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5 Great Reasons Small Landlords Can Compete With Large Apartments

by John Ferrari

Have you ever felt you are at a disadvantage with your rental? Prospective tenants view your rental and ask where the doorman or hot tub are located. They tell you that the apartment complex next door is offering no security deposit and the first month free on rent. How do you compete?

Here are the 5 reasons why renting from a small landlord is better than a larger apartment complex. Next time you have a prospective tenant tell you about the perks of a larger complex, typically run by REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts), here are 5 excellent points to respond with:

#1 Sense of ownership from your management

Smaller owners and managers want to make you feel at home. Often times, there is a very personal style of ownership and you have an opportunity as a tenant to get to know the property owner. The property can have substantial meaning to the owner and they act accordingly. For instance, a friend of mine began renting a property from a local developer this past year. The developer happened to also own larger developments but was able to provide a higher level of service at the smaller property. So when the garbage disposal went out on Thanksgiving, needless to say, he was there to fix it within an hour.

#2 They don’t nickel and dime you

An apartment, especially a new one on the market, will offer low to no money down to get you in there. But soon enough, you realize:

  1. Ridiculously high pet fees -- See our Tenants with Animals article!
  2. Move in and move out costs -- Some larger complexes charge fees to use elevators or other conveniences that make moving in and out much smoother.
  3. Trash, water, and community fees (with a total lack of real community) -- $50 a month for community water fountains is nonsense.

#3 Renewal fees are more likely to be lower

When it comes time to renew your lease, a larger apartment does not care as much about you staying. After all, they are accustomed to having five percent vacancy at any time. For a smaller landlord, vacancy will really hurt their ability to pay the mortgage and have other financial consequences. For this reason, smaller landlords are less likely to increase the rent to an astronomical amount, especially in markets where rates are increasing drastically. In fact, I visited the 300+ unit complex I used to live in 6 months ago and my old apartment is still not leased and was available for less than they wanted me to renew.

#4 Better ability to negotiate

The larger complexes have their rules. The rules are the rules. You want to add a different light fixture? Or you want to paint the entryway wall a warmer color? With a smaller landlord, they are more likely to allow you to make the place your own and also allow you to change things within reason. Larger complexes tend to have very strict guidelines.

#5 The place is original

Charm, uniqueness, and sense of community tend to be fostered in smaller rentals. Leasing agents for larger complexes may say people meet in the elevator, but often times, no one is talking or fostering a sense of community. Many large complexes sell their community values but at the end of the day, they are held to financial statements for their investors. Smaller property owners want tenants who care about their space and will treat it well. A smaller community typically means a much closer knit group, enabling you to connect with your neighbors on a much more personal level and be a part of a unique neighborhood!

Photo cred: Norbert Levajsics