Happy times in housing. If you’re looking for a place for rent

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I’ve got a new story on Time.com. It begins:

There’s good news in the housing market—for renters. What you pay is on the way down. The average rent in the U.S. fell by 0.4% in the last three months of 2008, according to a survey of large apartment buildings in 79 metro markets by the real estate analytics firm Reis. Even though landlords often find it tougher to raise rents in winter months, the fourth quarter’s decline from the three months prior is significant for being the first quarterly drop since the beginning of 2003.

At first pass, that might not make a whole lot of sense. If homeownership is on the decline, shouldn’t apartment buildings be swamped with interest? As it turns out, those two things don’t neatly seesaw. The demand for apartment rentals is largely linked to employment. When people—especially young adults who are prone to rent—don’t have jobs, they’re more likely to stay with family or become a roommate instead of renting a place of their own. Plus, in the wake of escalating foreclosures, buildings full of condos that can’t be sold, and investor properties sitting unflipped, there are plenty of units from unconventional sources up for rent.

What that means to you: “If you’re looking for an apartment or want to renegotiate your lease, you should keep in mind that you have bargaining power,” says Hans Nordby, U.S. strategist at Property & Portfolio Research (PPR), a real estate intelligence outfit.

You can read the rest here.

If you—or maybe one of your kids—do decide to negotiate with a landlord, I highly recommend first reading Fisher and Ury’s Getting to Yes. The notion of focusing on interests and not positions changed my life. I swear, I think about it almost every day. Thank you, Professor Ichniowski.