Time was, the landlord's knock could inspire dread and bogus excuses. But as apartment vacancies soar, these days he's more likely to drop by to offer you a flat-screen TV, cash, or reduced rent if you re-up your lease. "Many companies are doing whatever they can to keep units occupied, especially heading into the seasonally slower leasing period," says one analyst.
Retaining existing tenants is key as national vacancy rates hit a 23-year peak of 7.8%—and offering incentives helps avoid renovations, marketing expenses, and lost rent, reports the Wall Street Journal. Besides, savvy tenants are checking online to see offers to new tenants—giveaways like paying brokers fees—and looking for parity. But with few new units coming on the market, the party is likely to be over—and the shoe back on the landlords' foot—when the economy comes back.