Spoiler alert: Landlords typically don't like to negotiate on rent.
Sure, you can do a ton of research, get up to speed on the latest rental market data, and try to persuade them to knock a few hundred off for those poorly patched walls. But, as it turns out, your best shot at a lower rent has less to do with your negotiating chops and more to do with the weather outside.
Yes, winter is the best time to negotiate a sweet deal on your rent.
"Because people are less concerned with moving when it's cold outside, it's more difficult for landlords to get prospective tenants to show up for appointments in bad weather," says Tali Raphaely, a real estate investor and landlord. "As a result, tenants have more leverage."
But before negotiating, keep in mind that your potential landlord may have already dropped the price to account for the decreased interest.
"The advertised rent is usually lower, thus reducing the need for and the effectiveness of negotiating rent prices," says Trent Zachmann, the COO of property management company Renters Warehouse.
Keep an eye on average rent prices nearby, and get ready to play "Let's Make a Deal." Here are five landlord-approved tips for scoring an awesome winter bargain.
1. Pay more upfront
Landlords worry primarily about two things: Whether tenants can pay, and whether they'll damage the property, Zachmann says. If you can take at least one of these worries off the table, you've got a better shot at negotiating rent.
How? Pay more upfront -- anywhere between a few months' to a full year's rent in cold, hard cash. If they don't have to worry about your ability to pay each month, they might be inclined to offer you a discount. And, if you're renting in a competitive market, it could even give you the edge over other tenants, in addition to a price drop.
"The more you can pay upfront, the more confident and comfortable an owner will be with you as a tenant," Zachmann says.
2. Sign for longer terms
If you're willing to commit to a rental for more than the standard one-year lease period, landlords will be more inclined to negotiate.
"The stability of a longer lease will be an incentive for the landlord," says Naveed Shah, a landlord and property manager in McLean, VA.
Another fear landlords have is having to find a tenant -- and knowing they can skip that costly and burdensome process next year takes a huge weight off their shoulders. Plus, if they're willing to negotiate, you're guaranteed your new, low rent won't rise until you renew your lease.
But make sure you understand the consequences of a longer lease term before signing on the dotted line.
"Be careful not to overcommit," Zachmann says. "The last thing you want to do is have to try and get out of a 24-month lease after the first 12 months. This can be costly and difficult to do."
3. Brag about your tenant record
Are you habitually early with your rent payments? Are you calm, clean, and nice-smelling even while hanging out in common areas? Will your former landlords provide shining letters of recommendation? Bring them in -- and don't be scared to show them off.
"We would be more than willing to lower the rent for someone who always paid on time, kept the place in good order, and were quiet, polite, and cooperative," says Iris Fanning, a landlord of 26 years from Albuquerque, NM.
It's best if you can prove a few years -- or more -- of on-time payments. In today's rental market, just the last year's records might not be enough.
4. Be professional
Show up 15 minutes late to your new apartment viewing, and you might as well kiss your chances for negotiation goodbye.
Another showing no-no: lies. A landlord who finds fibs on the application will not only refuse to lower the rent, but might just give you the boot before signing the paperwork.
"Landlords are assessing how reasonable you'd be to work with if a situation arises later regarding any discrepancies or disagreements," Raphaely says.
5. Offer your services
If you're handy with a wrench, experienced with plumbing, or prone to gardening, consider offering your services in exchange for reduced rent.
"Having tenants willing to do painting, gardening, or other upkeep can cause me to give a discount at the right time," says Tracy Lamourie, a private landlord in Toronto.
Not having to worry about some of the annoying, day-to-day tasks of rental management can be a big incentive, especially to landlords who live far away.
Just make sure you do your work without grumbling, and don't be surprised if your landlord writes it into the lease. If you use this as a negotiating trick but fail to do the work, then you're on a surefire path to eviction -- and you definitely won't be getting reduced rent next time.