Personal finance

How to Negotiate Rent Like a Pro

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

Let’s face it: renting is not cheap, especially in expensive cities like New York or San Francisco. While places like Boston and Manhattan do have affordable neighborhoods, it generally means that the rent is more affordable compared to others in the same city.

However, what most renters don’t realize is that you don’t necessarily have to accept the rent amount that landlords ask for in a listing. Yes, just like when you’re at a farmers market or an antique store, you can negotiate the price of your rent.

So, if you can negotiate the price of rent, why don’t more people do it?

Unless you negotiate deals for a living, trying to come up with a better price on an apartment might be outside of your comfort zone. It’s different when you’re at a farmers market: you’re expected to try and haggle on the price a little because you know there is wiggle room. When it comes to renting an apartment, you might feel like you’re not in a position to negotiate.

What you need to remember is that even though apartment rentals are a business and landlords do want to make a profit, there is something to be said about wanting to close a deal. As long as you are asking for a reasonable reduction in the rent, you might be surprised by the results!

Negotiating Rent as a New Tenant

Arguably, the hardest place to start when negotiating rent is when you’re a new tenant. You don’t really know the landlord, and you’re not sure what to offer to make them amenable to negotiating rent.

While you’ve probably watched a negotiation scene play out in movies and on TV, the truth is that most negotiations aren’t about “getting one above” the other person. In fact, most negotiations end in a compromise: each party loses out a little, but ultimately, both walk away happy with the terms.

If you’re wondering what you can offer your landlord as an incentive during negotiations, here are some suggestions:

Larger Advance

Typically, landlords will ask for a month’s rent in advance along with your security deposit when you sign the lease. However, if you’re looking to negotiate on rent, you can offer several months upfront. It’s a great bargaining chip to use if you’re paying cash on a month-to-month basis instead of using post-dated checks. Landlords hate having to chase after rent payments every month, so they might appreciate the security of getting several months’ rent upfront.

Longer Lease

If you’re planning to stay for a long time in one apartment, you can offer to sign a longer lease than the standard 12-month contract. It’s a win for landlords because they won’t need to spend time and money looking for a new tenant.

However, you should be careful with this offer. Make sure that the apartment is worth staying in for a longer period than usual, and that you can afford the extended lease. You should also go over the terms of the lease carefully to prevent any unpleasant surprises down the road, such as a sudden rent increase in the middle of your lease.

Offering to Cover Small Repairs

If you notice minor damages and cosmetic problems with the unit after your apartment tour, you can offer to cover the cost of these repairs in exchange for a lower monthly rent. Again, you’ll have to make sure that the agreement is formalized in your lease agreement.

Fewer Amenities

There are times when your apartment comes with amenities that you won’t need, such as a parking spot or storage space. If you won’t be using these amenities, you can try to use them as a bargaining chip as well. The landlord can offset the amount of your discount by offering the amenities to another tenant.

Referrals for Other Units

Putting out ads for vacant units can be expensive, so why not offer referrals to your landlord? You can use social media housing groups to promote available apartments in your building and ask your landlord if you can get a bonus once someone uses you as a referral. Of course, they’ll probably only agree *if* you can get a new tenant approved as a referral, but it won’t hurt to try!

These are only a few ideas that you can start with, but get creative and find other ways to incentivize your landlord! Remember, as long as you can propose an idea that has value, there’s a good chance that they will be willing to negotiate on your rent.

Negotiating Rent as a Current Tenant

Being able to negotiate rent as a current tenant can work both in and against your favor. On one hand, you’re already a tenant, so it might be harder to convince your landlord that there are many advantages to lowering your rent. On the other hand, unless you’ve been a difficult tenant, your landlord will probably want to keep you on.

It all boils down to how well you are able to frame your approach.

You have to be able to prove that lowering the rent is beneficial for both parties.

Here are some ideas to start:

Compare Apartments in the Neighborhood

The first thing you need to do is check the average rental prices in your neighborhood. If you find that the average rent in your neighborhood is lower than what you’re paying, you can use that to support your position. The more data you can get, the stronger your case will be.

Timing is Key

If you’re planning to negotiate a lower rent for the next lease, make sure to approach the landlord well before the current one expires. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re at a disadvantage; if your lease is up, you will obviously be in a rush to find a new place.

Also, make sure to choose the low season for rentals so that you don’t have a lot of competition. Knowing when to negotiate is just as important as knowing how to negotiate.

Come Prepared

Lastly, it’s important to show up to the negotiations prepared. Negotiate in person rather than through text or email. it’s much easier to answer questions on your end and it’s harder to reject a request when the person is sitting in front of you.

Know exactly what you want to get out of your negotiation, which in this case means knowing how much you want to reduce the rent. You’ll need to justify this number, no matter how small.

Lastly, be prepared for rejection, or at least, resistance on the part of your landlord. After being a tenant for at least a year, you should have an idea of where your landlord stands on the idea of lowering the rent.

Final Thoughts

Negotiations are tricky and uncomfortable at best. Bear in mind that a little respect and keeping a cool head can go a long way, especially if your landlord is dragging their feet. Keep your expectations realistic and try to find a compromise where everyone wins.

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