Negotiating rent after a viewing?
April 22, 2010 4:38 PM   Subscribe

I recently applied for an apartment that I saw through a realtor. Then I met with the landlord and they wanted to negotiate the price up. Is this reasonable or not?

I'm looking for 1 bedroom apartments in Boston, and recently saw several in a pretty desirable area. There was one that seemed like an especially good deal, though not unbelievably so. (Strangely the realtor didn't seem very impressed with it.) I filled in an application for about $1700 a month, first and security deposit due at signing (plus agent fee, which seems common for Boston, sadly).

Then I met with the landlord and his son. We talked about a number of things, but it became clear they'd like a bit higher price. After some rather indirect negotiation, we agreed on first and last month's rent on signing, plus $850 security deposit and a $600 lump sum due within a month. I'd also get to move in a few days early. I haven't signed anything, and told them only that I thought we might have a deal. (Note that with agent fee we're talking $6500 within a month!)

Their justification was that the $1700 was a steal, and that they'd also been testing out higher prices with other agents, and if they got an offer that way, obviously they'd take it over mine. (And that the lack of interest previously had been due to the season.) They didn't insist on the higher terms, and even admitted the realtor wanted to stick to what was advertised.

I think they're probably right that the advertised price was low. (If it matters, I viewed the property before ever seeing an ad.) While upfront costs will be tough, I can afford what they want. But I don't want to be a chump. I'm not sure I want to deal with a landlord that plays these sort of negotiating games either. But maybe this is perfectly reasonable business strategy? I think people do this with house purchases, right? I'm also at a serious disadvantage in needing to find a place by the end of the month (and they know that).
posted by serathen to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think they're probably right that the advertised price was low.

Well, they're idiots for not listing the price higher to begin with, and are crooked for trying to upsell you once you get in the door. Once you move in, how could you trust these people to a) honour your deposit b) give back your damage deposit (assuming there is no damage when you move out c) reliably and quickly fix problems.

For $1700, I would expect service and ethics.

Run away, don't walk.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:44 PM on April 22, 2010 [10 favorites]

Here's what you say when someone wants to tack on a dozen hidden fees:

"Thank you for wasting my time."

Their justification was that the $1700 was a steal, and that they'd also been testing out higher prices with other agents, and if they got an offer that way, obviously they'd take it over mine.

You can look at every apartment in Boston. They can only consider whoever applies. Walk out. If they make you a sufficiently low offer, take it. If they don't, you're better off without the apartment.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:48 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Run. They're sleazeballs.
posted by MillMan at 4:50 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Not reasonable. I have zero love for landlords in Boston.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:13 PM on April 22, 2010

Isn't there also some sort of contract they'd have with the real estate agent? Something that would keep the agent as exclusive for a period of time? Don't know if that's how they handle things there, but I'd certainly follow up with the agent to let them know what's being done behind their back.

That and take it up with whatever local gov't office handles renter relations.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:14 PM on April 22, 2010

Regardless of whether it's a fair price, these guys don't seem like the kind of guys I'd want to get into long term dealings with. I'd decline.
posted by advicepig at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

Have you checked the laws in your state? I'm in British Columbia, and our Residential Tenancy Act would prohibit like 75% of their behavior right off the bat. Check to see if your jurisdiction has anything similar.
posted by neksys at 5:27 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even given the competitiveness of housing in Boston, I sure as heck wouldn't be paying $1700 for a one bedroom. I'd maybe under certain circumstances pay $1700 for a two bedroom, and absolutely for a 3 bedroom.

But for a one bedroom?

We're currently looking for a two bedroom, and we won't pay more than around $1300- $1500, to give you an idea, and that limits us to looking in the Medford/Somerville/Cambridge/Arlington area and on the North Shore, certainly. We currently live in a one bedroom two blocks from the T, heat and water included, and right next to a coin-up laundromat and are paying about $1300/month If anything, the one bedroom was advertised well above market value, unless, like, maybe it's on Beacon Hill and fully furnished and with all utilities included and free laundry in unit.

Walk away from this apartment and those landlords. You're being gouged, unless it's unusually spectacular.
posted by zizzle at 5:51 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've dealt with a very similar sleazebally landlord situation once. And living under that guy was HELL. Not worth it. There are more apartments out there.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:54 PM on April 22, 2010

Under no circumstances would I rent from someone whose first interaction with me was a bait-and-switch.
posted by ook at 7:05 PM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]

with agent fee

Your agent is not on top of things here. Time for a new agent?
posted by ovvl at 7:17 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The realtor says that the shopping around thing is legit, but hadn't expected this situation. I'm really not looking forward to not having a place lined up when I start my new job next week. Eh, maybe I will just ask the realtor to go back to them with the original terms. Nothing's been signed and they're just as free to walk away and look for a better offer as I am.
posted by serathen at 7:32 PM on April 22, 2010

Is the "$600 lump sum" refundable or not? If it is refundable, then you'd still be paying the advertised $1,700 a month, which sounds like it's what you want. If you don't get it back, that would amount to a $1,750 monthly rent over the course of a year. Is this still a good deal? Do you like the place?

On the other hand, you don't need to sign a year-long apartment lease by the end of the month, you just need a place to stay. Consider staying at an extended-stay hotel and keeping your stuff in storage until you find a place you really, really like (for me, those things are usually of the "love at first sight" sort – you keep looking until you find one you can't live without). It might save you money and a lot of stress on the long run.
posted by halogen at 1:09 AM on April 23, 2010

Response by poster: …and I walked away from it. Too bad.
posted by serathen at 7:13 AM on April 23, 2010

Just briefly, $1700 isn't being gouged, assuming you don't want to live in Somerville/Medford/Outer Brighton/Allston.

I live in Back Bay/ South End and pay $1700 for a reasonable but not great one bedroom. And I think I got a steal.

Too bad about the apartment, and the skeezy landlord. I have a company as my landlord (C Talanian Realty) and they are awesome - they fix every problem within three hours of me calling, tops.
posted by CharlieSue at 12:55 PM on April 23, 2010

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