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Top 5 U.S. cities where you get the biggest high-end apartments for your money

If your dream is "a large place with room and privacy" that won't break the bank, try these cities.

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Renters typically want as much space as they can get, especially now that so many people are working from their living rooms. And after a year of being at home, a really nice apartment with lots of amenities sounds appealing too.

Rent prices are bouncing back after dipping in many places during the pandemic: Nationwide, the median one-bedroom rent was up 2.2%, according to rental site Zumper. But it's still possible to find a big place at a good price in a desirable location.

To find the best cities in the United States to rent high-end apartments, researchers at RentCafé and Yardi Matrix checked the average rent and size of flats in more than 600 metros and towns. High-end, in their assessment, describes apartments with generous square footage compared to typical apartments in the area, and a "coveted location" that might include a resort-style complex, high-rises with great views, or buildings near top-tier restaurants and entertainment centers.

Based on the data, here are the top five U.S. cities where you can rent a high-quality apartment at a good price.

Hoover, Alabama

Average rent: $1,097         
Average square feet: 1,147
Share of high-end apartments: 54%

Warner Robins, Georgia

Average rent: $1,005         
Average square feet: 1,164
Share of high-end apartments: 43%

Shawnee, Kansas

Average rent: $1,173         
Average square feet: 1,231
Share of high-end apartments: 28%

Columbus, Georgia

Average rent: $1,129         
Average square feet: 1,229
Share of high-end apartments: 45%

Phenix City, Alabama

Average rent: $1,162         
Average square feet: 1,276   
Share of high-end apartments: 42% 

Figure out how much money you need to find, or create, your ideal space

With more Americans working from home, prioritizing square footage is understandable. "It's important to create a separation in your household that includes a space that's dedicated to work, and then when you're off the clock and you're not thinking about work, you also have a space that you can enjoy, and you can feel like you're at home, and you can have that distance," Angelina Darrisaw, CEO and founder of C-Suite Coach, told Grow.

The average rent in the U.S. ranges between $1,567 and $1,948 per month, depending on your location and how many bedrooms you have, according to Apartment Guide's March 2021 Rent Report. Rent prices in the above cities fall well below that, meaning you get more bang for your buck.

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Many of the top places on the RentCafé list are small cities. But experts say there are smart financial moves you can make, wherever you live, to make the most of your housing budget.

Whether you're saving up for more space or a change of scenery, take a measured approach. Determine how much money you'll need to cover the initial rent deposits, plus any security fees. Then stash away a bit of money at a time until you reach that goal. Keep in mind that experts generally recommend not spending more than 30% of your income on housing.

"Pay yourself first," says Janie Coffey, a real estate broker and general contractor in Florida. "As soon as your income comes in, transfer a certain amount to a savings account. That way, your 'spending account' never looks like it is so large that you might be tempted to make some poor choices."

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If you're already in a lease or your budget only allows for so much wiggle room, get creative about how you set up your current space, says Bill Samuel, a residential real estate investor who specializes in rehabbing properties.

"Give special consideration to the furniture you will have in your home," he says. "Stay away from large bulky furniture and get creative with storage to help save space as well (keep storage bins under your bed, etc.). If you can find an apartment that offers a separate storage unit in the building, that can certainly make living in a smaller space more comfortable as well."

Look at the full picture before making a final decision. Different cities can have different cultures, and you'll want to be content where you are since that will have an impact on how long you stay. Signing a short-term lease can be a good way to see if the new place is a fit.

"For some, the tiniest of apartments in the best location might be their dream. For others, a large place with room and privacy might be theirs," Coffey says. "Other things to consider might be laundry, parking, heating, and cooling. Dig deep into what is important beyond just square footage."

Grow is published by Acorns + CNBC. Acorns helps you invest spare change automatically into diversified portfolios. Download the app today or learn more at Acorns.com.

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