How to negotiate property lettings like a pro

To negotiate from a strong position, don't reveal your drivers

To negotiate from a strong position, don’t reveal your drivers

To achieve the highest possible rent, good negotiation is key. Here knowledge truly is power: the best lettings negotiators give nothing away while trying to establish as many key facts from the tenant as possible.

Don’t reveal any of your main drivers. Where an agent is letting your property, don’t disclose any personal facts to them – they may not be able to resist whispering them to the tenant. If you conduct your own viewings, don’t volunteer any information on yourself. Letting it slip that you are moving countries in a month (and are desperate to find a tenant who will move in straight away to help cover your many costs) will not help your cause.

Some of the facts to glean from prospective tenants are:

  • How sold they are on your particular property judging by their body language and conversation: talking about where their furniture would fit indicates a strong like, while asking if you have any other similar properties for rent reveals ambivalence or dislike
  • What time pressure they are under and how long it is before they have to move
  • How many similar properties they’ve seen, to gauge your competition. A disarming question helps, such as: ‘You are the experts on two-bedroom flats in this area right now. How does this one compare?’
  • If they seem quite price sensitive or if it’s more about finding the right property
  • Whether they are clear on the location they want. If not, they are time wasters
  • If there is a particular sticking point for them. If so, leverage this as a point of negotiation.

As a landlord, you need to decide what are your non-negotiables. The primary non-negotiable is to find the right type of tenant for your property. But be realistic: the shoe should fit – a top lawyer is unlikely to take your ex-council flat. Overall, the highest rent is secondary to the right tenant, as the wrong tenant can cost you a lot more.

Apart from these non-negotiables, on what are you prepared to back down? Consider:

  • Do you have strong preferences on the number of tenants? Children? Pets? Smoking? Try not to be too descriptive
  • Is the rental level critical to you: do you have a mortgage payment or other cost to cover?
  • Are the contract length and break clause timing important to you? Are you working within a fixed window?
  • Are you prepared to spend any money on furniture or tenant requests?

Good negotiation is about give and take. Ideally you want to give in on issues that are important to the tenant but less so to you, without compromising on your own non-negotiables.

» Teaspoons seal the deal

Here’s how to find a happy medium. Media salesman Rupert and PR manager Joanne, both in their late twenties, were a perfect fit for their north London landlord, even offering close to the asking rent. However, they could only move in a month after the two-bedroom flat became vacant, which would have meant a £1,900 void period. They also had very few belongings, so asked for a new mattress, a second double bed plus a fully equipped kitchen – down to the teaspoons. The owner agreed to their requests, on condition that they move in three weeks earlier. Buying all they asked for came to less than £800, leaving the owner £700 better off than he’d have been with the full month’s void. And he had his ideal tenants.

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