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How to negotiate an apartment rental: 5 key tactics

Paying the lowest possible monthly rent isn’t just about watching online listings with an eagle eye or settling for lower-quality digs. It’s about the deal you strike with your future landlord. In fact, signing a lease offers far more opportunities than most people realize to negotiate lower rent. Even better, you don’t have to be aggressive or cold-blooded! If you go about it right, the negotiation will leave everyone happy. Here are five tactics to help you establish good footing with the landlord and put you on the path to successfully negotiating a lease agreement: 

1. Do your research

Don’t go into a lease agreement or apartment hunting blindly. Do some research when you’re seeking out your perfect new abode. Review sample lease agreements online and get a feel for what legal details to look out for when it’s time to sit down and sign on that bottom line. If you have a legal expert in your family or friend circle—even better. If they’re familiar with lease terms and terminology, ask them to sit down with you and look it over so you can learn how to navigate the document for yourself and formulate a list of questions. After building your knowledge, you can discuss the details with your landlord before signing, protecting yourself and mitigating risk from the start. From this point forward you’ll have the experience needed to insist on changes and a keener sense of your rights as a renter. 

2. Get the lay of the land

When you’re looking for that new perfect place to call home, make a list of pros and cons for each property you interact with and the general logistics of navigating the neighborhoods and their amenities.  Can errands be accomplished on foot? Is there good public transit? Is the neighborhood bikeable? Where is the nearest grocery store and laundromat? What about recreation, like parks or accessible nightlife? Think about reasonable access to parking and storage. When the folks at the other end of the negotiating table know you’re well versed in the surrounding area, they’ll be less likely to gloss over any specific property amenity shortcomings with appealing local conveniences or attractions. And you can get right to the heart of what you’re getting out of this new living arrangement. 

3. Visit similar properties

Knowing what comparable properties (comps) offer in a certain price range helps you assess the real value or your place – and gives you negotiating power if you decide to apply. So tour as many properties as you can before making any rash decisions. If you are being billed premium rent prices but the craftsmanship is shoddy, you’re not getting your money’s worth. You could then negotiate repairs or upgrades before moving in or a rate decrease for false advertising. It also pays to have some basic knowledge of what home inspectors look for when assisting new home buyers. Do some research on home inspection standards so you get a better-trained eye for things like good water pressure and other system operability. Don’t worry – you don’t need to get obsessed with the details, but having a general awareness of potential issues will help you know what’s fair – and what you can reasonably ask for. You want to be armed to address such concerns in the walkthrough and negotiation stages. 

4. Think like a realtor

Having some professional knowledge in the business of renting an apartment will make you more resilient in any apartment renting scenario. When interacting with the property manager or landlord, you want to present as someone who doesn’t fall prey to aggressive sales tactics that favor only property owners. It’ll also help you recognize a legitimate request when the owner makes one. We promise you’ll feel more comfortable in the end by familiarizing yourself in advance with the process of dealing with property managers, leasing agents, and direct owners. Not all properties operate the same way. Additionally, it’s easier for landlords to find tenants in the summer months, so offering to end your lease during this time will likely garner you some negotiating mileage. 

5. Be prepared for a little give-and-take

Being prepared to give up something less important (e.g. a parking space) might help you snag a monthly rental rate reduction. You might prefer amenity upgrades or extras like gym privileges for signing a two-year lease instead of just a one-year lease. If you aren’t able or willing to pay the posted rate, try suggesting a rate you are more willing to compromise on. Meet them halfway. If the rent is $100 more than your target, it’s reasonable to offer $50 and see if together you can reach an agreement. In this scenario you should be able to support your reasoning with research and by reassuring them that you’re a reliable tenant and good neighbor with outstanding references. 

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