NOTE: Amid the uncertainty and changes due to the current pandemic situation, the rules for negotiating a rental discount still apply. You might have some extra leverage when it comes to negotiating price because of the economic downturn, so try discussing that with your landlord if you think it will help. Do keep in mind that meeting with realtors and viewings may be tricky.
See our recent article on how the real estate market is changing in post-pandemic Prague.
If you’re dealing with sticker shock after looking at the rental prices in Prague, you’re not alone. The average rental price of an apartment in Prague is now higher than the average salary in the city, putting the Czech Republic in the top-five most expensive housing markets in the EU. Some countries, like Germany, have equally expensive rents, but with salaries much higher, workers actually make out better in the end.
If you’re searching for your next place in the city (or maybe even your first), we have some tips that could help you lower your rental costs.
Look beyond Vinohrady
Yes, we swear – there’s life beyond Vinohrady. Most new expats searching for a flat think Vinohrady or Žižkov are the only places good enough to live in – but that’s just not true. As Prague 2 gets crowded, other areas of the city are becoming more and more attractive. Though they’ll eventually be just as expensive as Vinohrady, some are not quite there yet.
We asked Robin Petrásek, CEO at Expats Finance s.r.o., what his picks are for great neighborhoods that are still affordable and Holešovice, Letná, and Karlín came up on top. “Karlín is more expensive these days and super hip, and Letná is right behind it,” says Petrásek, who adds that Holešovice, on the other hand, is still affordable and has lots to offer. “Holešovice might seem a bit industrial but all the emerging places with the cafes and great city connection should be considered.”
Sure, furnished apartments are more convenient, but you’ll pay dearly for that convenience. To save money, consider renting an unfurnished flat – in the Czech Republic, an unfurnished apartment usually still comes with a stove and refrigerator, so you won’t have to spend money on large appliances.
Furnishing an apartment yourself can be very cheap, especially if you’re willing to buy second-hand furniture. There are plenty of Buy/Sell/Trade groups on Facebook where you can find furniture, small appliances, and literally anything else you might need to equip your apartment for very little money. Plus, you can then resell these items on the same groups once you’re ready to move out.
Sign a longer lease
In a high-demand city like Prague, where apartments get snatched within hours of being posted online, this tactic is still very effective. Why? Because landlords don’t want an empty apartment or having to pay a realtor to find him a new tenant in a rush.
If you are willing to sign a longer-term lease (2-3 years instead of the standard 1-year contract), you might be able to negotiate a lower price or at least the opportunity to lock in the current rental rate for the entire length of your contract – so you don’t have to worry about your rent going up unexpectedly a year down the road.
Tired of renting? To explore mortgage possibilities connect with our English-speaking mortgage specialist and find an offer tailored to your needs
Offer to prepay rent in bulk
If you can afford it, offering to prepay six- or twelve-months’ worth of rent can make a potential landlord a lot more receptive to negotiating or at least offering a small discount. For example, your landlord might be ok with getting 110,000 CZK all at once rather than 20,000 CZK a month for six months – especially if he needs the money upfront for something. If you do this, make sure you get an ironclad rental agreement detailing everything –including your advance payment– so there are no surprises later on.
Take over the utilities
Technically speaking, this doesn’t lower your actual rent, but it does lower the total amount (rent + utilities) that you have to give a potential landlord every month.
If the utilities are in your name, you can negotiate the amount of your monthly deposit directly with the companies, which means no chance of being overcharged and no additional headaches.
Be flexible when it comes to must-haves
It’s ok to start with a long list of wants when you’re looking for an apartment – balcony, nice view, elevator, parking, maybe even a storage room in the basement. But if finding a flat within your budget is proving impossible, get ready to be a little more flexible.
Maybe the balcony is non-negotiable, but do you really need underground parking? Getting a one-year parking permit from the city would be much cheaper. Too much stuff? Sell, donate or trash the extras and you won’t need the storage room. Space is often negotiable as well. You might love the idea of a second bedroom to use as an office, but downsizing to a smaller place and putting a desk in the corner instead will save you a good amount of money.
Ask your employer to find you a flat
Once upon a time, it was possible to negotiate the rental price of an apartment –but with demand so high at the moment, Prague has become a “take it or leave” city. Hesitate a minute too long and somebody else will snatch the place.
There could be a few exceptions, according to Petrásek. For example, if the tenant is willing to sign a 2+ years’ contract with a high deposit or can somehow provide very good references from an employer or a co-signer.
Another option is if the apartment is rented by your employer rather than yourself. “A particularly good deal (for the landlord) would be to have a contract with the person’s employer, who will guarantee that they will occupy the property with their employees continuously,” says Petrásek. “This way the landlord has the security that there will be no vacant weeks/months and he doesn’t have to worry about finding a replacement – so he might accept a lower price for the sake of 100% occupancy during the year.”
So before you venture out to search for your own apartment, talk to your employer to see if they offer that option.
Rent bigger and share
If negotiations fail, it might be time to think about sharing. While having a stranger living with you is not for everybody, you might be able to find a friend or coworker who also needs a space. A two-bedroom apartment is not always that much more expensive than a one-bedroom, so sharing will still lower your costs and preserve your privacy. Just make sure you discuss expenses in advance to avoid misunderstandings.
Reject your next rent increase
Prague’s rental market is hot and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon – so it’s no wonder landlords want to take advantage of it by raising rents anytime they can. However, the truth is that they just can’t do that, and there are laws in place to protect you.
For example, if you have a one-year contract, your landlord cannot increase your rent “just because” halfway through your contract. He can, however, give you a three-month notice for a rent increase (meaning your rent will go up three months after you are notified) for a particular reason, such as a major renovation. Even then, the increase cannot be more than 10 percent annually by law. You can always fight this increase by having a conversation with your landlord and pointing out how you’ve been a great tenant (always paid on time, no damage to the property) and ask him to reconsider.
Say “Goodbye, Prague!”
Over the past couple of years, towns within a 30-minute commute of Prague have become more and more popular. Any place connected by train to Hlavni nadrazi, Masarykovo nadraží or Holešovice is particularly ideal, as train tickets are cheap, comfortable and provide a great way to commute into the city. While some villages – like Průhonice and Roztoky – are getting more expensive because of their proximity to Prague, others like Lysá nad Labem, Velké Přílepy, and the Beroun area are still-undiscovered gems.
Keep in mind that 30 minutes isn’t really that far away – many locations in Prague are the same distance from the city center but rents there are much higher. If you’re worried about your commute to work, you can use a tool such as Mapnificent to help you find nearby villages based on the distance you’re comfortable traveling.