Four months ago I started an apartment search in Germany. It seemed to be enough time to find the perfect place that I would call home for the next couple of years. In an initial round, I filtered 8 apartments from 68 on the rental market at that time, each of which seemed to have what I was looking for. No crazy requests, I just wanted a window in each room (read LIGHT, since I don’t want to live in a box), hardwood floors throughout (since lots of places had tiles in the whole place…yes, bedroom too), and a balcony where I would be able to put my patio furniture. From those 8 apartments, only 3 actually had all of what I was looking for. Great! It felt like finding a place to live in Germany was an easy task. The only thing left was to negotiate the price and move into the ‘best deal’ since all of them seemed a bit pricey.
My first negotiating activity was a real disaster. The agent was obviously annoyed and irked by my attempts to negotiate a lower monthly rate. I really had good arguments why I thought that the rate should have been lower – from comparing the price to others on the market to naming all the investments that I would implement in the place and which would stay for the owner (since I’m not planning on taking with me, nor can I resell custom-made kitchen cabinets). No matter how hard I pushed his answer was “No, this is the price for this apartment. The owner knows that the place is worth this much and won’t rent it for less. If you don’t want it, someone will come along who will”.I guess that every product has its customer, one who’s willing to pay a particular asking price. Obviously I was not the right customer for this product.
Ok. Tough luck. 2 more to go.
The second place, the second agent. Of course I had questions about the apartment! However, the agent found my extensive interest in details….frustrating and pestering . One moment he turned to me and actually said “Since you are asking too many questions, it’s obvious that you don’t like this place.” No! I liked the place just fine! I just wanted to know if holes in walls would be closed and if I could change or remove the curtains…. But, he didn’t have any patience for me. He had this demotivated look on his face, showing me that the visit was obviously over – since I was not the right customer for that place. I had too many ‘issues’ that the right customer would not. The right customer would be just happy, quiet and would take the place without question. I didn’t even get to the point of negotiating the price this time.
In the mean time, I was trying to rent out my own condominium in the Chicago area. After a month on the market, I started to rethink the price – was it too high? After a second month not renting the condo, it was clear that I had to lower the price if I wanted to get a tenant. People started to call and show some interest, and finally an offer came – even a bit lower than my reduced asking price – but hey I couldn’t afford to go on for much longer with paying rent on one side and a mortgage on the other side.
The third place was being rented out directly by the owners. I kind of felt for them since I saw myself for a split second. Decent renovations, decent location, more or less both I and my partner were satisfied…that is until we started hearing about all the conditions that we needed to fulfill “No animals, preferably no children, a garden that was exclusively mine had to be ‘this’ way, you are not being allowed to paint the walls any color other than white…”. Should I mention that the rent would be raised 10% after a year and even more the subsequent year. Space for any negotiations? I think not! Did they seem a bit more emotionally attached to their ‘product’ than normal? Yup! Were they aware of the rest of the offers on the market ? No. They didn’t have an outsider (an agent) to even give them constructive advice about how to ‘sell their product’. In their eyes, they had a perfect product on the market and only a fool would pass and not rent it. They were doing a favor to the world by even putting their product on the market. I just wasn’t thankful for that (favor)….what an imperfect customer I was! Thank God!