Tag Archives: Rental Advice

8 Things to know for the “Off Season Renter” in Boston

Esplanade view of Back Bay

Last Week, I got an email from a mutual friend who was trying to help his brother find a rental in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill or the South End. He was looking at rentals up to 2k and although I focus on the higher end rental market, I told him i’d send him everything up to $2100 on MLS. There were a handful of listings (10) and I got a follow up message asking me to send listings under $1600. I did a seperate search of 1000-1600 and guess how many rentals came up in those neighborhoods……ONE!! As of Feb 4th, 2012, there is only 1 rental available to the real estate agents via MLS. Now, don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that there are no rentals out there in this range, but it is a big indicator that if you are looking to live downtown under $2000 this winter, you are going to have a very tough time. Here are some key points to consider if you are in the rental hunt right about now or over the next few months.

1. Season. Winter, in general, can be Slim Pickins! Most rentals do not come on until the Spring and Summer months and the reality is that  most landlords do not want to have a vacant apartment during the middle of the winter. Generally speaking, rents tend not to get top dollar in the winter and they have the potential to stay on the market vacant,  (but with inventory so low right now, prices can still be on the high side). Most rentals that tend to come on the market in the Winter are “lease breaks”, the occasional “tenant at will” and condo’s that decide to turn into rentals. One thing that is important (for any season), is that most apartments  become vacant when the tenant gives their proper notice. In Boston, the majority of leasses are 60 days notice and sometimes 90 days. If you are looking in February, then you should start in December. Yes, things do come up last minute, so its good to be aware, but know when its best to start your search.

2.Pets.  If you have a pet, it is going to be that much more difficult. I don’t have any statistics that confirm this, but i’d say about 75% of all Boston rentals are not pet friendly. No inventory, plus pets, means even more difficulty finding a place (or a decent place). You may have to pay more than you thought, or take something a little less nice,  just to find a place that will accept your pooch. If you have multiple pooches and a cat, your percentages have now been reduced even further. I remember getting a call from a desperate agent looking to help his client find a $1700 apartment for him and his 4 chihuahas. Really? I’d rather hunt for unicorns in the Blue Hills than take on that challenge. My tip for that type of renter is…well…buy a condo (if you can).

3. Open up your neighborhood search. If you won’t budge on quality and can’t find anything, open up your neighborhoods. If you start just looking at South End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay and see nothing….open it up to South Boston, Charlestown, Cambridge, Brookline etc….

4. Wait (if you can). If you have to move ASAP, then, you have to take something and bite the bullet. If you hate what is out there, I suggest only signing a lease till August 31st and start your search over again in the summer. There are few landlords that will be against this because it gets them “back on the cycle.” If you are currently in a place that has a flexible move out date than you have a better chance of finding something that better suits your taste. Things come up all the time, but really at random, so if you keep focused on whats out there you should have some luck.

5. Negotiation. If you are looking at a lease break, you usually won’t be able to negotiate on the price. You typically have to pay at least what the current tenant is paying because the owner has the current tenant in a contract and does not need to rent for less while he is currently in a contract for.  If you are looking at a vacant apartment and can occupy the place almost immediately, then you have the best chance to negotiate. If you are looking 2 months in advance, then you have less chance to get something for a lesser price because the landlord will most likely try to wait out for their asking price because time is on their side, not yours.

6. Paying a Fee. If you are a renter and are working with an agent, expect to pay a fee. I love getting calls from people and say they only want to see no fee rentals. If you want no fee rentals then  I suggest looking on craigslist or going straight to the management company. Most agencies will charge a fee, but i suggest at least trying to negotiate. Winter tends to be a little slow and its worth asking to see if the owner would at least split the fee. I reccommend all renters I work with, to at least try. It’s rare for owners in downtown Boston to pay the fee, but, slower months happen much more than summer months. Expect to pay a full fee in the summer months, because if you don’t, there is someone right behind you who will.

7. Doorman you ask? If you want a building with a doorman you should probably expect to increase your pricepoint. If you want a one bed in an elevator building with a gym, common roofdeck and a doorman, expect to pay at least $2300. anything under $2000 was about 2 years ago. You might be able to find something for less outside downtown Boston, but you’ll have to read about that on someone elses blog.   If you are looking ar a 2 bedroom in these buildings then you are looking at the $3500+ price range. If you are looking at even more luxurious building like One Back Bay,  the Ritz, 45 province, the Mandarin etc. your pricepoint has increased to a whole new level.

8. Be Flexible to view properties. I love getting the client who can only see places after 8:00PM because they work late and are 1 hour outside the city. It’s almost impossible to set up showings that late for a few reasons. 1, the other agent can’t do that late, 2, I can’t do that late ,3, the current tenant or owner won’t allow the place to be shown that late and 4, if its a leasing office, they usually close around 6pm. If that is all you can do, then know you will be even more limited and it will be frustrating for both your agent and for you. Also, if you can only see places on the weekends, that is where you will have the most competition and potentially miss out on the good ones. I notice that the people who are the most flexible, have the best results. If you can sneak out during lunchtime for the brand new listing that looks awesome, do it!!

Hope these hints help “manage your expectations” in regards to your rental hunt this winter. It’s tough, its competitive, and it’s not going to be easy. Good Luck!!

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Do I List My Property For Rent or Sale…….Why Not Both?

Buy or Rent in Boston

If you are currently thinking about listing your home for sale, you also might be  considering putting your condo on the market for rent as well. The one thing you might want to know is that you are not alone, and this option is becoming more of a trend in the downtown Boston market. If you have purchased your home since 2004, there always is a possibility you won’t “break even” on your investment.  Its an interesting time in this market since many sellers are mentally adamant that they need to make money on their investment and to wait  few more years until their home appreciates in value. Many sellers try to put their home on the market for a while and if it doesn’t sell within 2-5 months, they start to consider putting it on for rent.

Tips for Renting vs. Selling

1. Have a Game Plan. If you have been contemplating Renting as well as Selling your home, set up a time line. If your home is not gaining traction in the sales market, say “if my home does not get sold within 2 months, then we are also going to put it on the market for rent.”

2. Try the Sale Route first. If you are considering “Either-Or,” try the sales market for a while. I suggest selling it first. It takes a lot more work, man hours and money to get a property ready for sale, so you should attempt to see if it pays off. During the peak months of the rental season, the property has the potential of going quickly while the sale of the property can take much longer (but with downtown Boston inventory so low, it looks like DOM are starting to look like rental DOM’s.)

3. Pick an Agent who can do Both, or pick an Agent who is teamed up with a rental specialist. Its important to have a good team that supports your end result, or to have someone guide you through both options. Sales and Rentals are different animals and its important to have input on how to approach the rental side of the equation as well. Some people say rentals are easy, but its important to have someone knowledgeable about sales as well.

4. Decide how long you want to rent your property for. If you decide to go down the rental route be upfront with your interested clients on when you want to re-list the property for sale. for instance; if you rent the condo out for 12 months and you tell your tenants that after 8 months you will be putting the place up for sale and start showings, If this is news to them you can have angry tenants in your home, and it can be difficult situation showing the property. In the downtown Boston market, its pretty standard for the tenant to pay the broker fee (well at least during the spring and summer months). If you have a tenant that pays a full fee, moving costs and now have the inconvenience of having to have their place shown, you can see how not explaining your sale plans can affect a relationship.

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