The Eternal Dilemna (Somerville/Cambridge housing filter)
July 11, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Should I wait till September 1 to find a 1br apartment of my own in Cambridge or Somerville (Massachusetts), or is Aug 1 just as good? Other questions inside.

F/U from this question (you don't need to read it though)

So I'm looking at Somerville/Cambridge studios and 1brs. There are not a ton in my price range (hopefully south of $1400) on CL.

1) Would I be better off to sublet for Aug, and look then, because there is likely to be more stuff popping up for Sep 1 when a lot of apartments flip in Boston? Or is the Inman/Somerville area less student oriented than others, and is the supply/demand ratio likely to be the same? There are some there but not a ton. I'm wondering if there will be a lot more selection for Sep 1, or if they will just get gobbled up by the throng of students coming in.

2) Any suggestions on finding a reasonable sized 1br or large studio for less than $1400? I thought it would be doable but there doesn't seem to be a ton out there. Inman is my ideal but would consider any parts of Cambridge or Somerville that are close to the T.

3) Would I be wise to go through an agent? Any suggestions for one? I'm really loath to pay a finders fee, I will be stretched on the 1st/last/security thing. However I'm wondering if there is a lot of stuff out there that's not listed on Craigslist? And if maybe the premo stuff doesn't end up there?

I'll be down later this week and moving down for good on July 23rd, most likely crashing with friends while I look.

posted by sully75 to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd say look for August, but there will not be a huge amount of selection of desirable apartments that are going to be available in three weeks. On the plus side, there are also not a huge number of desirable tenants looking for an apartment that's available in three weeks.

Another thing: you might be able to find a sublet that will potentially allow you to take over the lease in September, so at least look at the sublets on Craigslist.

It can't hurt to call an agent; they may have access to some apartments that are not advertised on Craigslist, and you only have to pay the fee if they find you an apartment.

July 23rd is pretty late to be looking for an lease for August 1st in the Boston area. If you don't have appointments to see places later this week, make some now!
posted by mskyle at 8:08 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

yeah that makes sense. Are the apartments that are available for Sep 1st not even really listed yet? If I was able to wait till the 1st week of August, would all the places where people are giving their landlord notice after the end of the month be opening up?
posted by sully75 at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2011

Can you wait to move until after 1 September?

The reason I ask is that my rule of thumb for looking for apartments in Boston is that I can only find good ones two months before. So I'd say August 1 is pretty much right out, and even 1 September is pushing it at this point. Plus, 1 September is HUGE for all the college students moving in/out, so while there will be a very high supply of free apartments, their quality may be relatively low for the price since realtors know that lots of people, especially students, have to move then.

So if you can wait till later, there may be fewer options but they might be better overall.
posted by olinerd at 8:33 AM on July 11, 2011

Er, by "free" I mean "empty", not "zero rent."
posted by olinerd at 8:34 AM on July 11, 2011

By the way, reading your other question, I see you still had questions about studio space, possibly with respect to Artisan's Asylum. I'm friends with the guy who runs that and can either answer questions or put you right in touch with him. I think getting space there should be pretty easy -- they've just acquired a new, bigger space!
posted by olinerd at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2011

Landlords usually have their September 1 leases sewn up by now due to Boston's heavy college presence, so you won't find a whole lot of readily available listings at the moment. This is not to say there won't be some available, you just need to hunt for them.

Also, the best thing I ever did was get off the Step 1 Lease Cycle. It make moving days so much less hassle! Once you are locked in that cycle, it can be hard to get out of it, even if you are 5 years out of school.

As for locations, try Ball Square. It's 10 minutes outside of Davis. My wife and I lived there for years and loved it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:56 AM on July 11, 2011

If you can find something good for August 1 you won't have to fight the hordes of people moving on September 1. While there will be more selection for Sept 1 (and those should be showing up more around now), those places won't necessarily be nicer. I like the idea of subletting and seeing if you can find something good after Sept 1, as well.

I've had good luck with Craig's List and the one time I paid an agent it was totally not worth it. On the other hand, the guys that showed my last apartment when I was moving out were really pleasant and seemed to do a good job, and they're focused in C/S: Apartment Rental Experts.
posted by ldthomps at 8:57 AM on July 11, 2011

I had a June 1 move date, and it was great--no crazy hordes of kids moving, I got the movers I wanted, and a good rate.

I think I signed my lease in March, though--and half the listings I was seeing even back then were for September 1. Hope springs eternal, but I don't know that there will be a lot of good units on the market at this point. The Boston rental market is really bizarre.

I second the comment above that if you can get yourself off the 9/1 cycle, you'll be all the better for it. There are fewer units available, but if you're flexible, I'm sure you'll find something.

Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:14 AM on July 11, 2011

Yeah, not moving in the immediate Boston area on Sept 1st is the way to go if you can do it.

Barring that, I'd look for a place that may have an August 15th date or 1/2 month's rent free attachment to an add for August. A lot of people move out just shy of September 1st, so if you can find a place between Aug 1 and September 1, it'll make the move much easier.

Plus, if you're moving on Sept 1st, you really should book the moving van, like, today, if you'll be booking it in the Boston area. I wish I were kidding.

I think an August sublet may be difficult to find at this point, but you probably could still find an apartment to be rented on a year lease for Aug 1st. There may be a smaller selection, but if you can be flexible, you may find something you like.

But looking to move mid-August might be easier all around in terms of having time to find a place still and in terms of the actual process of moving.
posted by zizzle at 9:47 AM on July 11, 2011

Seconding the suggestion to avoid the September 1 lease cycle if you can manage it. I found my first place in December and ended up month-to-month when that lease expired, and now I'm on a 1 year lease starting in May. There are apartments available at these weird times, and although you'll run into some issues were landlords really want to fill them immediately because they have no tenant (although sometimes the price is better because of this), I think I've still had far less of a hassle than my September-leasing friends. The other advantage here is that you don't have to move on September 1. If you can avoid that, trust me, you'll thank yourself. Most moving companies are probably out of vans by now (and many overbook... stay away from U-Haul), so that's an added complication if you don't have another means of transporting everything.

In any case, there should be some stuff around for August 1, but as others have said, it might not be great, and most places will be for September.
posted by divisjm at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2011

Try checking craigslist postings for rentals by owner--those tend to be less student-targeted, so they don't all align on September 1st. As an added bonus, you'll avoid the hassle of dealing with a property management group rather than the owner. You might be able to find something for August 1st, or a landlord who's flexible about someone moving in a week before September 1st.

That said, if you do end up finding only places for September 1, book your movers NOW. (Actually, book them six weeks ago, but now is a close second) If you end up going with U-Haul, book that truck NOW, and then plan on getting to the U-Haul the minute they open on the 1st, and there is a decent chance they will honor your reservation. If you show up at 10AM, they will inform you that the closest truck is in Worcester. If at all possible, try to be done with the driving part of the move by mid-morning at the absolute latest, as Boston on college move-in day transforms from 'worst place you can imagine driving a 14-foot truck' to 'actively hostile to all human life.' If you've never experienced the gentle majesty of Mass Ave on September 1st, you will not believe me until you see it with your own eyes.
posted by Mayor West at 11:12 AM on July 11, 2011

If you're stuck with a Sept 1 move date and can manage it, look for a moving truck slightly outside of Boston.

When we moved from Somerville to Allston, we booked a Penske truck in Woburn because we had to pick some stuff up from my aunt and uncle's place that they were giving us. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, but we had no problems getting a truck for the Sept 1 date at super early in the morning and returned it by 4 or 5 in the afternoon.

Also if you find a Sept 1st place, try to find one that, if not month-to-month from the start, resorts to month-to-month after the one year leasing period. This will give you greater flexibility in moving later on.
posted by zizzle at 11:25 AM on July 11, 2011

thanks for the advice (which sadly, reminded what a nightmare moving to Boston always is).

couple of things I forgot to mention: regardless, unless I find a place next week, I'm going to put my stuff into storage for at least August. I have to start work Aug 1, so one way or another I'll have to find a place to live, and leave my stuff in storage.

So you think if I waited till Oct 1, I'd be better off? It's so close to September that I'm wondering if everything would turn over then instead, but that will give me quite a bit longer to look.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice. I'm moving my stuff from Maine on the 23rd of July to the storage space. Haven't gotten the truck or the space yet so thanks for the kick in the butt.
posted by sully75 at 2:32 PM on July 11, 2011

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