Advice for timing a move and getting a "deal" in a tough rental market?
January 30, 2009 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Advice for timing a move and getting a great deal in a tough rental market?

I live in Boston, which has a notoriously tight rental market. This is complicated by that fact that, unlike in other cities, here virtually all leases renew their leases for the same date: Sept. 1. Landlords want to have a signed lease as early as possible. This means that if you are not sure you want to renew your lease you risk having your current apartment rented out from under you before you fully get to compare your options.

My currently apartment is okay, but I'm not crazy about the location or the price. My landlord wants to raise the rent by $75 even though the rental prices have supposedly dropped a bit--even in Boston! This makes me think about moving, but it's more a matter of principle that he shouldn't raise the rent because he doesn't maintain the place all that well. If I could find a significantly better or cheaper place, it might be worth willing to move...but I won't be able to look for a place until other people have already started looking at my apartment. However, if it's not a significant improvement it won't be worth it, since moving would not only be an enormous hassle, I would probably have to pay a Realtor's fee--usually 1/2 month's rent--effectively canceling out the small rent increase.

I'd love to find something by owner, and thus without the fee, but I've had a very hard time finding one in the past, and I do have a cat, which limits some of my options (all "no pet" apartments are out). I also have a lot of stuff, so that further limits my options to apartments with big bedrooms (not common in the city in my price range). I would consider moving in with established roommates when my lease is up, but how far in advance people would know they would have one room in a larger apartment available? It's hard to time everything for a fixed date (Sept. 1).

I always hear about the "friend of a friend" who had a huge place and whose landlord didn't raise the rent for 7 years, yet every landlord I've had has raised the rent every single year!

I guess what I'm looking for is advice about:

1. Weighing the potential benefits of moving against the potential and actual costs--and hassle
2. Ideas for how I can get a great deal under these conditions, in an expensive city where everyone is looking for a place at the same time
3. Options I might have overlooked
4. Timing my search

FYI, I might consider buying in a few years but it's not really an option right now, and also doesn't feel like a great time since I'm not sure I'm completely immune from possibly being laid off if the economy tanks further. Also, if I'm going to plant roots I'm not sure I want to place them here.
posted by limonade to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Accept that moving is rarely cost effective. You may get a better home, but it will cost you in money and inconvenience.

Decide on the neighborhood you want first. That effectively limits the your research to something more manageable. Now work every contact you have in that neighborhood.

By the way, there's nothing requiring you to make your apartment look all that appealing to potential renters.
posted by 26.2 at 2:07 PM on January 30, 2009

The Boston rental market is tight but no market is air-tight. And this could definitely be confirmation bias, but my recent perusals of Craigslist definitely indicate that rents are dropping.

The thing is, unless you can afford to pay rent on two apartments for a month or two, you kind of have to just take a leap of faith. Tell your landlord you're moving, giving whatever notice is required in your lease, and hope to find something in that time. You will find something. If you're looking for a nicer apartment, better location AND cheaper rent, you're almost certainly out of luck (unless you're currently getting robbed ), but you can probably get two, and certainly get one.

Oh, and you CAN find things in Boston other times that September 1. Actually, you might even be able to get better deals, because landlords get desperate and would rather rent a place at a lower price than have it sit empty for months. AND you don't have to fight all the college kids for UHauls and movers.

What is your rental range? If you're talking under 1000, you are obviously more constrained. But if you're looking in the 1500-2000 range, you'll have a lot of options at any time of the year.
posted by lunasol at 6:33 PM on January 30, 2009

You can definitely find places outside of September. I've had good luck through Craigslist just finding grad students/post docs that were leaving early and needed someone to take over the rest of their lease. At my current place, that was 3 months, after which I signed a year lease. All done through CL, no realtors, no fees.

But, as lunasol says, it will be hard to find something nicer, better location, and cheaper. Also, it seems really early to be looking for a Sep move. And don't be a afraid to get a roommate. You'll invariably end up with a nicer place than you would for the same price alone.
posted by 6550 at 7:06 PM on January 30, 2009

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