Why September 1st Boston Rentals are so Common

If you’ve searched any Boston apartment website in the past few weeks, or even months, you’re bound to have run into several apartments for rent with leases that start on September 1, 2010 . So what gives, you’re asking? Why are there rentals for September already and hardly any rentals yet for June, July, or August?

The answer is that a majority of Boston landlords try to accommodate the school schedule by having leases start/end right around the September 1st date in order to attract undergrads, grads, and employees from one of the thirty colleges here in Boston. With more supply and demand for rentals on this schedule – and the turnover that comes with students who graduate, move, and/or switch apartments – it should come as no surprise that these rental listings are posted as early as February to attract the eager crowd.

Another reason for the focus on September 1st apartment leases in Boston is students are often out of the city during the summer and therefore can’t look at apartments during the summer. This means that going by the industry standard lease up time of 30-45 days prior to move in can’t apply to these renters as they need to start looking in May at the latest. Since the rest of the summer months don’t tend to apply to this school schedule, the advanced notice from residing tenants is not needed as the apartments are unlikely to be rented to students, hence the reason you don’t see as many rental listings posted yet for these (summer) months.

If you are looking for a Boston apartment rental for move in during any other month but September, I would suggest starting your search 30-45 days prior to your move. If you are looking to move in September, you can start as soon as you’d like, but get a move on it if you’re looking for an apartment near BU, Northeastern, Berklee or Boston Conservatory, they’re renting quickly!

Christopher Columbus Plaza Rentals Flourish in North End

Christopher Columbus Plaza Apartments (CCP), located at 145 Commercial Street in Boston’s North End,  is today flourishing as one of the largest rental-only buildings in the North End. With various one and two bedroom floorplans ranging from $1,900 to $3,000, CCP dares to be different from typical North End apartments.

For starters, the smallest floorplan is a 680 square foot one-bedroom, while there are numerous two-bedroom apartments in the area that can’t stack up to that size. To help put this into perspective, I recently showed a one-bedroom apartment in the North End that was 350 square feet – almost half the size of CCP’s.

What really sells people on this building is the outdoor space. The private courtyard, roof deck and balconies allow renters to spend time outside without having to leave the property. And did I mention that there are terrific views of Boston Harbor? This pet friendly, no brokerage fee building also includes heat, hot water, electric, and gas in the rent, while most North End apartments tend to leave these costs to the renter.

With pricing comparable to most rentals in the area, Christopher Columbus Plaza Apartments are truly a diamond in the rough.

Christopher Columbus Plaza Courtyard

Christopher Columbus Plaza Sun Room with Views

Christopher Columbus Plaza Living Room

Christopher Columbus Plaza Roof Deck

Student Renters Discriminated

Boston is the home to 27 colleges and over 100,000 undergraduate students. With a high number of those students residing off campus, it comes as no surprise to see an entire apartment building filled with a majority of undergraduate students. From Dexter Park in Brookline, Audubon Park in Audubon Circle, to the Atrium in Packard’s Corner, Boston University students especially, make up a good percentage of the residing population. BU’s tuition is priced at such a high level that it is no surprise that students who can afford the tuition can also afford to live in a luxury apartment building. The same goes for many of the other schools in the city. Why is it then that some landlords and apartment buildings chose not to allow undergraduates even when they can afford it?

Why Would Landlords not allow Students?

Of course there’s the perception that undergraduates will wreck the place with their parties and hooliganism. Moreover, when presented with tenants of equal financial stability, a landlord would rather not have to put up with the headaches that might come along with their undergraduate tenant if they don’t have to. Buildings like the Trilogy, Boylston 1330, and Church Park (to name a few) are some examples of these landlords. Since age is a protected class and cannot be used as discrimination when choosing tenants, even a 50 year old undergraduate student (who writes that they are such on their application) would be turned down from these buildings according to their “no undergraduate” policy. Student status is not a protected class, therefore landlords are able to discriminate based on a wide variety of criteria relating to students. For instance, certain apartments are known to expand their no undergraduate policy to include law school students. To these landlords, there’s nothing worse than a know-it-all law school student threatening to sue you as a class exercise. Again, law school students are also not protected in MA, and therefore, can legally be discriminated against when choosing tenants. Beyond law school students and undergraduates, the other most commonly, but legally, discriminated against class is the pet owner (see Pet Friendly Boston Apartments).

Ironically, many of the apartment buildings that allow pets do not allow undergraduates. Interpret that as you will. Some students have been able to bend the rules and work their way around these policies by having a parent sign for an apartment, however, this is not advised as it could result in eviction. The best advice I have is do the research to find out which apartments will allow undergraduates to live there before viewing an apartment.

Pet Friendly Boston Apartments

Searching for an apartment in Boston with a pet can be a frustrating experience. Once you’ve made it through the small selection of apartments that will allow your pet, you are likely to find even further restrictions according to breed and weight that makes it near impossible to rent in Boston with a big dog. Some apartment buildings in Boston allow only cats, while I have yet to find any that allow just dogs—normally if they allow dogs, they’ll allow cats too. Even if you can find a place that will let both you and Sparky live together, you might find yourself shelling out an additional $30-$75 per month in “pet rent.”

So how can you win as a pet owner renting in Boston?

Know your dog or cat’s weight and breed and plan accordingly. If you have a small pet under 50lbs (fully grown) it’s likely that most pet friendly apartment buildings and condo owners will accept them. Weight and breed restrictions mostly exist for insurance purposes. Although cats and small dogs may be more likely to scratch the floors and walls, they are generally quieter and less potentially harmful to other residents. Larger dogs get a bad wrap for biting and louder barking, which makes it harder to insure a building that allows these breeds. If you have one of these breeds you will have to focus your search on condo rentals and hope that you can either: find a landlord sympathetic to your breed, or negotiate a situation that is amicable for both parties, which usually can be done by offering to pay an additional security deposit.

Know Where to Search for Pet Friendly Boston Apartments

There are certain areas of the city with more dog parks and therefore more pet owners tend to live in those areas. Brookline, for instance, has more dog parks than most of Boston, while the South End is known to be relatively dog friendly. The Seaport District, with its open lofts and spacious apartments, has also become a popular area for pets. The areas to avoid with pets tend to be those with more compact city living: Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, the North End, and Copley Square / Prudential are not particularly pet friendly places to live compared with other areas of the city. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the size of most apartments in these areas hardly accommodates more than one human, let alone humans living with pets.

My suggestion for large dog owners: buy a condo! Rarely do you see condo associations with the same pet weight and breed restrictions as you do with rentals.

Boston South End Dog

Rental Season is Over, How'd We Fare?

Historically, apartment rental turnover is at its peak throughout the summer up until the city’s busiest move in day—September 1st.   During the recent tough economic times and a flailing nationwide housing market, the seasonality and influx of college students created20 a relatively stable volume of apartment rentals; however, it did affect the price tags.

MLS (Multiple Listing Service) data will have you believe that the average monthly rental price from 6/1/2009 to 9/1/2009 was $2,293, which is the same as the amount paid during the same period in 2008. What is neglected to be told in this data, besides the fact that it covers such a small percentage of the overall rental market, is that in many cases, landlords have been picking up some, or all, of the tab for brokerage fees.  Broker fees generally cost the landlord or tenant (or a combination of both) one month’s rent paid upfront at the time of lease signing.  In 2008, and even more so in 2007, I saw more tenants picking up the bill over landlords–however having seen it first hand–this year’s rental season was dominated by negotiation and landlords paying or splitting broker fees.  With broker fees typically amounting to as much as one month’s rent, the indirect result would raise average 2008 rents to roughly $2,500, making 2009 numbers look far less stable.  However, a difference of roughly $200 per month is unfortunately not the only issue that landlords have negotiated on.

Over recent months, landlords have taken fewer security deposits and/or last month’s rent, as well as offered more concessions, and they still saw their properties sit on the rental market for roughly 12 days longer than last year.  The first point is an obvious one. With unemployment so high and our national savings rate increasing, it’s no wonder that renters are no longer willing to shell out four months of rent upfront. Secondly, concessions have come in a variety of forms, but most recently in the form of free rent for up to two months.  Luxury apartment buildings like the Watermark in Kendall Square and the Atrium by BU are currently using this technique to fill their vacancies in hopes that they will avoid leaving units vacant during the winter when rental turnover really dies down.  Some other forms have included waived amenities fees, including certain utilities, and discounted parking.

With all of these concessions and lowered upfront costs, you’d be surprised that apartments are lingering on the market, however, given that asking rents have hardly changed year over year, it’s clear that there are more behind the scenes negotiations rather than overtly advertised deals. That, and of course, people want to save more money and spend less on housing and retail–and just about anything else–and are willing to settle for that smaller apartment or less expensive pair of shoes in the name of saving. I see this savings trend as a positive for long-term growth, and believe that while it’s the landlords who suffer now (to the renter’s benefit), they will see plenty of upside in rents within upcoming years once we’ve all stockpiled enough of our money. Until then, happy renting!

Rentals at the Ritz

We’ve been receiving various inquiries related to rentals at the Ritz Carlton’s Avery Street Towers. For those of us with selective tastes, the Ritz is both a glamorous name and a luxurious place to live. The Ritz in Boston attracts residents with more than just its name. In addition to the unmatched service that has come to be expected with the Ritz Carlton brand, there is a health club and spa on the premises, as well as valet parking and 24 hour room service through the hotel. Residents also enjoy other hotel services, including house-keeping services.

According to MLS (which has the majority of the Ritz rentals listed), there are 19 available units for rent with most of the smaller units being in the 3 Avery Street Tower. Rentals include 7 one-bedrooms ranging from $3,500 to $4,200 per month, 9 two-bedrooms ranging in monthly rent from $4,000 to $11,500, and 3 three-bedrooms from $8,000 to $27,000.

Units at 3 Avery Street typically consist of wall-to-wall carpeting, granite counters and white GE appliances, while 1 and 2 Avery have hardwood flooring and stainless steel Viking, Bosch and/or Sub Zero appliances. Move in dates for the current selection of rentals range from immediate occupancy through a July 1st move in.

Macallen Building Seeks Buyers & Renters

In what seems to be a developing trend, the Macallen Building in South Boston is beginning to offer a sizeable chunk of its remaining inventory (still owned by the developer, Pappas Properties) for rent.  Certain units have been identified as rentals, however, in effect, the entire inventory also remains for-sale, and for-sale prices have been dropped substantially all the way into the $400 per square foot range – in light of the economic downturn, rentals appear to be the best option for the Macallen and their current specials show that they are serious about having them rented fast.

This special rental offer is on the table for renters who choose a 14 month lease, beginning on or around April 1st, and involves two months of free rent – all utilities (even Direct TV), and one garage parking space all included in the rental fee.  It’s extremely rare for a building that offers such a stacked list of amenities and quality to offer such a promotion.  From its newly finished onsite gym to the heated three-season pool on the 20,000 square foot landscaped terrace, to the soon to open gourmet market, the things to do right at the Macallen Building outnumber those in several small New England towns.  Not to mention it’s located right next to the Red Line Broadway T stop  and the Harbor Walk.

Rents start at $2,200 for the one studio that is available, $2,250 for spacious and open loft 1 bedroom units, $3,500 for 2 bedrooms, and $6,900 for the one 3 bedroom currently available.  If you factor in the 2 months free, most of the rents will come down by at least $300 per month effectively, which makes this offer rather compelling for the trendsetting renter to live in one of the most unique buildings Boston has ever seen.

Audubon Park Condos Turn Rental

Audubon Park in the Audubon Circle area of Boston (near the border of Brookline) has recently switched gears from for-sale condos to apartment rentals. Condo sales have been slow at the completed development where 12 of the 53 condos have sold, with an average price of $563,000 ($592 per square foot), a median price of $617,500, and average days on market of 119.

Located in West Fenway and Boston University’s South Campus area at 16 Miner Street, Audubon Park is a pet-friendly luxury development.  The only other comparable pet-friendly rental building in the area is 1330 Boylston, but with its smaller size and quieter setting, Audubon Park offers a more private escape than 1330 Boylston.  All 53 units at Audubon Park have been built out with contemporary finishes from bamboo floors to granite counter tops – finishes that you don’t consistently see in rental properties.  Also, unlike most apartment communities in Boston, management has decided to allow undergraduate students rent in the building – everyone who moves in must interview with the developer.

Rental prices at Audubon Park start at $2,200 for studios, $2,600 for one-bedroom condos, and $3,200 for two-bedroom units – underground parking is offered for an additional fee. The community currently employs a concierge on weekdays and Saturday evenings, and is considering expansion of concierge hours given the number of residents now in the building. For the time being, renters can get up to one month free if they move in before September 1, 2009.  Management has also considered offering rent-to-own options for those considering a purchase in the next year – it’s likely that these units will be back on the market for sale as soon as the economy picks up.

– Jay Alberino is the Founder & CEO of Eleven Park Realty, and has recently launched myCityApartment, a guide to houses and apartments for rent in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge. Jay can be contacted to stay up to date with prices and offers, or to take a tour of Audubon Park or other apartments in Boston.

Audubon Park Rental Apartments