Searching For A Low-Cost Apartment In Buffalo, NY
No Money...No Time...No Plan
All right, so here's the situation: you're moving to Buffalo, New York, and you need to find an apartment...fast.
Here's the problem: you don't have a lot of money.
Don't sweat it. It can be done. My wife and I found and moved into a new apartment in less than a week, and we did it for cheap.
Buffalo Has A Low Cost Of Living
The cost of living in Buffalo, New York is below the national average.
First Things First...Welcome!
So, you've decided to move to Buffalo, New York. Congratulations! Welcome to the City of Good Neighbors.
Buffalo's got a lot of great public services - transportation, education, and access to medical care. They've got a great park system. The cost of living in Buffalo, New York is below the national average.
The weather can get cold here, and it snows, so if you're from a warmer climate, be prepared and bring plenty of warm clothing. Speaking as someone who moved to Buffalo from Florida, I can say it didn't take long to get used to it, so take heart.
On a personal note, I've found the people of Buffalo to be very friendly and helpful in every regard.
A Little Preparation Doesn't Hurt
We gave ourselves about 2 months to prepare for the move.
So, a little bit about how my wife and I prepared before starting our search:
1. We were both employed full-time in Florida. We set a deadline of 2 months for moving out of Florida. We informed our employers.
2. We updated our resumes and got letters of recommendation from our current employers. We updated our LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed profiles. We began sending out applications.
3. We saved money wherever we could during those 2 months.
4. We went through our belongings and gave away or got rid of anything we didn't need or couldn't fit in our vehicle.
We could elaborate on each of these steps, but we'll save that for another article. The important thing is we picked a date and stuck to it.
Comparing Cost of Living by City
Cost of Living
Luck...Persistence...And A Smartphone
While any device with Internet access will do, a smartphone is certainly more convenient.
Getting the Apartment In Less Than a Week
When we arrived in Buffalo, we had a few job interviews scheduled. We had no appointments to see any apartments, and nothing particular in mind. We also knew nothing about Buffalo.
We checked into a motel and starting looking for apartments on Zillow and Craigslist. (By the way, a room at the Red Roof Inn starts at about 50.00 a night, which includes complimentary Wi-Fi.)
If I could outline our apartment-seeking strategy in a few steps, this would be it:
1. Avoid the posts that are clearly dead ends. Zillow is reliable, but Craigslist has its fair share of scams. Make sure it's an apartment, and not a "shared living arrangement," unless that's really what you want. Don't waste your time on "$1 moves you in" postings. Read reviews.
2. If the poster lists a phone number, CALL. REPEATEDLY. Until you get somebody. Don't text, unless they specifically ask you to do so. If all they list is an email address, DO send an email with your phone number and ask them to call you. Your best bet for getting a hold of someone is by phone, however.
3. Even if you're only slightly interested in the place, go ahead and schedule a viewing. It's a lot easier to cancel a viewing than it is to try to reschedule one. Remember, you don't have a lot of time.
4. Ignore posts that use the word "cozy," unless you're comfortable living in a closet.
Persistence is key here. Out of every 50 phone calls we made, maybe 5 people answered/called us back. A lot of them were rental agents. Rental agents schedule viewings in advance, sometimes WEEKS in advance, so our time constraint hurt us here.
Our current landlord owns a few properties around town, doesn't work for anybody, and was able to show us the place on the SAME DAY. That's where the luck came in.
Lastly, it's just easier if you have a smartphone. I went through this same process in Los Angeles with a laptop, camping out at Starbucks for a week. Having a smartphone allows you to be mobile, which means you can do other things at the same time.
Home Sweet Home
We arrived in Buffalo on a Friday, saw the apartment we ended up moving into on the following Wednesday, and fully moved in on the following Friday. Start to finish, 7 days.
A final piece of advice, FWIW:
It DOES help to have what you want in mind. In our case, we knew we wanted a 1-bedroom apartment under 700.00/month. This helped us to weed out a lot of search results. If you've got an idea of what part of town you want to live in, that would certainly help shorten the list. Buffalo's not a huge city, but it's big enough you won't be able to look at EVERYTHING that's available in such a short amount of time.