Experts offer tips to getting best rental rates

July 9, 2013 10:13:50 AM PDT
Whether you're a first-time renter or someone with little experience, when it comes to apartment living, there's some tricks of the trade that could help you get a better deal on your lease.

If you're up for renewal or renting from a new community, experts say their number one tip for residents: Read the fine print.

"They need to read the application carefully," said Kyle Brown with the Houston Apartment Association.

Brown says before you sign a new lease, make sure you understand what you're signing.

"There's generally an application fee and a deposit. Some of those fees may not be refundable," he said.

From up front costs, to credit and background checks -- even if you have pets -- expect to spend a few hundred dollars before you move in. Also, shop around for move-in specials.

"An upfront special, move-in special -- $100, $200, maybe a month free," Brown said.

Brown tells us you may be able to negotiate a better rate for paying early as well.

"If you tell them you're going to pay in advance, they might be able to give you a discount on it. Good-paying residents are always welcome," Brown said.

If they're not budging on the price, Brown says you may be able to get them to throw in some other options.

"A fresh coat of paint. Carpet cleaned, or maybe new carpet. Or some new accents in your home. Ceiling fans, lighting package, they might be able to give you some upgrades," Brown said.

And when it comes time to move out, make sure you give proper notice.

"Most communities require a 60-day notice before you move out," Brown said. "It gives the community time to find a new resident for your apartment. It gives you time to find a new place, arrange movers."

Brown tells us you still need to give the community written notice that you're leaving, even if your contract ends on a specific date. If not, you may be charged the current monthly rate, plus added fees, until you sign a new lease or move out.

Also, as supply tightens, rates will continue to rise. Houston apartments on average have seen a 4 percent increase in the past year. However, the Houston Apartment Association says it's still cheaper than living in Dallas or Austin.

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