This September 1st, for the first time in four years, I will not be spending the day sweating. I will not be spending the day swearing, dodging countless U-Haul trucks in traffic, or making my loved ones wish they never agreed to help me out. I will not be moving.
Of course, it’s not all bad. It’s refreshing to unlock the door to your new apartment, to see a fresh, clean-ish space where all of your stuff might fit. You might even proclaim, “This is mine! All mine!” And after what you’ve probably gone through to acquire that apartment, you deserve to be proud. If you live in Boston, doubly proud. Here are some essentials for surviving the infamous Boston rental market.
1. Most apartment leases begin on September 1st.
With such a large student population, it’s natural for the Boston rental market to operate on a September 1st schedule. Moving Day is organized chaos. The streets become parking lots for trucks and vans, the sidewalks become homes for unwanted furniture. Be prepared to deal with a lot of sweaty, stressed out people. And rent your U-Haul trucks earlier than you think is necessary (like, as soon as you know you’re moving). They book quickly.
2. The market really does move fast.
Begin your apartment hunt early, and consistently check listings. An apartment posted in the afternoon could be rented by the time you get out of work. Contact realtors and landlords as soon as you see something you’re interested in.
3. Be smart, but don’t be picky.
Focus on the necessities. Is the apartment in basically good shape? Can you commute to work or school? Shop around to a point, but with such high demand, you might not get your balcony or dishwasher (washing dishes can be fun if you’re listening to a good podcast!). That being said…
4. Trust your gut.
Craigslist can be your friend, but read the listing carefully. Cross-reference any realtors with Yelp or other review websites to be sure that the company is reputable. Don’t settle for a realtor, landlord, or apartment that gives you a bad vibe. Conversely, if an apartment gives you a great vibe, don’t hesitate. There’s no guarantee that there is something better waiting around the bend.
5. Talk to the current tenant.
If possible, contact the current tenant of your new apartment to schedule moving times. Though leases technically end on August 31, that tenant can’t move into her new apartment until the previous tenant is gone, and with so many people moving at the same time, backlogs can occur. If a tenant is home during an apartment viewing, ask about her experience in the apartment. Are the neighbors loud? Does it smell weird sometimes? Ask about things the realtor might not know.
6. Check out the building entryway.
The state of a building entryway says a lot about both the tenants and management staff of the building. If it’s littered with menus and trash, chances are that the management is not terribly attentive.
7. Walk around the neighborhood.
Just because Google Maps says that the apartment is ten minutes from your desired location doesn’t mean that the surrounding area is anything like your desired location. Test out your commute. Are there streetlights? Do you feel comfortable walking alone? If you take the train, how long is the ride actually going to be? On a map, the B and C lines look like they’ll take about the same amount of time, but boy, is that wrong.
8. Parking is expensive.
Parking spaces typically cost about $100 to $200 a month, and on-street parking is in high demand. Be ready to parallel park wherever you see an open space, even if it’s not that close to your building.
9. Keep in mind your proximity to parks and arenas.
Okay, mainly Fenway. Trains can get severely delayed when the Sox are in town (I’m looking at you, Green Line), particularly on weeknights since games often collide with rush hour. There are obviously benefits to living near Fenway or TD Garden – great food and fun! – but be sure to keep this in mind when planning your commute.
10. Figure out what colleges are nearby.
A nearby college says a lot about who your neighbors will be. Apartments in Harvard or Kendall Square house many graduate students, while apartments along Commonwealth Avenue typically cater to Boston University and Boston College undergrads. Apartments near universities typically have high turnaround rates as students uproot and move each September. So, if you’ve got a neighbor who vacuums every morning at 7 AM, stay strong. Who knows what September 1st will bring?
11. Get Renters Insurance.
Renters Insurance is an absolute necessity in any city. Your apartment probably won’t catch on fire or be destroyed by the Green Monster after the Red Sox lose, but you never know. Don’t wait until it’s raining in your bedroom to realize you need insurance. Protect your stuff and yourself.
Above all, have fun and stay positive. Boston is a great city, and as much as we gripe about the rental market, it’s worth the hassle. My apartment smells a little funky, and the oven’s a bit too small, but when I see the teeny Prudential Center in the distance, I know I’m in the right place. I’m home.
Good luck, and welcome to the neighborhood!