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Negotiating rent: can you or can’t you?

Many renters assume that there's no wiggle room when negotiating apartment rent.

Finding an apartment or a home that balances all of your leasing needs and wants — location, amenities and condition, to name just a few — 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. Read on to learn the answer to the question: “Can you haggle with apartment prices?”

First, Do Your Homework

It’s not uncommon for a real estate agent to claim there’s a line of eager renters waiting to take your spot. That may not be true. Compare for yourself: Is the rent lower than that of similar units? If so, it might not be worth negotiating rent. But if an apartment feels overpriced, or has been sitting on the market for months, you’ll be in a stronger position.

Say It With Me: “Discounts!”

Landlords value consistency and full occupancy, and if you can provide both of those you’ll have more flexibility negotiating rent. For example, there may be a discount for paying up front or paying several months at once.

Longer Might Be Better

Ever hear the old business adage that it’s less expensive to keep an existing customer than to attract a new one? That’s especially true in real estate, where an empty unit can be a huge money drain. Factor in agent fees, and it’s a lot cheaper for a landlord to keep you than to find a new tenant, even if they have to negotiate rent price. If you’re really sure that the apartment or home is where you want to live for a longer-than-normal lease (say, 18 months versus a traditional 12 months), ask your landlord two questions: Will he or she offer any discount — such as a month free — for a longer term? Can you lock in today’s rate for that term, too? Both might save you in the long run.

Give Up Something

Many apartment 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. Same with gym access: If your work has a facility, volunteer to give up time in the workout space. Finally, a first-floor space may rent for less than upper floors.

Or Get More Stuff

Negotiate for more, not to save more. Think a better parking spot or a higher floor for an apartment building, or a parking spot in a garage for a home.

Choose Your Timing

You can’t always control when you need a new place to live, but if you can, off-season is better. Most of the time, that equals cold-weather months. Or, depending on where you live, it might mean early summer versus late-summer for a college-focused town, for example.

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.

Remember: A negotiation is a little give and take, so be prepared to meet in the middle to ensure a deal that’s successful for you and your finances — and for your landlord, too.

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