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.In some areas of the country, you may find a decent deal on a house rental as some banks are looking to ease the pain by working with real estate companies to lease out their growing holdings in foreclosed properties. Others are sellingfixer-uppers for as little as $1,000 just so that they don't have to worry about securing the property and paying property taxes.

If you know you don't want to own real estate, plan to stay in an area for several years and feel secure in your job, you may want to try to get a multi-year lease at these great bargain prices. Since recovery in the real estate market is at least a year off, if you can lock in today's low prices for rent - go for it.

Some of the hardest hit areas include the New York metropolitan area where New York and northern New Jersey suburbs saw a 3.7% reduction in effective rents for the fourth quarter.
Last year in the same quarter there was a 0.5% increase. Even Salt Lake City saw a drop in effective rents by 2.3% in the fourth quarter. Last year in the same quarter rents went up 3.3% in Salt Lake City.

So do your homework. Research your local rental market and either negotiate a better deal or move to get one. Also, keep your eyes open for some possible great foreclosures bargains.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including "The 250 Questions You Should As About Buying Foreclosures."
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