Available Rental – Summit Avenue, Brookline
Henry James said that the two most beautiful words in the English language are “summer afternoon.” Nat King Cole, in song, described this time of year as “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” But don’t get too comfy in that lounge chair if you’re hoping to get a rental for September 1st. That day is bearing down on us faster than a Jurassic Park spinosaurus.
Because many tenants feel they can’t afford to buy a house in this competitive sellers’ market, they are renewing their leases. That makes inventory lower than ever.
If you’re planning to be settled into your new digs for the Labor Day Weekend, then you need to get your game on now. The good news is that Brookline and Jamaica Plain are not areas that cater heavily to students. For that reason, September 1st apartments have not been secured months ahead of time. Most are just coming on the market now.
You can still get that apartment of your dreams. Just be sure to follow these 8 tips from this veteran rental agent.
1. Work with a licensed rental agent. At Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty we have more than 20 in our Brookline and Jamaica Plain offices pledged to making your search as hassle-free as possible. We have an extensive database of available and upcoming quality apartments. We can also expand a search to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which all of our agents have access to. Jamaica Plain has been my home for 20 years. As the salesmen say in “The Music Man,” “you gotta know the territory.” Like all Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty agents, we really know our neighborhoods.
As with all brokerages, we charge a fee — but only if we find you a place to live. Looking is free. (We’ll even do the driving.) In most cases, a rental fee is equal to one-month’s rent. Sometimes a landlord will pay half of that fee.
2. You Get What You Pay For. It’s true you can often find a great apartment with no fee by going on Craigslist or other web-based rental sites. But you also take a risk. You have no one to negotiate for you. We know our landlords and they know us.
Whatever you do, don’t send money to a blind ad. Last summer a middle-age man, his mother, and their dog came into our JP office. Even the dog looked panicked. They had just flown in to Boston that afternoon from San Diego. When they got to the apartment they thought they had rented, and had paid three months in advance on, it didn’t exist. Sadly, this is not an unusual scenario.
3. Be prepared to act. I never want to pressure clients to take an apartment but in this tight market, apartments often get rented the day they are advertised. If you see an apartment you like, you want to be able to grab it. You can do this by going back to our office to fill out an application, and to write a check to the landlord for the first month’s rent. This will take the apartment off market while we do a credit check and other paperwork, such as proof of income. We then present these findings to the landlord. (The last month’s rent, and/or security deposit, and broker fee, are not due until after the tenants and landlord have signed the lease.) I hate telling a client who waited too long to take an apartment, “I told you so.” But too often I have to.
4. Can you offer less rent to a landlord? You can, but there’s a smart way to do it. Fill out an application and write the first-month’s rent check before negotiating. If you can show you have a good job and strong credit, you’re in a much better bargaining position.
This also applies to pets. A landlord who says that he or she doesn’t allow them, may relent for the right applicant. A letter from your current landlord testifying to Fluffy or Spot’s good behavior can’t hurt.
5. Have your forms ready: If you’re a student, or just starting your first job, the landlord may want you to have a co-signer, such as a parent. We can provide you with a co-signer form. Just know this: This form needs to be notarized. A hard copy is required. I’ve had landlords say they can’t wait a week for a signed, notarized form to arrive in the mail. My advice: Have the co-signer form notarized and completed before looking for an apartment. If you have a job-offer or scholarship letter, have it ready to present with the application.
6. Don’t look alone: It can often be difficult to schedule a viewing of an apartment. Existing tenants usually require 24 hours notice. Don’t waste your time, or (sorry) mine, by viewing apartments that a partner or roommates must also see in order to apply for.
7. What if my credit sucks. Don’t despair. I recently rented an apartment to a husband and wife who both had “bad” credit ratings. Yet between them they made over $200,000 annually! Their scary credit ratings weren’t due to being financially irresponsible. He had student loans that had since been paid off. She had an overdue $500 medical bill that she didn’t know about. Once he supplied the landlord with a letter from his bank stating that his student loans had been absolved, and once she took care of her medical bill, the landlord happily approved them.
8. Busiest Day of the Year: If you’ve ever seen videos of the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, then you have an idea what September 1st is like in Boston. Just think: There are more than 50 colleges here filled with students needing to move in to their new places. If you haven’t booked a U-Haul or moving truck yet, don’t wait another second! In Brookline and Jamaica Plain you’ll need moving permits, which must be paid for and picked up in person and in advance at city halls. They can range as low as $5 in Brookline to $109 in Boston or JP.
For more moving permit info, check out these websites: Brookline and Boston
If you’d like more rental advice, or want to talk about your housing needs, please give any of us a call at our Brookline office (617.264.7900) or JP office (617.522.2200). September 1st is coming soon. Get moving now, so you can move later.
This is a guest blog post from John Stark, Sales and Leasing Agent, Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty. John can be reached at email@example.com and 617.549.7681.
About John Stark
John has lived in Jamaica Plain for over 20 years and bought his first condo near Forest Hills almost 18 years ago so he knows the area well. Before John became a full-time realtor, he was a writer and editor for such publications as People magazine, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cook’s Illustrated, Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul, and Cooking Light magazine. He is also currently a blogger for Next Avenue nextavenue.org, which is a national, PBS-sponsored website for people over the age of 50.