Although I am a homeowner and have been for the past 40 years, I can still remember the days when I was a renter. While renting wasn’t so terrible, I do wish I had learned some of the things about renting that I know now that would have saved me time, money, and peace of mind. Hopefully, you can use this knowledge to save when you rent an apartment.
Rental prices aren’t set in stone, even in highly competitive markets, so elbow grease and negotiation skills can yield hefty savings. One of the priciest cities in the country, San Francisco, today has an average price of a one-bedroom apartment of nearly $4,000 (!), so knowing a few tricks can definitely help.
It is very possible to put some real efforts into the process and try to get to know the landlord and the way he approaches the application process. So here are some top tips for securing a discount on rent, as well as additional tactics for those already renting.
12 Ways to Rent an Apartment for Less Money
1. Do Your Research When Apartment Hunting
Spend a fair amount of time researching the landlords of properties you are interested in, including reviewing their LinkedIn profiles, Googling them, and reading any public records available online. The effort is all part of establishing a personal connection and relationship with a landlord, which will ultimately help you secure a rent discount. Try to figure out what things you may have in common with the landlord for example did you go to the same school or do volunteer work at the same places, so that when you actually meet them you can talk to them in a common language!
2. Make the Most of an Open House
If you have the opportunity to meet the landlord at an open house for a rental property, don’t waste that opportunity! Once you get there, make it less about you and all about them and their property. A lot of people talk about themselves, their credit score, but in reality what it should be about is the landlord. In a competitive market, you’ll find many people with the same credit score, and a landlord is going to see your credit score on the application. But what you can show them at the open house is your personality and how you will fit into the property—the intangibles they’re not going to see on an application that they really want in a tenant!
3. Guide the First Conversation
In addition to letting your personality shine, the goal of that first conversation is to obtain a few key pieces of information that will be part of subsequent negotiations. First, you want to know what makes an ideal tenant. Then ask about past tenants—what did they love, things they did not love. All of this information will be used for the next step in the negotiations.
4. Follow Up with a Cover Letter
Take everything you learned during the conversation with the landlord and craft a cover letter that both addresses those points and highlights your commonalities. Did the landlord mention that a previous tenant had a pet that destroyed the place? Make it clear in your cover letter that you’re far more responsible, and offer examples. You might even include some pictures of your past homes with your letters in order to prove how well you maintained those past places you lived.
5. Speak Your Landlord’s Language
If English is not their first language, you can have you your letter translated into his or her native language. It’s an added bit of effort that helps strengthen your connection with the landlord. It goes a long way toward getting the landlord to like you!
6. Now Ask for the Discount
When it finally comes time to talk money and negotiate, make sure you’ve done your research. Know what the market rate is for the type of home you are seeking to rent. If the rent is higher than average, ask the landlord to reduce it. I would say “This is really high compared to market average, how can we get this lower?” and at this point, I would have usually talked to them so much I know what they are looking for and what their pain points are.
7. Are There Any Odd Jobs?
Does the landlord need someone to mow the lawn? Offer to do that. It’s about discovering something painful for them and offering a solution. Does your landlord have a website that needs improvement? Or does he or she need advertisements designed or handed out or posted? If you have the free time and the skills, the possibilities for working in exchange for a discount are endless.
8. Sign a Longer Lease
Yet another tactic that often encourages landlords to lower the monthly rent is offering to sign a longer lease than they are asking for. Is the landlord seeking a one-year lease? Then offer to sign a two-year lease if you’re comfortable doing so. One of the biggest financial burdens a landlord faces is an empty, unrented property. Signing a longer lease eases this problem.
9. Offer to Pay Cash Up Front
Nothing talks like cold, hard cash. If you have the money to pay rent up front, in cash, a landlord may be quite willing to offer a discount or a free month. For example, offer to pay three or six months in advance, in exchange for a discount.
10. Offer to Pay a Portion of Repairs
Another unique approach: You can offer to pay a “deductible” on any repairs that may arise during the course of your tenancy. In other words, offer to pay the first $100 of any needed repair. This eases a major hassle for landlords in the form of having to arrange for small repairs. You can even put a limit on the amount, say four events a year of using the deductible.
The downside, however, is that you could end up fixing many things on your own dime. So take a hard look at the property before offering this type of arrangement. If you make an agreement, make sure it’s specified exactly in your lease.
11. Offer to Pay Rent Early Each Month
Yet another option that may make a landlord far more willing to negotiate the rental amount, offer to pay your rent well before the first of the month, say on the 15th of the previous month. Work with your pay period and you won’t see or miss any funds if you do.
12. Sublet Space to Offset Rent
Does the property come with a garage that you won’t use because you don’t have a car? Then ask about renting out the garage to help offset the monthly rent. Or you may allow the landlord to rent out a garage and the landlord can take the money and use part or all towards your rent. Ask about sub-letting when you’re not there, if you can negotiate that in your deal.
I know that it’s outside the box to think of some of these ways to save when you rent an apartment. But even landlords have the desire to compromise to get a reliable tenant and that is more true than ever when money is tight and the economy is suffering as it is right now. That means both sides will come toward the middle to get a compromise and the first step is simply to be brave enough to ask out loud for a deal.
Be clear so there is agreement and get it all in writing. Many times the big hassles in a rental situation concern the end of the term so make sure you know how it will end, just like you know how it will begin, to avoid any pain.
Are you renting now? Is your lease coming due and is it time to renegotiate? Have you considered moving to a rental where the landlord is more flexible and will help?
You can be creative to make it work. Landlords need tenants as much as tenants need landlords!