"My advice is to come with a package that shows who you are," said Mr Brown. “Have your finances ready and a reference from your previous landlord, but include a biography of yourself and your family. You want to make that deeper connection. “It's also worth making a call to see if the landlord has any preferences for moving-in dates and the ideal rental period. Showing a willingness to work with his or her needs could give you more wiggle room on the rental price.
Even if your landlord is a large company, you still want to be polite. "If you call and threaten, the landlord's immediate reaction is to threaten back, and that's a losing situation," Brown said.
Be ready to settle for concessions.
"Landlords almost always prefer to give you a few months off than reduce your actual rent," said Ms. Donoghue. Offering concessions – like a rent-free period – enables landlords to keep their so-called "face rent" high and stable, which affects what they can charge in the future and how much their property is worth when they refinance it.
The good news is that many landlords these days are handing out concessions like candy. "In July, 30.4 percent of all rental listings had concessions, which is huge," said Ms. Young. "In Washington, D.C., it was 57.5 percent of the entries." And 90 percent of the concessions she saw were about free rent. "So you can't see the rent go down, but you will be able to get a few months off."
The bad news is that staying in an apartment for more than two years won't save you a lot of money in the long run. "If you're going to be there for four or five years, you'd better ask for a lower rent," Brown said. “I recommend dividing the difference. You could say; "I understand you don't want to lower my rent to the number I requested. Why don't we lower it a little and take a month off?"
If your landlord doesn't give any discounts or reductions, consider asking about other breaks. "Now is the time to ask about new appliances or upgrades in the bathroom," said Ms. Wu. "Anything that makes your home more comfortable is fair game because you are probably spending a lot more time on it right now."
The coronavirus is not going to go away anytime soon, and many markets suffering from the economic fallout will take a long time to recover – and potentially get worse before they do.