If you're paying more for rent this year, you're not alone. Rents climbed an average of 15 percent across the country between 2009 and 2014, according to a recent analysis by the National Association of Realtors, and the cost to rent in some markets like New York, Seattle and San Francisco has jumped more than 20 percent.
Renters nationwide can now expect to spend 30 percent of their income on rent, according to a new report from the real estate data firm Zillow, which noted that rental affordability worsened year over year in 28 of the 35 largest metro areas covered by the company.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR, attributes rising rents to "supply constraints" in housing and rentals: fewer rentals means higher prices. And millennial renters have been particularly hard hit, as rents are rising faster than income levels in many markets. "It's very demoralizing," he said.
But that doesn't mean you can't get a good deal—even in high-rent cities. Here's how to get the most for your money no matter where you live.
Expand your search. Rent is often highest in the hottest areas of a city. Even moving a couple subway stops or highway exits away can make a big difference in what you'll pay, said Paul Magyar of Mirador Real Estate in New York City.
For example, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan was nearly $3,200 (in a nondoorman building) in July, according to the latest rental market report from real estate group MNS. But the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Harlem, an area that is rapidly gentrifying, was $2,145—far less than the city's overall average rent and $700 less per month than the average one-bedroom rent in the neighboring Upper West Side neighborhood. And Harlem is only one or two stops away from midtown Manhattan on an express subway line.
Moving a little further outside a city can also save money. But it's worth factoring in the cost of owning a car and paying for gas if you're considering a suburban rental versus living in a city with good public transportation.