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Rental Report: Can I Negotiate My Rent?

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Finding a great apartment can be like trying to catch a leprechaun. It seems impossible. But once you do find a great place you might feel uncomfortable about the negotiation process. You might wonder if you can negotiate at all. We have a few tips on how to negotiate and when to get the best deal on your next apartment.

Negotiating rent depends on the landlord. You will likely have better luck with a private or smaller landlord. Larger managed properties tend to have less wiggle room as the pricing comes from an algorithm rather than a person. The leasing agents might not have any authority to make deals. But that isn’t to say it isn’t worth a try. You won’t know unless you ask.

Arm yourself with market knowledge. This is the best offense when starting the negotiating process. Find comparable apartments with similar amenities and options. Know the rent, but also know the price per square foot. That is the best way to know if you are getting a deal. Just because the apartment down the street is $200 less per month, you may be getting a better price per square foot on the more expensive place. Be sure to compare apples to apples and decide what is most important, lower rent or a bigger apartment.

Negotiate early. Don’t wait until you are about to sign the lease to start negotiating with the landlord. This could blow the whole deal. When you decide on a place, make an offer to the landlord in writing. Put all of your terms on the table including any repairs or upgrades you’d like to see. The landlord may accept your terms in full, but they may counter or in rare cases, they could just walk away if your terms are too far off. Be sure you know exactly what you are willing to give up, and what you absolutely must have. Are you willing to walk away if all your terms aren’t met? Do you have enough time to start over? Having the proper expectations when starting the negotiation is important so you aren’t angry or left in a desperate situation because things didn’t go as planned.

So what can you negotiate? Just about anything really. Rent, parking, pet fees, deposit, or repairs. Maybe you see a few improvements needed and you ask for a smaller deposit or a break on the first months’ rent. Perhaps you don’t need a parking space, so you ask for a break on the rent. Do you have near-perfect credit and a good landlord history, maybe they can cut you a break on the deposit so you don’t have to have so much cash up front. The only rule on security deposits is they can’t be more than two months’ rent, there is nothing saying they can’t charge a $500 deposit. Offer a longer lease term. If you know you are staying put for a few years, and you really like the place, offer a 24-month lease in exchange for a break on the rent. Many landlords are willing to give a little on this knowing they will have a good tenant for longer saving them the headache of having to market the property again and risk lost rent with a vacant unit.

Lastly, this cannot be stressed enough, get all terms in writing. Nothing will sabotage a landlord/tenant relationship faster than issues over what was agreed upon. Put it all in the lease, and don’t sign anything until everything is in it.

Again, most of these recommendations are for private or smaller landlords. The larger properties may be able to give a little on things like parking or pet rent, and can sometimes offer a deal on longer leases, but probably can’t give much on the monthly rent. The best time to score a deal at these properties is when they are new, and they are trying to lease up the building. Or if the property has a high vacancy rate, so ask the question. If they are over 95% occupied, they are pretty full, but if they tell you they have a 90% occupancy rate, they might have some room to work with you.

Negotiating can be tough for some people, so if you know at the beginning you aren’t comfortable with the process, you can always ask a friend to help, or better yet, find an agent to work with who will do the negotiating for you.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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