Hey all! I am currently working as a property manager in a mid-sized city and have been for a couple of years. One thing I always thought was interesting is how many people approach rental housing with a lot of the same questions and not a lot of common sense. As such, I thought I would present a couple of tips that I want to pass along to fellow humans to hopefully make your next rental a smooth process. Obviously not all situations are the same so I will try to make this as genuinely broad as possible but take everything as you will.
- Never Hurts To Ask! This is my personal philosophy for most expenses anywhere over a $500 payment at any point in time (regardless if it is monthly, one-time payment, or otherwise) but if you are hoping to either pay less for rent, wondering if something different then what is being offered can be negotiated, or maybe if you could get an appliance replacement after being at a property for a year it never hurts to ask. So many people miss out on opportunities because they just don’t think or care to ask if something can be changed. Property managers are not paid to make your rental situation more difficult they are there to monitor the community and keep the building rented so if the difference between you renewing your lease or moving to a new building is $20/month on rent obviously the property manager will take that into consideration.
- Understand what you are asking for! This goes hand in hand with the first item as I get people all the time that take that first bit of advice but don’t consider there are limits to the request. For example, I manage a luxury apartment complex (everyone knows the type) which does have some relatively expensive units within the building but they range from 1300 all the way to nearly 3000 (yes we get it California that’s super cheap where you are at but no one cares). With those prices though I constantly have people that want to negotiate $300 off of the rent for the cheapest apartment which is over 20% of the cost. That is a pretty remarkable discount but along with this I generally remind prospects thinking about this it isn’t just 20% off of the initial rent payment it is 20% off of rent for the entire year which comes to a total of $3600. There really isn’t a rule of thumb for this but I can guarantee you 9 times out of 10 those who come in understanding what they are asking the property manager for and ask for reasonable accommodation are the ones that will get listened to first.
- Know who you are renting from! Housing is a uniquely personal situation and everyone’s housing situation will be different. Along with that, people who own or manage housing are very different as well as management companies and landlords are not one size fits all. Maybe the property owner has lived in the community for a couple of decades so they take great pride in making sure the flat you are renting is well cared for and in good shape. This is a great upside but the potential downsides are that they will likely charge you for that extra care and will also likely have to deal with a nitpicky owner who will get mad if you don’t bring your trash can in at the end of the night. Maybe instead you are renting from the place that has their rental signs all over town because they manage so much and they have the coolest high rise in town that is the center of a hip community. Generally, if they are managing that much they will have a big staff and sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to contact them, but if you start to form a relationship with the folks specific to your building it can come with the benefit of getting a discount on rent because the layout you rent didn’t lease up well last year and you can negotiate your renewal. Getting a better understanding of how the management for the rental will function will give you a better understanding of what your living situation will be like.
- Know what you need vs. what you want when it comes to housing! I have so many people that come to me and say “I want to be on this specific side of town, I want to pay no more then $700 a month, I want the landlord to pay for utilities, and I want to have 3 bedrooms” or some other sort of combination of ludicrous requests that are a combination of needs and wants. To which I generally say “what is your exact budget” as this is generally the best starting place for everyone because if you can’t afford a place don’t force yourself to do so. Budgets generally set the pace for everything else as well as I constantly find people are willing and able to foregoe their “reading nook 3rd bedroom” when they realize they can save upwards of $600 a month for doing so. With that being said it is important to understand how each unique amenity at an apartment can either be a need or a want depending on your situation and a good property manager will know the current market vaule of each of those items. Sometimes this means that budget is also not the cornerstone of the needs of housing which is ok and good because sometimes you can find the real deals when you don’t let budget dictate you. Maybe you weren’t looking for a place on the west side of town but now that you know you can get a house with a yard and 4 bedrooms for the same price you were looking at a 2 bedroom on the 3rd floor downtown the west side doesn’t seem too bad.
- Be open as comfortable with your property manager! No, I, unfortunately, am not a licensed therapist, but maybe I could save you a month or two on rent if I know that you are ending your masters program in May rather then when your lease ends in July. If you have any idea of your “housing schedule” before you sign a lease let the property manager know and see how they may be able to accommodate or if they think there is some way to meet your needs. Often with larger property management groups, there is a busy season and a slow season (I count this as especially true with large recently developed complexes as all the leases generally come to end around the time they were first signed). I as a property manager will do everything in my power to make sure my busy season goes smoothly (more time to browse Reddit) and will be extra accomodating when possible to try to move lease end dates away from the busy season. I constantly have to deal with people who don’t think to ask about their specific situation though, and there is nothing I can do to help once the lease has been signed. If you present me with your housing situation I as the property manager will be the one best to say if we would be able to accommodate it or not.
- GET IT IN WRITING! This one is relatively self-explanatory but one that I will tell people over and over again. It doesn’t matter what they said while trying to rent you the apartment unless they included it on the paperwork you signed for the lease. This is true for discounts, incentives, responsibilities, anything you can think of and when people complain about their shitty landlord I would say 9 times out of 10 the landlord had the capacity to do what they did because they had it in writing.
- Get an understanding of what you are signing! This one I will admit I often do not take the time to do myself but I encourage all to be better at this. Yeah, the terms and conditions for Spotify are long but you aren’t paying a third of your income for Spotify a month so weigh your options I would say. The other part of this which I will bold because people often don’t know this either Your property manager should be able to tell you what the item in your lease is for and how they enforce it! This is something we deal with all the time as we have a guest policy that is rather restrictive, but when it comes down to it how the hell is anyone supposed to monitor several hundred apartment guests and how long each individual is staying. It is not reasonable for us to do so and as such we only do so in extremely rare circumstances, but we include it in the lease so that if those circumstances arise we can properly address them. I as the property manager can personally look up how many times I have enforced whatever policy is listed on the lease and I can tell you now the noise complaint and non-smoking policy are the two most frequent.
- Don’t lie! This one is super simple but happens all the time. Our applications say that we do background checks and reach out to previous landlords…so why the hell would you think you can say that your previous landlord didn’t evict you if you gave us his damn phone number. Its also just not nice to do as I am here to manage the property not spool through camera footage to really see who spilled coffee in the common area.
- Ask for our input! This is one that is more specific to an on site manager like myself but who would know the place better then the person who is paid to be in the office to do so. Obviously this is also needed to be taken with a grain of salt (commision is reletively common but I don’t personally get any if I have the complex rented). Either way we will be able to tell you the highlights of not only the building but the neighborhood in which the building is in. Sometimes too you can get input on things that are missing as well but that question is generally best directed at current tenants of the building if possible. Either way I know each property manager will be able to tell you where the best happy hour will be in your neighborhood!
I know a lot of these things are positive items about property managers and landlords and I will absolutely ackowledge that there are times when both can suck and be horrible people. But, I would argue that a majority of the time that is not the case and the incidents can blow up compared to the 2-3 otherwise good or not bad years at a property. I know also that a lot of this isn’t super hard numbers and there isn’t an exact ROI on just being a good person but the stress savings of addressing issues in housing before they cost you money can be immense. I often find that people who are constantly worried about the $20/month budgets might honestly save money if they actually shop options around and keep the above thought process in mind when looking for a place. There is definitely more to talk about as well so if I get a positive response to this I would be happy to go into more detail on some of these items or maybe even do seperate posts.
TL DR; use common sense and be nice to property managers and approach the rental of a place with a good attitude things should go well!
Edit 1: instead of saying the obligatory thank you for the gold kind stranger I am taking my soapbox to say yall suck for not getting me gold…but seriously though glad I am able to provide some insight on how the industry works for some of yall and hope it helps you get the right place at the right price!
Also one additional tip I got from a user below that I think needs to be added: Everytime you sign or go to renew a lease consider if you are getting your moneys worth out of the rent you are paying no one is going to be able to determine that aside from yourself.