Renting a home in the U.S. isn’t as affordable as you might think. In fact, compared to owning a home, renting is more expensive in over 40 states, found a recent GoBankingRates.com study. But don’t lose hope just yet.
If you’re on the fence between renting and owning, or if you have your eye on a dream home with a ridiculously high rent, there are proven ways you can lower your rent. “Negotiating rents has never been more common, as the cost of rents continues to skyrocket,” said Janine Acquafredda, an associate broker for House n Key, Realty in Brooklyn, N.Y.
So if you’re looking for cheaper rent on a home you love, give these proven negotiation methods a try.
1. Research the Competition
In a perfect world, you already live in one of the cheapest cities to rent. But, not everyone is that lucky. Researching the rental market in your area — or in the area near your dream home — might be your saving grace when negotiating rent, however.
“You have to know the area well,” said Irvine, Calif., realtor Benny Kang. “There might be a rental property down the street that is on the market for $100 cheaper that has the same square footage, lot size, layout, etc. You can use that as leverage, showing [the landlord] that property isn’t our only option to rent.”
A quick search on Zillow or Trulia can provide you with a pretty accurate picture of what rent is going for in your desired area. And for a landlord, lowering a property’s rent is often a better choice than having the property sit, which could potentially cost the owner more money than saying “yes” to cheaper rent, said Kang.
2. Offer a Long-Term Lease Agreement
When negotiating rent, give a little to show you’re invested in the home, too. For example, Kang recommended offering the landlord a longer lease.
Landlords prefer tenants who commit longer, as they won’t have the headache of finding a new tenant, prepping the rental, and so forth, said Kang. Cleaning a rental could very easily cost $500, and hiring an agent might cost 6 percent of one year’s rent, he added.
“Every time a tenant moves out, the landlord is spending about one month’s rent,” said Kang. “You will not be getting any rent until you find someone who will rent the place out. It could take a few weeks to few months.” Not to mention, the property’s vacancy rate is affected, as well.
So, if you’re planning to live in that specific community for longer than one year, ask if you can sign a longer lease to negotiate a lower rent.
3. Sell Yourself
Let’s be frank: A landlord’s worst nightmare is having a tenant who leaves the place in deplorable condition. If you want to lower your rent, prove you’re not a risk of devaluing the property.
“I had a neurologist relocating to Atlanta,” said Atlanta-based rental property manager Bruce Ailion. “He had a $90,000 per-month-salary, a stay-at-home wife, a 2-year-old and a 10-pound dog. He wanted to rent a luxury home. He was willing to pay a $1,000 non-refundable pet deposit and a six-month $18,000 deposit for other damages.”
Ailion said good income, along with a sizable deposit, got his client “a competitive rate where most luxury property owners would not rent to someone with a pet at any price.”
If you don’t have the means to show monetarily that you’re not a risk, don’t worry — Ailion said you can show the landlord you’re a solid rental candidate by having glowing references from past landlords. You might even want to include pictures and videos in addition to statements. This effort alone could very well impress the landlord and get them to bend the rent terms.
4. Offer to Handle Repairs and Maintain the Property
If you don’t mind putting in a little bit of elbow grease on a rental or spending money on maintenance, offer these services to an owner when negotiating rent.
“Simple things, like offering to maintain the property — leaf and snow removal, garbage and recycling — even minor maintenance and repairs are very attractive to absentee and/or aging landlords,” said Acquafredda.
“I rented an apartment to a couple under very straight terms,” she continued, “but when the lease was up and it came time for renewal, the landlord was increasing the rent by 5 percent. The tenants offered to do snow and leaf removal — since he was an absentee landlord — and the landlord agreed to keep the rent at the current rent.”
Although Acquafredda said most people might be fine with shaking hands on these terms, you might want to have the agreement spelled out in a lease.
5. Show Your Landlord the Money
Who wouldn’t want to receive a stack of cash up front? According to Kang, most landlords would find this offer enticing, even if it means lowering the rent.
“This is a great way to build credibility and to get a discounted rate,” he said.
Kang recommended offering a landlord three months or more up front. The owner knows they won’t be stiffed or receive late rent, and you get a rental at your preferred price.
Another option is to produce the first month’s rent and deposit with a solid application when requesting cheaper rent. This could work for a place that’s been listed for a while. Juston Smith, a web developer in Dallas, used this technique while looking for a rental in Savannah, Ga., a few years ago.
“It was listed at $1,900, but the post was a month old at the time I first responded,” he said. “So first, I contacted them and just asked to view it. I did that and fell in love.”
Thinking the owners might be “a bit cash starved,” Smith wrote them an offer that was $300 less, promising to deliver the application with the fee, first month’s rent and a deposit the next morning.
“Basically, [it was] the polite way of saying, ‘Boom — take it or leave it,’” he said. And it worked.
6. Just Ask
Simply asking for cheaper rent could work — in the right scenario, of course.
Megan Wells, a content strategist in San Francisco, was looking for a two-bedroom rental with her boyfriend last year. They found a suitable place for $3,300 in the Richmond District — but it was $300 over their budget.
Wells said the apartment was part of a four-unit building where the most desirable ones leased within days. The remaining two had sat for several months at the same price.
“Knowing they were eager to get the units filled, we tried our hand at negotiating the terms,” she said. “We didn’t mince words. We simply said, ‘If you drop the rent by $300, we’ll apply and sign today.’ It was a very simple conversation, they agreed — and we got the rent we were hoping for.”
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.