Last year, I was driving a three-hour round-trip commute to work. (I know.)
But when I finally decided to find a place closer to the office, the reality of a hardcore apartment hunt (and those Rent prices that make you want to curl up in a ball and cry) slapped me right in the face.
But while an apartment hunt is often pretty brutal, it’s nothing compared to the home-buying process — and it seems like more and more people are starting to agree.
In fact, since 2006, the number of renters in the U.S. has increased by 23 million (that’s about a quarter more than there were a decade ago). Compare that to the measly (by comparison) 700,000 new homeowners in the same time frame, and you start to see a picture of a country full of people still a little bruised by the late-2000s housing debacle.
Because of this rental boom, however, Rent Rates have been climbing steadily over the past several years. And for the most part, they’re rising faster than the Rate of inflation. At the national level, rent rates are up 2.6% year-over-year right now, while inflation stands at a slightly lower 2.1%.
Month-over-month, rent rates are actually down right now — and have been since October — and that could mean really good news for you.
Rent Rates Are Down Right Now
Apartment List recently published its January 2018 U.S. rent report, and according to the data collected, rent rates are currently down in 60 of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. (and more than likely plenty of the smaller ones, as well).
This decrease is largely due to the fact that the fall and winter months are off-season for renters; college students and families with children are generally tied to the school year, while others simply prefer to move when the weather is more favorable. In the spring and summer, the rental season picks up again (and the rent rates go back up).
Fortunately, this slowed rental activity in the cooler months can be a big plus for renters.
Because fewer people are looking to move, landlords tend to drop rent prices to lure renters in as they struggle to fill vacant apartments. (A low rent check is better than no rent check, right?)
For renters currently looking to make the move, this means a season of low prices that can be locked in for the foreseeable future. For those already locked into a lease, this means a leveraging tool that can be used to negotiate a lower rent payment right where you’re at.
Negotiate a Lower Rent Rate
If there was ever a time to negotiate (or lock in!) a lower rent rate, it’s probably right now. As rent prices continue dropping, landlords are sure to be a little flexible.
To get the best rate, however, you’ll have to be an expert negotiator. (I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds — anyone can negotiate with the right tools!)
Here’s how to get started:
First things first, you need to know the market. Do your homework, look up similar places in the area and come prepared with a list of similar apartments or homes with competitive rates. That way, you let the landlord know you’ve got options, and that you can easily move on to the next vacant apartment.
Next, check out this list of questions to ask before signing a lease. You can often use the answers to these questions to negotiate a little off your rent here and there — especially if you’ve done your homework and can mention that little place you toured yesterday that did have a washer and dryer on site.
Then, learn how much leverage you have. Do you have a good credit score? A great rental history? Letters of recommendation? Landlords don’t just want money — they want reliable renters who are going to take care of the place. If you can show that you can be an outstanding tenant, you might be able to knock a few more bucks off your monthly payment.
Finally, be sure to know what your landlord wants in a renter. If the apartment complex is decidedly not pet-friendly (even if they’re allowed), and you’re (sadly) petless, use that to your advantage and let them know you won’t be petitioning to keep animals in the apartment. If you don’t smoke, it doesn’t hurt to let them know that, either. The less (pricy) cleaning the landlord has to do when you move out, the more open they’ll probably be to a discussion about the rent rate.
Even if you manage to knock just $50 or $100 off your monthly rent payment, it can add up pretty quickly.
Over the course of a year, you could even put your first $1,000 into savings!
If you’re still struggling to make the rent payment each month, however, check out these tips and tricks for saving on your monthly bills — and making those last few dollars so you don’t miss a payment.
Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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