Welcome back from a long weekend of Fourth of July fun and festivities! Sure, it might've went by fast, but no big deal - there'll be more sunny days ahead. Now, where were we in your apartment hunt? Oh yes, we're at that point when most rental hunters like yourself are getting anxious about their new place come fall - and only rightly so, with interest levels really starting to peak! In fact, there were 14 rental units that changed leases over the holiday weekend, . Talk about working overtime!
With that in mind, let's get you back in track in your apartment hunt, so you can enjoy the rest of the sunny summer days worry-free. And whether you're new to the rental scene, or have forgotten the basics of it, here's a refresher on the things you should know before house hunting in Boston:
Lots of people have over and beyond expectations when they look for apartments in the city and eventually get disappointed and discouraged when they don't find their "dream apartment". Don't be!
Just remember that finding your "dream" apartment is the product of consistent work. It might be that sometimes, that hard work just doesn't pan the way you've plan out it would be. It's not bad luck or anything like that, it's just either because of the market or your budget. Having a good and reasonable budget to begin with really helps. A sound price range would be alloying at least $1,000 per person. That's currently the average rental rate for Boston and surrounding neighborhoods. Looking for furnished? Add half to that amount.
Remember: the most important thing when looking for rentals in the city is to stay within a reasonable and sound budget. Otherwise, you'll get stuck in your search and end up with nothing even close to your ideal living space. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that if you don't find your dream apartment, you won't find something that's close to it. There will always be an option available to you, especially if you're willing to compromise on certain "musts".
Speaking of budgets and compromises, be forewarned that if you want to live below the average, you must also be willing to either have a longer commute OR take on roommates to split the bill and lower your share of the rent.
There are tons of rentals that might seem over the above your current budget, but that's because they're also bigger in size. Two or even three bedrooms in the city aren't hard to find, you just need to share it with other people. Four bedrooms, although rare, tend to offer more individualized space (i.e. dining room, living room, deck, patio, and what have you), but they're mostly outside the city center - still very much accessible via public transportation, though!
There may be a ton of internet listing sites to choose from - some examples are Zillow, Trulia, Rent Hop, and HotPads. However, no matter how hard these sites try, Craigslist is still the leader for listings . In fact, almost 90% of renters in the Boston community start their search on Craigslist, and they typically end there as well.
If you do end up looking at listings aside from Craigslist, just remember that it might be a clone of a listing that's available on Craigslist anyway, so might as well start your search there to save time and be more efficient. Granted, the interface might not look as snazzy as other sites, but it sure does the trick!
Some neighborhoods see big rent increases.
We wrote an article a few weeks back detailing the hottest neighborhoods and where apartments are currently available. In it, you'll find the neighborhoods that have the highest increases in rent that might or might not lead to higher rents this year. Check it out and see whether your budget can accommodate availabilities in these neighborhoods, and if so, try to already set up showing for them with us so you'll get to grab them while they're still on the market.
Remember, always be cautious when you select a neighborhood of interest. Remember your musts and always have a keen sense of what you'll be willing to compromise on. It's not always the case, but better prepared that be surprised of what you might get yourself into.
The elusive in-unit and washer
For obvious reasons, it's no secret that at the top of renter's "must" list is an in-unit washer and dryer. But keep in mind that that amenity comes with a price. Not counting luxury apartments, only about four percent of apartments have in-unit laundry facilities. If you can settle for in-building, you're much, much more likely to find a place. There are tons of rental buildings out there that offer decent shared laundry facilities, and only a few of them are "dungeon-esque", if you know what we mean.
In a hot rental market like Boston's there's a fallacy to the statement: If you connect directly with a landlord, you don't have to pay a broker fee (one month's rent). In reality, even if you find an owner-owned apartment, they're most likely contracted out to a brokerage that will still collect broker's fee once the lease is for preparation. It's to no one's fault that the system is set up this way. It's just the landlord / owner making sure that their apartment is being securely filled up with tenants.
These "exclusive listing contracts" might not be always the case, though so there is a chance of you striking a deal directly with the owner of an apartment. It's just a matter of making sure both you and the landlord are securely covered in your transaction.
Talking with the current tenants makes a big difference
When you do showings with your broker, try to schedule it such that you get a chance to talk to the current tenant. Granted we agents don't necessarily like this idea, but it doesn't take away the fact that it's the best way to get an insight into the place your eyeing to rent. Remember, current tenants (especially those who are leaving on their own and not because of a sour relationship with the landlord) have no vested interest in the property, and would be the best source of insight and information into the property. Your broker and agent comes second.
No Time To Waste
If you're buying something like a couch, you get to shop around, take a while to think about which one you like, go see a few more and then make the best choice for you. If you're looking for apartments, you do not get that luxury - especially in Boston. As a rule of thumb, we tell our clients that they should assume 4 or 5 other people are trying to rent the apartment they're interested in. This isn't something we make up. This is reality - a harsh one, especially for properties that are made available to the market on a Friday since the turnover is so fast that by Monday it'll be gone.
The best solution to this is to not waste time thinking about it. Sure, take a breather and assess your next moves, but we recommend not to do so any longer than a day. That should be the maximum time for your to think it through and plan out your next move.
And just to be on the safe side, already fill up an application form with your agent the minute that you begin your first round of showings. Trust us, this saves so much time in the application process, and your agent will have the flexibility to put in an application in your behalf even if you decide to do so remotely. At your go-ahead, they will be able to convey your interest and already beat out those applications that are lagging behind in requirements. This is the surest way to a landlords heart - speedy and no-nonsense transactions.