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How to Bargain Like a Boss

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Try these 7 tips to negotiate your way into a better living situation.

As a renter or a buyer, you might feel as though your landlord or the sellers have the upper hand. The truth is, you’ve got plenty of power — if you know how to use it.

Whether you’re hoping for upgrades to your rental or getting a better deal on the purchase of a home, if you play your cards right, you can negotiate your way into a much happier living situation.

Bargain like a boss with these seven tips.

1. Offer to sign a long-term lease

Found the apartment of your dreams only to have said dreams dashed by the crazy-high rent? Don’t take yourself out of the running just yet.

Landlords fear vacancies above all (empty apartment = empty checking account); by offering to sign a two-year lease instead of the 12-month standard, you can often re-negotiate the monthly costs and get them down into a more reasonable range.

2. The quick close is your friend

Bidding wars got you down? While you might not have the means to make an all-cash offer, time is money — if you can cut down on the weeks between the accepted offer and the sale, your offer can become that much more attractive. This is especially true if the seller has already purchased a new property or is moving for a new job or school district.

Make sure your bank can pull your loan together quickly (FHAs, for example, can take ages) and then offer a short closing period to sweeten your deal.

3. Procrastinate

A propensity for dawdling rarely serves one well, but sometimes, just sometimes, dillydallying is a virtue.

If you start negotiating rent with your landlord six months before your lease is up, you might be suspected of trying to break the lease entirely and negotiations could go south. But if you wait until the eleventh hour to bring up a rent renegotiation, you’re likely to save money — for both of you.

Listing the apartment, making repairs for showings, drawing up a new lease — those are expenses any landlord would prefer to avoid.

A slight rent reduction to a stable tenant to avoid all that hassle? Done deal.

4. Investigate the pending comps

Maybe you’re buying a single-family, but all the recent sales nearby have been condos. If there are some properties under agreement similar to the one you’re eyeing, it’s time to lean on your real estate agent to dig up the dirt.

Have them reach out to listing agents for a little comp gossip; while they might not find out the exact dollar figure of the accepted offer, they can likely determine if the sale went for way over asking or if there were multiple offers. Having that knowledge can give you the info you need to make a competitive offer.

5. Pay now, save later

Perhaps your rental is lovely but in need of repairs. You, handy person that you are, have a bargaining chip: your own brawn. As your lease-end starts to draw closer, have a kind and tactful chat with your landlord about some of the apartment’s deficiencies, then offer to make the repairs yourself in exchange for a rent reduction (or at least rent stabilization).

You might shell out a few hundred in supplies to refinish the floors or repaint the kitchen cabinets, but over time that money will come back to you.

6. Dont sweat the pennies

It can be really easy to balk at offering a seller an extra $10,000, but if you ask your mortgage broker to crunch the numbers, you might be surprised at how little a difference the jump will make in your monthly mortgage costs.

Price out a few different scenarios above what you think you’re willing to spend: If you find your true dream home and it’s slightly above budget, you’ll know exactly what you’re considering taking on.

7. Go ahead, ask for freebies

Even in a sellers’ market, it doesn’t hurt to ask for stuff.

A third-floor condo owner, for example, might not want to shell out big bucks to rent a crane to move out a sectional. The retirees moving from a single-family home with a big backyard to a city condo with zero outdoor space? They likely have little interest in their patio furniture.

Once your offer has been accepted and the process is moving along, approach your agent with a few select requests to float to the sellers. There really is no harm in asking — in most cases, a seller isn’t going to kill the deal over patio furniture.