Dear Lifehacker, My wife and I are about to move to a new town and there appear to be a number of rental properties available. Can we negotiate for a lower figure than the advertised rent? Or would we just be asking for a large increase in rent once the initial lease finishes? Thanks, Rent Researcher
Rental picture from Shutterstock
At Lifehacker, we're great believers in the principle "You won't know if you don't ask". In this particular case, I wouldn't be worried about whether you'll be in for a rent increase further down the line -- what I'd be worried about is whether you're going to get the property in the first place.
The general consensus at the moment is that when it comes to renting, it's an owner's market -- there aren't enough properties to go around, so property owners can charge higher rents and get away with it. That does vary depending on the location, but you won't be able to tell from a handful of ads in a single week just how strong demand is. And you won't know for sure just how many people are trying to rent in your market until you actively start applying for properties.
If every property you visit has a lengthy queue of candidates and people start offering to sign a contract two minutes after you walk in for a scheduled inspection, the odds of your negotiating a decrease are low. Why would the owner deliberately short change themselves when demand is strong?
If the scene seems less frenzied, you may be able to suggest to the agent (or the owner) that you like the property but can't really afford quite that amount. You're no worse off in that case if they say no.
Your negotiating position is actually stronger once you're renting the property. If the owner tries to slug you with a big increase and you move out, they'll be faced with all the costs of re-letting the property (advertising, legals, cleaning), and will potentially face a period where there's no rent coming in at all. An existing renter is also a known quantity, which will persuade some owners to keep any rises reasonable.
Again, though, demand is the key. If there's a shortage of properties, pricing goes up. So you can ask, but it may not get you anywhere. Good luck!
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