Are you planning to rent a new place? Whether you’re in the market for a traditional apartment, a single-family home, or a privately owned condominium, there’s one question that’s bound to be on your mind: Is the rent negotiable?
That depends — on the location of the unit, the property type, how long it’s been vacant, and the general strength of the market.
Right now, the rental market in Greater Boston is strong. According to RentCafe.com, an apartment-search website, 64 percent of Boston renters renewed their leases in the first half of 2022, meaning that only about a third of all apartments reentered the market. On average, 14 prospective renters competed for each one. RentCafe also reported that 95.6 percent of all Greater Boston apartments were rented in the first half of 2022, leaving few options for apartment-seekers.
Still, for the right property, deals can be had. “If an apartment has sat on the market for more than a month, and a tenant comes who says he has perfect credit, and exceeds my rent-to-income ratio, but for whatever reason can only pay X, I’d rather go with him for a little less rent,’’ said Dave Lenhardt, a landlord in Wakefield who owns a small portfolio of residential rental properties in Massachusetts.
Peter Gilman Shapiro, a mom-and-pop landlord in Boston and the author of “The Good Landlord: A Guide to Making a Profit While Making a Difference,’’ said small landlords are more likely to be flexible because they have a closer relationship with their tenants than institutional owners. “Because they know their tenants, they are more likely to be compassionate if the tenant falls on hard times,’’ Shapiro said.
Even owners of large apartment communities were offering concessions at the beginning of the pandemic. Shapiro said many were offering two to three months of free rent back then to attract new residents.
Because the market is so tight now, Shapiro recommends being prepared to act immediately if you see an apartment you like. “Have a copy of your credit report with you, a list of references you can give to the landlord, and the ability to put a down payment on the unit at that moment,’’ he said.
And, if you’re been a model tenant, consider asking your landlord for a break when you renew your lease. With the average cost of tenant turnover ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, according to Apartments.com, and because evicting someone can be a challenging process in Massachusetts, landlords have an incentive to negotiate.
“I tell every landlord a good tenant is worth gold,’’ said Adam T. Sherwin, a real estate lawyer in Charlestown. “If you can avoid problems and eviction with a stellar tenant, that certainly makes a case for negotiating rent.’’