Here is important information to keep in mind before you begin your apartment search.
When should I look for an apartment?
The date an apartment is listed is often dependent upon the time of year. On average, apartments are listed anywhere from 30 days to 60 days prior to the move-in date, give or take a few weeks. Most leases in Boston end on a date between June 1 and September 1, so the most inventory is typically available between March and September. Student apartment listings for September 1 are listed as early as January or February. September 1 apartment listings for professional tenants are usually not listed until April or May at the earliest. Apartments for June 1 may also be listed as early as March. Regardless of your particular situation, it is never too early to contact me about your intention to move and need for an apartment rental!
What information do I need prior to renting an apartment?
We recommend obtaining the following information in a timely matter so as not to interfere with the approval of your rental application:
- Landlord contact information and/or references for current landlord and previous landlord, if applicable.
- Offer Letter or Confirmation of Current Employment, including confirmation of salary, start date or term of employment and position
- Pay Stub from current job
- Pet references from previous landlords, if applicable.
- Copies of driver’s licenses and/or passports.
- For international students, copies of I20’s.
- For international professionals, copies of work visas.
What can I afford to pay in rent?
Landlords and management companies frequently base their approval of a tenant on a simple formula: The tenant’s monthly income should be no less than three times to four times the monthly rental price. Another way of calculating this is to take your yearly income and plan on spending no more than 25% to 33% of it per year on rent.
How Do I Take an Apartment off the Market?
As soon as we receive a completed rental application and a deposit equal to one month’s rent, we will notify the landlord. Because many of the same apartment listings are shown by multiple agencies, we will be as expedient as possible in our communication with the landlord or management company. In many cases, we will go over a lease and have you sign a lease the same day submit your application and deposit.
Rental Application Approval
Landlords base their approval of a rental application on many different factors, including your credit history, employment and salary, and current and previous landlord references. All tenants over the age of 18 must complete a rental application. As soon as your application is approved, we will schedule a lease signing if one has not already taken place. We will also collect the balance owed and advise you on what to do to prepare for move-in.
A one month fee is collected for every apartment rental. Sometimes the owner pays the entire fee and sometimes the tenant pays the entire fee. In some cases, the tenant and the landlord each pay half or a different fraction of the fee. The amount of fee you should expect to pay is dependent in many cases upon the type of building, the owner and the time of year. Many high-rise buildings frequently pay the entire fee. Management companies may pay either the entire fee or half of the fee. Individual landlords often pay a portion of the fee during the “off” season (winter, early spring and late fall). We require all clients to sign a Broker Fee Disclosure, as required by our real estate license.
What Should I Expect to Pay Prior to Move-in?
According to state laws, a landlord may collect no more than first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a one month security deposit and key deposit from a prospective tenant (this does not include the broker fee which is separate). Most owners require two month’s rent — either first month’s rent and last month’s rent or first month’s rent and a one month security deposit. A key deposit is sometimes charged and is frequently refunded when the keys are returned after moving out the apartment. You should expect to have these payments as soon as possible. A one month deposit is the minimum required to take an apartment off the market pending application approval. Some owners require first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a one month security deposit. This is frequently the case for tenants with pets and students with guarantors/co-signers.
Some management companies and landlords offer one month’s rent free and may offer other incentives such as free parking, health club membership, etc. These incentives are more likely to be offered during slower times of the year such as the late fall, winter and early spring. They are also often incorporated in the marketing of new developments and are more likely to be associated with a building consisting of many units, or corporate-owned.
When viewing apartments, it is important to consider utility costs. The rental price of many apartments often includes the cost of heat and hot water. This is especially the case in buildings with units that are not separately metered, such as many high-rise buildings and some brownstones. We can provide telephone numbers for the utility companies for tenants who wish to know the average utility bills for a particular apartment. We advise contacting all utility companies to set them up in your name prior to move-in.
Many owners do not accept pets. This is especially the case with high-rise buildings and buildings owned/managed by large companies. Cats are sometimes allowed but dogs are frequently not allowed. You should expect to pay a security deposit. Some owners restrict the weight of the pet and do not rent to tenants with large dogs over 30lbs, for example.
Sight Unseen Rentals
Frequently, due to the inability to travel to Boston in person to view apartments, a person may have no choice but to rent an apartment without seeing it until the move-in day. We will provide as much information as possible about each available listing, include FaceTime or Skype showings, photos, videos, floorplans, addresses, maps, etc., in order to ensure you are going to make the most well-informed decision. We cannot hold an apartment off the market until we receive a rental application and one month deposit via mail or wire transfer. Once we receive the deposit, we will process all paperwork and send leases in the mail for you to sign and send back. We will also assist with everything necessary to ensure a smooth transition, including assisting with mail forwarding, setting up utilities, resident parking, etc.
Types of Leases and descriptions
A Tenant with a Lease is one who signs a lease to rent a particular apartment for a specified time period. A lease, or rental contract between the landlord (lessor) and the tenant (lessee), is a written document which legally binds both parties. The tenant is obligated to pay a stated rent at a given interval, usually monthly, in return for a safe and habitable apartment. Most landlords and management companies have twelve month leases. Many prefer to end the lease on August 31st of any given year because the majority of tenants (both professionals and students) look for apartments for this move-in date. A Tenant-At-Will is one who occupies a rented premises without a lease but pays rent periodically (typically monthly). The agreement for the Tenancy- at – Will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or tenant may terminate this arrangement by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer. No reason is required to terminate. If rent is paid the first of each month, notice should be given prior to the first day of the month. However, either the landlord or the tenant may be able to give notice as late as the first day of the month itself.
Here are some of the more overlooked yet important items to consider when viewing apartments. Many of these will directly affect your quality of life while living in the apartment.
- Check Cell phone signal — Make sure you get a signal in all of the rooms where you will be using your phone, including the bathroom!
- Measurements — Make sure your furniture will fit and measure hallways into the building as well to make sure it will fit through when you move in..
- Water pressure — Check bathroom and kitchen for water pressure and for the time it takes for hot water.
- Ambient noise — Pay attention to noises from neighbors, traffic, generators, etc. Is there a building going up or being renovated next door that will mean construction noise starting at 7 am on weekdays? Who lives above the unit?– can you hear them walking when you are in the apartment?
- Lighting / View — What is the sun light in the apartment like? Consider the weather on the day you are seeing the unit– is it cloudy or sunny? Is the building right next to another building that may block your view?
- Fresh air — Many highrises have windows that do not open. Is the apartment above a restaurant?
- Elevator capacity — Will you be able to move your furniture into the elevator? Do you ride a bike that will be able to fit int the elevator?
- Heating situation — Can you control heat or does your landlord? Be mindful of units you look at in summer time. Ask about average heat costs in winter and how heat is regulated.
- Neighbors — Find out the type of tenants who live in the other units. Are they students? Do they work full time? Do they have dogs or cats you may be allergic to or which make noise?
- Trash — Is there a trash room in the building or do you have to wait for trash pick-up which is normally only twice per week in Boston?