Broker recommendations/apartment tips for Boston with a child
July 13, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I would love any recommendations people in the Boston area might have for rental brokers for an apartment in the Boston area, specifically nearish to Tufts. Someone who has successfully worked with a family with a small child would be ideal. General apartment hunting tips are also welcome. More details inside...

We're lovely people with good references, but here are some of the issues involved in finding a place:

--My son is nearly 2 years old, happy, relaxed, and mellow, but some landlords simply don't want to rent to people with kids under 6 because of lead laws.
--I have a relatively recent bankruptcy, but my credit before that was solid and responsible (meaning I don't have late payments or anything else--I paid everything on time until I filed).
--Neither of us has significant income; I will have $2000 a month in child support and unemployment insurance, but that's it. We plan to pay for the apartment primarily with savings (which are substantial) and can pay for a year in advance if necessary.
--We'd like to move on August 1 & can tell that it's getting tight for that time frame.
--We do not drive nor are we likely to learn.

So thoughts? Recommendations?
posted by the young rope-rider to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We met with both Maven and Red Line Real Estate, both near Davis Square. The places we saw weren't any better or worse than playing Craigslist roulette, but I know others have had good experiences with them, and it doesn't hurt to have all the help you can get.

Is it at all possible for you to delay the move until October? The Boston rental market is cutthroat in August and September - some of the places we saw were snatched up within 24 hours of listing. You may have better luck after school starts.

If you'd like I can keep an eye out for any leads, though I can't promise anything. Good luck and welcome!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call the Davis Square office of Apartment Rental Experts. I've never been in your situation, but I've used them twice, and they're good to work with. Additionally, they keep their listings online, so you can see what they have available.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2013

If one or both of you is going to be associated with Tufts, have you looked to see if they have any kind of rental programs? Harvard has a program where people can list rentals that are available only to other Harvard-affiliated people (this is separate from Harvard-owned properties), and that's how we found our apartment. It might be worth checking if Tufts has anything similar.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:30 PM on July 13, 2013

Best answer: I don't know if you can afford the time, but I think it's likely you can find a place if one of you could check out some Craigslist postings yourself for a few days. With your checkbook.

In our last apartment search, I ran into two landlords that did not do credit or background checks (and their places were nice). They just talked to you for ten minutes and if you had the standard first month+last month+security fee, and you got the lease. These corresponded to postings that were relatively sparse and did not have a loud real-estate-software-generated INFO GRID in them.

I also came across a few duplexes around Tufts that were being rented by owners that lived in the other unit with their own children (and they'd offer sideways warnings about their noise), so it is possible to not get eliminated right away for having a kid.
posted by ignignokt at 12:57 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hmmm. Well, not renting to you because you have a kid is illegal, but unfortunately enforcing that is a whole other thing, especially with a small-time landlord. A lot of housing stock here is older, and lead compliance is still spotty, so be careful.

You can find out if an apartment is lead-compliant by checking the state database. Note that homes inspected back in the 1980s when the law went into effect may be perfectly safe but not be on the database, as it didn't exist back then. Still, it's fairly complete.

This is a really high-demand time of year. In my experience, apartment-hunting here is almost as cutthroat as NYC -- bring references, bring checkbooks, and be prepared to make up your mind RIGHT AWAY. Often the very first person to see an apartment will be the one to snipe it, so make sure you're the first one to contact landlords and the first one to look. (Also, smaller landlords often "go with their gut" on people, which may work to your advantage.)

As a corollary, any leasing agent who will hold an apartment for several days without a deposit while you make up your mind is someone you should be concerned about. (Not 100%, but in general.)

You'll have a much easier time finding a place if you don't have pets.

Be very aware of heating, which is a bigger cost up here -- don't take a place with electric heat ($$$) and try to find a place where the landlord pays heat. If the tenant pays heat, you can call the gas provider or heating oil supplier to ask how much it runs in the winter -- they should be able to tell you.

Finally, if you end up with some extra time, walk around the neighborhoods you're interested in and look for For Rent signs -- that's still a thing around here. Some of the best and cheapest apartments are the ones rented out by old-school landlords who have owned their place for ages and don't want to deal with Craigslist or brokers.
posted by pie ninja at 7:06 PM on July 13, 2013

These corresponded to postings that were relatively sparse and did not have a loud real-estate-software-generated INFO GRID in them.

Also, yes, this. There is an inverse relationship between the quality of the Craigslist post and the quality/value of the apartment. The posts you want are the ones that have, say, one photo of a radiator (and nothing else), or one sentence saying "APARTMENT FOR RENT INMAN AUGUST CALL MARIO" or something. If a listing goes up more than once, you likely don't want that apartment.
posted by pie ninja at 7:08 PM on July 13, 2013

I have been having a terrible time too. When I asked a friend a few years ago, he suggested a specific broker who I haven't felt inclined to use [he also advised me to suck it up and get a broker at first, because I would have to pay a 1/2 fee anyways. Argh...]. I'll memail it to you. My current tactic switch is to sign up for hourly padmapper alerts.

A couple coworkers said it would only get worse before Sept 1, so settling may be the best advice.
posted by tintexas at 8:52 PM on July 13, 2013

If you are going the broker route - I recommend Oxford St Realty. They are very knowledgeable about the Cambridge/Somerville area (and depending on the unit, also take care of managing the apartments). I have had excellent experience with them, feel free to memail me for more info if you like.
posted by akash at 9:26 PM on July 13, 2013

I also used Apartment Rental Experts. The broker I worked with (David? It was several years ago) was pleasant, well-prepared, and efficient (having just gone through a crappy broker process in NYC, this seems especially impressive now). He took me to four places, any of which would have been acceptable (exactly what I was looking for in terms of size, location, etc. - they were all a little bit pricier than I was hoping for, but I may have been overly optimistic on that front), and two of which I really loved. I picked the cheaper one and lived there very happily for two years.
posted by naoko at 3:00 PM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: COOL UPDATE: We found a huge, satisfactory place without using a broker. The kid thing was, unsurprisingly, something that kept us out of the running for a lot of places, but not all. The bankruptcy was seemingly not a huge issue for anyone, oddly enough.

The biggest things that helped were:

--Contacting craigslist listings ASAP (I was checking and emailing once an hour)
--Changing our move-in date to Sept. 1--apparently it's a more common date for leases to start AND many landlords require 45 days notice instead of the NYC standard 30 days

None of the brokers we contacted were in any way willing to help us. We were never shown a single place by a broker despite contacting 5+ of them and being willing to pay a fee. We didn't say we were working with other brokers or anything like that, just gave the general rundown and were turned away. So I would say that brokers are a bit of a dead end.

Thanks for your help and moral support!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What do I use to baste a roast chicken?   |   Good grief! Please give me some grief (resources). Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.