How to Get a Bargain When Apartment Hunting

The uncertainty in the housing market along with more stringent lending standards is driving more people to rent rather than buy.

Even though there may be more people in the renting market in addition to the usual renting population, there are also more people turning the homes they own into rental units rather than having their home languish on the market for months or years.

This means that the rental market, like the housing market, is currently a renter’s market.

Here are some tips to take advantage of this and get a bargain when apartment hunting.

Begin your lease during the late fall and winter months.

Leases seem to follow an academic calendar with the most common times to begin a new lease being May through August.  Rental properties are most in demand during that time and as such, that is the time when you are least likely to strike a deal because landlords have plenty of candidates to choose from.

However, if you sign a lease in the months of November through February, the landlord may be so glad to have the unit rented out that they are willing to negotiate on price.

Have stellar credit.

Landlords more often are facing renters who don’t pay as well since the housing crisis began.  This is a no-win proposition for the landlords; not only are they not getting rent, but they must initiate a lengthy eviction process.

Many landlords pull credit now, and if your credit is excellent and shows no late payments or defaults, you can use that as a negotiating tool.

True, if they negotiate on the price with you, they may make less money each month, but they know they will get the rent each month.  Guaranteed income is enticing.

Be willing to sign a multiple year lease.

Landlords are often willing to give you certain breaks if you are willing to commit to a stay longer than the traditional one year duration.  They may be willing to lower your rent or freeze the price that you pay for rent over the life of the lease so you don’t have to pay yearly increases.

Be willing to walk away.

If you have good credit, are searching during the off season and are willing to sign a multiple year lease, be willing to walk away if the landlord won’t negotiate or won’t offer the terms you are looking for.

You may be pleasantly surprised that they call you back in a few days or weeks willing to negotiate further.

Our Experience

apartment hunting

It is possible to get a bargain when you're apartment hunting!

My husband and I recently went apartment hunting after being at the same apartment for 11 years, and we found plenty of bargains.

Because we have good credit, were looking during the off season and were willing to sign a 2.5 year lease, which is the minimum amount of time we are tied to our location based on my husband’s current work contract, we actually had two landlords competing for our occupation.  (Both units had been empty longer than two months.)

The first apartment was 1,500 sq. feet and was listed at $1,350 plus utilities.  The landlord was willing to negotiate on the rent if our credit was good (which he found out it was), but we couldn’t move in until late December, and he really wanted someone December 1st, so we had to walk away.

The second apartment was only 1,000 sq. feet and the landlord was asking $1150 for rent (down from the $1200 she had been asking during the summer months), but we asked to only pay $1100, plus utilities.  She agreed to the discount and to lock in that price for the length of the lease if we signed a multiple year lease.  However, this apartment was really our second choice because it didn’t have a washer and dryer on the premises, and with three kids, a trip to the laundromat every few days was not appealing.

Luckily, before we could sign a lease with the second landlord, the first landlord called back and was agreeable to signing a lease beginning December 15th.  Further, if we agreed to pay $1,390 a month in rent, he offered to cover ALL utilities including heat, gas, electricity, water and trash.  With this agreement, both apartments came out to about the same price, but clearly apartment one was a better choice.

We agreed to sign a 2.5 year lease with $30 increases in rent every 12 months, but, he will pay the utilities for the entire duration of the lease.

Many people don’t think of negotiating terms when renting an apartment, and maybe a few years back when it was a seller’s market there wasn’t room for negotiation.

However, now that landlords are facing apartments that are empty for months or that are leased to deadbeat tenants who do not make their monthly rent payments, they are more than willing to negotiate by lowering rent or offering other perks to prospective tenants who have good credit and are willing to commit to staying in the unit for two years or longer.

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Published or updated October 23, 2013.


  1. All real estate is local. I live in a tight rental market with a vacancy rate below 5 percent, and rents are up 8-10 percent over the past year.

    • jack foley says:

      im a landlord and if a tenant came to me with excellent credit and references and an excellent track record, i would find it hard to not negotiate with them.

      even though, one can only go so far..

  2. Both time of year and local housing markets make a difference when it comes to pricing. In a tight market, the time of year makes no difference – prices will be higher. In a market with oversupply, you can probably get a good deal at any time of year.

  3. I’ll have to show my friend this. She’s currently looking for an apartment and is completely clueless.

  4. I would be hesitant to sign a multi-year lease. Even though a place may seem great, you can never be sure that they will be really responsive to your needs. Some landlords take forever to fix something and I wouldn’t be willing to trade a good deal for being stuck somewhere for an extra year.

    • You have a point. But when you have a family you don’t want to plan on moving in a year either (at least not us). We also found, a couple of years ago, that a lot of landlords don’t want one-year tenants and would rather have the peace of mind of a multi-year lease.

  5. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Research and site examples and reviews.

  6. I love! My fiancee and I have been researching the heck out of it and also google reviews for places. We’re looking to rent an apartment or condo. Great tips!

  7. We sold our house to relocate 1000 miles away. The plan was (is) to rent a single-family house, max 1500/month, for a year and then buy. After seeing a dozen+ houses, the one I REALLY liked was 1550/month. I offered 1400 and it was accepted without a counter offer. We’re happy in this rental and will begin house-hunting soon! Prices are negotiable!

  8. We had some success in finding a bargain on a good apartment (without knowing that September might be a decent time to rent). Just in talking over our rental period options with the landlord, we were able to get the 12-month price for a 9-month lease!

  9. No need to sign multi year lease unless you know for fact your are going to stay there for long time AND you receive a good offer. Still, you just never know… You may find that your landlord is not as good as you had thought or the place has too many issues when you first thought it was in good condition. I would not sign more than 1 year lease and most landlords are okay with 1 year. You can always renew your 1 year lease afterwards. No need to sign a lease that raises rent after one year. Instead, you should ask for lower rent before you renew your 1 year lease.

  10. I find it also helps to show that you are a steady job and are willing to employment records.

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