How to Negotiate The Best Deal When Renting A Home In San Diego, CA

Negotiating a San Diego rental agreement.

The San Diego, CA rental market is hot right now. So what are some of the best ways for San Diego County renters to negotiate the best deals, and secure the best units?

With less than 3% of San Diego’s rental units available, it can be very tough for area renters to find something at all. The best SoCal homes for rent can bring a lot of competition from potential tenants. Meanwhile, rental asking prices are soaring, and many landlords are becoming more and more difficult to work with. Use the following advice to increase your negotiating power when renting a home in San Diego:

Position Yourself as the Best Tenant Candidate

Regardless if you have stellar credit, terrible credit, or no credit; it is important to make the most of whatever you have. Landlords are becoming incredibly demanding, and they often have their pick of tenants. So maximize what you’ve got. Check your credit in advance, and fix erroneous negative items. Consider putting together an entire application package which highlights your strong points. This might be great income, a great job at a solid company, significant liquid assets, or notable references. For some, it may be worth writing a letter to connect and tell your story.

Find Off Market San Diego Rental Homes

Real estate investors and institutional investment companies have many San Diego, CA rental properties that aren’t being marketed. Many have been told that they shouldn’t advertise or show properties until they are polished. There can be some sense in this, but the losses from months off the market and drain of holding costs can eventually lead to them demanding more in rent. Savvy renters can take advantage of this situation. Why not approach those clearly in the process of renovating and look to strike a deal? You can do them a favor by helping them to bring in money right away, and avoid marketing expenses and commissions on finding tenants. Claim those savings for yourself.


Among the many real estate investors which have rushed into the hot Southern Californian housing market are those who didn’t invest in their education. Some have found they bit off more than they could chew. Offering a solution which could help them find a viable and graceful exit may be very welcome. A great way to do this can be through rent-to-own and lease option agreements. Rent until you can qualify for a mortgage, and start enjoying the benefits of owning your own home right away.

Length of Leases

While many leases may end up being annual by default, there is no hard and fast rule that requires it. Serious, full time landlords often prefer long term tenants. Other accidental landlords that have had to move out of the area and have empty homes in San Diego County might be willing to entertain month to month leases while they try to sell. Both can be great arrangements depending on your circumstances. Find the right match and use this as a negotiating point.

Rental Increases

For those planning to rent long term, and that would prefer to avoid constant moving costs, might choose a multi-year lease upfront. This can enable renters to negotiate predicable increases in their living costs over the next few years, rather than being forced to move due to ballooning rents. For example; offering a three year rental commitment with 8% annual increases can be attractive to the prospective landlord and beats being caught with a 20% increase at the end of the first 12 months.

Negotiate Upfront Fees

Moving can be extremely expensive. Between deposits on utilities, new furniture, moving trucks and storage, and deposits and advance rent, it can add up fast. Everything is negotiable, and it is also important to consider the real net cost. Is offering more in monthly rent, but less upfront better for making it more affordable to move? Or how about offering more advanced rent and less deposit for those working with unproven landlords they may fear won’t return deposits? Note that this is an increasing issue.


Utilities can add a lot to the cost of renting, and can be high due to no fault of the tenant. For example; a renter has little control over the dated AC unit, or clogged air ducts, or poor insulation, or whether energy efficient appliances have been installed. So consider making utilities a part of negotiations.

Property Maintenance

Maintenance can be one of the biggest pains for landlords. California landlords prize tenants which are going to be the least amount of hassle, and the properties which are going to require the least maintenance. If you are handy when it comes to DIY, or have more time than money offering to handle landscaping, minor repairs, or any regular maintenance up to $150 dollars could aid in negotiating lower upfront money and monthly rents.

Rent Multiple Units

In some cases, San Diego renters might find great deals in renting multiple units. This could apply in apartment buildings or small multifamily complexes or even separate units. For example; perhaps you need extra space for a home office, have family visiting Sand Diego regularly, or want to be able to stay on the water on weekends, but don’t mind being Inland during the week to have lower rent on a bigger place.