Many cities have experienced an unprecedented housing boom in recent years, meaning there's more supply than ever for renters to choose from.
Much of that inventory, including in the suburbs, has been high-end apartments, the kind that demand prices greater than $3 per square foot. And while such inventory has forced prices to jump, many buildings are providing "concessions" -- a month of free rent, for example -- to lure tenants. Accordingly, the actual price of renting is often cheaper than advertised.
In many places, rent growth has dipped as vacancy rates have gone up.
As a result, you should study the market, including average prices in the neighborhood or in comparable buildings. And, simply, ask (nicely) to negotiate. Landlords may negotiate with reasonable, informed residents.
--Remind your landlord of your record.
"In the business of renting apartments, it's very costly to turn over tenants," said Allan Domb, a Philadelphia councilman and real estate broker. Turning over a one-bedroom unit, including repainting, carpet shampooing and cleaning, can cost $500 to $600, Domb said. And searching for a new tenant takes time -- and money.
Landlords who find tenants through real estate brokers often must pay the agent a commission of one month's rent. "Landlords really do not want to pay that one-month commission every year," said Alan Nochumson, a Philadelphia real estate attorney.
A tenant who pays on time, maintains the apartment and complains infrequently should remind their landlord of that. Landlords would rather keep well-behaved tenants than pay turnover costs to find an unknown tenant.
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--Make a deal.
Often, offering to a sign a longer lease can bring the monthly price down. Or mom-and-pop landlords may reduce the price if a tenant offers to pay multiple months upfront, thereby reducing the risk of missed payments.
And if that does not work, ask if a landlord will budge elsewhere, such as on waiving a parking fee or prioritizing maintenance. Your landlord may be willing to fix that hole in your wall if you agree to his or her rent terms.
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