We all know it: finding a rental is tricky. Major metropolitan cities, such as Boston, have a notorious reputation of giving apartment hunters a challenging time when it comes to offering rental properties that suit a prospective renter's needs, wants, and ultimately what they can afford.
And as the battle of quality inventory continues to rage on, the pressure for renters mounts even more. But not all is lost - as spring and summer dawn, more listings become active. This is what is quite unique about the Boston rental market - as school winds down, the movement of students gives rise to more available properties and lease transfers. The key thing to remember is to have a strategy when you're about to embark on an apartment hunt. Here are some steps to help you improve your search for a rental home.
Before beginning your search, decide what kind of rental best fits your needs. Renters with pets, for example, should consider leasing from private owners rather than multi-family property managers. Although it's a given that most buildings have strict rules regulating pet ownership, this is even more so the case for multi-family properties as their is a limited set of tenants residing in a multi-family home.
You should also pay close attention to amenities and exterior features before making final decisions. As much as possible, have an extra eye and ear out for high rises and rentals in noisy environments, or rentals with close proximity to freeways or train tracks. Unless that's what you're searching for, the likelihood of finding a quite living space along developments such as these are close to nil.
Calculate your rental budget by bearing in mind size requirements and locations preferences. Additional amenities -- including updated appliances and granite countertops -- cost extra, but may be worth the added comfort. If your plan to move to Boston isn't until 2016, then you're in luck - the city has been cracking down on "outdated" properties that pose a risk, and requires all rentals to have an "updated status" in two years.
Also, keep in mind that while you should spend enough on a rental to be happy, you shouldn't put yourself in a financial bind just to live in a luxurious abode. This is especially the case nowadays with the inventory shortage, as landlords have jacked up the price in order to capitalize on the demand.
A good indication of whether you will be able to sustain your rental is to make sure that your monthly rent does not exceed, at maximum, 35-40% of your monthly income. Although daunting, this figure is quite the average for key metropolitan cities. In fact, 43% of Boston's residents belong to this category, about 20% lower than New York City or Washington, DC.
Make sure you are getting a fair arrangement by comparing your prospective apartment with other properties on the market. The best advise we could truly give you is to allocate ample time for your search. Do your research, too, as this greatly helps narrow down where you should look. Sometimes, even though a neighborhood might have a lot of available rental properties, the quality is not to your liking.
Start looking three to four months before you need a place to live in. The more time you have to prepare, the better place you will get. We've seen all too many cases when clients rushed and forced themselves into a lease. Though it is possible to locate something within a short timeframe, it's always better to sign a lease to a property you've fallen in love with, as it mitigates future stress of moving again.
Starting early always gives you the chance to weigh out all opportunities and options that lay before you. Also, always remember that two comparable properties can vary substantially in price depending on their respective locations, so don't automatically assume that smaller, more expensive apartments are necessarily bad deals.
Negotiate your lease
Always attempt to get the most out of your lease. For example, a lessee may be able to receive a designated parking spot or storage space at no additional cost, or have extra storage made available to you.
Be frugal and realistic at the same time. Any outstanding real estate agency should provide you with information about the current rental market and the advantages or disadvantages of landlords based on the market. We always stress the importance of being informed to our clients, since at the end of the day, our recommendation can be good as any's, and you alone can determine the fit of a property.
With that in mind, we urge all of our clients to negotiate, but ever only slightly. Keep in mind that good rentals don't have much of a discount available because there is plenty of demand. In truth, extremely demanding candidates can be a red flag for property management companies, and you don't want to drive them to consider more easygoing applicants.
Don't be shy about checking out potential apartments before locking them down. For instance, we insist our clients - whether here or looking remotely, to see properties that we have a good feeling will fit their search preferences. Just to give you a rundown, almost all of our deals reach a "make or break" point when clients actually see the property. For those searching remotely, we usually schedule a preview via video call, so they can still appreciate the property without being there physically.
Lucky for us this hasn't happened, but some Bostonian renters have come out since the city became stricter with landlords and property management, saying that there are damages on their rental that they failed to notice during their initial walk-through. This could potentially cause enormous stress between you and your landlord. Make sure that when you do attend a walk-through, to make mental notes about things that you've noticed that need working. Include that in the condition statement before signing your lease, to avoid any misunderstandings with your landlord because neglected repairs are huge inconveniences -- especially when they involve expected amenities that are included in the cost of rent.
Need help with your search? Talk to us! Call us at (617) 505-1781 for a free consult and market update. You can also email or tweet us @BostonIRE.