Have you ever negotiated over the price of an apartment? Until recently I didn’t really know that was something people did. I thought you just went around to apartment complexes that suited your needs (location and price range) and then selected the best out of those options.
Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong.
What really encouraged me to negotiate is the ridiculous cost of living in the area that I live in. I know it’s not as crazy as some other major cities out West or up North, but it is definitely much more expensive than my college town or other cities I have lived in.
I was also inspired to unleash my inner negotiator after seeing a previous roommate exercise her skills. After seeing the master in action, my current roommate, Amber, and I decided that we would put our negotiating skills to the test.
Touring apartments in itself was incredibly stressful. We toured several locations and spoke with many leasing offices. At each office we had the same conversations multiple times. They went something like this:
“What are you looking for in an apartment?”
“Well….we are savvy, young businesswomen looking for the best deal. (Translation: We only care about price. We are cheapskates. How low can you go?)”
“Well…our apartment has a great community feel and a free gym for residents.”
“We only really care about price. This is our budget, can you help us out?”
“We also have a great playground and doggy park.”
“We don’t have pets or kids and we still only care about price.”
Adding negotiation to the mix made my stress level skyrocket. But, on the bright side I did gain some valuable experience. Here’s what I learned from the process.
Lesson #1 – It’s not easy
Negotiating can be a difficult and drawn out process…but you can’t give up. anything in life that’s worth having is difficult. If you really want something, in the famous words of Britney, you better work!
Part of the apartment management’s strategy is to wear you down in hope that you just give in. They tried to break down our defenses by alternating between calling me or my roommate. Another fun tactic they used was repeating the same high price, but presenting it in a positive way and pretending it was a new offer in order to trick us (Hey, I was able to get you this great price of ONLY $1 MILLION DOLLARS).
Fortunately my roommate and I presented a united front and debriefed each conversation we had with the leasing office. We made a list of which aspects were most important to us and which ones were negotiable. We also thoroughly discussed and practiced answers we would give in response to hypothetical news from the apartment complex.
It was extremely helpful to have a roomie in this conversation. It can be a great negotiation tactic to say, “Sorry I can’t make this decision without consulting my roommate.” Especially when you don’t agree with the offer and aren’t quite sure what to say.
Lesson #2 – Don’t feel guilty about negotiating
This one is especially true for many of you ladies out there. I know a lot of times we feel as if we are lying or doing disservice by being “difficult.” Well, DON’T!
I know, easier said than done, but the party at the other side of the negotiation table is not looking out for you – they are looking out for their own interests and you should be doing the same for yourself. If you don’t advocate for yourself, then no one will. This doesn’t mean you have to be crazy hostile and uncompromising or flat out lie during your negotiations, but it also means you don’t have to be 100% transparent.
For example, (and this is pretty basic), we definitely DID NOT reveal our real price ceiling, but instead provided a lower number. And throughout the process, we didn’t budge from this number. We also told them that we were considering other, cheaper offers at the same time, which was only half true. While we were considering other buildings in the same price range, we did not have any formal rental quotes at the time. But, they didn’t know that, so we were able to put some pressure on them.
Lesson #3 – Sometimes silence is golden
Once we realized that yes we would be able to find some place to live, we didn’t have to desperately fling ourselves at the leasing office like you did with your high school crush. No…we could afford to play it cool for a while. We had options.
Taking a moment to relax and step away from the process can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health especially if you’re overwhelmed.
Radio silence also happens to be a great tactic. Once the leasing office realized we were not immediately responding to their calls or emails, they dropped an additional $200 off the price.
Lesson #4 – Be flexible and open to compromise
Let’s face it, your “dream apartment” does not exist. Or if it does, it’s beyond your budget, so in order to get a “half dream/lucid dream” apartment (somewhat real) you’ll have to make some compromises. In order to effectively negotiate, you have to be willing to make some compromises. You might be willing to live in an older building or live in a smaller unit or live in a place without a pool or gym in order to pay your desired rent rate. Or, you might be willing to pay a little bit more to live in a safer neighborhood.
In my search, after looking around at prices it became clear that my dream price was definitely NOT going to happen. The price we were able to negotiate with the apartment complex was far better than any of the other places we had looked at.
You have to know what’s important to you and what you are willing to compromise on.You also have to be able to read your counterpart and consider your alternatives. Do you think this is really their final offer? Or are they just playing you? Is there another better, cheaper, and most importantly mouse-free apartment out there?
Lesson #5 – You should always try
It’s a risk to negotiate. You may not get what you want. They could refuse your offer and think you’re mean and pushy.
But it’s really more of a risk NOT to negotiate. If you don’t negotiate, it is 100% certain that you won’t get the best deal.
Some of the places were definitely not open to negotiating, which we found out pretty quickly in the conversation, but others, surprisingly were. And of the properties that weren’t open to negotiating, no one chased us out with a pitchfork or were angry with us for bringing up price.
Without first asking, we would have never known which places were willing to work with us. So do yourself a favor and at least try!
So are you homeless or did this negotiating thing work?
So, good news, we’re not homeless!
While we were unable to get our “ideal” (unrealistic, dream-world) price, we were still able to get a good deal.
I think because we negotiated right from the start the original offer was significantly lower than the prices quoted over the phone and on the website. Also by remaining firm and kind of being hardasses, we were able to push back the lease date by two weeks (to reduce overlap with our old apartment) and take $700 off the first month’s rent.
Regardless of the outcome, I’m glad we negotiated. You become better at a task the more you do it. Even if this was a somewhat low stakes negotiation, I am glad I had a chance to practice. Women tend to feel uncomfortable when it comes to negotiation. Most of what’s being published in the news focuses on the women in the workplace, but I’m sure this is also true for many of us in our personal lives. Negotiation is a skill I’ll need in many other aspects of my personal and professional lives, so now is the time to start putting this skill into practice.
Have you ever negotiated over an apartment? Or perhaps for something else? I’m curious and want to learn what tactics you found to be helpful. Leave me a comment.