Moving is not an activity that is generally accomplished with ease and cheer. The steps to relocating take time. Not only do you have to pack up your life into many cardboard boxes, but you have to find a new living space that meets your standards and budget. That’s just in general. In Boston moving has its own season, and that means competition, stress and a lot of junk on the sidewalks for about a month. Most Boston residents are going to move on a day when almost everyone else in the city is moving in, out, across or helping someone who is. U-Hauls line the streets and traffic is at its worst. The day is September 1st.
Thanks to Boston’s student boom in the year 2000, and a lack space for dormitories, a majority of apartment leases in the city start on September 1st and end on August 31st. According to data compiled by Zillow, a real estate information site, an estimated 79% of Boston apartment listings are for September. There were 135,125 students enrolled in Boston’s colleges in 2000, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and enrollment numbers have been climbing since then.
Real estate agents start receiving listings for September as early as January. Kelly Callahan works for a Boston realty company and admits there is definitely a season for renting in Boston. Callahan’s office is located near the Northeastern University campus and receives a lot of student business. “Students usually want to be in walking distance of campus,” she says, so apartments near major college campuses tend to move faster. In neighborhoods less densely populated by college students like Allston and Brighton, renters can afford to take more time making decisions.
Competition is a major hurdle in the September 1st search. If you’re not a student you may consider trying to find a renter who will offer a May, June or July lease. After September these months tend to be the most popular because this is when students leave the city. May has become known as, “subletting season,” because students try to find renters to finish out their leases so they can move at the end of the semester. Realtors stress that apartments move quickly and urge you to have your checkbooks ready if you see something you like. While you can never really know when an apartment is going to be taken off the market, keep in mind that the competition is just as fierce for the broker as it is for you. According to Callahan there is a lot of competition between realtors to sell properties because many listings are released citywide. Know which neighborhoods are in high demand and which are not.
If you’re no longer a student and tremble at the idea of participating in another Boston moving party, there are other options. Emily participated in her fair share of September 1st moves as a student at Suffolk University, but after graduating she managed to find a January listing. Moving in January she says, “is more calm. Allston in September is like a celebration. Everyone is moving. You see your friends moving and when you’re done you buy your helpers pizza and beer.” This is not so in January, but on the upside you don’t have to worry about parking, says Emily. If you can’t get out of your September cycle because your landlord won’t let you sublet or enjoys the benefits of having a September listing, consider staying in your apartment another year. (Callahan says many people are choosing this option anyway because of increasing prices.) Find out if your landlord owns other properties. Build a positive relationship and he may be able to notify you if an apartment opens up at a less grueling time of the year.
If you’re on a budget keep in mind that it is just as easy to find an apartment without the use of a realtor, eliminating that pesky finders fee. You just have to be willing to work a little harder. Either way give yourself plenty of time, as listings stay open through August. If you’re lucky enough to not be moving and you don’t have any obligations to help anyone you might consider looking for a new coffee table, dresser or couch that some tired college student left behind. Happy hunting, everyone!