Tips to Find Apartments for Rent in Boston

Boston apartments go fast and can be hard to find if you don’t know how or where to look. The Boston area rental market is notoriously difficult to navigate. To help everyone out, we have compiled a comprehensive step-by-step guide to hunting for apartments for rent in Boston. The first and most important step is to do your research from high quality websites!

Start with the best local research and websites

Use locally based sites like this one to choose your budget, research neighborhoods, and search for homes to rent based on your selective criteria.  You will often find that many of the national portals have a vast amount of outdated or inaccurate data when you drill down to the neighborhood level. If possible, use comprehensive dominant local marketing and procurement platforms to find the best place to rent. Get a feel for what you’re looking for and what’s available that you can afford. Be specific in your search, if you are looking in Mission Hill check out mission hill websites. If you are looking in Cambridge, use local Cambridge based websites.

You should always go to the local dominate website in the area you are looking at to streamline your time.  Time is money.  Time is valuable and limited.  Going to splintered and disparate websites with few fresh listings will just frustrate you and leave you wondering why you are going in circles.  Most apartments in Boston are open listings; which means that landlords give their listings to several real estate offices.  Nearly all landlords give their listings to the largest leasing offices that have the highest number of rentals each year.  Landlords use common sense approaches to giving out their listings.  Landlords don’t want to give their listings to just one office and keep all their eggs in one small basket; yet they also don’t want the headache, security issues, and time robbing repetition of giving it to too many offices as this creates all kinds of potential future problems.  Therefore if you refine your thinking to working with the proven leaders; chances are you will see nearly all the best inventory and make a great QUICK decision and not agonize and keep missing out on great properties!   Once you gain a keen focus on narrowing your search and keeping tabs on local websites.  Start refining your thinking on how neighborhoods have unique qualities and draws.

  • Boston Neighborhoods are all different. Make sure you know where you want to live before you begin searching for a home.   If you are looking at several different neighborhoods, keep asking yourself what is most important to you.
  • Budget appropriately as well. You might want to live in Beacon Hill, but your budget just might not allow for it. Do the math using a rent calculator and the ⅓rd budgeting rule: never plan for using more than ⅓ of your income on all of your living expenses.
  • Begin your research early. Boston apartments go fast, and they are often listed months before they’re available to rent.  Many landlords like to get out their properties over the wintertime so they don’t have to be bothered with the stress of renting them over the summer when they maybe vacationing more.  Landlords don’t like to stress in the summertime either.  Many top landlords work with top apartment leasing firms that help them get their properties rented even one year in advance. If you are seeing dominate marketing from local websites in small areas; it most likely indicates they are on their game in warm calling and getting listings FIRST.  Remember, you’re competing in one of the most competitive rental markets, and with real time vacancy rates that hardly ever go over 6%!  That means that at any given time 94% of all apartments are accounted for and are rented!  Do not over think the process of renting apartments.  Make bold decisions.  See the most properties quickly and go with sources that show the most apartments!


Check out Potential Properties

You should never really take a lease sight unseen if possible, although it does happen. Sometimes moving across the country on a budget requires it. If you’re in this boat, you can always enlist someone else you may know nearby or hire someone to check out the property for you.  You can also ask a sharp real estate agent to face time with you as well as send short videos to you from your phone. When you’re looking at potential new apartments for rent in Boston, keep these things in mind:

  • Prepare questions, needs and wants in advance. What do you need in an apartment and what do you want? What do you need to know about the place before you can move in?
  • Laundry is always a point of contingency. Decide what laundry situation you are willing to handle. Since most Boston apartments do not have in-unit washer and dryer units, many times you will end up with a “laundry mat” day mixed somewhere into your week. It can sound foreboding, but laundry day is a source of fun and entertainment if you do it right.
  • One of the biggest considerations in the entire New England area is heating and cooling. How will your apartment stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter? Double paned windows and thicker insulation are always a bonus in Boston apartments, but you don’t always get them. Is the heat gas or electric? Does it have central air? Many Boston apartments do not have updated heating and cooling systems and sometimes require a higher utility expense.
  • Storage is key! Where will you put everything you own? Make sure your potential apartment has enough storage for your things, or be willing to add a storage unit nearby.


Apply for the Apartment When You Find It. 

Arrive to your viewing appointment prepared and ready to fill out a lease application. The rental market in Boston is competitive and if you walk away to prepare yourself to apply, you may return later to find the same apartment off the market. Being prepared to fill out your lease application means bringing the following items with you:

  • Your photo ID and a check book.
  • Paystubs or some form of employment and income verification, like bank statements. Bringing both is probably a good idea.
  • Vehicle Registration and Insurance.
  • References.
  • Rental history.
  • Social security number.
  • Letters of recommendation.

You will not always need all of these things, but being as prepared as possible never hurt anyone.


A few additional tips… 

Prepare to be interviewed and compete for your ideal apartment. The market in Boston is competitive and often landlords want more than just a check in the mail. They want to know that their investment will be well maintained and the neighbors won’t be mad at them for renting to you. Dress respectably and act accordingly. It’s almost like a job interview at times.

If you have a pet, be prepared for an arduous hunt of the most vicious kind. Your choices are limited and your competition is even fiercer. Boston is not as pet-friendly as some other areas, but there are still many pet-friendly apartments for rent in Boston available. It will just take diligence and the best search engine around to find your perfect Boston apartment!

Save for the upfront costs before you start applying. Move-in costs could also rack up. In addition to your deposit, you might need a moving vehicle. Make sure you save extra for the moment when you actually pull the trigger.

Team up with a solid roommate to get a better place! Two renters are better than one in this case.  Three people is often even better; especially in highly sought after low vacancy rate areas. You can pool your finances and get a bigger place or an apartment in a more fashionable neighborhood. Just make sure you choose someone you know you can live with for a long period of time and establish ground rules to prevent any future drama.

Walk the neighborhood before you view the place. Once you look at it, you will need to make a choice, but you will want to survey the surroundings first. Always be prepared in advance.


And in the end, you will find what you want…

Chances are, you will need to make some concessions when choosing an apartment. Maybe the laundry isn’t in the unit like you wanted, but it’s in the right part of town that meets your commuting and lifestyle desires. Boston apartment hunting is a tough sport, and yes, it is a sport. The competition is fierce. By sticking to this guide and using a comprehensive search tool like ours, you are sure to find the home you want that will fulfill your needs.