How to Negotiate Rent on a New Apartment

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You may think the rent on an apartment as a fixed price. But you can actually negotiate your rent, though maybe not in the way you’d expect. Here are some tips on how to negotiate rent for an apartment and save money.

Apartment keys on ring isolated on white

How to negotiate rent on an apartment

I stumbled onto a lot of these tips from moving around a lot. Even in a landlord’s market, where apartments are getting leased quickly, you can sometimes bargain for at least a little something.

Maximize your value

First, you want to present yourself as a desirable tenant. If you don’t have great credit but you do have a good job, get a letter of reference from your employer stating what your salary is and how confident they are in your continued success with them.

If you have great credit but a lousy job, be prepared to explain confidently how you’re going to pay the rent (the credit history may speak for itself, but some landlords put more stock in your income).

What landlords want

Landlords don’t like low rent prices on their books. When they go to apply for loans or try to sell a building, it looks good for them if they can say they’re collecting rents of a certain amount.

So you can usually get further by asking for freebies than by asking for a lower rent price.

  1. Suggest a two-year lease. If you’re sure you don’t mind staying put that long, some landlords will give you a couple of “free months”, which equate to a significant break in what you’ll pay over the two years if you’ll commit to it for two years instead of the standard one year. This benefits you, too, because the price can’t go up until the lease expires. The one big risk with this approach is that you might find a loud party animal moving in next to you (this happened at another apartment I lived in, and I had to get a lawyer to help me break the lease). Before committing to a two-year deal, ask your landlord for assurances that loud partiers will be evicted or dealt with in some fashion.
  2. Ask them to throw in utilities. Again, free utilities don’t really show up on the books. They get bundled into other “expenses” in running the building. A good approach here is to ask a lot of questions about the utility bills. How much are other tenants paying for electricity, gas, water, anything else not covered? They may offer to pay one or more utilities for you. And because they think it was their idea, they’ll feel like they’re getting the better of the negotiation. Let them know you’re comparing the total cost of renting this apartment to the total cost of some others you’ve looked at. This gets them thinking about bargains they can offer to sweeten the deal.
  3. Ask for a free month – or two. There are almost always some buildings offering free months as an incentive. If the building you want isn’t doing that, let them know you’re looking at other that do. They’ll often match this offer to get your name on a lease. (I once got four free months on a two-year lease.)
  4. Point out price discrepancies in their ads. Some landlords put out ads saying the apartment rents for $1500 per month, but when you come to see it, the price is higher. They say the ad was a typo, or that there’s a monthly fee for something like parking. This is not legitimate. Whip out the ad and remind them that the law says they have to honor it. This shows them that you’re not someone they can fleece, and they’ll start negotiating with you. The time this happened to me, I ended up with a better deal than what was in their ad. Don’t settle for paying more than what’s in the ad.
  5. Don’t try to negotiate the security deposit. In my experience, when landlords charge a security deposit (often a month’s rent or more), this is something they won’t budge on. I’m not sure why. You may be able to bring the price down if it’s ridiculous (like two months’ rent). But rather than trying to negotiate about the security deposit, try to negotiate for free months of rent instead. You might also try to negotiate a payment plan on the security deposit if you don’t have all that cash laying around at the moment.

More to consider

There are other expenses related to your apartment that you need to consider in order to get the best deal for you.

  • If housing near your work is expensive, consider the cost of a commute. Does the decrease in rent offset the gas and increased car maintenance? What about the stress and wasted time of the commute?
  • Can you get an Energy Star/LEED apartment, where all the appliances and wiring are engineered to use the least electricity and gas they can? Those savings can really add up. I’ve lived in two very energy efficient apartments. I’ve also lived in an old building with windows that didn’t work. I find I save at least $100/month on utilities in an energy efficient building. So when I’m considering an energy efficient apartment against one that’s not, I deduct in my mind $100 from the price of the energy efficient one.
  • Also, take a look at security. Some insurers cut you a break on auto insurance if you park in a secured garage or a gated community. Apartments with secure parking spaces usually cost more than those without, but the extra expense is sometimes offset by auto insurance savings.
  • Another feature to consider is whether the building is within walking or bicycling distance of shops you like. You may be able to do most of your grocery and drug store shopping on foot, which gives you some exercise while saving on gas.