Apartment-hunting on short notice in the Boston area: how to proceed?
June 10, 2015 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Due to a whole series of unpleasant events, I am looking for an apartment in the Brighton/Allston/Watertown area on a somewhat tight budget and very short notice — we need to move in by mid-July at the very latest. I just moved here, and don't really know how things work in this area, but I've already come close to exhausting what is listed on Craigslist/Padmapper. What else should I be trying? Other places to look for listings? Should I be working with a realtor? (And if so, how do I find one?) Etc etc etc.

(Yes, I already know that this is a very tall order, and that most apartments here do not turn over in July.)
posted by nebulawindphone to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
My guy found a place just this last month using a realtor. He had a few personal referrals (I've emailed you his email address) and then looked into them on Yelp. There are definitely apartments that turn over in the summer, there are just fewer of them. You have options, best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 10:00 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not in Boston, but I've found (good) apartments posting on Craigslist under the "housing wanted" section - better than looking at the "housing offered" section in some cases.
posted by microcarpetus at 10:08 AM on June 10, 2015

Best answer: If your budget is tight, I'm assuming that rules out most of the larger complexes and you will be looking for a smaller-scale landlord. For what it's worth, I think you'll find more things get listed for July 1 around mid-month.

In my experience the best strategy is to refresh Craigslist constantly, and call/email immediately on any openings. If at all possible, try to get out to see the apartment *that evening*. If you're the first one to look and you seem like an OK tenant, many landlords will decide to rent to you that evening rather than spending their Saturday showing the place to more people.

On a related note, bring your checkbook with you and be prepared to fill out any forms or even drop off the deposit right then.

When you reach out to the prospective landlord, your email or phone message should explain why you are a good prospective tenant. Long history at present address, non-smoker, no pets, good credit, professional job? All good. Mention those. You want the landlord to call you first out of the people who leave messages. (One other thing: if you are a lawyer, or in law school, don't mention it, just say you're a professional or grad student and leave it at that.)

Finally, don't discount driving/walking around looking for For Rent signs -- many landlords with well-priced places do this rather than put up with the headaches of Craigslist or realtors.
posted by pie ninja at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

I used a couple of realtors last time I was looking in that area, but it was 10 years ago, so even if I remembered their names I don't think my recs would be much good.

However, we ended up renting a place with Fineberg Companies and staying there for 6 or 7 years. So, I guess I recommend them? They were perfectly adequate as landlords, and they have a lot of properties in Brighton and Allston. They do tend to try to get people to sign leases really far in advance, but sometimes people must give them short notice and leave them in a bind. Might be worth calling. (They do have pretty appalling reviews on Yelp, but honestly I thought they were fine.)

If you can't find any place before you need to move, try AirBnB or a summer sublet as a last resort (though perhaps that's part of the unfortunate series of events that landed you here in the first place).

Good luck! There really are places for rent at all times of year. I moved into my current apartment in February (listed by a realtor but I found the listing through Craigslist). There's more turnover in August/September but it's not the only game in town.
posted by mskyle at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2015

you can mefi me, I know a place that is open and the rent is good- it is near the BMC med campus.
posted by TRUELOTUS at 10:55 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sucks financially, but your best bet is likely a realtor. (PS: we = how many? I know a couple people looking for one roommate)
posted by maryr at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2015

Best answer: Now is actually a pretty good time to be looking for places to rent for July. It's true that some places get rented out months in advance, but that's typically for the start dates based on academic calendars (usually June 1 and especially September 1).

I live in this area, and I've moved a bunch in the general area you're interested in. Usually how it's worked is that I've scoured Craigslist (new places get posted all the time, so keep checking back), found something that looks interesting, and then gotten in touch with whoever posted it.

Most of the time I've ended up working with a realtor, but usually that happens after I get in touch with them about a place I've seen on Craigslist. Half the time the place I'm interested in has already been rented out*, but then the realtor will show you other places based on what you're looking for.

A lot of real estate companies will have apartments posted on their websites that you can use. They'll sometimes allow you to access MLS listings in addition to their exclusive properties. Two rental groups I've used are Centre Realty and Shilalis Real Estate. Both of these groups are more geared towards the Watertown/Newton/Belmont areas, but they should have some listings in Brighton or Allston. I've worked with a few other groups as well, but I can't think of their names off the top of my head.

I have also found a few places for rent by the landlord (and also a couple places where current tenants are looking for someone to take over the lease), and in a lot of ways that's the ideal situation because you don't have to pay the broker fee, but most places are listed by realtors, so it's kind of a necessary evil.

It's totally fine to work with multiple realtors at once. In fact, that's pretty typical in this area when you're renting as opposed to buying.

*Although places claim they don't do this, I think it's pretty common practice for them to post things that have already been rented out just to get people to contact them. Like, I've seen an ad for a place, asked about it, been told that it's rented, and then seen it re-posted a few days later.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2015

Response by poster: (PS: we = how many? I know a couple people looking for one roommate)

A married couple and a cat. We're happy to have roommates, but the couple thing or the cat thing seem to be dealbreakers for many people.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2015

I can sadly confirm that trying to find roommates willing to take on a cat is difficult. Good luck.
posted by maryr at 11:46 AM on June 10, 2015

I twice found apartments through brokers here and it worked well each time.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Craigslist is the way to go. Find a sublet for a couple of months (TONS of college kids have places they are trying to get rented out), and use that as a jumping off point for longer time.
posted by troytroy at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2015

BCN listserv
also CouchSurfing has a Boston roommate-seeking sub-sub-site (though who knows what their navigation is like this week)
posted by threeants at 5:31 PM on June 10, 2015

If you haven't tried Zillow or Trulia yet, do -- I found my current place through Trulia. Bonus: it was listed by the owner, so I didn't have to pay a fee.

If you do have to resort to a realtor, look on Yelp first, as the reviews can be helpful.

I live in the area and will keep my eyes open for signs for you!
posted by acridrabbit at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2015

Best answer: Behind on reading, but just did this move for May 1, and what I did that helped (I was coming from Maine, basically was hoping to find something in a weekend of looking, and managed it: looked at places April 7th/8th, put down a deposit on the 8th)

1) Checked Padmapper and HotPads at least twice a day, using both a 'things I'd really like' search range and then a 'things that I'd like less but could be okay'. Being really clear what were my absolute needs, and what were things I wanted, and how much they mattered was really important.

2) Put the info in a spreadsheet, so I could track address/rent/what was included/what the commute to work would be in both miles and time. (This helped me see that - for example - Medford and Woburn were just going to be miserable commutes - I'm working in Watertown) and also helped me keep a perspective on relative rents in given locations I was considering.

3) Sent messages to anything that seemed vaguely plausible (HotPads makes this particularly easy) including the things that make me a good tenant (librarian, quiet, moving for new job, but grew up in the area), and the things that were a dealbreaker (I have a cat). I think I sent out about 35, ended up scheduling about 7 appointments, and ended up seeing 4 places (two cancelled last minute, I cancelled one after signing the 4th.)

4) I also figured out a backup plan that made me a lot less stressed (larger complex further out, annoying commute, but I could have done it for a year if I'd had to. I'm glad I didn't but it helped me not to get too upset when places I thought I might really like got snatched up.)

5) The place that is now mine I got by having contacted a rental agent about another place, and this coming on the market (I was down on a Friday/Saturday, it listed late Friday evening.) I walked in, looked around, double checked a couple of things, and wrote the deposit immediately, and he was really clear that it would have gone that day or the next if I hadn't. (And I can believe him: it's a great price and location, though it's a garden apartment, and not ideal for some people.) If you're looking in Arlington at all, feel free to MeMail, and I'll give you more details.

6) I do agree that you probably want to at least talk to realtors: paying the money was sort of hard to swallow, but knowing I had a place was huge, and on a tight timeline, you may not have a lot of other options. Seconding checking them out on Yelp, but also being realistic (I know I saw some reviews where I considered what people were expecting a bit unreasonable, and discounted those as being problems.)
posted by modernhypatia at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2015

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