The Dos and Don'ts of Negotiating Your Rent

couple looking at an apartment with realtorFinding the perfect home, whether it be an apartment, condo, or house, can turn anyone into a bundle of nerves. And making sure you're not getting in over your head is just another factor that makes the ordeal more stressful.

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Your friends may argue over whether it's better to rent or to buy, but if you're not quite ready for home ownership, trying to negotiate for a better rate on your rent or lease is always an option if you take a proper, considered approach.

The idea isn't necessarily to haggle for an apartment (this is not a flea market), but there are certain dos and don'ts that can help you score what you're looking for as a tenant.

1. DON'T hesitate to ask questions. "In general, large corporate-owned properties set their rates centrally," says Dan Laufer, cofounder and CEO of RentLingo.com. "You typically get better rates signing a 12-month lease, but sometimes that's not the case, and [it's] worth asking."

Say you're signing a lease in the wintertime, which means you're leasing off-season. "They may give you a rent break to only lease for nine months so that the unit goes back on the cycle of being available during peak demand [summer/fall]," Laufer notes.

2. DO prove reliability. Obviously, landlords want responsible tenants. If you can prove that, you're setting yourself up for a good negotiating situation. In fact, Josh Myler, a director in the residential division at The Agency in Los Angeles, California, says reliability often wins over money.

"Offer multiple months of rent, in advance," Myler says. "This can set you apart from the others, because it not only establishes that the tenant has the means to afford the rent, but also it alleviates the need for the landlord to worry about the rent being paid on time each month. Overall, you [will] appear to be a more reliable tenant."

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3. DO realize that timing is everything. The ideal time of year to negotiate may depend mostly on where you live, so it's important to really know your locale. According to Jeff Rose, CFP, of GoodFinancialCents.com, "Low occupancy stresses out a landlord. A good example would be a college town. Landlords are frequently ready to wheel and deal during the summer when occupancies are low. Be ready to negotiate when occupancy is at its worst."

4. DON'T be out of the loop. Rose also encourages renters to become educated on the market value of the unit you are renting. "If your rent is lower than the market value, bringing rent to the landlord's attention may not be the best idea," he says, "while if it is overpriced, then coming with a reasonable offer for the market makes a lot of sense."

You'll also do well to find a hot button that will make the landlord want to negotiate. "For instance, if you live in a building with low occupancy, maybe you could work out a deal where you get money off your rent for every referral you make," Rose explains.

5. DO have your paperwork in order. It may feel like you're signing your life away with all of the documentation you have to provide to rent your new home, but Rental Beast founder and president Ishay Grinberg encourages all prospective applicants to have their paperwork ready to go. This is important particularly if you're looking to negotiate the agreement.

"In order to present a landlord a credible offer that is less than the asking price, we recommend that renters show the landlord that they are extremely serious about signing a lease and finalizing a transaction if their negotiated offer is accepted," he says. "The best way to do that is to have all necessary documentation with you when you meet them." (What exactly "necessary documentation" entails will depend on your landlord/the property, Grinberg says.)

6. DON'T pull any fast ones. If you're going to negotiate your rent, act confidently and always be prepared to move forward with the agreement if it's accepted. Ishay encourages potential tenants to be open with their future landlords and certainly not violate the terms of the lease. In other words, don't attempt to move pets in if they're prohibited in the unit or bring a car when it has been stated there are no available parking spaces.

 

Image via andresr/iStock; Flickr/Flazingo Photos

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