Negotiation. It’s a word you either love or hate. It used to make my palms sweat, but now it makes my heart thump, thump, thump with happiness. All it takes is a little practice to become a negotiating pro.
As a leasing agent in Chicago who specializes in professionally managed apartment communities, I often get asked if it is possible to negotiate rent. The answer is – not really. BUT – that doesn’t mean you can’t use strategies that’ll help you come out ahead in your pocketbook.
Why Don’t Apartment Buildings Negotiate on Rent?
While independent landlords of small walk-ups might negotiate on rent, larger property managers are less likely to bend.
How come? For starters, luxury apartment buildings are often owned by major corporations, which manage hundreds or even thousands of units. Gone are the days of mailing rent negotiation letters back and forth; they use algorithms to understand what rental prices the market can bear, and then price units accordingly.
Did your negotiating-loving heart just break? This should cheer you up – your rent price alone isn’t the sole factor affecting your cost of living. Even at properties where the rent price is “written in stone” there are still plenty of ways to keep more money in your pocket.
All you need to do is reframe how to get a discount on apartment rent and focus on the big picture instead…
12 Ways to Save Money When Renting an Apartment
#1: Apartment Specials and Concessions
If you can’t negotiate lower rent on your apartment, ask your leasing agent to look for buildings that are offering a deal that’ll save you money upfront.
To entice folks to sign a lease, building managers will often offer weekly or monthly specials. One popular deal is to give new residents a month (or more) of free rent. Pretty sweet, right?
Other common specials I’ve seen are credits of a specific dollar amount or waived administration fees if you apply for an apartment within a day or two of touring. These special rent deals can save you so much dough, you might even get that post-negotiation high.
#2: Select a Longer Lease Term
Planning to stay a little while?
If you sign a lease that’s longer than a year, your monthly rent price may be lower than if you sign a standard 12-month lease. Choosing a lease term between 13 and 18 months could help you save hundreds of dollars over time.
#3: Think About Renting a Smaller Apartment
Sounds kinda obvious, right? A smaller unit will likely come with a lower rent price. But if you’re smart about choosing a floor plan without any wasted space, you’ll hardly have to compromise on space.
For example, let’s say you have your mind set on a one-bedroom apartment. If you’re open to looking beyond a traditional one-bedroom, you could snag a great convertible or junior one-bedroom. And depending on the unit, an apartment like this could be a better use of square footage and be easier on your budget.
Another secret way to save: Typically, rent is more expensive on higher floors. So, if you find a unit you love in a high-rise apartment building, ask if there is a similar unit on a lower floor that’s available for a lower price.
#4: Negotiate a Storage Deal
If you sacrificed some closet space to get a smaller unit with cheaper rent, don’t start to off-load your belongings on Craig’s List quite yet.
Most large apartment complexes have storage units available for a monthly fee. Be a savvy negotiator and ask that one be thrown into your lease, fee-free.
#5: Ask for Free Parking
While your rent price may be carved in stone, the parking garage could be a great area to wrestle on costs.
Parking in downtown Chicago isn’t cheap, so getting a discount on parking at your apartment building is a huge score. When negotiating your lease, inquire about parking rates. Property managers will sometimes agree to a few months of free parking in order to seal the deal.
#6: Get Your Pet Fees Waived
Happily, most luxury apartment buildings are pet-friendly. However, there will be fees involved. Your fuzzy buddy can’t get a job to pay for their own upkeep, but you could negotiate a deal to reduce or waive the charges.
My best advice – come prepared. Show a certificate that your pooch graduated from a training class, and bring a letter from your previous landlord with a raving review about your good dog. Perhaps the property manager would appreciate that you are not trying to BS them (like dozens of other prospective renters) and just might be willing to waive your pet’s monthly rent.
Pro tip: If you legitimately have a medical diagnosis requiring a documented service animal or emotional support animal, then these fees are waived in accordance with fair housing laws. However, a recent update in laws gives property owners greater ability to scrutinize this documentation. So, we don’t recommend trying to get this if you really don’t have a medical reason.
#7: You Could Get a Preferred Employer Discount
When customers ask how to get a discount on apartment rent, I always ask them where they work. The reason is, it’s possible that your company might be on a preferred employer list with special discounts.
For example, one of my customers works at a hospital in the Illinois Medical District. An apartment building in the West Loop had unusually generous discounts for their preferred employer list. He was able to get two months of free rent, waived admin fees and free pet rent. This added up to about $5,000 in savings! Jackpot!
#8: Ask For Apartment Improvements
So, you found an apartment that fits your budget and needs. But, you’d really love to paint the bedroom blush pink. And the microwave looks a little run down. And the closet needs some shelving.
If you have a list of small improvements you’d like to make, it doesn’t hurt to ask for reasonable updates that would save you from having any DIY costs.
While a complete gut rehab is probably out of the question, you might get a few minor things spruced up before you move in. This is especially true if they already have a crew working on other units during the time you are moving in.
#9: Move During Off-Peak Times
During winter months, when business is slower, we usually see rent prices in Chicago go down. Specials and discounts also get thrown around to lure in new renters. That combination makes winter the best time of year to move for savvy savers.
Another pro-tip that your leasing agent is sure to help you take advantage of- choosing the right day of the week to start your lease.
You might be surprised to discover that rent prices fluctuate daily at many properties. Sometimes, rates are higher Friday through Sunday and go down in the middle of the week. Don’t get too hung up on the actual day your lease starts. You don’t have to move in on day one, making it easy to take advantage of this trick.
Now, let’s watch the savings add up! Let’s say prices are trending $50 bucks lower on Wednesdays – that could be a savings of $600 for a 12-month lease if you start midweek instead of Saturday. It’s totally worth it to start the lease a little early if it means you’ll save hundreds over the full term.
#10: Pay Your Rent Upfront
Have a nest egg you’re willing to part with?
If you’re able to pay your rent in advance for several months, or even your entire lease term, it’s possible you’ll be able to negotiate a lower rent. This little trick is probably better tried with private landlords. 🙂
#11: Building Amenities That Help You Save
Moving into an apartment building that includes amenities in your rent could help you save on lots of different living costs.
Does the property have an awesome fitness center? You could cancel your gym membership. Is there free coffee in the lobby? Bye-bye daily Starbucks run. How about a co-working space? Kiss your WeWork membership au revoir.
Plus, just think about the money you could save if you can walk to work or use public transit. Ditch your vehicle along with your car payment and insurance. Cha-ching!
#12: Work with an Apartment Finder
Having an expert on your side while you’re trying to find a great apartment at the right price is a surefire way to save.
If you’ve never worked with an apartment leasing agent before, I invite you to find out just how valuable this service is.
First – my team and I are familiar with hundreds of properties throughout Chicago. We take the stress out of your apartment search and will find you a great place in the perfect neighborhood.
We also keep track of the latest specials and have the inside scoop on ways to help you find savings at some of Chicago’s best downtown apartments.
And best of all, since our services are free to you, there’s no downside to working with a professional leasing agent.
Prepare Yourself to Negotiate
Now that you’re armed with the tools you need to get a lower price on your rent, I have one final piece of advice: show up prepared. Having all your ducks in row will increase your leverage, big time.
Proving that you’ll be a great tenant will shift negotiating leverage in your favor. So, even before you start to look for an apartment, gather your financial records. Check your credit health and clear up any disputes.
Also – get a letter of good standing from your current landlord. And, pull together receipts or statements showing that you always pay your rent and utility bills on time.
Okay, guys…ready to do this? Your new apartment is waiting. Give us a holler, and we’ll help you find an apartment in Chicago you love at a price you feel great about.