Mastering the art of negotiation: my tips for dealing with landlords or estate agents
You can't negotiate with self-checkout machines, but estate agents are a different story. London (where I live) is undoubtedly an expensive place to live. The cost of renting or purchasing a property is the main reason for this for young people.
Rent prices in London have soared by more than a quarter since 2011 while wages have increased by just 9.1%, a report by trade union GMB recently found. The average two-bedroom flat in the capital is now worth £1,500 a month.
In some boroughs prices have increased by 50% to well over £2,000 a month.
But you can negotiate with estate agents or landlords in some cases. It's worth a shot. Over the last couple of years I've managed to save hundreds of pounds by negotiating discounts on rent.
I've also found myself in a two-year contract with a hefty break clause before. It's swings and roundabouts!
Here are my tips, based on my own experience.
Seven tips for dealing with estate agents or landlords
1. Decide on your target
It's very important that you know your own niche market. I've found myself a bit of an expert in three-bed properties around north and east London, because this is what I was looking to rent recently.
2. Try multiple agents
Make sure you deal with multiple agents in the local area in order to give yourself a full view of the property landscape.
3. Be firm about the upper end of your price range
Estate agents will probably try to sell you more expensive properties than you had in mind, so try suggesting a lower price range than what you are actually looking for.
Or at least say: "This is the upper end of my price range". Don't waste time and energy looking at properties you cannot afford.
4. Watch for signs a property is under or overvalued
Once you've focused on a particular area in detail you should get more of a sense of whether a property is under or overvalued.
A good indicator that someone is asking for too much money for their little shoebox could be that it's been on the market for a very long time, or undergone multiple price reductions.
5. Ask questions
You can see these sorts of things online, but it's worth asking the estate agent about it as well.
6. Offer less than you're willing to pay
Going in with an offer much lower than what you're actually willing to pay is a classic move.
However, do remember the estate agent or landlord you're dealing with may have an idea of your price range already if you've provided them with an extensive list of personal details (see point 3).
7. Think you'd be a good tenant? Tell them
Some landlords might be willing to negotiate if they feel confident you'll be a good tenant (ie not throw massive parties that are likely to annoy the neighbours and keep their place in good condition).
If you're an existing tenant and your landlord wants to increase your rent, this may be something to consider.
8. Check details such as break clauses
Negotiation can also save you from some very tricky situations when it comes to signing the contract.
I think that break clauses are one of the most important things to look out for.
I've had landlords sell my property during my tenancy, paid fees to leave early and once had a tenancy terminated because the roof needed rebuilding. Obviously some of that was out of my control, but some of it hit me quite hard financially and practically.
These tips have helped me recuperate from those losses over time and could, I hope, make me money in the future.
Make sure you go into a tenancy agreement with your eyes open. Read the small print.
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Read more: Why I fell in love with renting