Should I Have Secured a September 1st Apartment By Now?

We asked a Boston real estate agent.

Welcome to Ask a Boston Real Estate Agent, where local pros answer our most burning questions about living, renting, and buying in Boston.

New Allston residents Michael Silano and Paul Griffith kick back during Allston Christmas in 2016. / Photo by Madeline Bilis

Dear Boston Real Estate Agent,

Should I have secured a September 1st apartment lease by now? (And what are my options if I haven’t yet?)

You’re probably well aware that September 1st is the busiest move-in day in the city. But whether or not you should have locked a place down by now really depends on where you’re looking and for how many people. Students looking to rent near Boston College, for example, usually start looking the previous September. (I’m serious.) Most other September apartment listings near colleges and universities come out January 15th, and there’s a mad dash to get them rented as soon as possible. In more professional areas, however, September listings hit the market later in the spring.

As a rule of thumb, if you have a group of four or more, you really ought to try and have a place secured by April 15th. Renting what we call “big beds” after April 15th is a double-edged sword: there aren’t many left, but as landlords start to get nervous, you could find yourself a great deal. For groups of three or fewer, there will always be apartments popping up here and there, but the best ones in the most desirable areas go very quickly.

So, the answer to your question is both yes and no. Yes, if your top priority is renting your dream apartment. No, if your main concern is getting the best deal in town.

If you’re still on the hunt, the first thing you should do is look through your own place and take note of all the amenities and features. Then, make a list of must-haves, would-likes, and deal breakers. Once you get your wishes and needs organized, it’s easier to narrow down your search. Of course, my next suggestion would be to hire a real estate agent and send that list to him or her. Be sure to detail where you work and what, in your opinion, is a reasonable commute. Make sure you communicate if you have pets (species, breed, weight), or cars that require off-street parking. And lastly, get out as soon as possible. If you see something you like, chances are it’s either already gone or will be by next week.

—Adam Kotkin and Audrey Mazzola, Red Tree Real Estate