Whether you're actively looking for a new apartment or are in the process of renewing your lease, you're probably noticing a trend—rents are on the rise. Rental prices are expected to gradually increase over time, there’s nothing new about that. However, the rate at which rent prices have increased over the past decade has been a major reason for concern among renter.
Rental price growth following the pandemic has managed to price several renters out of their own neighborhoods. In March of 2022, a year-over-year change of 17.71% was recorded, compared to a 2.34% year-over-year change in March 2021. Rental price growth has started to slow down, but with a median rent of $2,038, rent is still expensive for the average tenant.
Luckily, there are several ways to save money on housing costs. In this article, we’ll discuss 10 lesser-known ways to save money on rent, such as searching for rentals at a certain time of the year, offering property management services in exchange for a rent discount, and signing longer-term leases. Take a look at the full list below!
Most people know there are highs and lows in the real estate market. Not everyone realizes the same is true in the rental market! Property owners tend to have a harder time filling their units in the winter, especially in the colder parts of the country, such as the Northeast. In the colder months, prospective tenants aren’t as willing to tour units or move-in. As a result, rental owners tend to receive fewer applications for their units.
This often motivates property owners to drop the price of rent in hopes of finding a tenant quickly. Although there may less rental options on the market towards the end of the year, there’s a better chance you’ll get cheaper rent if you do the bulk of your apartment hunting in the winter.
If you travel often for work or are out-of-state for more than a month throughout the year, it may feel like you’re throwing your money away on rent. One way to get around this is by subletting your apartment while you’re away. This can be tricky, especially if you have roommates who are opposed to the idea or if you signed a lease that explicitly forbids sublets. However, if you live alone or in an area where short-term and mid-term rentals are allowed, consider listing your space on Airbnb and other STR sites.
Depending on where you live and what time of the year you sublet, you might even end up making a small profit. Just make sure to check local ordinances governing rent prices before listing your rental. When you find a viable candidate, draft a written agreement between you and your subletter to establish house rules and protect yourself in case of property damage.
Another way to reduce monthly rent payments is by extending your lease by 6+ or 12+ months. Most leases are signed for one year. Anything beyond that is considered an extended lease. Leases longer than 12 months are attractive to property owners because this allows them to delay major renovations, repainting walls, and finding new tenants until after the tenant moves out.
The longer the tenant stays, the longer the property owner can delay these time-consuming and often, expensive tasks. In exchange, rental owners offer reduced rent, or at least maintain rent prices for the duration of the lease.
Sometimes utilities are included in the rent at a flat rate. In this case, minimizing utility usage won’t make a difference on monthly rent payments. However, if utilities are charged separately, or are included in your rental payments at a variable rate, then using utilities only when necessary could help you save money on rent every month.
Before leaving the house in the morning, turn off the lights, the heater, and any other appliances that don’t need to be on while you’re gone. Try your best to limit shower time and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving. In the winter, you can choose to stay warm with thick sweaters and blankets instead of immediately turning up the heat. All of this helps reduce your utility bills.
Some tenants like to go a step further by replacing incandescent bulbs with LED light bulbs or purchasing small, energy-efficient appliances such as toasters, microwaves, and coffeepots. In addition to helping you saving money on electricity bills, these appliances also help preserve the environment.
Renters who work from home have a major advantage over renters who go into the office every day. Since commute times aren’t an issue, remote workers don’t need to prioritize proximity to downtown as much as traditional workers. This allows remote workers to broaden their rental search well beyond the city center.
Apartments located further away from downtown tend to be cheaper than units loser to the city center. By looking for apartments 20-30 minutes away from downtown, but close to public transit, you’ll be able to keep your rent low without sacrificing easy access to the city.
Unfortunately, having a pet can instantly increase your rent. Property owners typically ask for a pet deposit of $200-$500 in addition to the first month’s rent and a security deposit. Not only is being a pet owner more expensive to you as a renter but it could also limit your choice of apartments. Some property owners may deny your application altogether if they prefer to have a tenant without a pet.
Another simple, yet underused way of saving money on rent is starting your search well in advance. This helps you determine what constitutes high, low, and average rent. If you plan on moving in a few months, start looking for apartments now to get an idea of what the rental market is like in your target neighborhood.
It’s important to know exactly what you're looking for so you can act decisively once you find it. While you don’t want to rush into any living situation, you do want to act fast once you’ve identified a good deal. List the key qualities your apartment must have, must not have, and would be nice to have. Once you’ve found a unit that meets your criteria at a fair price, feel free to move forward with a lease agreement.
Another important aspect of saving money on rent is making sure you’re clear on what the lease requires of you as a tenant. Before signing any rental documents, carefully go over all fees, terms, and conditions. Pay close attention to the costs of breaking a lease early, as well as the penalties for subleasing or damaging the apartment. You should also ask the owner of the property if there are any fees associated with late rent payments, maintenance requests, or using a parking space. This can help you avoid unexpected expenses when it’s time to move out of the apartment.
Another way you may be able to save money on rent is to work in exchange for free, or reduced rent. Although large property management companies probably won’t have much use for manual labor, that’s not always the case for small-time property owners. Managing a rental property is a lot of work and a lot of rental owners are short on time. Here are some tasks you can offer to take on in exchange for reduced, or free rent:
Lastly, by paying rent upfront may warrant discounted rent from the property owner or property management company. Some rental owners offer a month or two for free when you pay upfront for a full year of rent. Securing ten to twelve months of rent in advance acts almost as a down payment, providing property owners a strong sense of security and allowing them to focus on other aspects of their rental business. This is easier to do with a one-bedroom apartment than a two-bedroom apartment due to cost differences, but it's a viable option if you want to lower rent during your stay.
As you can see from the tips mentioned above, there are plenty of ways to save money on rent. Even with rental prices at al all-time high, renters can lower their rental costs by studying the rental market, shopping for units in the winter, and negotiating long-term leases, among other strategies. Saving money on rent doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. By giving yourself plenty of time to look for an apartment and remaining flexible throughout your search, you can get the most out of your apartment search while saving on monthly expenses.
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