6 Ways to Haggle Your Way to Cheaper Rent
Don't think that housing negotiations only benefit those who purchase a home. Just about everything is negotiable, and if you fall in love with a rental that's slightly outside your housing budget, there are ways to haggle yourself to a cheaper rate. (See also: What's the Right Ratio Between Salary and Rent?)
This approach isn't likely to work if you're checking out rentals owned by large management companies. There's usually a set price across the board for all tenants, and some managers aren't going to budge — not even a little. There is, however, a bit more leeway when renting from a private landlord.
You might not be able to negotiate dirt cheap rent, as private landlords have to charge enough rent to cover their costs. But if the monthly rent is more than their expenses, there's some wiggle room.
Of course, there's no way to really know how much wiggle room you have. Just go with it, ask for cheaper rent, and then see if the landlord will take your offer.
1. Know the Market
Educate yourself and learn about similar properties in the area. If the landlord's already letting the place go at a price below current market rental rates, you probably won't get the house or apartment for much cheaper. Asking for anything cheaper might offend the landlord. (See also: Checking Out a Neighborhood Before You Move In)
Drive around local neighborhoods, look through the newspaper, and contact other landlords for pricing information. This can be your bargaining chip. If a rental you're eyeing comes with a high price tag, let the landlord know that you found a similar place for such-and-such price. Learning about cheaper rentals in the area might move the landlord to reduce his rate.
2. Ask Questions
Don't be afraid to ask questions. This not only helps you assess whether the property is right for you and your family, it's also an excellent way to feel out the landlord and gauge whether he's open to negotiations. It all really depends on his motivation.
For example, if the property is newly vacant and the landlord doesn't appear to be in a hurry to sign a new tenant, lowering the rent might be the farthest thing from his mind. Not that you can't ask, but if he isn't motivated he might hold out for another tenant. Then again, if an apartment or house has been vacant for several weeks or months, and eagerness is written all over the landlord's face, the ball is in your court.
3. Sell Yourself
The landlord doesn't know you from Adam, and if others are interested in the property, there's really no incentive to choose you. This is really where your negotiation skills come into play.
If you go into the situation with the intent of asking for cheaper rent, be ready to sell yourself. Ask yourself, what makes me different from other applicants?
Factors that can push your rental application to the top include a good credit history and a solid rental history. Landlords might find this appealing as other applicants may have a few credit problems. A high standard of cleanliness might also help you win points with the landlord, as does stable employment and sufficient income.
4. Get Creative With the Rental Terms
Don't just come out and offer a lower rent price — have a game plan. For this to work, you've got to offer something in return. Signing a longer lease is one way to sweeten the deal. Most landlords lock tenants into a one-year lease agreement. If you agree to a two-year or a three-year lease in exchange for lower rent, this might be the thing that gets your foot in the door.
Yes, the landlord takes a loss each month. But on the flip side, he doesn't have to deal with an empty property next year. (See also: What Renting Is Like From the Landlord's POV)
Additionally, you can offer to pay one year's rent in advance in return for a discount. The landlord gets his money upfront, thus alleviating any worries that you'll break the lease early.
5. Offer to Handle Certain Repairs or Maintenance
This doesn't mean that you're expected to go in your pocket for every type of repair. If a house needs a new roof or if another major issue occurs, that's totally on the landlord. But for little things that happen around an apartment or house, such as a broken toilet or a broken thermostat, you can take care of these expenses in return for cheaper rent.
Now, this can get a bit tricky, as your landlord may try to push all minor repairs on you. For this to work, make it clear that you'll only repair items that break after you've moved into the house, and only up to a certain amount, perhaps $200 per repair.
Do a walkthrough of the property before signing the lease and document anything that's damaged or broken to avoid being liable for these repairs. Get the landlord's signature and include this document with your lease paperwork.
Another creative approach for cheaper rent: Offer to assist your landlord with maintenance beyond your home. Is there a commons area or park in the community? Perhaps you can mow or tidy the area a few times a week. Is there a rental office? Maybe you can clean the office from time to time. Don't forget to get these agreements in writing.
6. Pay a Higher Security Deposit
Money talks, and if you're trying to haggle your way to cheaper rent, offer a higher security deposit. It doesn't have to be much. If the landlord requires one month's rent as security, maybe you can afford to offer double this amount. (See also: Get Your Security Deposit Back When You Move Out)
Have you negotiated cheaper rent? How?