NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Everything is negotiable... everything except the rent on your apartment. Right? Maybe not. You might be surprised to find out that you are not only able to negotiate rent on a place you're looking to move into -- you also able to negotiate rent on a place you’re already living in. So how do you cut down on your biggest monthly expense without moving into a new building?
Individuals Are More Pliable Than Big Companies
Kathy Braddock, managing director of William Raveis real estate in New York City, notes that you have less flexibility with a larger company that owns several buildings or even just a couple very large ones.
"Larger renters tend to be pretty formulaic," she says. This is literally true: their rents are based on formulas that come from the corporate office.
"Once they cut a deal with you, the rent roll looks different than what it’s supposed to," Braddock said.
Another problem is just sheer supply-and-demand economics.
"There's not a lot of empty units sitting around these days," she said.
Lowering Rent on a Unit You Already Live In
Tyler Tervooren is a bit of an expert when it comes to negotiations. He founded Riskology.co, which he calls "a leading website for smart risk takers." He's also actually negotiated rent down on a place he already lived in.
"It's harder if you have a long-term lease," he says. Indeed, he was paying rent on a month-to-month basis when he negotiated his rent down. So how did he go about getting a lower monthly rent payment?
First, Tervooren says you need to look into what comparable rents actually are where you’re living. This means looking at open listings in the area around your neighborhood. It's important to compare apples to apples, so try and find the places that are most like where you're already living.
Next, you need to go to your landlord and make your case. Tervooren stresses that this doesn’t need to be confrontational. It can be as simple as saying the following: "I’m paying this much, I want to be paying this much. What can we do about it?"
"If you’re a good tenant and pay your bills on time, there’s a good chance they’re probably going to work with you," Tervooren says. He believes this type of method will work best with people who are only renting one or two properties.
"The amateur landlord is going to be a little more susceptible to emotional appeals," he said.
Offering Services in Trade
One way that Braddock believes you can get rent lowered, especially on privately owned properties is by offering your services.
"If you happen to be handy, you’re not going to get free rent," she says. What you might get, however, is a big discount on your rent. Even if the landlord in question already has a handyman to take care of things around the property, it's still beneficial for them to have someone who lives on site to handle even smaller problems like shoveling the snow and changing light bulbs.
Big Money Up Front
What's more, Braddock shares a tactic that’s particularly more likely to work when dealing with small-time landlords.
"If you agree to pay your rent six months or a year in advance, your landlord is going to be far more negotiable," Braddock said. Not only does this save him trips to the mailbox or stress wondering if you’re going to pay this month, but it also allows him to move forward on costly projects he might be waiting on.
"He might want all that money in the bank for whatever he’s working on next," Braddock said.
Lowering Rent on a Place You Want to Move Into
When you find the right place, you might want it so bad that you’re willing to pay any price. That’s the first mistake of negotiation -- not being able to walk away from the deal. However, especially when it comes to new buildings going up, Tervooren believes that you might have some really good leverage.
"There's a lot of money tied up in new buildings," he says. "Sometimes they can't even really begin construction until a certain number of units are pre-leased." This means that the landlords are potentially desperate to get someone into the building. Of course, this means that you have to be flexible until the place actually opens. With the amount of money you’re going to save, it can be well worth it.
Beyond that, Tervooren echoes the sentiment expressed by Braddock.
"The rental market here in Portland, Oregon has been really tight for the last few years," he said. This means that negotiating with more prolific, corporate renters might be a fool's errand. Take a look at your local renter’s market and see the lay of the land, but remember: the worst thing anyone can tell you is no.
-- Written for MainStreet by Nicholas Pell