The capital of Arizona, located in the Salt River Valley – most often called the Valley of the Sun – is an excellent major city for fairly inexpensive living. Here are some tips to aid you in your apartment search in this subtropical desert city:

The basics
Though it's not the case in other major cities, the best time to move to Phoenix is in summer because more apartments are available then, often at cheaper rates. Phoenix is the winter destination for older adults and others from colder locales, so apartments are in higher demand then.

The city has a population of about 1.5 million stretched across 517 square miles. There is some public transit here, but it's the only city of its size that does not have trains to nearby cities. Thus, it's pretty important to have a car if you're moving to Phoenix, which can be an extra expense. But the good news is that rent is fairly cheap here, averaging between $800 and $815 per month, and the vacancy rate is fairly high at nearly 6 percent, so renters have a lot of leverage in the Phoenix rental market. However, Phoenix is a metro area with one of the strongest job growth rates in the country in 2013, so prices could potentially increase as more people flock to the area.

The neighborhoods
Phoenix is divided into 15 separate urban villages. Many people like to choose their location based on its proximity to a freeway or their job, but in general, commute times in Phoenix are shorter than those in other large cities. Here's the scoop on a few popular Phoenix villages:

  • Central City Village is the main downtown area with all of the best museums, restaurants and nightlife just a short walk or drive away. Certain neighborhoods here are pretty walkable, including F.Q. Story, the historic district, and Copper Square. Garfield is another beautiful historic district, and is popular among the Arizona State faculty. Grand Avenue is a hip and somewhat cheaper neighborhood with converted warehouses and art galleries.
  • Encanto and Alhambra, just north of Central City, have some of the lowest rental prices in the city, averaging between $650 and $800 per month for a two-bedroom place.
  • Camelback East is a sprawling village located near affluent Scottsdale, and it's pretty fancy here.
  • If you seek adventure, a good place to live is Ahwatukee Foothills in south Phoenix. It's a prime locale for mountain biking, hiking, golfing and cycling.

Insider tip
Apartment communities are very common in Phoenix. If you choose to live in a community – most of which have a pool – look for one with excellent curb appeal. While looks aren't everything, the management company knows that this is important to many people, so if the grounds or facade or not in excellent condition, it's likely the company won't care much about keeping the apartments in top shape or making a requested fix in a timely manner. Additionally, your best bet is to find a place that is managed and owned by the same company – problems can arise when this is not the case.