There is no way around it — apartment hunting can be stressful. And the cost of rent can be quite expensive — even outpacing average U.S. salary increases. According to the National Association of Realtors, the cost of rent rose an average of 15 percent while renters’ income only rose 11 percent from 2009 to 2014. However with some planning and negotiating, you may be able to have some more money in your pocket at the end of each month.
Similar to how you can pay more for a winter jacket in October than May, rental rates often vary throughout the year. By planning your move and signing lease terms to help position your next move during the lower rental rate season, you may end up saving some money.
Just like most things, supply and demand determines prices in the rental market. Not surprisingly, you may get a better deal on renting when demand for condos or apartments are at their lowest. However, if you live in a tight rental market, your choices could be very limited. “In most areas the slow rental season is typically late fall through winter since less people move during this time,” says Scot J. Haislip, vice president, national lease program at the National Apartment Association (NAA).
It is important to understand the rental market you’re looking to move into since rental patterns can vary based on where you live. David Reiss, director of Community Development Clinic in New York City and professor at Brooklyn Law School, specializing in real estate and community development recommends contacting several local brokers to get their perspective on the slower rental periods in your area of interest. He also cautions that some high demand areas, such as New York City or Chicago, currently do not have a slower period for rentals.
Even during the winter months, most landlords are not going to simply hand over a discount — you have to work for it by negotiating with your prospective landlord. Before you broach the subject of price, do your homework by picking up the phone or researching online to compare similar units at the current time. Reiss suggests that you consider asking for a decrease in your monthly rent or a period of free rent.
Landlords using rent pricing software, which is similar to software airlines use to price tickets, may be less willing to negotiate the monthly rent since their computer model already takes the market condition and time of year into consideration. Haislip explains that the software determines a rate for the specific unit on the specific day based on factors such as vacancy rate in the building, vacancy rate in the geographical area and projected upcoming vacancy rates based on the economic forecast.
If the landlord is firm on the rent, try to negotiate other angles, like signing a longer lease for a lower rent. Haislip says another option could be to ask the landlord to lower or waive other fees, such as administrative fees, parking fees, amenity fees and pet fees. “In some instances where the manager needs to fill units they may be willing to waive some of these fees all together,” says Haislip. However, he cautions that landlords can typically offer the same deal to all potential tenants to help avoid fair housing violation issues.
While there can never be an ideal time for a move, you may be able to save some money by taking advantage of off-season rates and discounts. And you might have some extra money saved away for a weekend getaway or even a new winter coat.