When should I negotiate rent for a new apartment?
May 28, 2009 10:03 AM   Subscribe

When (and how) should I negotiate rent for a new apartment? Everyone says I'm in a great position to bargain, but I'm not sure at what point in the process I should bring it up.

I'm looking for a one-bedroom apartment, and there are a lot of listings that seem to be just out of my price range -- I'm willing to pay $1200 or $1300, and I see lots of listings for $14-1500. Everyone I've talked to says that I can definitely negotiate those prices down (I have a good job and job security, good credit, blah blah blah I'm an ideal tenant).

I've looked around online and found some helpful tips about negotiating in general, but I think I need more specifics! I'm about to start viewing places, and I can't figure out the best way to go about this.

Should I bring up the price issue right away when I see a place that I like? Should I "apply" for the apartment first and THEN try to talk them down? I don't want to waste everyone's time by applying for apartments I can't afford, but on the other hand I think I'd be in a stronger bargaining position if they run a credit check, etc. first, and know that I'm a good prospect.

So, how should I have this conversation? (Oh, and would the answer be different if I'm dealing with a realtor vs. directly with the owner? I'll probably be seeing both kinds of places.)
posted by eleutheria to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In the past, when I've sought to do this, I've put together a great package that includes:

-My resume with a letter from my boss that I am an employee in good standing (I've worked at the same firm for nearly 10 years now)
-A copy of the last 4-5 pay stubs
-A letter of reference from current landlord and/or proof of min. 6 months timely rent payment
-A copy of my credit check
-A copy of my savings account balance
-Anything else relevant
-A blank check, i.e. to make a deposit

Then, I would make an appointment to see the apartment. If I like it, I will indicate my general interest, and show them that I've come prepared with every piece of documentation they could conceivably want to have. I then tell them I am interesting in placing a deposit today, but only if the rent were negotiated to $x.

It's worked for me.
posted by bunnycup at 10:17 AM on May 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

The answer does depend on how you're finding these apartments. Are you looking at owner-listed apartments through Craigslist and speaking only to the owners? Is a broker showing you things just out of your price range? Are you paying application or credit check fees?

I negotiated with my landlord and the broker to get from $1200 to $1100 for my one bedroom. Actually, I wouldn't say I negotiated--as I was looking at it, I just said "I love it and I'd take it, but my budget is $1100. I can't swing $1200." The landlord said, "Oh, okay, we can do that." If he'd said no, I was prepared to walk. I really couldn't have afforded $1200. (He also didn't raise my rent when the lease was up, in part because I told him I hadn't gotten a raise last year due to the economy. He's awesome.)

As soon as he said $1100 was fine, I handed over a deposit. I'd already paid a $45 credit check fee to the broker when I applied for another apartment he'd showed me.

If you have to pay a separate fee (application or credit check) for each apartment, you need to negotiate this ahead of time. If you're working with a broker, make sure they're aware of your budget and tell them that they have to stick to it OR show you places they're sure will negotiate with you down to your budget. Bring documentation to prove that you can't afford more than that. If you're dealing directly with the landlord, ask during the showing whether the rent is negotiable--don't name a number, just ask if it's negotiable. If it's not at this place, they might have another for a lower price.

If you're working with a broker, you can also negotiate their fee.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:34 AM on May 28, 2009

Those are excellent suggestions by "bunnycup". My only additional suggestion is to remember that the possibility of successful negotiations is in proportion to your willingness to walk away from the deal. I do not mean threatening, being arrogant or anything like that. But it helps immensely if one knows in their heart that they are prepared to walk away from the deal in a professional and business like manner if they do not meet their objective.
If you do not achieve a satisfactory arrangement you can always conclude by saying:
" I am sorry we could not reach a mutually acceptable rent. You have all my information. I hope you would contact me if you would like to discuss this further"
posted by rmhsinc at 10:53 AM on May 28, 2009

Agree with all of the above. I don't know if you are in NYC, but I am, and I just rented with a very similar budget - I wanted a 1bedroom for $1100 that was originally priced at 1275. I got it. Its a good idea to get your package of info together, but honestly I don't think the landlord cares at the moment of negotiation - you will just need it eventually. The thing any broker/owner wants to see on the spot is your checkbook, so bring that along.

Broker or owner, you should negotiate on the spot if you want the place, not after you put in the application or credit check.

Also - this is NYC specific, not sure about elsewhere - no way should you be paying a broker's fee in the current rental climate. Before you go to see a place, you should ask the broker is if they have a fee; if they do, ask them to waive it. If they don't call someone else.
posted by RajahKing at 11:20 AM on May 28, 2009

IAALL. If you did what bunnycup does, and everything was in order, I would definitely try to be very accommodating about whatever you were asking.
posted by cmoj at 12:04 PM on May 28, 2009

These are all great replies.

RajahKing: Yeah, I'm in Brooklyn. Can I really get brokers to waive their fee?? Right now I'm not working WITH a broker, but the places I'm finding via craigslist are mostly listed BY brokers (which of course makes me even less willing to pay them a fee. All they have to do is show up!).

I'll show up on Saturday with my I'm-an-awesome-tenant package in hand (and I'll follow up here if I'm successful!).
posted by eleutheria at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2009

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