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Advice on Renting

How to save on rent

Increasing rents are a sign of the times, with the demand for rental homes rising and the supply dwindling because of the lack of buy-to-let investment.

"The normal demand for rental units has been boosted in the past two years by people who would like to have bought their own homes but could not afford to do so, or who could not qualify for the necessary home loans, and by those who have had to sell their own homes to relieve financial distress," says Harcourts Africa CEO Richard Gray.

"At the same time there has been little development of new residential units and a steep decline in buy-to-let investment, resulting in a shortage and increasing rentals."

The latest statistics available from StatsSA show that, following a decline in 2009, rentals showed an average increase of 5,4% in 2010, with the apartment sector showing an 8,1% increase. This means, he says, that a flat that cost R2000 a month to rent a year ago is now likely to cost R2160 a month – "and on top of that, tenants have had to deal with huge hikes in municipal charges for electricity and water supplies".

However, with some planning, there are ways for tenants to save on rent. "To start with," says Gray, "you need to decide where you want to live. If you feel you simply must live in your city's most trendy or upmarket area, your rent will be higher and you will probably have to settle for a smaller unit than you would really like. "Instead, consider areas that would give you a shorter commute to work (and big savings on transport costs) or ask a rental agent to show you homes in an older area that is being rejuvenated but still cheaper. If you move there and negotiate a long lease, it probably won't be long before you're paying a reasonable rent to live in an area that has become 'cool' and much sought-after."

Secondly, he says, you should not be afraid to negotiate or ask for concessions. "Rentals charged often include amenities such as lock-up garages, garden services, "free" armed response service, or access to a clubhouse and pool in the complex, and there's no harm in asking whether you could get a rent reduction by not making use of some or all or these.

"For example, the rent for a unit with a carport instead of an attached garage might be less. The landlord might also be prepared to give you a break if you are willing to maintain a yard or garden yourself, and many will seriously consider a rent reduction or at least a no-increase clause if you are prepared to sign a long lease."

And finally, Gray says, you should try to time your rental home search for an "off" season. "Most landlords raise rents during prime moving seasons, which usually co-incide with school holidays and warm weather. So it's best to search for an apartment during the school year and/ or during winter when the last thing people want to do is move, the market is slow and landlords need your business."



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