Finding the perfect apartment that fits your budget can be tough – especially in today’s economy, where rental rates have increased by around 9 percent since 2009, according to a recent report by Reis Inc., a real estate research firm. Nonetheless, in many markets, landlords need renters just as much as you need a place to live. Although you probably won’t end up chopping your rent in half, you may be able to get a better deal by following these strategies:
1. Do your research. Before you begin the negotiation process, arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Start by researching neighborhoods online to determine areas that you can afford, and identify any tradeoffs you may have to make. For example, you may have to opt for a smaller unit or a building with fewer amenities to secure an apartment in a safer or more convenient neighborhood. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, compare rental prices and availability to get an idea of what rates are reasonable in your neighborhoods of interest. (You don’t want to insult your potential landlord by asking for an extremely large discount on rent.) If there are comparable properties nearby that charge lower rent, consider using them as leverage.
2. Be flexible. If you are asking a prospective landlord to lower the monthly rent, consider offering to sign a lease that extends past the typical 12-month term. A longer lease benefits the landlord, as it reduces the amount of time and money spent on filling vacancies. If the landlord won’t budge on the rental price, the negotiations don’t have to stop there. Ask for other perks, such as free parking or improvements to the unit, like fresh paint. You never know what options are available until you ask.
3. Sell yourself. Landlords want renters who are reliable and trustworthy. Showing up in a dirty car and a pair of sweatpants could give the impression you wouldn’t keep the place clean or be able to make your rent payments on time. Cleaning your car and dressing nicely are easy ways to convince a potential landlord that you would be an ideal renter.
Come prepared with recent paystubs that prove you have a stable job, with an income of two to three times the rental rate. Many landlords will also run a credit check. If you are unemployed or have poor credit, getting a co-signer or guarantor can make you seem like a less risky tenant in the eyes of the landlord. You can also ask your current landlord to write a short letter that explains you have a history of paying rent on time and taking good care of your living space.
4. Don’t get confrontational. Never underestimate the power of being kind and respectful. Remember your potential landlord is a person and wants to be treated like one. Bluffing, strong-arming or arguing won’t get you a better deal on rent – and, even if it does, that’s no way to start a relationship with your landlord. After all, this is the person who will be in control of your home, so keep in mind being polite and professional can go a long way.
Most importantly, effective negotiating tactics have to lead to a win for both sides. Think through what you want, what sacrifices you are willing to make and why the deal makes sense for both you and the landlord.
Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for Rent.com, the only free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment, gives you tips on how to move and then says, "thank you" with a prepaid $100 reward card.