How to Negotiate Your Rent: 4 Key Steps

By Vera Gibbons

As many potential buyers continue to shelve their purchase plans and opt to rent instead, vacancies are low, and rents, which take a big bite out of your household income, are high -- up 5.8 percent in the Chicago metropolitan area, for example; up 8.3 percent in Philadelphia. This makes finding a place -- at a price you can afford -- nothing short of challenging. Here's how to negotiate your rent:

1. Research rental prices.

Zillow's recent survey indicates that a whopping two-thirds of renters skip this step, and simply sign the lease, no questions asked. That's because information about fair prices on rental homes has been hard to come by. Enter Zillow's Rent Zestimates. Make this your starting point to determine the fair rental price of a home or apartment, and use this as a tool to negotiate your rent, too. In addition, look at similar rental listings on Zillow, check out the classifieds, talk to local real estate agents or property manager who specializes in rentals. And research the demand for rentals in your area. Knowledge is power!

2. Sell yourself.

If you have good credit (think: 720 or higher), solid references, a history of paying on time, a stable job and live your life responsibly and are respectful of others, that makes you a model tenant. And model tenants -- extremely tough to come by in this current economic environment -- save landlords both time and money.

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3. Go long.

Offer to sign a two-year lease at a one-year rate. Some landlords may go for this arrangement, particularly if the unit has been vacant for some time or if the landlord has multiple vacancies (not unheard of, even though it's technically their market). Plus, it saves them on cleanup and advertising costs.

Sweeten the pot

Landlords want to know what's in it for them. See if they'll give you a break on your rent if you agree to do some work -- like mow the lawn, tend to the garden, etc. Or consider paying several months worth of rent upfront, at a slightly reduced rate.

4. Don't fixate on money.

Assuming you've done your research and are not in a position to ask for lower rent, or are not getting the results you want, what about asking for other concessions, like free parking, free storage space, or a gym membership, perhaps? Just be polite, reasonable, and non-confrontational when making "the ask." And always be willing to walk. This means having a backup plan in place prior to negotiating.

Read the original article, "How to Negotiate Your Rent," on Zillow.

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