Alright, so Boston is an expensive place to live. Where isn’t these days (besides Texas)? Prices on apartments and houses for rent in Boston increased by nearly 6 percent in 2015 — the most rapid rise in at least six years. Much to the dismay of students and young professionals, Boston is just one of the many metros where neither the rent prices nor vacancy rates have let up. New York City and San Francisco are the poster children for this phenomenon, and Boston is following closely behind. While new residents continue to flock to the city, Boston’s vacancy rate is among the lowest of America’s major metros. Unsurprisingly most renters stay put, and those who do move stack up in the suburbs, which are also filling up quickly. So if you’re hunting for houses for rent in Boston, you’ll want to read up on this advice from the local experts on navigating the Boston rental landscape.
Houses for Rent in Boston are Atrociously Expensive
First, let’s talk about how expensive. According to recent data from the CFEd Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, about 50 percent of Massachusetts renters are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. The “City of Neighborhoods” is currently boasting an average rent of $2,945, according to Trulia. Aaron Katz, a Boston-based HomeVestors franchisee, spends his time rehabbing local houses and putting them back on the market. He laments about the recent stress the Boston market is feeling.
“Boston rentals are in very high demand. Boston has been strong for years, but there has been a large increase in demand for rentals in the past 12 months.”
And while Trulia data indicates the price of homes in Boston was on a steady decline last year, the median price of houses for rent in Boston is still soaring, especially in peak seasons.
The Suburbs are Filling Up as Well
Somerville, a Boston suburb, and other local cities are getting the run off now that vacancy rates are nigh on obsolete in Boston. According to the Boston Globe, vacancy rates have dropped from 8.7 to 4.4 percent in just a few short years. As more professionals, graduates, and other renters come through with $3,500 in hand for a 700 square foot apartment, the middle class is getting pushed out further from the city to find affordable housing. And as houses for rent in Boston perform a vanishing act, gentrification stretches its fingers further.
“There is so much demand in the city that demand has spilled into the suburbs and created these issues everywhere,” Katz confirms.
Why Is This Happening?
There are many reasons Boston is a desirable destination for newcomers and a permanent (if expensive) home to natives. Here are a few:
- Boston is in the middle of a tech boom. Like many other metros who have experienced mass gentrification, Boston is attracting many new residents. Startups are flocking to the city to establish themselves.
- There is a shortage of housing. Like in NYC and SF, vacant houses for rent in Boston are hard to come by. And with all classic cases of low supply and high demand, inflation is the result.
- It’s a college town. Home to some of the world’s most presitigious schools, Boston accommodates students from all over the world. Naturally, they need a place to stay while putting their brilliant minds to work.
And if You’re Still Moving to Boston?
Don’t freak out. Houses for rent in Boston might be expensive and pretty occupied, but that doesn’t hurt the housemate scene by any means. The first step to procuring a sweet Bostonian pad is to let the professionals guide you to tenants who need an extra hand with rent and might just take you in as the newest household member. Rent might not be so frightening if it’s split between a few tenants (here’s a nifty tool to make sure you’re splitting rent as fairly as possible.)
And another way to save some money is to know your local laws. In Massachusetts, landlords can only legally collect a security deposit, a lock deposit, and rent — meaning landlords are finding ways around the system to make up for fees they can’t charge.
“No pets fees or any other type of fees that a tenant may be willing to pay to make their application stand out are allowed,” Katz says. “Because of this, it’s driving the rental prices up. Tenants are willing to pay more since they can’t pay other fees, and landlords are simply raising prices. It makes it harder and harder for most average renters to find housing.”
But all hope’s not lost yet, and there are other non-monetary ways to make yourself a desirable candidate for the coveted housing in and around Boston. You just need to be willing to go the extra mile, says Katz.
“Renters have to be aggressive to have their application considered. Many pull their own credit to make it easier for the landlord to process their application or they may offer to pay more than the listing rent price to make their application stand out from others. Landlords are getting dozens of applications the day of or the day after listing a property for rent.”