Consider this the upside of a September 1st move: Moving any other time of the year is a tricky business.
The annual schedule of finding a new apartment in Boston with a Sept. 1 start date is so unofficially official that the curbside dumping of excess furnishings the day prior is an unofficial city holiday. Not only is the competition fierce for leases, the 24-hours-only influx leaves many residents scrambling for moving companies and U-Haul rentals at the same exact time.
“I think it’s a combination of students and families who like to get in for an August or September 1st move because they want to get in a school system,” says Michael Sylvia, founder of South Boston’s Terrier Real Estate. “I don’t know why that’s just how it is and we just accept it.”
But what if you have to move… like, now?
It could be difficult to find a lease that doesn’t ask you to extend your stay the extra months to divert you back to an August 31st move out, and often the pick of the litter isn’t available without picking up someone else’s lease break. But there are some potential upsides to straying the path, too.
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Here’s some advice for how to find an apartment during the off-season.
Do your digital dirty work
If you’re hunting without the help of a realtor, there are plenty of online resources to scan for immediate or non-Sept. 1 move-in dates.
“The first place to look is Multiple Listing Service, which is most comprehensive database of listings,” says Kevin Concannon, a buyer specialist at the Steven Cohen Team in the South End. “It kind of goes outward from there. There could be some gems on Zillow or Trulia because some are posted there exclusively. It can be a little hit or miss.”
And of course, there’s good old fashioned Craigslist. “High risk,” admits Concannon. “[There’s] everything from scams to where some [listings] might not even be real.” Though he adds, “Some may seem too good to be true, or [they could be] posted by a little grandmother who doesn’t know better. But there are a lot of sketchy realtors.”
Know you have the upper hand
Hey, landlords want to get back on the cycle just as bad as you do. The September 1st also naturally affects the amount of potential tenants coming into the market, so a lease break or an early move might leave a landlord with unrented property until an off-season seeker comes along. Sylvia says landlords not only like September 1st move-ins because of it puts them at the advantage of being able to ask premium rates, but also because they know the market is flush with potential tenants.
“There’s less inventory to choose from when you’re not moving on September 1st, but there’s also less [other renters] applying. So with less competition, you’ve gained leverage. I’m seeing tenants negotiating deals and discounted rents [now], rather than paying market,” he notes. “Like if asking price in September is $3,000, you might be able to get it to $2,800.”
Accept the inevitable
Should you be taking over someone else’s lease or snagging from a lease break, be willing to take on unconventional dates and potentially a lease longer or shorter than 12 months as a landlord will be eager to get back into the September 1st groove.
"I recommend getting back on the cycle," advises Sylvia, reminding folks that playing nice and agreeing to an extended lease can land you on the good side of your future landlord, leading to easier and favorable negotiations.
However, he also advises to be wary of lease breaks, noting they could throw a wrench in your agreement.
"If a landlord is used to a certain rent, but then if there’s a discount on that, they’re likely going to have the previous tenant to agree that difference."