apartment complex in front of a blue lake

Guest Author:

Justin Pogue

How I Learned the Power of Rental Secrets

I truly believe that networking is an art and a skill driven by destiny.  I attended my first FinCon- a conference of financial content creators in September 2019 and met some amazingly talented and smart people.  Justin, master of rental hacks, was one of them.  

I arrived at a post-conference networking party, originally I hadn’t planned on going.  I met a friend on the bus, Kimberly, and she and I grabbed some food and wine as soon as we got there.  But we had no table. So we found one with two gentlemen and asked if we could post up. They kindly obliged and we shared information about our passions and the type of content we create.  I was the only wellness-only blogger at this conference that I could identify but I quickly found overlapping interests with everyone I met. 

Robinhood party sky shot
Robinhood Welcome Party Ficon19.

Justin was one of the two gentlemen at the table and the other had just bought his book, Rental Secrets.  I (nicely) asked if I could snatch it up off the table for a quick read. Since I’m a homeowner, I knew I didn’t need to buy this book on the spot, but maybe someday I would be in the rental market again and should take a look.  The book amazed me with how the tips included in the book made so much sense and were easy to enact with a little practice and negotiation skills. 

Hacking Financial Wellness Week

I wanted to bring different voices together for financial wellness week to share all types of content that would help people get their finances straight.  Justin’s 3 rental hacks to change your mindset about renting are the perfect content to help you negotiate your next rental agreement with confidence. 

These tips are applicable for all kinds of rentals including apartments for rent or houses for rent.   These tips can help you. If you are looking for places for rent by owner or apartments for rent nearby, these tips are applicable to everyone in the rental market. 

So here’s Justin to share his knowledge about how to hack your rental life!  

Justin Pogue blue background headshot

3 Rental Hacks That Will Save You Money Today! 

From Property Management to Rental Secrets Author

200+ apartments, 450 residents, and a full dose of drama – that pretty much described my last corporate property management job.  

I took that position after returning to my hometown of San Jose, CA in 2015.  Prior to that, I’d been handling property management and development for my family’s investment portfolio in the southeast. 

As I worked my way through these experiences, I leaned heavily on what I learned while getting my MBA a decade earlier.  Having worked in property management and development since 2003, I’ve seen the residential rental process from multiple angles having been a landlord and a property manager for a corporation.

With that corporate job in the rear-view mirror, I began the process of figuring out what I wanted to do next.  It was during this period that an acquaintance made a suggestion that led my career in an entirely new direction.  That suggestion was to write a book. I’d never written a book, so I really didn’t know where to start, but I took their suggestion to heart and started doing some research. 

I Learned that Rental Research is One-Sided – For the Owner not the Renter

A trip to the local bookstore’s real estate section brought a revelation.  There were plenty of books in that section, but they were all for owners, managers, and investors.  I didn’t find any books for the nearly 40 million households who rent and bring the money to the table that makes the whole residential property investment industry work.  

It became even more mind-boggling as I thought through the fact that these rent payments cover salaries for everyone in the industry and the returns that real estate investors receive.  

Large apartment complex with a pool.
Rental life. Photo courtesy of Shutter Stock

“I have yet to meet anyone who was able to take a class in college about how to rent an apartment and negotiate the best deal possible.”  

Lastly, the national discussion between landlords and renters has been quite adversarial and getting worse by the day.  These were the reasons that led me to write my new book, Rental Secrets and become a real estate author.

Renting Impacts Your Financial and Mental Wellness

As I thought about what I wanted to write, I thought about the emotions that renters and landlords experience in the rental process.  I thought about the frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness that renters wrestle with as their stress levels rise with each lease renewal.  

I also thought about the risk that I and others like me had taken to become a landlord.  There are market risks, financing risks, natural disaster risks, leasing risks, and the list goes on and on.  Contrary to what most people think landlords are not sitting on buckets of cash. The majority of their wealth is tied up in the building and you can’t just go ask the wall for $50 when you want to go out to dinner.  So there are deep powerful emotions going on for everyone in this industry.  

Take Control of Your Rental Life by Solving the Landlord’s Problems

The strategies in Rental Secrets are based on the market realities that landlords face.  These realities present landlords with problems they need to solve on a regular basis to maintain the value of their investment.  Knowing how to solve these problems as a renter puts you in a much better position to negotiate.   

More importantly, these strategies can be used by average, everyday people (like you!) to save significant money on what they pay for rent every month.

3 rental hacks with Justin Pogue
Get savvy about your rental future with these rental hacks.

Rental Hack #1- Negotiate… but Do Your Research First

It still amazes me that people don’t know that rent can be negotiated.  In fact, the very first chapter of the Rental Secrets book focuses on this very subject.  We are so conditioned to walk into a store and expect to pay that price we see on the shelf because we do it everyday.  This is exactly how people treat renting. However, the asking price is just that an “asking” price.  They can ask for whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually receive it.    

Once you know you can negotiate, the next step is to learn how.  

We’ve all heard the phrase “Our rents are competitive with the market”.  But what does that really mean in a practical sense? And what market are they talking about? 

Renters think it means there aren’t any better deals available.  But, it means something a little different for landlords. Picture your apartment community on a map.  Now picture a circle with a one-mile radius drawn around it. Landlords are comparing their rents to any comparable properties within that circle.

This sounds perfectly reasonable doesn’t it?  There’s only one problem…it isn’t pricing that is specific to you and your needs.  But they look at rents this way because they don’t really know your specific needs and they can’t move the building.

Since their pricing strategy has nothing to do with you it falls to you to educate them on the options you have available based on your needs.  

You may have chosen this community because it’s a half hour from your job. There are likely other quality properties you could choose 30 minutes east and west from your job.  So before you start negotiating with your landlord gather the market rent information from the properties you could choose to live in regardless of whether they are located in the 1-mile radius or not.  

Don’t expect this strategy to work if you pull info from run down buildings.  Only use apartment communities that are similar to the one where you currently live.  

Gathering this data does a number of things for you:  

  • First, it shows how serious you are as the vast majority of residents never bother to do this.  
  • Second, it shows that you have real, viable alternatives to staying put.  
  • Third, the person in the leasing office likely isn’t empowered to negotiate with you.  However, their boss can.  

You’ll have given them the information they need to take your case to their boss with a nice neat bow on it.  All of this puts you in a better position to negotiate and save some cold, hard cash.

Rental Hack #2- It’s All About Timing

In addition to negotiation, your timing can also get you significant savings on rent. In the grocery store if we see an item nearing its expiration date, we typically just reach past it to the one whose expiration date is further out.  

Few, if any, think about how the timing of their purchase could be a path to negotiation.  

Consider that when an item at the grocery store reaches the expiration date, it becomes worthless to the store.  The closer we are to the expiration date the more leeway there might be to negotiate. We only start paying attention, once the grocery store marks the items down with big red sale tags.  However, when it comes to the price of rental property timing is important as well, but you likely won’t see any big red sale tags.

To understand rental property timing we need two pieces of information:  

  • First, every day an apartment is vacant, the landlord makes no money.  But, even worse, he can’t get that money back.  It’s gone forever.  
  • Second, the vast majority of people are looking for apartments in the spring and summer.  They want to find a place before the new school year starts or they just graduated and are looking for their sweet new singles pad before they start their new job.  Since landlords know this is when demand is highest, it’s also the time of year when they charge the most.

The tip here is to wait until late fall and winter.  

Although you’ll have fewer choices during this period there will be far fewer people looking.  Landlords typically discount properties during the winter months because it’s better to start getting some rent now versus losing months of rent waiting for the peak season to roll around again. Since graduations and school year start dates are always around the same time every year the timing discount is a trend that savvy renters looking to save money can depend on.

Rental Hack #3- Ditch the Amenities

Here’s a third tip for you.  There’s an arms race going on. And no I’m not referring to the one between countries.  The amenities arms race is in full swing.  

Apartment complexes across the country are all competing for quality residents – people who can afford to pay rent, pay it on time, and don’t disturb their neighbors with drum practice at 3am.  

One of the strategies they use is to add amenities to their properties.  These amenities include pools, BBQ grills, beer gardens, pet spas, and package lockers, just to name a few.

You may be thinking – “This is awesome how could I possibly go wrong with a pool and a beer garden.”

Here’s the thing: While amenities sound really great before you start living there, once you actually move in life takes over and residents rarely use the amenities they loved so much when they moved in.  

On top of that, each of these amenities is priced into the rent you pay every month.  It’s priced in the rent whether you use the amenity or not.  So ultimately from the perspective of the renter many of these amenities end up wasting their money.  

The lesson here is to focus on choosing properties that have amenities you’re actually likely to use.  Focus on in-unit laundry or laundry rooms which you know you’ll use versus the on-site gym you’ll rarely have time to use – your wallet will thank you.

You Can Hack Your Rental Mindset and Life

There’s no special talents or experience needed to apply these strategies.  Gathering info, timing your rental, and avoiding amenities you won’t use are steps that anyone can take.  

Understanding how landlords think and the problems they face will definitely put you in a much better position to negotiate your rental home.  

Whether the savings you negotiate is $50, $100, or $150 understand that this savings will occur each and every month of your lease.  So even a $50 savings equates to $600 per year. That’s grocery money, car payment money, and money to invest. Your rent savings will allow you to achieve financial wellness faster with it than without it.

You Can Find More Rental Secrets

Thank you Justin for your contribution to the Wellness Grind community and for participating in Financial Wellness Week! You can find more rental secrets in the book and also on Justin’s website.

Guest Author Bio: 

Justin Pogue is an author and real estate consultant in San Jose, CA.  His insights have been featured on Fox News, The San Jose Mercury News, SFGate, Realtor.com, and ApartmentTherapy.com

For more information on Justin Pogue or his book Rental Secrets, please visit RentalSecrets.net or connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/justincpogue.

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