Cheap rent are words seldom spoken around Boston. Not even the recession could stem rising rents, and with Boston’s strong economy, and a high student and transient population, affordable housing will likely remain a thing of the past. Still, there is some wiggle room to reduce your costs.

“You have to start by defining affordable,” says Tim Schmidt, a realtor at Boston’s RE/MAX Destiny. “Think about what is affordable for you. Run your numbers. The traditional gauge of rent being one third of your income still holds. Figure out what you can afford, then find the neighborhood that fits you.” 

With such heavy competition for apartments, renters are often intimidated by negotiating with landlords for reductions. But it’s worth a try. 

“It is real estate,” says Schmidt. “Just the same as when you buy a house, you can always make an offer.”

Schmidt gave us some tips on negotiating with landlords.

Is it more expensive to rent in June than January? “The time of year won’t make much difference. A luxury building landlord might offer a bigger incentive, like waving parking or tech fee, because it’s built into their budget. But the mom and pop landlord doesn’t usually have that option.” 

Think outside the location box “People want to live in the cool neighborhood. They hear from their friends or read about the cool places. Then when they come into town, they want the Back Bay or Harvard Square. But there’s cool neighborhoods all over Greater Boston. Get to know other neighborhoods than the well-known ones.” 

Be an ideal renter “Landlords make their decisions based on credit score, income, and references. If you are an ideal candidate you have more power to negotiate. Another plus to a landlord is how long a tenant will stay. If you have a work contract for five years, that could be seen as a plus to a landlord, and you have more room to negotiate.”

How low can you go? “You’re not always negotiating the cost of the rent. 95% of people use agents and pay a commission. Often, an easy negotiation is to ask the landlord to pay half. That’s an immediate saving. Or ask for the tech or other fee to be waved. But if you are trying to reduce the rent, then you can’t ask for more than a $150 per month reduction.”