In your first apartment, the cost of rent should be one of your top priorities so you don’t sign a lease that’s more than you can comfortably afford on your income. What you will learn during your apartment hunt is that the same apartment can change in price as demand fluctuates and seasons change. While this can be frustrating, it can also give you the change to negotiate the lowest possible rent for your first place.
As you prepare to start negotiating rent pricing, here are some factors to consider:
If you come in knowing you have a very strong rental application – meaning you have a high credit score and consistent credit, a stable income, are prepared to occupy the apartment for medium- to long-term – you may come into the apartment at an advantage. It would make sense for landlords to want to rent to you, because in theory, it should be an easy job for them.
However, if you don’t have many shining stars on your rental application, consider some other factors before offering less than the asking price for the apartment you’re interested in.
Check out the building, complex, or surrounding areas. Are there plenty of apartments available for rent? Scarcity is not good news (for you, that is!), but if there seems to be plenty of open apartments available in the building or local area, the landlord may be more motivated to get their apartments filled quickly, and be more willing to take a small price cut to make it happen.
Do some online research in the area, and then feel free to ask the leasing agent or landlord if they have many units available for rent before making any offer.
Length of vacancy
You might also consider the length of vacancy of a particular unit. This is more helpful if you have your eye on one apartment and can keep tabs on how long it stays available. If you check back in a couple weeks and it’s still open, the landlord may be more willing to reduce the price to get someone moved in (and paying rent) right away.
You can also sometimes gauge this during conversations with the landlord or leasing agent – if they are showing you a currently occupied apartment, it likely hasn’t been on the market long. But, if it’s empty, ask how long it’s been open.
Pricing of comparable apartments
Today, it’s simple to do online research and compare apartment pricing in an area. Find a few different apartments that you like – with similar features (like square footage, number of bedrooms, and amenities) – and consider negotiating to the lowest available price.
At the very least, this will give your potential new landlord the opportunity to share what truly differentiates their offering, and you can always choose to go with a cheaper option!
Time of year
Moving is generally seasonal – most don’t want to move during the holidays or middle of the school year (for families), and summertime is most popular for college graduates. If you know you’re not moving during a peak season that is in most markets spring to fall, you might be able to negotiate pricing down to quickly fill an open unit. This factor goes along closely with the length of vacancy and number of available units — it might be more difficult to find an open apartment during non-peak seasons when few people move out, but you may be able to snap up a great deal!
Negotiating apartment pricing does not have to be a huge undertaking, it is simply a conversation between you and your potential new landlord. Make a thoughtful offer based on the research you’ve done and get their reaction. If they agree, make sure the new price is reflected in the lease before you sign it. Remember, they might say “Nope!” but at least you’ve given it a try… and if you make a good case, they just might say “Yes!”