6 tips for lowering your housing costs

6 tips for lowering your housing costs

Mortgage or rent is likely your largest monthly budget item, which makes it the perfect candidate for negotiation.

BY Emily Guy Birken

Asking for a deal on your cable, internet, or cellphone bill can save you money in amounts that range from the modest to the impressive—but your connectivity costs will never be the lion’s share of your monthly budget. The biggest expense on your ledger sheet—housing—is the one that can also net you the biggest savings through negotiation.

Negotiating your housing costs can be trickier than negotiating monthly bills, but it’s definitely possible. Here are some strategies you can use to reduce those big monthly bills.

Negotiating Rent

There are a number of factors that can make it difficult to negotiate your rent. If your rental market is experiencing a glut of renters or a scarcity of rental properties, it can be tough to ask for a break on price.

But just as businesses want to retain current customers, landlords want to know that their properties are occupied. When you enter into negotiations with your landlord, remember that unoccupied properties cost landlords money. This can help you find a mutually beneficial option for you both.

 

Here are several strategies you can use:

  1. Ask for a longer lease in exchange for a lower monthly rental amount: If you have an independent landlord (rather than a rental company), this can be an easy win-win for you both. Your landlord gets a guaranteed occupancy rate for a longer period of time, while you get a break on the cost of rent.
  2. Make your ask when you’re close to the end of your lease: Whether you are renting from an individual landlord or a large rental company, asking for a break on your rent toward the end of your lease gives you some room to negotiate. Your landlord will be thinking about the work necessary to find a new tenant and the suggestion that you might leave will have some teeth behind it. Additionally, rental companies sometimes offer incentives to either sign up or stay—such as 10% off the first month of a new lease. Even if your rental company does not offer such a deal, research other complexes that may provide such perks and ask if your current place will match the incentive.
  3. Consider the time of year: Summer is peak rental season, which means it’s harder to negotiate then since another potential tenant will be happy to take the terms you’re trying to negotiate. Starting a lease in the winter and negotiating during that season will give you more power to ask for a lower price.
  4. Ask for a discount for paying upfront: If you have the means, offer to pay several months’ in advance in cash in exchange for a discount. Like any other business, landlords often have cash-flow problems and could use an infusion of ready money in exchange for a discount.

How Homeowners Can Negotiate Housing Prices

You may be familiar with negotiating during the home-buying process—but once that’s done, it can seem as though all other housing costs are settled unless you refinance your mortgage. It’s true that negotiating your mortgage payment is impossible, but there are other aspects of your home costs that are up for negotiation. These include:

  1. Property taxes: Okay, so there’s no offering a lower dollar amount to satisfy your property tax bill, but you can appeal a property tax assessment that you believe is too high. A successful appeal could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. The specific requirements for your appeal will vary depending on your local tax assessor’s rules, but you will generally want to check that the assessment of your property has the correct information about your lot size, square footage, number of bedrooms, and major renovations. In addition, you can compare the assessed value of your home to similar houses in your area to show that your assessment is too high.
  2. Homeowners insurance: Your mortgage lender requires you to carry this kind of insurance and may even dictate the minimum level of coverage you must have—but you can often get discounts from your insurance provider. To start, bundling your home and auto insurance (and any other insurance products you may need) with one insurance company can often save you money on all of your policies. In addition, many insurers will offer discounts to policyholders who pay in full or install certain types of safety equipment. Call your insurance provider and ask how to lower your bill. They will be pretty open to helping you lower your costs.

Finding the Leeway in Housing Costs

There’s more room to negotiate in your largest budget category than you might expect. Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, you can reduce your monthly housing costs without having to move, refinance, or take in six roommates. It just requires a little research and a willingness to ask.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Guy Birken is a Milwaukee-based personal finance writer. Her books include The 5 Years Before You Retire, Choose Your Retirement, Making Social Security Work for You, and End Financial Stress Now. 

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