When should I look for an apartment in Boston?
We get this question a lot at Jumpshell and I'm not sure people realize how intelligent of a question it is. Many renters fall into the frustrating embrace of browsing listings and apartment ads every day in a desperate attempt to find an apartment. Turns out that a lot of that browsing time is completely wasted. Why?
The volume of available apartments and proximity to showing dates dictate what apartments you can see and rent. Check out the details below (and when you should actually look for an apartment in Boston!).
Here are the broad strokes...
- Start looking about 45 days before your lease date — unless you’re a student looking for a September lease (I’ll give details below).
- Don’t try to schedule showings more than 3 days out from when you can do the showing. Why? Apartments move fast in Boston — 3 days can make the difference between whether an apartment is on the market or rented.
...and here's the nitty gritty.
There are two factors you should consider when thinking about when to start looking for an apartment in earnest (as opposed to doing some casual browsing).
- What lease date are you looking for?
- How often can you visit?
Factor #1: What lease date are you looking for?
Unless you need to find a place ASAP, searching when there are the most options on the market will increase your chances of finding the “right” place.
To get the widest selection possible, the “sweet spot” for your search is a function of when current tenants tell their landlords they’re moving out and when other renters are looking for apartments.
For example, if you’re looking for an August apartment right now (March), you’re ahead of all the competition, but most landlords also don’t know if their current tenants are leaving or not. Thus, your equation is likely out-of-balance and you won’t have many options.
So what are the apartment search “sweet spots” in Boston? A good rule of thumb is the 45 day rule.
For any month throughout the year (EXCEPT September and October, as I’ll describe below), apartments will become available about 45 days before the lease date.
To translate, if you want to rent in:
|Lease Month||When to start looking||Details|
|January||Start looking in mid-November.|
|February||Start looking in mid-December.|
|March||Start looking in mid-January.|
|April||Start looking in mid-February.|
|May||Start looking in mid-March.|
|June||Start looking in mid-April.|
|July||Start looking in late-April.||There’s a small bump in demand for July 1st apartments, so an earlier start will help put you in that “sweet spot.”|
|August||Start looking in mid-May.|
|September||The best advice I can offer here is that students should start looking in earnest in March (right now!), but non-students can start about 60 days before the lease date — so late June or early July.||This one is a little tricky. Over 70% of all the apartment availabilities in Boston have 9/1 lease dates. As such, even now there are lots of 9/1 apartments on the market. However, a critical distinction is what “kind” of apartments come on the market when. As you may know, part of impetus behind the 9/1 “cycle” in Boston is due to the area’s large student population. Students tend to know far earlier in the year whether they will be renewing their lease or not. However, apartments whose current occupants aren’t students adhere closer to the “45 day rule”.|
|October||Start looking around mid-August.||October can actually be a dream month for renters. Why? A lot of apartments that try to lease for 9/1 don’t get rented, so landlords go into a scramble to find tenants. This scramble usually brings the cost down for renters, whether through landlords covering some (or all) of the broker fee, or through decreasing rent or adding “free” perks (like off-street parking, which can often call for an extra $150/month premium). If you can swing an October 1st lease date, do it!|
|November||Start looking in mid-September.|
|December||Start looking in mid-October.|
Factor #2: How often can you visit?
For anyone relocating to Boston from out of state (for work, school, etc.), it’s likely that you’ll only be planning one trip to visit and do some apartment showings. As such, you’ll want to plan that visit for the “sweet spot” in your search (see above). If you visit too early or late, you may be setting yourself up for a very unsuccessful search. Also, rental agents won’t even schedule showings more than 3 days from when you can see an apartment — again because the market moves so quickly.
If you’re already living in the Boston area, you’ll likely be able to do showings at any time, so you don’t have to be as discriminating in timing when you start searching in earnest, but the “sweet spot” mentality still works.
I'm more than happy to answer any questions! Feel free to reach out on Twitter and I'll answer you back!