The Real Cost of Moving

US News

Deciding to rent a new place is no small decision. Whether you're planning to move across the country, across the state or just across town, moving costs can add up quickly. Make sure you're prepared by budgeting and saving for all the costs associated with moving so you don't end up over your head.

Rental application fee: Before renting to you, many property managers will charge a small application fee, usually to cover the cost of a credit check. The actual amount will vary, but most states have laws preventing landlords from profiting on the rental application fee. For example, California state law bans landlords from charging more than their actual out-of-pocket costs and caps the application fee at $49.50.

First month's rent: Your first month's rent will likely be due at the lease signing, and it's important to remember that you may have to deal with overlapping rental payments. You'll need a couple of days to move and clean before your final walk through, so if you need to be out of your current apartment by the end of the month, make sure your new lease starts before the first of the following month. Whether your new lease starts a few days early or mid-month, many property managers will prorate the rental amount.

When it comes to determining your rent budget, a general rule of thumb is to spend no more than one-third of your income -- but when it comes to making monetary promises, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you don't think you can afford to spend one-third of your income, don't do it. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about what you can afford.

Security deposit: If you are a responsible renter, you shouldn't have any problem getting the majority of your security deposit back from your current landlord. However, you will likely need to pay the deposit for your new place before then. Landlords legally have several weeks after the final inspection to return your security deposit; the specific amount of time depends on state law.

Security deposits are often the equivalent of one month's rent, but they can be as high as two month's rent. Approximately half of the states in the U.S. have laws limiting the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit, while the other half have no statutory limitations, so look into your state laws for details.

Pet deposit: If you have furry roommates, you may have to pay a pet deposit in addition to your security deposit. The pet deposit specifically covers any damage caused by your pet during your lease term. Pet deposit amounts vary quite a bit, but in a recent survey of 500 renters with pets, 71 percent said they would expect to spend $200 or less.

Physical moving costs: Once you've made your way through all of the pre-moving fees, you'll have to tackle the costs associated with actually moving your stuff. The first expense you'll incur are moving supplies -- boxes, packing materials and tape. To save money, start collecting these items from family, friends and websites like Freecycle in the months before your move.

On moving day, extra help can be invaluable, and there are options to fit all budgets. With a full-service move, you hire a moving company to load the moving truck, haul your belongings and unload the truck at your new home. Some companies will even pack your stuff for you. A self-service move involves you packing and loading your belongings into a large crate that the moving company transports to your new address. If you choose not to hire professional movers, you may still need to rent a self-service moving truck.

Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for, the only free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment and provides tips on how to move.

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