You never get anything unless you ask, so here are tips for negotiating lower rent.
Know the rental market
Look around. What are the rates at apartments near yours? Compare apples to apples. If you’re interested in a new development, then look at other new developments. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the amenities that are available and how they compare to the unit you’re considering. Make this info known to your property manager.
Rental rates are not a secret, but they can change from day to day. Get a competing rate in writing if you can, and if it’s lower than the one being offered, have it with you when you go to negotiate. A lower rate in a similar apartment is a great tool for negotiating a lower price on your own apartment.
Consider the time of year
For property managers, timing is everything. The best time to think about negotiating your lease is the time in which you have the most leverage. In other words, think about the broader supply and demand trends during any given season. If it’s the end of the month, vacancies are high and you’d be willing to leave if you don’t get what you want, that could be a time when a manager is more likely to be amenable to your offer. As a rule of thumb, winter is usually a good moment to broach the topic, as it’s harder to find tenants during that time of year.
Sell yourself as a good tenant
If you’ve never rented in that particular complex, than a few letters of recommendation will go a long way toward convincing a manager you’d be a tenant worth having, even at a lower rate. Get a letter from previous landlords or apartment managers, which say you pay your rent on time and don’t cause problems. Get letters which speak to your character, from a former boss, neighbor or someone in a non profit orgranization or your church.
If you’re trying to renew your lease at a better rate, remind the manager that you’ve always paid your rent on time, and anything else that’s positive. Have you kindly alerted them to maintenance concerns? Have you helped in an emergency? Have you assisted during holiday parties?
Exchange value for price
What is a lower rent price worth to you? Would you consider doing something above and beyond paying rent that offers tangible value to your property manager? Think of jobs or tasks around the property–maintenance, cleaning, administrative, marketing, etc.–that would increase the underlying value of the owner or manager’s investment. Helping with some of these activities could cut down on expenses and thus justify the price reduction you’re looking for.
Experiment with the lease terms
Offering a different move-out date, extending your lease term or reworking the end of your lease term to fall during high season (spring or summer) are some of the ways you may be able to play with lease dates and terms that might be attractive to a leasing manager.
You could also offer to pay rent in lump sums. Following the financial axiom that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, you could offer to pay rent in 3- or 6-month advance payments instead of monthly rent in exchange for a lower price.
Make an offer (& be creative)
Think like a manager. What would make his or her job easier? You could offer a lesser monthly amount in trade for giving up a parking space, or helping with new member socials. Don’t be afraid to ask what your manager needs. If he or she has flexibility on pricing (and they ususally do) then you might be able to help each other.