Tim mentions that one of the most important skills to learn, no matter your profession, is negotiating. Simply put, I’m a terrible negotiator. Just ask my brother or my wife. My passive-agressive tendencies steer me towards finding the absolute best deal possible via the web, but once I’m dealing directly with a person, I’m done. I either take the deal on their terms, or walk away and buy somewhere else.

But I’m working on that. Last week, after 3 days of unsuccessful searching, we found our nearly-ideal apartment. Unfortunately, the terms included a security deposit of 1.5 months worth of rent. Ouch. Chelsey and I have excellent credit. We’re incredible tenants. We leave apartments in better condition than we find them. 1.5 months rent is just too much. It’s a “we need to cover the damage you’ll do if you decide to take a baseball bat to the bathroom” type of deposit, not “we need to touch-up the paint in the kitchen.”

The apartment also had two other issues: no garbage disposal in the kitchen sink, and a rule that grills are not allowed on the deck.

So, I gave it my best shot. Rather than face the landlord directly, I took a baby step and emailed her (hey, she was over 1000 miles away at the time). Here’s what I wrote:

I printed out and read through the lease agreement today. Everything looks pretty reasonable. Just 3 quick questions:

1- The lease prohibits cooking on the balcony. We have a small bbq grill that we hoped to use. Is there any flexibility on that?

2- Derek mentioned the possibility of installing a garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. That would be great. We use ours all the time, and it really helps to keep the sink clean and clog-free. Is that something you’ll be able to do?

3- Would you be willing to consider making the security deposit equal to one month of rent, rather than one-and-a-half? One month seems to be a standard amount, and I think our record as excellent tenants will give you confidence that your apartment will be very well taken care of by us.

Let me know your thoughts. When we’re ready, I’ll send the check and signed lease agreement to you via Fed-Ex. We’re really looking forward to the place!

Here was her response:

We will allow a small bbq on the deck providing you will put a rubber or metal mesh mat under it. The garbage disposal installation is not possible at this time – sorry. Too many plumbing and electric issues.
The deposit required is 1.5 month’s rent. As an exception for you, the deposit amount can be reduced to $1895. Please, let me know ASAP if you would like to proceed. Thanks.

Okay, so I got 2 out of 3, and one of those was pretty weak ($200, yipee). But the point is, it’s better than nothing, it was good practice, and it took me less than 10 minutes. If we were willing to walk away from this place, I’d push for more. But we aren’t. :)