When people search for apartments initially, there are many things they need to consider before signing that lease term. These include the location, proximity to work, whether it's a high-rise, and the amenities.

However, the landlord is often more worried about the actual monthly rent amount. Often, things get a bit confusing before the tenant signs on the dotted line. They check out rental listings in their area and find one that fits their price range. It's in a good location, so they call you to ask for a showing. Everyone checks the apartment, and you're ready for them to lock in the rental rate on the new apartment.

However, you inform them that the rent amount is different from what's listed in the ad. That's the difference between total gross rent and net effective rent in real estate. It's common in large cities, but it's confusing to some landlords and tenants. Often, it's best for the landlord to make sure the tenant understands effective rent because they might not be able to get out of their contract once it's signed.

As a landlord, you might wonder if listing different prices on ads are legal. Do you know the monthly rent the tenant pays? You can learn all about effective rent and ensure that the tenants check the lease closely.

Gross Rent

In real estate dealings, gross rent is the flat monthly rent that the tenant must pay for the lease period. This is the total rent of the entire term and can include any associated costs of renting, such as building dues, utilities, and maintenance fees.

When renting, financial qualifications are calculated based on the gross rent. For example, in NYC, this number is 40 times the gross rent as the household income. If the apartment has a $3,000 actual rent gross, the person needs an annual income of $120,000 or more to qualify for that lease term. Overall, this way, you know that the person can pay the rental rate of their first lease.

What's Net Effective Rent?

Net effective rent is calculated as average rent. Overall, net effective rent means the total cost of renting minus any discounts. As the landlord, you can offer concessions or a small discount, such as giving one or two months free as long as the tenant handles the other costs that you list in the lease.

How's Net Effective Rent Calculated and What's Free Rent?

When calculating effective rent, it can seem a bit confusing. Net effective rent is calculated when you multiply the gross rent (actual rent) by the length of the lease and then subtract the discounted months you give the tenant. Then, you can divide that actual amount by the length of your lease to get the net effective rate.

It's quite common in real estate, but it's also very confusing as a property owner and tenant.

Let's say that you have a gross rent of $3,000 a month with a lease length of 12 months. You give your tenants a free month's rent. Therefore, you multiply $3,000 by 11 (the number of months you did not discount) and divide that amount by 12. Overall, the net effective rent is $2,750 a month.

You can also offer other lease concessions to reduce the amount a person pays. Regardless, the actual rental rate is less than what you put on the ad. Because you gave them free rent or a free month, their average rent is a bit lower than the price.

As the property owner, you can choose not to collect the free rent for that month. The tenant is paying $3,000 for 11 months and has one month free where they don't send you money. Either way, they are discounted a free month's rent for the lease.

It's up to the signer of the lease to read the terms and understand if you're using net effective rent or gross rents to calculate the amount they pay. With that, they should know the discounts you're providing and why.

Most promotions are only good for the first year or lease. However, you can choose to make it an ongoing promotion to reduce your risk of turnover.

Why Agents Use Net Effective Rent?

Usually, you offer a discount on rent to give an incentive to renters to finalize their rental agreement and agree to the lease term. Since the gross rent is higher than your net effective rent, potential renters jump at the chance to get better deals on the apartment.

Another reason you might consider effective rent is that a cheaper price appears more on search engines. Potential renters want the best deals, so using effective rent prices bumps your real estate listing in searches.

Depending on your situation, you might want to disclose broker fees or remind the renter that they are responsible for any broker's fees they incur. For example, if they use a real estate agent to find the property, they may have to pay them. That doesn't come out of your pocket and isn't part of those free months you offer.

With that, you should understand that you're in control of the number of months they get for free and which ones they're paying.

Tips for Determining Rent

Though it sounds straightforward, effective rent is often confusing to the owner of the apartment. To make life a bit easier, you may want to provide tenants with enough information so that they can determine their monthly rent price and get the best deal.

Clarify the Type of Rent

Some property owners and real estate agents advertise properties based on the gross rent, and others use the net effective rent. Be wary of renters who jump into contracts without clarifying the type of rent you offer in the lease term. Make sure to tell them that you're using effective rent to reduce issues.

Understand Renewal Terms

Prospective tenants are often ecstatic when they find an apartment that meets their needs. Therefore, they're more willing to renew each year when the landlords are straightforward with the lease term information and whether effective rent is used.

As the landlord, you can apply effective rent to the first contract and offer one free month. After that lease agreement is up, you may choose to do this again to incentivize the same renter to sign again.


The world of real estate is confusing for most people. Landlords and real estate agents may have an apartment for rent and want to do things a bit differently. The goal of using net effective rents is to make a deal or concessions over the average cost of the lease. That way, renters are more likely to shell out the money you ask for.

You've learned about calculating effective rent and why you might use effective rent instead of gross rent. Now, you can craft your advertisements and contracts in a way to save people money and provide an incentive for them to sign with you.

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!