Guide to Renting in Boston

Guide to Renting in Boston
Photo by todd kent / Unsplash

Boston’s rental market moves incredibly quickly, which is no surprise considering the high demand from university students, young professionals, and short-term business travelers. At most points in the year, we have what is considered a ‘hot market,’ with multiple applicants vying for rental properties throughout Greater Boston. Navigating this challenge, along with the vicissitudes of the season, are the primary factors that motivate renters to seek guidance from our consultants at Zenith. We have a long standing history representing renters and landlords, and our in-depth knowledge about both sides of the transaction helps our clients gain the competitive edge they need to secure their rentals in Boston and surrounding areas.

1) Defining Your Goals

Public Transportation

More often than not, location is the primary determining factor to help hone your search; you may be looking for a convenient work commute, or proximity to public transportation or local amenities. Furthermore, understanding your budget can help us identify neighborhoods with options that fit your search criteria. Unlike buying, where you have the option to renovate or redesign a space to better suit your needs, the nature of the rental market limits you to whatever is currently available--often in ‘as-is’ condition. Especially during peak demand seasons (March-September), once a gem pops up, it can be gone overnight. So, once you’ve narrowed down your search criteria (budget, location, number of bedrooms, parking or public transport needs, pet-friendly space, accessibility needs, etc.), you’re ready to take the next step and pounce on the best opportunities as they appear on the market.

2) Preparing for a Showing

Showings are your chance to see rentals in person, and make sure they include all of the amenities and space you are looking for, whether it be a dishwasher, in-unit washer/dryer, backyard, storage space, etc. Most landlords don’t include elaborate renovations as part of their financial model, and the most they’ll usually do before accepting a new lease is adding a fresh coat of paint or making minor repairs if needed. What you see is usually what you get, so showings allow you to really envision what your home would look like in each space you view, and how your day-to-day life would look. Come prepared with questions: Where is the parking? Are utilities included? Where does trash get taken out? What’s the laundry situation? Do the windows all lock? Where can you install a TV or air conditioning? How is your cell phone service? Gathering information , as well as conducting a thorough assessment of the living space and even the surrounding neighborhood, can give you a great idea of what to expect during the duration of your tenancy. We highly encourage movers to check the water pressure, look for water damage in cabinets, assess wear and tear on appliances, measure living/bedroom spaces to see if your furniture will fit, and more. Asking the right questions can make a huge difference in your rental search, and Nobee is here to help you know what to ask!

Dining Room

3) The Application Process

Once you’ve found the perfect space to call your home, it’s time to formally apply. Typically, you can only apply to one place at a time due to the nature of the process, but fortunately, the turnaround process to receive an application response is pretty quick, averaging a couple days in most cases. The process can vary based on the owner and their tenant criteria. Typically, landlords will request an application, social security numbers (written in the application), credit history report, employment verification (employment letter or 2 most recent pay stubs), and a government issued ID from every adult household member. In addition, some places require a deposit before the application is reviewed, which is typically applied to the first month’s rent if you are accepted, or fully refunded if the application is rejected.

4) Why Pay Broker Fees?

House Hunt

A broker fee is the sum paid to your agent or broker as compensation for moderating a rental transaction for you, typically equivalent to one month’s rent and usually paid by the renter.  As your guide in the rental process, your broker will provide you with a list of housing options, schedule and attend showings with you, help negotiate lease terms, and advise you on how to maximize the chances of having your application accepted. Unlike most brokers, your Nobee representative will be your biggest advocate in trying to save you money. We do our best to find opportunities that meet your housing criteria but also offer incentives like the landlord paying half or all of the broker fee. If you prefer to search for housing without the assistance of a broker to avoid paying a fee, please make sure to thoroughly research the opportunity you’re hoping to secure. Apartment scams do exist, especially on Facebook and Craigslist. Beware of listings that require a deposit prior to showings, don’t disclose a physical address, or request bank account information. You can always verify realtor licenses through the state website to make sure you’re communicating with a licensed agent.

5) Moving In

Once you’re fully approved and a lease has been executed, you can expect to receive the keys the morning of move-in. If you plan on hiring a moving company, we highly recommend that you reach out to schedule them the second you have an executed lease. The last week and first week of the month tend to be the busiest time for movers, and they book out quickly, so you want to make sure you have a reservation set as far in advance as possible. Finally, the last thing we suggest prior to moving your belongings in is to take photos or videos of the space to assess the condition at move-in (in addition to filling out a Statement of Condition form within your first 15-30 days of occupancy). Any information or evidence you have prior to moving in will be helpful in the event of a dispute regarding your security deposit with the landlord. Once all of this is done, you’re officially free to start settling into your new home!

Moving In

Final Remarks:

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you have a much better understanding of what to expect when navigating Boston’s fast-paced rental market. It can certainly be a daunting task, but fortunately, the professionals at Nobee are here to help!

If you're struggling to find an apartment, schedule a showing, or save money? Use Nobee! Nobee reduces broker fees by 70-100% and covers all application fees, background check fees, and credit check fees. Call now to schedule a showing!