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‘There’s always room for negotiation’ on rent, says a real estate expert ― try 4 tactics to help you save money

Check "how many apartments are actually on the market in the neighborhood."

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The coronavirus pandemic saw urban landscapes change, as millions of people flocked to the suburbs and rural areas for more space. As a result, rents in big cities dropped as much as 25%. But prices have started rising again: Rent prices across the country increased 1.1% from February to March alone, according to Apartment List.

If you're in the market for a new home rental and are nervous about the rising prices, know that when it comes to how much you pay, "there is always room for more negotiation," says Lauren Riefflin, home trends expert at StreetEasy.

Here are four ways to negotiate the price of your apartment, according to experts.

1. 'Do some research' on similar apartments

Once you find and "get excited about an apartment," says Riefflin, "you take a step back and research the market." That's because the "most potent weapon that you can have in your back pocket is to understand what's happening in the building that you're interested in, and also the neighborhood that you want to move to."  

Here are three important data points to pay attention to as you prepare:

  • Total listings in the area. Check "how many apartments are actually on the market in the neighborhood," says Riefflin, "including the building [that you're interested in] and surrounding buildings." This can give you a sense of the competition your landlord is facing and how flexible they might be.
  • Listing time on the market. Check how long units are "staying on the market. Listings that are lingering on the market may give the renter a little bit of extra bargaining power," she says.
  • Price changes. "Pay attention to price cuts," she says. "Use a resource like Zillow or StreetEasy to look at a listing history and even a building's history to see if apartments are already getting price cuts." That could give you more negotiating leverage.

Having concrete examples that contextualize and inform your offer can help you make a more realistic one.

Once you've sussed all of these out, say something to the landlord like, "I'm interested in this apartment. I've seen that similar apartments in this neighborhood or similar units in this building are going for this price. I would like to make an offer to rent this apartment for a year lease at this price," says Riefflin.

2. Try asking for 'a longer term lease'

If the landlord "won't budge on the price with a 12-month lease," says Riefflin, consider if you're willing to commit to a longer lease. That can be a negotiating opportunity.

"In my experience, most complexes are willing to give you a slightly discounted rate if you agree to a longer term lease," says Jeff Proctor, co-owner of money resource site DollarSprout.com. "For example, a 12-month lease on a two-bedroom apartment may cost $1,500 a month, but a 16-or-18-month lease for the same unit may cost only $1,450 per month."

Ask your prospective landlord if they'd be willing to lower the price if you sign a longer lease.

3. 'Offer to pay a chunk of your lease upfront'

Another tactic, according to Proctor: "If you have some savings stashed up already, offer to pay a chunk of your lease upfront for a discounted rate, ideally 3-6 months. Landlords spend a lot of time chasing after late rent payments, so if you can save them the hassle of that, they may be willing to help you out a little bit on rent costs." 

4. Ask for a discount if 'you don't have any pets'

Finally, "if the apartment complex allows pets but you don't have any pets," says Proctor, "see is there is a discount available. Cleaning up units after a dog or cat has lived there is a pain, and can be costly" for a landlord. "If you are able to save a landlord from that headache, they may be willing to cut you a better deal."

However you decide to negotiate down the price of your apartment, when you finally come to an agreement, "make sure it's in writing," says Riefflin. Although negotiations may happen "in a casual email chain or over the phone," she says, that landlord will only be beholden to your terms if it is formalized in the final lease.

Additional reporting for this story provided by Gabriel Cortes.

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