Sr. Vice President
Executive Director of Sales / Leasing, Eastside
CECILIA BASTOS moved into her bright alcove studio in a doorman building on Park Avenue recently after a long, grueling search. It was well worth it. Not only did she find a nice place, she also managed to get a great deal. She negotiated the rent from $1,820 down to $1,500. ''People should know not to be intimidated,'' said Ms. Bastos, 32, a lawyer. ''What's the worst thing that can happen if you try to negotiate?''
More often than not, she said, she would attend open houses where people were ready to just write out a check and pay the asking price. ''People are innately uncomfortable with negotiating and that's really too bad,'' she said. She feels that her pristine credit and her willingness to sign a two-year lease also made her a desirable tenant and helped her negotiation. ''If you don't try to get at least $50 knocked off your rent,'' she said, ''I think you're crazy.''
Although landlords, owners, brokers and agents say the soft rental market of the past few years is beginning to firm up, most agree there is still room to negotiate.
''There are always ways to get rents reduced,'' said Senad Ahmetovic, an associate agent at Halstead/Feathered Nest. His first piece of advice is to pull out as much information as you possibly can from the broker and from other tenants in the building. Find out, for instance, how long an apartment has been on the market and try to gather information about recent rent reductions or concessions. A small landlord may be open to dropping the rent after an apartment has been empty for a month.
Many brokers recommend having a rental portfolio ready to hand to a landlord. It should include proof of earnings, credit history and letters of reference. ''A good clean credit history will go a long way when negotiations are in play,'' said Zana Borisevic, an agent for Manhattan Apartments.
But even spontaneous renters have an advantage. ''If you can move in immediately, you have a good chance of negotiating a lower rent,'' said Yuval Greenblatt, a vice president at Douglas Elliman. ''I think it's the best leveraging tool around.''
He also said that the higher the rent, the more room to negotiate. He recently saw a $6,000 apartment reduced to $5,500 and an $11,000 one have $1,000 knocked off. The financial district, the West 30's and 40's and the low hundreds on the Upper East Side are likely spots, he said, for wheeling and dealing. But it's usually the landlords of smaller buildings and owners of single apartments who are likely to negotiate.
Another trick is to offer to pay rent for six months to a year up front. This is not permitted for rent-stabilized apartments but is legal for apartments not covered by the rent regulations.
Scott Stewart, a vice president with the Corcoran Group, recently negotiated a deal for a family moving into a full-floor, two-bedroom brownstone apartment between Park and Madison on 91st Street. ''By offering a year up front, the rent went from $4,950 down to $4,700, which is a nice savings,'' he said.
Even an exchange of goods and services can help in a negotiation. Jill Koser and Philip Kiracoff of Douglas Elliman co-brokered a deal and helped James Esposito, 21, an equities analyst, get his rent reduced from $1,950 to $1,600. It was an alcove studio in a doorman building on East 51st with lots of closet space, hardwood floors and a very tired kitchen.
His family owns a tile business and he was able to convince the apartment owner that a new kitchen would be a valuable improvement. ''I used to tile as my summer job and I know how to do the work,'' said Mr. Esposito, who will do the renovations.
A general hawk-eye approach to listings and Web sites is also helpful. ''Sometimes building owners will make mistakes,'' Mr. Greenblatt said. ''They are eager to fill a new building and they may not be completely familiar with the market.'' When 1955 Second Avenue opened a few weeks ago (at 100th Street) the building had rentals starting at $1,300, and offered concessions as well as negotiating room. Thirty people showed up immediately.
''In a few short weeks the rents have already gone up, and there's no room to negotiate, Mr. Greenblatt said.
According to Fritz Frigan, director of Leasing for Halstead/Feathered Nest, the demand for apartments is beginning to creep back up, but in buildings with high vacancy rates, there's always room to play with the numbers. ''There are 3,000 rental units scheduled for completion in the Wall Street area this year alone,'' he said. ''That's a good place to start.''
Sunday, June 06, 2004