It may be counterintuitive to consider moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to lack of demand, job losses and declining confidence in the rental market, you may be able to take advantage of the market downturn and gain an edge. Here are ways you can capitalize on the downturn in the rental market when considering moving to a new apartment.
Negotiate Lower Rent
If landlords are struggling to manage late rents and vacant units, this unfortunate situation may offer an opportunity for renters to negotiate lower monthly rent. If you have the means to gather first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and have good credit, you can leverage these assets to your advantage. You can simply say to the landlord: “I’m a viable tenant who will pay rent on time, can you agree to $100 less per month?”. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Landlords may even appreciate your straightforwardness and tenacity.
With the extra money you’ll save, stash the cash into an emergency fund you can use as a safety net.
Capitalize on Demand
There’s been millions of Americans who have relocated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the inventory of open apartments is staggering. This is exacerbated by situations where leases are ending and tenants are choosing not to renew their contracts. According to a Pew Research Center study, 22% of Americans say they have changed residences or know someone who has. This trend opens up high-quality apartments at likely lower prices in prime neighborhoods. With this exodus from apartment living, this can be an ideal time to find an apartment in the neighborhood you’ve aspired to live in.
Get More Personalized Attention from a Real Estate Professional
With restrictions in place for in-person showings, real estate agents and brokers are eager to help qualified renters find apartments. Since real-estate agents are often commission based earners, there is likely no cost to you. You can benefit from the experience and knowledge of a real estate agent, particularly if they focus on specific neighborhoods. They can provide an ‘inside scoop’ about a building.
Also, they sometimes get calls from property managers, building supervisors or landlords about available apartments before they’re officially announced or posted. According to Realtor.com, in housing markets with a limited supply of rentals, there can be fierce competition from other interested renters who are also looking for a place to live. That's when working with a real estate agent who knows the neighborhood gives you an advantage.
Moving Expenses Could be Lower
Instead of hiring an expensive moving company, consider a DIY move with creative strategies to keep moving costs down. Save money on moving boxes by asking friends and neighbors, inquire at local stores, or even ask your building if they have boxes to use. To sanitize the boxes, don’t forget to spray them with disinfectant spray. Another way to stretch resources is to borrow a truck from a friend, or barter to use someone’s vehicle. Swap your talents with someone who has a truck.
If a DIY move just isn’t feasible, consider moving during the week. Weekends are typically more expensive. You can also try calling around to several moving companies to find the best price.
Enlist Friends to Help Pack and Move
One casualty of the pandemic is that many shift workers have more time on their hands, and they may want to earn some side money. Ask around to see if people in your circles, whom you trust, could help you out.
Although having friends help you move can save you money, it’s also very important for them to practice social distancing. When they arrive, they should wear gloves and a mask, and your helpers should stay 6-feet apart. Be sure to have ample disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer readily available.
Consider Choosing a University Town
With the restrictions set by universities and classes moving online, there may be increased vacancies as students can learn from a distance. Landlords may find they have a greater inventory of unrented apartments. University towns are very charming, offer culinary gems, have lots of culture and are designed with a walking lifestyle in mind. If you’re considering relocating or pursuing a new job opportunity, university towns are great options.
Moving During COVID-19
It’s imperative to mandate safety protocols like social distancing and implementing the proper sanitizing of supplies. That said, moving during the COVID-19 pandemic is possible. Because of the downturn of demand, and more renters moving back with family to save on expenses, landlords may be in a place to accept offers for lower rent and more flexible arrangements.
If a town has limited rental units, hiring a real estate agent may give you an edge in a competitive market. In addition, if you're relocating to another city, the current state of the real estate market can be a good time to plan a move.
Erica Lamberg is a freelance business and personal finance writer.
*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.