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couple with dog outside home in winter

No Need for Winter Blues with Off-Season Rental Opportunities

By: Sheila O’Hearn, Zoocasa

Most people tend to target May to September as the optimal time to search and find a rental apartment. Compared to winter, the loading and unloading of possessions from one location to the other is much easier in the balmy weather, and the tracking of icy wetness into your new abode is diminished. University students also tend to go for a rental between the end and the beginning of the school year, while families prefer to move in summer to avoid disrupting the children from their school year.

But many things can be said for braving a move in the off-season, typically from October to April, and the best time to score a great deal on an apartment is from October to February. In fact, the deeper into winter we are, the sweeter the deal.

Here are a few reasons why:

Less competition

On the one hand, fewer choices will, admittedly, be available to off-season renters, but on the other hand, property managers will likely welcome new residents to their properties after the peak season. Vacancies, no matter the clime, must be filled. Additionally, landlords will likely offer better lease terms, waive certain fees and lower the rents. Incentives, such as a free month or two or free cable might well be offered, and if the landlord isn’t forthcoming with an incentive, be bold: ask what they’re willing to provide.

In fact, negotiating can actually be fun if you’re prepared and you dare to haggle. When negotiating for a better deal, present, in turn, what you can offer: Is your track record as a responsible tenant sterling? Can you offer to commit to a longer lease, if necessary, to get what you want? Besides knowledge, savvy renters won’t leave home without their references, and some even come armed with their first- and last-month’s rent to woo the prospective landlord.

Experts say that before viewing an apartment and once you’ve established your strengths, approach the landlord with confidence and negotiate for a tad more than you think you deserve. With some back-and-forth bantering, what you had hoped to win all along could be the happy result! If you reach a halt in the negotiation, suggest a compromise—but close to what you wanted. Stay firm, but always remain courteous. A lost temper or a flippant attitude is like asking a landlord to escort you to the exit.

Create a strategic current lease

One source cautions that off-season bargains might be so tempting that some renters wait for the market to slow down before apartment-hunting. In this scenario, check your current lease before starting your search to ensure an off-season move is doable without penalty (you’re still responsible for the rent until the current lease is up). Conversely, be strategic about your new lease by looking outside the traditional 12-month contract. Ask for a nine-month or 14-month lease to position you for a future move in the off-season. If your lease is up in the summer, arrange to go month-to-month until the fall. Flexibility in your current lease will give you the valuable time to look for an ideal place for the best price possible price.

Make current trends work in your favour

Better deals in markets that have greater supply than demand, as in Toronto, are promising. During your research, get a feel for the vacancy rates in the area and seek neighborhoods with new apartment construction. Neighbourhoods with higher vacancy rates and new supply are good starting places for your search.

Industry experts note that a rental that includes outdoor space can reap even greater savings, as a terrace or backyard often carries a premium in summer but is ignored in winter. For similar reasons, the colder months are the best time of year to renegotiate your lease.

Weather forecast on moving day

Congratulations! You’ve landed your new apartment, and it’s cold outside! Make sure you dress appropriately for the move, and that pathways are clear of snow on the big day to avoid any unforeseen accidents.

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