How to Negotiate Your Rent

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shutterstock_84704209Summer is fast approaching, which means it’s time for some American warm-weather traditions: baseball, BBQ and moving. Yes, with warmer weather and college graduation on the horizon, summer is historically the most popular time of year to pack up your things and look for a new place to call your own.

But if you’re in the market to rent this summer, finding an affordable rental can be nightmarish. Whether you live in a major city or the suburbs, it’s becoming more and more difficult for renters to find affordable renting options; with fewer people buying homes and more people opting to rent, demand for vacant rental properties is high. Unfortunately, this gives the upper hand to landlords when it comes to pricing.

Yet despite this favorable market advantage for landlords, you shouldn’t take the price of a rental listing at face value. Even in a tough rental environment, there are still opportunities to negotiate your rent. Negotiating your rent takes a lot of confidence and some extra effort upfront, but it could save you hundreds of dollars on your lease and help you secure that new apartment that’s at the top of your list.

Here are three simple steps to help you negotiate your rent with a prospective landlord:

Arm Yourself with Information

While any landlord will tell you that he’s offering a fair price on a rental property, make sure you know the exact market value in your area before you meet with a prospective landlord. Free websites like Rent-O-Meter aggregate local rental data and show you how one rental compares to other similar rentals in the area. While you’re researching pricing, make sure that you also understand the demand for rentals in that neighborhood. Check for local vacancies online or ask the landlord how long the rental unit has been on the market. The more desperate a landlord is to rent, the more likely he’ll be willing to negotiate. Finally, be sure to bring all of this information to your first meeting with the landlord so you have the statistics at your finger tips.

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Be Responsible and Be Prepared

If you’re preparing to meet and negotiate with a landlord, be sure that you bring your key financial statistics, as well. It’s easy to demonstrate that you would be a responsible tenant by showing up with the right information and the right paperwork (like a prefilled rental application form, a copy of your driver’s license, rental references and your bank account information). I’ve also found that going the extra mile can make a great first impression; in the past I’ve printed out my credit report and brought it to my initial meeting. It’s helped show prospective landlords that I’m responsible, proactive and extremely interested in the rental.

Know Your Options and Your Breakpoint

Now that you’ve armed yourself with information on rentals in the area, you can begin the negotiation process. In your research, you may have found that the price of this rental property is fair compared to others in the neighborhood, or you may encounter a landlord that’s completely unwilling to lower the rent based on the evidence you’ve presented. If that’s the case, there are still other strategies you can use to help you secure a better lease.

One option is to ask for a longer lease in exchange for a discount on your monthly rent. This is an appealing option for landlords that want to avoid the hassle of finding a new tenant every year. Another strategy, if you can afford it, is to offer to pay more rent up front. If you can afford to pay three or six months of rent in advance, you may be able to negotiate a more favorable monthly rental rate. If all else fails, try asking for a smaller concession, like a free parking pass or a discount on the move-in fee.

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Have Other Alternatives

Ideally, you’ll have other options for where you’d like to live before you begin negotiating a rental agreement. Your leverage in any negotiation relies on your ability (and willingness) to walk away, so be sure to have other well-researched options in your backpocket.

Even if you don’t have another rental that you’re considering or you don’t think you have the leverage to negotiate for more, just remember: it never hurts to asks!