Can you negotiate rent?
Many renters assume that there's no wiggle room when negotiating rent.
Finding an apartment, condo or home that balances all of your needs and wants can be challenging. Finding a home that meets your criteria such as location, cost, amenities and condition, can be a time-consuming and stressful process. Once you've narrowed down your choices, do you need to sign right away or can you find ways to save or get more rental benefits included in your agreement? There's more wiggle room for negotiating rent than some people assume — and different ways to save. Some may pay you back immediately in saved dollars while others are more about timing and quality of life. Consider these tips for negotiating rent.
Do your research ahead of time
Understanding the rental market is an important part of negotiating rent prices or obtaining a rent discount. Finding out the rental rates for comparable places and locations can give you leverage.
It's not uncommon for a property manager or owner to claim there's a line of eager renters waiting to take your spot. That may not be true. Find out if the rent is lower than that of similar units. If so, it might not be worth negotiating rent. If a rental seems overpriced, or has been sitting on the market for months, you'll be in a stronger position. Generally, winter is a good time to negotiate as it is typically harder to find tenants during that time of year. Summer is peak rental season so negotiating during that season may require a bit more work on your part.
Sell yourself as a tenant worth having
Personal references can go a long way toward convincing a property owner or property manager that you would be a tenant worth having. A few letters from previous property owners or others that can attest that you paid your rent regularly is helpful. If you have never rented before, get letters that speak to your character such as a former boss, neighbor or someone from your church. These letters should also include information that shows that you are responsible, keep your residence in good shape and make timely payments. Don't be afraid to ask what the property owner or property manager needs.
Check for discounts
Landlords, property owners and property managers value consistency and full occupancy. If you are in a position where you can pay a few months up front or the full lease term up front, they may readily offer discounts or even upgrades to nicer units or properties. Be sure to ask about other ways you can save on your rental costs, too.
Ask about extending the lease
It is to the rental property owner's benefit to keep occupancy high in their rental units. If you are confident that the rental you are negotiating on is truly the place you would like to live for a longer-than-normal lease (say, 18 months versus a traditional 12 months), ask if a discount such as a free month of rent is offered. Be sure to ask if extending the lease term is an option.
Give up something
Many tenants want to tally the list of what they get with a lease, but you may be able to give up something in exchange for flexibility. For example, if parking spots are in demand and you don't need one, your landlord may find that appealing and work with you. Can you do small maintenance tasks yourself if something goes wrong in the rental? If so, perhaps some discount would be offered.
Consider what you don't absolutely need. If there is a gym, pool or in-unit laundry, do you really need those amenities? Is a first-floor unit less expensive than upper-floor units? Consider what you could give or do to negotiate price or get a rent discount.
Inquire about benefits
Negotiate for more, not always to save more. A few options could be a better parking spot, a higher floor unit in a complex or a parking spot in a garage for a home. Consider and ask for what you desire.
See about tenant referrals
Many rental organizations, property managers or landlords offer tenant referral bonuses to renters. If they do not already do that, consider asking if you could get a referral deal in your lease by helping them spread the word about empty units or recommend the complex or units to others.
Get handy or get some upgrades
If your apartment could use a paint job and you're an experienced DIYer, offer to chip in your effort for a visual upgrade to your living space. Just make sure to clearly delineate, in writing, who is responsible for paying for supplies. Or, if your appliances or other amenities are due for an upgrade, you may be able to snag that or some other refresh as part of your lease.
Negotiation is a little give and take, so be prepared to meet in the middle for a deal that's successful for you and your finances — and for your property manager or landlord, too.