Everything Is Negotiable, Even Rent. Here's How to Get the Best Deal According to Ramit Sethi

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  • Rent doesn't have to be a fixed price. It's negotiable under the right circumstances.
  • Ramit Sethi has had his rent decrease four times over 11 years living in New York City.
  • The key to successfully negotiating rent is finding a middle ground with your landlord.

Rent costs continue to rise across the country, but that doesn't mean you can't negotiate a decrease if you know how to ask.

Rent costs are on the rise in many American cities. Renting in cities like San Francisco is reaching pre-pandemic price levels. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is now $3,100, according to recently released data from Zumper, a rental search website.

According to Redfin's Rental Market Tracker, the national median rent rose 14% in June from the previous year. It represents the smallest annual increase since October, but is still a concern for renters, especially when factoring in rising inflation costs in other spending categories.

According to financial expert Ramit Sethi, rent is negotiable. He recently tweeted that his NYC rent has decreased four times in the last 11 years. But, as Sethi cautions, "Landlords don't magically offer you lower rents -- you have to know the market and negotiate."

Below are five tips from Ramit Sethi on successfully negotiating a rent decrease.

Tip No. 1: Know what you want before approaching your landlord

Having a number in mind can help when negotiating your rent. Without it, your landlord has all the say in how much you pay each month. Your number will vary from other renters depending on where you live, the apartment or house type, and other factors.

If you're unsure where to start, consider using sites like Zillow and other rent comparison sites to compare rental prices for similar-sized properties in your area.

Tip No. 2: Offer your landlord something in return

You can improve your odds by helping your landlord and offering value in return. Landlords love to get paid, but consistent income and other concessions could provide enough value to make up for charging less each month.

What types of concessions could you offer your landlord? Things like:

  • Prepaid rent
  • Extended leases
  • Longer termination notices
  • Giving up perks like parking spots
  • Apartment referrals
  • Avoiding habits and benefits that could cost your landlord money to clean after you leave (smoking, pets, etc.)

Tip No. 3: Know when to negotiate (timing is important)

"Timing matters when it comes to negotiating your rent," says Sethi. Understanding the market will go a long way in determining the best times to negotiate a lower price with your landlord.

Sethi recommends negotiating your rent two to three months before your lease expires. Tenant turnover costs landlords time and money. Often, you can score a deal by negotiating a new lease at a lower cost. Your landlord won't have the headache of finding another tenant, and you could potentially save them money in the long run by staying.

Tip No. 4: Know what to say to your landlord

Go into a rent negotiation with a good idea of what to say to your landlord. Keep it simple. As mentioned earlier, have a number in mind. Also, come with comparison rent research in hand. Meet with your landlord in person if possible versus sending a text or email.

During negotiations, remind them of your best qualities as a renter. Maybe you've made timely payments for the past two years. Or you haven't had any complaints or maintenance requests during your tenancy. Remind them why you're a good renter. Then, ask them for a lower rent. Be direct but polite. The more you beat around the bush, the more likely they won't take your request seriously. If your landlord is firm on rent prices, that's when you bring up concessions.

They may not be willing to lower rent to your desired number, but negotiating could lead to meeting in the middle somewhere.

Tip No. 5: Practice in low-stakes environments

Negotiating can be awkward. That's partially because most of us don't have extensive experience negotiating anything. The old saying goes, "practice makes perfect," so why not practice negotiating when there's not as much at stake?

Practice could mean asking a friend, family member, or coworker to role-play negotiation tactics. Perhaps it's haggling prices online on sites like Craigslist or eBay. It may seem awkward initially, but it won't feel that way if it leads to saving hundreds or thousands of dollars on rent and keeping more money in your bank account.

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