It is far too easy to treat the 2020-2021 renting cycle like any other year, especially in a high demand city like Boston. In reality, supply of apartments vastly outweighs the demand, and we've done the research to give you the upper hand in the renting process.
Note: These tips typically do not apply for units available September 1st. For leases starting in September, all bets are off and demand is super high.
1. Apartments "Available Now" or in the next 1-2 months will typically be the best deals you can find
Landlords typically drop rent by $50-150 per month of vacancy. If you’re not in love with a place, don’t lock in your rent months before your move in date. Look for apartments available "now" or 1-2 months in advance on Zillow or Apartments.com. This will give you a huge selection of quality apartments to choose from! For the most part, these units have been on the market for a while and most likely have already gone through several price drops. Normally in Boston, this could be a bit risky, however with a massive number of people moving out of the city and most colleges going remote, you should have far too many apartments to choose from. Don't wait until the very last minute, but definitely don't look in January for an apartment available in May.
Prices have dropped 7-10% since this time last year, and renters STILL aren't biting. Less competition gives you leverage in the renting process, and it's best you use it.
2. When appropriate, try to negotiate a little.
In many scenarios, landlords are taking a big hit due to the lack of demand. Luckily for them, you're serious about their apartment and they're ready to stop the bleeding. Since you have dozens of apartments to choose from with little competition, you have leverage to negotiate your price down, and you should use it.
Because many apartments have been vacant for so long, landlords are eager to be flexible in order to fill it. In the off-season, 3-5 bed apartments might get between 3-10 leads per month with varying levels of interest. Compared to prime time September 1st leases in Boston... some apartments can get MORE THAN 100 inquiries per month. Obviously, some locations are much more sought after than others, but if you’re considering neighborhoods where there isn’t a crazy amount of demand like Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Brighton, or even East Boston, you definitely have leverage on your side. Same goes with overpriced neighborhoods like South Boston or the South End. While there’s more demand there, not everyone can afford a 3 Bedroom at $4,000/month. Make sure to be respectful and come forward with realistic offers. In the right scenario, landlords could be able to knock $100-500 off the price (depending on how many bedrooms you're looking for).
When you can, try to get out of realtor fees. To those looking at Boston for the first time, yes, unfortunately it is very common for landlords to make you pay realtor fees along with 2-3 months rent just to move in. Yes, even if all the realtor does is open the door for you during your tour. Crazy right?! At least nowadays, that's not always the case. Some rental companies allow you to skip the realtor fees all together