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Can you negotiate cheaper rent?

By George Hadgelias

Renting in Australia’s capital cities can be an expensive proposition.

So it makes sense that you might want to knock a few dollars off your weekly rental costs by asking your current or prospective landlord if they’ll accept a cheaper rate.

But are you actually able to negotiate cheaper rent?

The short answer is yes, absolutely you can. If you put an offer forward to a real estate agent, they are required to take it to the landlord for consideration and a decision.

Here are the things you should consider before making that call.

Do your research

If you’re going to request cheaper rent, you’re going to need to back it up and prove that the property is worth less than what the landlord is asking.

Hocking Stuart Richmond property manager Jo Leonardis says tenants need to compare other, similar properties in the area.

“Market rent might suggest $780 per week, but tenants may have seen what’s actually available in the market,” Leonardis says.

“So they start doing the research and they will back it up and say, ‘Right, I know the landlord wants $780, but will they consider $750 because I’ve seen X property down the road at $750 and it’s got a car park, but this one doesn’t?’”

“They’ll be out there actively justifying why they could potentially lease the property at a lower rate.”

Target properties that haven’t leased

If you’ve been searching for a rental for a while, you’ll undoubtedly notice some properties that have remained on the rental market for an extended period of time.

Leonardis says these properties can be good targets for cheaper rent, as the landlord will want to avoid the property being vacant.

“It does work in the tenant’s favour if the property has been on the market for at least four weeks, and will then become a vacancy,” she says.

“It happens every so often. It doesn’t happen to the extent where there’s a $30 difference (per week), but it might be $5 or $10, with negotiation.”

Similarly, if you arrive at an open for inspection and you’re the only person there, you’re in a far stronger position to negotiate than if 50 people turn up and create heavy competition.

Leonardis also advises prospective tenants with a little time up their sleeve to keep checking on properties online that may have initially been just out of their price range, as the rent may drop if a tenant can’t be found.

Rental history helps

Like with any rental, you’ll be in the box seat to negotiate if you have an impeccable rental history with excellent references.

“If the applicant looks fabulous on paper and they’ve got great references, then the landlord might say, ‘Right, let’s do it at the $10 cheaper rate this year, but next year we’ll bring it back up to market rates’,” Leonardis says.

That’s more than $500 back in your pocket, purely because you’ve been a good tenant.

“If they’re a standout tenant, the landlord will mostly likely help them out initially, to try to get them in,” she adds.

Don’t be afraid to be bold

In some areas it’s a great time to be in the rental market, with plenty of property available and landlords subsequently prepared to be flexible in order to secure a tenant.

So don’t be afraid to test the waters and see what you can get. Leonardis says some prospective tenants even put down a lesser rental amount on their application, in the hope that the landlord will still accept it.

“Lately what I’ve been seeing is that tenants are becoming a little bit cheeky in trying to get the rents down. Because they know there’s quite a bit of property out there, they think they can sway the landlord by putting an application in and being cheeky by making it a lower rent,” she says.

“50% of the time it might work. I think they’re becoming a little bit more aware that that’s what you can do to get into a property if you really want it, if it’s been vacant for a little while.”

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