Renting in September: A Realtor’s Guide to Boston

Questions about Renting for September 1st? Ask an Expert!

With the big Boston moving rush of September 1st right around the corner, we asked Parker Hayes of Terrier Real Estate about the ins and outs of renting for September.

Safe Responsible Movers: When is the best time to look for an apartment if you’re renting for September 1st?

Parker Hayes, Terrier Real Estate: The time to look for a 9/1 move-in varies depending on where you want to live in the city, as well as whether you are a student or a professional. For example, college students looking to live (or already living) off campus usually start their search in January or February. That is when the rentals geared towards students come on market.

Professionals, or people looking to live in places such as South Boston, the South End, the North End, Dorchester, and Quincy, should plan to start browsing rental sites and checking out some apartments in April and May, and plan to be aggressive and ready to lock something up by June and July, and sometimes into August.

SRM: Are there potential cost benefits to waiting until July or August to firm up a place?

PH: The benefits change with where you are looking and, again, whether you are a professional or a student. In the college areas, such as Allston/Brighton and the Fenway area, there are pros and cons to waiting until later.

The pros are that the landlords and management companies in those areas are more likely to be offering to pay some or all of a broker fee in July and August, and that they are also more likely to be flexible in regards to up front costs (i.e., not collecting some portion of the standard first/last/security).

Boston's Allston neighborhood is home to many students.

If you’re renting for September at the last minute, consider Boston’s student-heavy Allston neighborhood. By Jameslwoodward (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The cons are that the quality of the apartments that will be available at that point are more likely to be on the lower end of the spectrum, since the “quality” apartments will likely have already been rented in January or February.

For professionals and people looking outside of the College areas, you are more likely to have some wiggle room in price and up front costs, the later into July and August you go, but the same thing applies — the longer you wait, the less likely you are to get a “top of the line” apartment.

With all of this, of course, there are exceptions. For example, I got a beautiful rental for myself two weeks before move-in last year. If you see an apartment you love, don’t wait! You may find something better, but you will be more upset if you don’t find something comparable and end up settling for something you don’t love!

SRM: How does rental inventory this year compare to last year?

PH: Overall I would say that inventory has been less than in previous years. That’s due to rental prices going up. Considering the overall cost associated with a new rental (up-front deposits, broker’s fee, moving costs, amount of time), a lot of people have opted to renew their leases this year and stay put.

SRM: How much have prices for September 1st rentals gone up this year compared to last?

PH: According to Zillow, rental prices went up 6.6% in 2015, whereas this year they have only gone up 2.7%.

SRM: Do you have any tips for negotiating with landlords or previous tenants to avoid moving on September 1st? For example, getting in a few days early or waiting a few days?

PH: The best tip is just to ask, although a lot of the rentals in Boston turn over on 9/1, so it is usually unlikely that you would be able to get in earlier. I often suggest moving in after 9/1, if you are renting a moving truck or using a moving company, they are more likely to have availability in the days after 9/1.

Aside from that, another thing I suggest, but that not many people are able to do financially, is to look for an 8/1 or 8/15 move-in, and eat the cost. Depending on your rent, that could be pretty expensive, but think of it as giving yourself 15-30 days to pack up and move into your new apartment, you aren’t trying to move from point A to point B in the same 12-24 hour time frame as thousands of other people on a hot and humid September day.

If you can afford it, that is the best solution, and you will be thanking yourself when 9/1 rolls around and you are enjoying your new apartment while the city is overrun with double-parked cars and people getting their U-Hauls stuck on Storrow Drive bridges!

Renting for September? Be sure to avoid Storrow and Memorial on moving day

Remember: Moving Trucks cannot go on Storrow Drive or Memorial Drive (pictured above). By Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA (City Flow) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Safe Responsible: What are some common mistakes you see from clients who try renting for September 1st?

PH: Most mistakes have to do with simply not being serious! For example, you start your search for rentals, be ready! Have your roommates figured out, expect to pay between 3 and 4 months rent up front, know that to apply for an apartment there is a 99% chance you will need to put down one months rent as a deposit. If you are student you will need a cosigner, so be sure have someone who is employed, and has a credit score above 650, ready to cosign with you. Know your budget and convey it honestly to your Real Estate agent. If you make $2,000 a month, don’t plan to rent a place for $4,000 a month — the landlord or management company will look at that as a risk and therefor less likely to accept your tenancy.

The rental market in Boston is competitive, so often apartments will have multiple showings and multiple sets of applications, being ready and able to apply for something you like quickly, will help to make you look more serious and therefore a stronger candidate in the eyes of the landlord.

Some other tips and advice:

  • If you like a clean apartment, plan to hire your own cleaners. Landlords are only required to turn over an apartment in “broom-swept” condition. That does not mean that every landlord gives you a dirty apartment, but some of the bigger management companies are not able to have each unit professionally cleaned before you move in.
  • Fill out your apartment condition statement and return it to your landlord within 15 days of moving in! It is best to do this before you move anything into the unit. The apartment condition statement is not a work order! If a light switch isn’t working, put it on there. But also email/call your landlord or management company right away and put in a request to have someone come and fix it! The apartment condition statement prevents you from being responsible for existing damage in the unit. So just putting it on there doesn’t mean your landlord will automatically fix anything — follow up with your landlord or management company if you want something fixed!
  • Read the additional provisions section and addendum of your lease carefully! This is where you’ll find the real specifics to the unit. While the RHA (Regional Housing Authority Lease) doesn’t change from place to place, the addendum and provisions sections does, so you should always be aware of the rules set forth in the lease by your landlord or management company.
  • Street Parking Permits: your lease is only recognizable by the city for the first 30 days of the lease. That means that if you want to use the lease as the proof of residence to get a Parking Sticker for your neighborhood, you need to do it before the thirtieth if you’re moving on the first. After that, you must have a utility bill to prove you live there. In that same regard, if you are unable to get there for a few days after move-in and start racking up parking tickets for parking without a resident sticker, bring the tickets with you when you go to get your Parking Sticker, they will often void the tickets for you.
  • Renters Insurance: A great investment! It costs $15 to $20 a month to have protect your property in your apartment. Think about it — you spend a lot of money to live in Boston, and a lot of money on nice things, so why not spend a little bit extra to protect it all? It really is a no-brainer and I recommend it to anyone to whom I rent an apartment.
  • Contact your Real Estate Agent at least weeks before move-in to figure out how key pick up will work. If they are doing a section of their day on 9/1 to hand out keys, get there early — sometimes we have to move on 9/1 as well and we don’t want to wait until 9pm to give you your keys! If you have roommates, have them get your keys for you.
  • Finally, if you have a good experience with an Agent, refer them business in the future, it is truly the ultimate compliment that we can receive!
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