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How to Negotiate Lower Rent

Finding a new apartment can be tricky business, and the work doesn’t end once you locate that perfect pad. Before you sign a lease, keep in mind that you might be able to negotiate a less expensive lease. By using some simple techniques, you could save yourself some serious bucks—or at least get a new coat of paint out of the deal.

Price Points:

DIY. If the place needs a little work, you could offer to do some cleanup and rehab yourself (as long as you know your way around a paintbrush). Since it saves the landlord labor costs, he might be willing to pass some of the savings on to you.

Stay the course: If you want to stay in the new place for two years instead of one, you could try using lease length as a bargaining chip with the landlord. If you stay, he won’t have to advertise the rental, show it, or do fix-up work after a year—so he might be willing to lower the monthly rental cost.

Take it down a notch. Learn how to recognize what makes a good apartment. Read up on inspecting an apartment to make sure you know what to look for. You’ll want to check for evidence of water damage, scope out the water pressure, and make sure the appliances are in working order. If you find problems, you might be able to get a break on the price.

Make sure everything’s on the level. Be sure you know how to spot scams. The Internet is your friend here, so look up your landlord to see if he’s had problems with other tenants. Other warning signs: If the price is too good to be true or he won’t show you the inside of the apartment, things might be a little shady.

Hit the books. When you’re researching the landlord, see if you can find the vacancy rates at his other properties. If those buildings are half-empty or this apartment has been vacant a while, he’ll probably be willing to work with you on the price.

Look around. Find out the going rate for similar apartments in the area. Landlords know you’ve done your homework if you can say something like, “OK, but a larger apartment down the block is $200 less per month.”

Move on from money. If the landlord won’t budge on the price, try throwing a few other possibilities into the mix. Maybe he’ll give you free parking, gratis storage space, or a deal at the local gym (or the one in the building, if you’re looking at a high-rise). Be creative and you can probably uncover a deal somewhere along the way.

Getting Down to Business

The other part of this process is the actual negotiation, which can get a little more complicated. Here are some tips on the art of the deal.

Options market. Make sure you have other options—and make sure your prospective landlord knows you do. You might casually mention another apartment you’ve looked at or a different neighborhood you’re considering. In a negotiation, the side with the most options has the upper hand.

Timing is everything. Don’t start wheeling and dealing the second you walk through the door. Establish a rapport. Be nice. Give the landlord a reason to want to cut you a break. If you start playing hardball right away, you’ll come across as high-maintenance and may turn him off.

Deal with the deal-maker. If you can, negotiate with the person who can actually make the decision. If you’re dealing with someone a little lower in the chain of command, make sure that person understands the rationale behind your offer—and not just the offer itself.

Practice makes perfect. Negotiating isn’t an easy skill to master, so practice with friends or family before you start the real thing with your prospective landlord. You can use such well-worn phrases as “You’ll have to do better than that” or “What kind of discount are you offering today?” The more you practice, the easier it is once you get down to talking business with the landlord.

Ask for more. When you start discussing actual numbers, start with a figure that’s lower than you expect to pay. Then you can move up to something closer to the middle as you go back and forth with the landlord.

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