.)
posted by Frowner at 6:12 AM on September 20, 2012

Yeah, just a room in a shared house would be fine. But it does depend on how shared — four bedrooms? Five? Ten? I do, after all, have to work in (sort of) peace...
posted by omnigut at 6:15 AM on September 20, 2012

Consider Savannah: cheap rents, overnight AMTRAK to NYC, lots of artists.
posted by mareli at 6:30 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

$500 could get you half an okay two-bedroom or a decent-sized room in an artsy shared house in Philadelphia. Exact size/# of housemates will depend on the time of year you move, what neighborhood you want to be in, and a bit of craigslist luck. Plenty of cheap and easy ways to get to New York, plus a thriving arts scene in Philly itself.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:30 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Baltimore - You can very easily find $400-$500 rentals in 3 or 4 bedroom shared houses (maybe 2 bedroom apartments with a roommate) in certain neighborhoods like Hampden or Bolton Hill, where a lot of artsy types live. Tons of art students, studios, DIY galleries/showspaces, and a quick and easy 3.5 hour bus ride to NYC.
posted by windbox at 6:33 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've heard Hampden is a good choice before. Any suggestions on which neighbourhoods in Philly are Cheap first, Arty second?
posted by omnigut at 6:44 AM on September 20, 2012

Mareli, same question to you. Which parts of Savannah would you choose?
posted by omnigut at 6:51 AM on September 20, 2012

How tied are you to urban areas? I found this 1 bedroom house in Franklin KY, which is an hour outside Nashville, for $400 per month.
posted by China Grover at 7:30 AM on September 20, 2012

South and/or east of Forsyth Park. I pay $700 a month for my very own, unshared, 3 bedroom apartment on E. 40th, if you're looking at maps.
posted by mareli at 7:31 AM on September 20, 2012

$500 might get you a room in a shared apartment in some parts of Brooklyn/Queens/Jersey City... (I've rented a bedroom in a pretty nice apartment in Bushwick for $700). Its worth taking a second look, if proximity to New York is more important to you than having a lot of space.
posted by halseyaa at 7:32 AM on September 20, 2012

Honestly? Think about Detroit. There's an active artists' colony there of refugees from exorbitant rent in Chicago and Brooklyn. Paying $500 a month in rent? How about paying $500 to purchase the whole damn property.

You'd obviously need to spend more money than that on repairs and renovations, but seriously, for that little capital, it's not like you're risking all that much. Again, you'd be spending $6,000 a year on rent anyway, so if you wound up spending that on renovations and maintenance and then walked away without looking back, you'd break even.

Of course, you'd probably want to make sure you connected with the artist community in Detroit before you did any of this. This isn't NYC or Philadelphia, where you can stumble into the scene without really even trying. This is Detroit. It's seven times the size of Manhattan but doesn't even have half as many people. So definitely, definitely something you're going to want to research before you jump in.

The "getting to NYC" part is a little more complicated. It's a solid nine to ten hour drive, and Amtrak is kind of a production. You basically need to get to either Chicago--which is the wrong direction--or Toledo--to which there is no train--before you can head back east. But flying from DTW to airports in the NYC region will actually cost less than a round trip Amtrak ticket--call it $300--and only takes about two hours in the air.

This is probably something you'd want to think about doing in April or so. Give yourself six-odd months to get the place into shape before winter. But that's six-odd months from now, which should be plenty of time to do your research and buy a house. Heck, you could buy a house and a studio. There are entire city blocks for sale in the single-digit thousands.
posted by valkyryn at 7:34 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

How about the Albany NY area? There's a pretty good art scene in the Lark St neighborhood in Albany proper, and also in Troy NY across the river, near RPI-downtown-Sage College areas. EMPAC in Troy on the RPI campus always has fascinating and fabulous experimental shows, movies, and multimedia events going on....could be right up your alley. 1br or studios are pretty easy to come by around $500-600 a month; you might even get a little cheaper if you look in one of the more downtrodden satellite cities such as Schenectady, Cohoes, Watervliet or Rensselaer (which are all within 5-10 miles of Albany proper). Lots of history in the area, and great natural beauty especially if mountains are your thing: Adirondacks, Catskills, and Berkshires are each about an hour away.

2-hr train or bus to NYC, pretty frequent service.

Downsides: winter can be harsh (watch out for older apratments that don't include heat in the rent!), and Albany is *not* one will want to travel to visit you here. However, it's very easy and pretty inexpensive to get out to visit others; good bus, train and airport connections.
posted by Ardea alba at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

For Philly, I'd look in West Philadelphia. Aim to be west of 42nd or 43rd st and east of 51st or 52nd. North and south boundaries can be more flexible depending on your personal comfort level. Lots of beautiful old victorian homes, some cut into apartments and some functioning as giant collectives. I pay 380 plus utilities for a good sized room in a 6 br shared house, not as crowded as it sounds since houses are huge here.

You might also find good options in Fishtown, north and east of Center City, but I don't know much about that area. I'm guessing that Northern Liberties will wind up being beyond your budget, but keep it in mind, you could get lucky.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your main goal in moving back to the US is to be closer to your friends, and your friends all live in NYC, then I would stick within a 4-hour train/bus/car radius. Very few people will come visit you if you live in Detroit or Minneapolis and it is not a trivial expense to get yourself from those cities to NYC to visit. Philadelphia, Albany and Baltimore are all good suggestions.
posted by drlith at 8:52 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

China Grover — Well, I'd be more willing to move somewhere like Franklin KY if the place were nearer NYC. But that is a beautiful lot for $400!

Valkyryn — Rennovating a property sounds like a lot of fun, but I'm up to my eyeballs in work already. I'd kinda need somewhere a little more plug-and-play. However, I'm cool with overnight busses, and I'm sure there must be a cheap one from Detroit to NYC. Still, it sounds a bit much for me!

Thanks Ardea alba, I'll take a look! Albany seems to be a good choice.

ActionPopulated — that sounds pretty ideal. I have no problem with rough areas. Thanks for the tip, it's now near the top of my list. $380+utilities sounds like what I can afford at the moment.

Drlith — brilliant, those are currently my top three choices anyway.
posted by omnigut at 8:59 AM on September 20, 2012

Pittsburgh has a ton of areas where $500 a month is reasonable, and large apartment / shared house sizes too. Lots of resources for filmmaking. There is an Amtrak plus a Megabus for service to NYC, and many Craigslist rideshares. Love this town.
posted by amicamentis at 10:59 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Baltimore. Look for a room in a house in Hampden or Hamilton/Lauraville if you have a car. (Bigger houses, cool area, but farther out.)
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:33 PM on September 20, 2012

what's public transport like reaching the Hamilton/Lauraville areas?
posted by omnigut at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2012

Every so often I hear of someone who has left NYC to buy a dirt-cheap (often foreclosed and/or abandoned) house out in Western PA, Upstate New York, or out towards Detroit.

I'm not sure the rental market in those places is as amazing as the real estate market, and even in the latter case, my assumption is that amazing deals depend on one's ability to renovate a hovel in a desolate part of an undesirable city.

I'm also not really sure how workable something like that would be -- I only ever hear about this stuff second hand, and the one person I know who has tried it ultimately failed and came back to the city.

The main hurdle besides construction skills would seem to be what you'd do for money out there, unless you have a location-independent day job.

New Orleans used to be unbelievably cheap before Katrina. Prices there are a lot less than a major East Coast city, but definitely high enough that you'd need a real job. Most day jobs there are service industry oriented, though as a filmmaker you have a reasonable shot at a production job depending on where your skills lie.
posted by Sara C. at 3:10 PM on September 20, 2012

I found this 1 bedroom house in Franklin KY, which is an hour outside Nashville, for $400 per month.

Yeah, the rural outskirts of Nashville wouldn't be a bad idea.

That said, it's neither cheap nor convenient to visit NYC from there. I have a friend doing exactly what you want to do who was living out that way for a while, and I never managed to swing a trip out to visit. I don't know if it's the mountains, or just a matter of air hubs and circles of cultural influence, but Nashville to NYC is almost as expensive as LA to NYC.
posted by Sara C. at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2012

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