Seven Tips for Finding an Apartment Deal

By John Egan

If you’re like the average renter in the U.S., you’re forking over about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. Over a year’s time, that adds up to around $12,000. Considering that more than half of all apartment-dwelling households in the country earn less than $35,000 a year, rent eats up a big chunk of money.

No one likes the idea of parting with that much cash to rent an apartment, but you need a roof over your head, right? Here are seven ways you can reduce your apartment rent.

1. Do the research.

Stop Facebooking, tweeting or Snapchatting for a few minutes and dig around online to compare apartment deals. While this isn’t as fun as sticking a dog filter on your Snapchat selfie, it could save you hundreds of dollars.

Jose Tijam, a Realtor in Southern California, has compiled a list of apartment-locating websites that’ll help get you started. You can find his list here.

Collin Bond, a real estate broker in New York City, says that when you’re sifting through online listings, you should keep an eye out for listings with terrible photos. In many cases, the apartment isn’t that bad, but the landlord didn’t bother to spend much time or money on high-quality pictures.

Generally, these apartments stay on the market longer, putting pressure on the landlord and enabling a renter to perhaps gain a lower rental rate, Bond says.

2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Brian Davis, co-founder and lead real estate blogger at SparkRental.com, says pretty much everything is negotiable when renting an apartment. “Be creative: There’s no limit to what renters can offer when negotiating with landlords,” he says.

For instance, you might try scoring a break on the rent by touting your awesome credit record or your superb rental history. Or perhaps you can lower the price by agreeing to a longer-term lease — maybe 16 months vs. 12 months.

You might even try securing a discount by promising to make each monthly rent payment well ahead of the due date. “I once knocked $200 a month off my rent with this offer, and the landlord and I agreed that if I made even one payment that wasn’t early, the rent would reset to the higher price,” Davis says.

Some of Davis’ other tips for negotiating a lower rental rate:

  • Pay the first six months’ rent before moving in.
  • Pay a higher-than-required security deposit.
  • Walk the landlord’s dogs every day.

3. Look for brand-new apartments.

Bubba May, owner of MoveForFree.com, says brand-new apartment complexes often lure new tenants with deep discounts so they can quickly boost occupancy.

“The prices will usually be a fraction of the cost of comparable apartments that have been around for a while,” May says.

4. Inquire about referral bonuses.

Know a friend who lives in the same complex you want to move into? Eleanor Decos, marketing coordinator at Mon Group Properties, a real estate developer, suggests asking your friend whether the complex offers referral bonuses. Most apartment complexes provide discounts to both people when a current tenant refers a prospective tenant, she says.

5. Skip the summertime search.

If possible, delay your apartment hunt till the winter, when demand normally drops and landlords are even more eager to fill empty apartments.

“If you’re trying to negotiate a lower rent or a more favorable lease, December is the best month to do it,” says New York City real estate agent Emile L’Eplattenier, real estate marketing and sales analyst at Fit Small Business.

6. Be flexible with location.

So, you’re drooling over a killer apartment in the heart of downtown. Problem is, the rent is as sky-high as the downtown skyscrapers are.

If you find yourself in this situation, May recommends looking near downtown rather than in downtown. “Usually, you’ll find very similar — if not better — apartments for a fraction of the price it costs to live downtown,” he says.

7. Be sensible.

Sure, you might be able to land a sweet deal on a $1,000-a-month apartment, but does it really meet your needs? Would you be better off with $800-a-month place in a different neighborhood?

“Always remember that sometimes finding the best deal isn’t necessarily the best route that you, as a tenant, can take,” May says. “For instance, if you were in Texas and found a cheap set of skis on sale for 50 percent off, would you purchase it if you never traveled out of state? Of course not.”

Written on June 27, 2016

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