Nationwide vacancy spike means better bargains for renters

You'll find lower rent prices nationwide because a double-edged sword - job losses and unsold condos - drives rent prices down as apartment vacancies skyrocket. If your lease is about to expire, don't just accept the offer you get from your landlord for a renewal, negotiate a better deal.

Even before you try to negotiate that deal be sure to check out the marketplace because you may find something that is so much better it's worth moving. Also, your market research will help you to build the ammunition you'll need to get that lower rent.

Luxury high-rises have been the hardest hit, especially in the New York Financial district. So many people have lost jobs that some landlords are offering three months free rent or dropping their prices by as much as 20 percent just to get tenants.