Is the cost of a move to a cheaper apartment worth it to pay less rent?
July 10, 2016 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Is moving worth it to save $ on rent or should we stay put and try to make it work?

Re-evaluating my budget and realizing Mr. Plant and I could pay less in rent for a comparable apartment. We like our current place but are paying 1400-1500 (Utilities vary month to month) a month whereas other places we have found are approx 1000 a month, utilities included.

1. Cheaper rent would help, but moving is also expensive. We'd be moving across town, not far. We have maybe 1 medium Uhaul worth of stuff and that's it.

2. Moved into fancy apt. a year ago. Moving again might look bad, credit-score wise.

3. No drastic drops in income or anything, just trying to think about better choices to make

posted by ShadePlant to Work & Money (27 answers total)
Moving is expensive but that's a huge rental savings - my cross-country moves have run around $2000, which would be covered in 4-5 months of your savings in rent. I think you could also move for less than I've paid since you're moving in town. If I were you, I'd move. And I hate moving.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:27 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

2. Why do you think moving will affect your credit? Sure, there'll be a credit check/inquiry for the new place, but if you don't have too many of those in a single year, it's no big deal. So long as you don't have high moving expenses and you pay off your bills on time, there should be no/negligible impact.
posted by mochapickle at 7:29 AM on July 10, 2016 [11 favorites]

1. How quickly would moving pay for itself? If it would cost you $1000 to move, and you were reducing your rent by 400-500/month then moving would be beneficial after 2-3 months. I assume you'll get your security deposit back on your current apartment and have to put one down on the new one, so that's a wash.

2. Moving has zero affect on your credit score. None.

3. Better choices may include realizing that things that cost a little more in the short term can save you big in the long term (for instance, I could buy a $25 pair of jeans that will fall apart after a season, or a $50 pair of jeans that will last at least 3 years). My husband and I reduced our rent by $400/mo once by moving into a smaller apartment and it helped us save up the money to put a downpayment on a house.
posted by erst at 7:29 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

At a savings of 500 a month, you're easily recouping the moving cost in a few months. I don't think moving looks bad.
posted by jeather at 7:29 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

The calculation is pretty simple. How long do you plan to stay in your current apartment? Say for the next 12 months:

Old apartment
1500 * 12 = $18,000 over a year.

New Apartment
1000 * 12 = $12,000 over a year.

Unless your moving costs will exceed $6,000, you're saving money (all other things being equal). I've moved cross country and I don't think I've spent over $1k in that move. The difference only continues to pile up the longer you stay in the new place. With one U-haul, if you're doing it all yourself, i can't see it costing you more than $300.

>2. Moved into fancy apt. a year ago. Moving again might look bad, credit-score wise.
Unless you have an open collections on your account due to failure to pay in the past, moving does not affect your credit score.
posted by Karaage at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

That sounds like a really quick ROI. All else being equal, moving sounds like a smart financial decision. The financial aspect probably isn't the only factor to consider, but from that angle it looks like a good idea to me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2016

Moving seems like a good option but make sure you look into the reasons behind the difference: is your current apartment simply overpriced? Or just fancier than you really need? How is the new apartment in terms of safety, closeness to work, transportation, groceries, entertainment?
posted by eeek at 7:36 AM on July 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Current place is fancier than we need and not close to either of our jobs. It's possibly overpriced for what it is but I am not sure. We have a glut of new 'condo-type/boutique' apts in the metro and this was a new building last year. There are tons of them popping up and I am not sure how it compares. I suspect the rent is on the cheaper end of things but we are thinking it isn't worth it just to be in a new building. Oh that central air tho...
posted by ShadePlant at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2016

Moving across town isn't that expensive if you have a few friends to help you move, but in my experience it's about two weeks of time to pack everything, do the move, unpack, and reorganize. So if time is tight, don't forget to factor in the value of your time - there's a bunch of factors that might modify the value of not moving timewise.

But fiscally it sounds like a total win.
posted by Candleman at 8:03 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd try to find a cheaper place- and make sure to get a location that also reduces your commute time/cost. If your new place can save you both money and time, sounds totally worth it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:09 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

You have no obligation to stay where you are beyond the end-date of your lease. As long as you've paid everything you owe, you're good. My husband & I have moved so many times, there's always some reason (location, bad AC, lousy neighbors, job move, etc), with no regrets or repercussions.

Are you fresh out of college? I live in a nice building now. We always see <25 year-olds move in, then move out the following year because they've realized it's not worth it to pay such high rent. Happens all the time.
posted by Neekee at 8:30 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lol, no, not fresh out of college. 6 years post MSW! Shoulda known better. :)
posted by ShadePlant at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2016

Echoing to move to the cheaper place.

Or, how are your negotiating skills? Can you negotiate with the fancy place to match rent that may be cheaper with their competition? If the area is developing still could you leverage something dumb like construction and "oh that horrible racket" to haggle them into lowering your rent? You'd be surprised what those buildings are willing to do to keep their residents.

Also, if you do move to the cheaper place, there is a lot to be said to live less fancier than you can afford because it keeps your expectations in check (that sounds really bad now that I read it, but it's so true). Just because you can afford it doesn't mean you have to have it or live with it. Husbandfish and I came to terms years ago with this concept and it means you get to focus on spending the extra cash to have zero debt and bigger savings for later rather than fancy instant gratification now.
posted by floweredfish at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2016

Hey, we did this. Moved from a $1,500 per month place (that was honestly pretty sweet but bigger than we needed) to an $875 per month place a mile away. I've never even thought about moving affecting your credit, and I'm pretty obsessive about credit. The credit check landlords do might not be a "hard" check that comes up on your credit score, because I've never noticed it coming up on my credit report. We probably spent a few hundred on moving when you factor in the Uhaul ($70), we hired a friends kid to help us with furniture ($80), we had to pay new utility reinstatement fees (~$100), and there was some overlap in the rent from when our old lease ended to our new lease began (~$250). Still, it was a no-brainer for us because we made back all that money on the first month of cheaper rent.

Karaage has the right idea on the cost savings, and in fact, if you stay in the new place for more than a year it will just be multiplied every year, while the initial moving cost stays at just a one time cost. But do keep in mind what you give up when you move to a cheaper place. In our case it was less space, older house, no more central AC, which can suck sometimes but when I look at the drop in our expenses every month it totally seems worth it.
posted by permiechickie at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2016

I wonder if the credit thing you are concerned about is because when you haven't lived somewhere for at least 1/3/5 years (depending on the application) they want your previous addresses as well. It can kind of feel like a penalty when they ask if you've lived there long and you have to say no. That isn't actually affecting your chances of getting credit, at least not in my experience. Prior to buying a house 2 years ago I spent the previous 7 years moving every 8-14 months and I've never had a problem getting credit that I need, including a mortgage and a new car loan.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2016

If you're pretty indifferent to the "trim package," amenities, and neighborhood/neighbor differences in neighborhood that may come with the fancier new apartment, I'd suggest biting the bullet and making the move. Certainly, though, check out the new potential place carefully and make sure the space is comparable and you'd be comfortable living there. I recently moved and had a choice between newer developments that were renting for about $300 more, vs. the development I chose which is about a 50 year old property at this point but well maintained.
posted by drlith at 8:52 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, in terms of feeling...I don't know... grown-up or "arrived" or whatever, and not like college students living out of milk crates in the cheapest student housing possible...I've realized that what you put into an apartment in terms of furniture/decor is as important as the bones of the apartment itself, and anything you invest in that regard you get to take with you the next time you move.
posted by drlith at 8:56 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

1) if the price difference is for relatively equivalent properties as you say, this is a values question. Some people prefer to pay $200/month to have a cleaner visit, and some people are aghast at that concept and feel it's a waste. You need to decide what's important to you - if you're planning to buy a house in a year and you already have a down payment secured, you may decide it's not worth the hassle for the financial savings.

2) given your comment on AC, I question whether these are truly equivalent apartments! Be sure to tour a few before you put in your notice on the current apartment :)

3) I have been the spouse who advocated moving into a smaller place to save $400/month, while my spouse (successfully) advocated that the combined hassle+downgrade makes it worth it for us to stay here until we make our next "big kid" move into a house or for a job. So no judgments! I see both sides and both really can make sense.
posted by samthemander at 9:07 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hate moving. And yet over the last 20 years I've appeared to do it no less than once every 3 years, usually much more frequently than that.

If the two places are truly equivalent, then yes - moving makes financial sense. Even if you hire movers (last time i did I paid $600) you're out your time to pack/unpack and the costs of moving. With a $500 decrease in rent, you can make that up quickly -- how quickly depends on how you value your time.

However - you cant really know if the two apartments are truly equivalent. Maybe you'll end up with the worlds crappiest neighbours or a horrible landlord. It's the old "the devil you know vs the devil you don't" argument. And whether or not you're willing to take the risk that your personal happiness will not decrease past what you're willing to pay for in rent difference is completely up to you, and youre level of risk-taking or aversion.

For me personally, where I am now - $500 a month for almost guaranteed happiness is absolutely worth it. 10 years ago (when i was about your age i guess), where that amount of money would have made a much more significant difference in my life , I'd make the change in a heartbeat. But no one here can know exactly what is the right decision for you.

Good luck with what ever you chose!
posted by cgg at 9:31 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is the management decent where you live? Do they respect the terms of your lease and treat you like adults?


A cheaper place comes with cheaper treatment by the owner or management. This will eventually eat away at your quality of life. Ditto, you will be exchanging out the quality of neighbor's, too, and probably not for the best.

Only make this move with enough savings to move again if the experience turns sour.
posted by jbenben at 9:45 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are talking about saving a little more than $5,000 per year. That is a lot of money for other things even if that other thing is just your savings account.
posted by AugustWest at 9:48 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

What difference would the move make in your work commute?
What about your social life--distance to visit friends?
How big are the savings relative to your total income?
How stable are the rents in each place? Can you count on yearly increases, or will it stay the same?
Will either apartment suit your needs five years from now, or will you need to move again?
How precious is your free time? Can you easily make time for a few weeks of packing/unpacking on either end, or will the project of moving be a huge setback?
Is the cheaper place well cared-for, or will you have to deal with dodgy heat, or bugs, or bad wiring, etc etc etc.
And yes, how do the landlords compare?

These are all things I think about when considering a move. (Granted, I live in a place with a much more difficult real estate market. $1500/month? I weep with envy.)
posted by the_blizz at 11:07 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the perspective- Haven't figured out what we will do yet but this is great info to consider.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:57 AM on July 10, 2016

If either of you have car insurance, run the potential new ZIP code (and any associated changes in auto use or parking situations) past your insurer to check for any premium increases that would eat into your rental savings.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:21 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is moving worth it to save $ on rent or should we stay put and try to make it work?

You should do it. Last time I moved apartments, I paid movers $300 to move me from one part of town to another. Assuming the question as stated, this will literally pay for itself in a month or two. And pay people; getting it done fast lets you focus on the important things, like getting your internet working and such.

Current place is fancier than we need and not close to either of our jobs.

If the new place is closer, you're not only saving on transport costs, and your time, but also your own happiness. It sounds like there's no real time pressure, so make sure to take your time and evaluate your options. When I consider major moves I make a copy of my annual budget and start estimating how that might change. Once you've got the easy finance stuff resolved, you can see if the financial pros outweigh the unquantifiable cons of diminished living standards, new locations, etc. FWIW, 5000k/year can easily remedy a lot of cons.

Finally, there are renter histories/scores, but not everyone checks or reports them, and it's more about how much you screwed the place over with damage and unpaid rents. It won't affect your Actual FICO Credit Score.
posted by pwnguin at 8:18 PM on July 10, 2016

I recently went through this. What made me decide to move was acknowledging that I haven't had a raise (except for a very slight, as in pocket change, cost of living increase every 3-5 years) in the last ten years, I didn't get the job with a fat paycheck I'd been applying for, and there was pretty much no hope whatsoever of my making MORE money in my future, while meanwhile every single bill goes up and up and the rent increase this year was worse than usual and I've heard it's going a lot higher in the future. And I would have no indication of this changing or getting any better in my life by the time lease renewal was due. Rents don't really go down ever unless you move somewhere cheaper (they're always going to go up every year, period), and hopefully my future rent increases will be less hard on me than my last five have been in the old larger place.

I don't know if either of you is in that kind of financial situation, but keeping in mind how likely it is or not that you can afford to keep paying more and more on the level that you are paying every year is probably a good idea. Do either or both of you work in a stable industry? Anyone have the potential for higher pay in the future? Are either or both of you at risk for layoffs? Because unless either of you have the reasonable potential to make more in the future, things are only going to cost more while you have less money, and if there's any way to save some of that without whopping pain on yourselves....

I can say for my experience that I did a very short distance move to a smaller cheaper place and it was pretty cheap in moving expenses, but I did have to get rid of a lot of stuff and I still really didn't downsize enough in the way that I should have. Downsizing sucketh the mighty donkey wang. But if you can find a comparable place that's cheaper, HELL YEAH GO FOR IT.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:15 PM on July 10, 2016

I did this. Moved to pay 1/3 less rent. It was unquestionably worth it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:46 AM on July 11, 2016

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