When you're in the market to rent a new apartment, it's important to be equipped with the right tools to find yourself the best deal. From being informed about the area to which you want to move to simply being nice to your potential landlord, there are a variety of ways to get the deal you need on the apartment you want.
Our experts share tips on getting the best rent deal.
It's still a renter's market out there and many experts agree that now's the time to get the best deal possible on a rental. Bill Deegan is the executive director of the American Tenants Association, a grassroots organization aimed at enhancing the quality of life for renters through legislative action. "Renters have been second-class citizens," he says. "With the rush for everyone to be a homeowner, it was lost. Tenants are the great unleveraged class."
Mark Verge, owner of Los Angeles' rental website, Westside Rentals, and owner of several rental properties, says, "There are so many things you can do to make renting to your advantage. And they are totally simple, basic things."
1. Do your research
"Don't jump at the first thing," Deegan suggests. "Do comparison shopping, it's a major purchase. Folks will go out and price television sets to save $50 on a one-shot purchase, whereas saving $50 on monthly rent, times 12, makes a lot of sense and a big difference."
Verge echoes this sentiment, "You have got to look at 10 places at least. Shop! Shop! Shop!"
2. Check out vacancy rates
Deegan thinks research is especially important in regards to deals on rent. "Right now many landlords have vacancy rates in the double digits, meaning they have many empty units, so the tenants are in the drivers seat. In these cases it's a supply and demand issue and this is for multi family and single family housing. Check the vacancy rate in your community and negotiate from strength."
3. Bargain and negotiate
Don't accept prices of rent as quoted -- there's still time to bargain! An empty apartment does an owner no good, so they might be willing to rent to you for less rent per month if they get you in immediately. Also ask for additional months to be rent-free if you sign a longer lease. See if you can move in without a deposit or inquire if utilities can be included. Incentives are often part of the process to lure renters -- remember, you won't get a good deal if you don't ask for it.
4. Bad credit isn't a deal-breaker
"If you have bad credit, explain right up front what the problems are and what happened," suggests Verge. "The issues are: Do I trust them? Do I like them? If so, you understand things happen and will rent to them - and even for less than the rent I initially intended." He says being upfront helps for any other problems you think you may have. "I had a nice guy with three kids and he was scared. I told him to show up with the kids and let the owner meet them. Your weaknesses can be your strength if you are up front from the beginning.
5. Show up in person
Verge says that you have to show up in person so landlords know who you are. Verge explains that this is your biggest chance to make a difference in your rent, "If you are nice, pleasant and honest, you have the best shot at getting a deal."
Deegan also thinks this is important, for other reasons. "Many landlords don't quote prices over the phone, so you do it in person. And you should want to go anyway; you want to visit the community you will be living in."
6. Overwhelm them with nice
For Verge it's very simple, "I will lower rents if I like them, so be nice and pleasant. If I ask a question and the person won't answer it, or is defensive or rude, then I don't like them. Not only will I not give them a deal, but I won't rent to them at all."
7. Present yourself in the best light
Verge thinks you are your best asset. "Bottom line is: It's a business deal. You want to show up looking nice and you should compliment the place. Say you want to pay $1,600; you can go to places that are $1,800 or $2,000 and negotiate down if you do these things."
8. Be prepared
If you have a good credit history, bring a copy, as well as proof that you paid rent at your last apartment on time. Knowing they are getting a solid tenant is a great way to make the case for why they want you, and why they should drop the price to get you.
Allison found out firsthand that in the apartment-hunting process you are your own best asset. Not having great credit, she was nervous that no one would rent to her. But by being up-front and forthright about her finances and explaining why she would make a great tenant, within a few days she signed a lease on her dream apartment for a great price.
Verge likens the process to dating. "I can't date you over the phone. I want to meet you in person, like you, ask you some questions, and if that goes well, we are on our way." And you get your great deal on rent.