With the Boston real estate market hovering at near all-time lows for both rental and sales opportunities, renting out your property can make a lot of financial sense. Whether work is taking you elsewhere, you’ve acquired property for this exact purpose, or you’ve finally moved into the luxury apartment of your dreams, there are plenty of benefits to renting out your apartment as opposed to selling. In fact, with the interest rates being quite high right now, more property owners are considering renting as a longer-term solution to getting a higher profit later in the future when interest rates come down.
Whatever your situation, you’ll want to be sure you’ve done your homework on the process of how to rent an apartment in Boston. The difference between a frustrating cascade of legal tripwires and a smooth, cash-generating investment often boils down to putting the right strategy in place.
So without further ado, let’s do a deep dive on the best way to rent apartments in the Greater Boston Area.
Decide if You’re Hiring a Pro, or Going DIY
It can be tempting to save money by doing everything yourself: and in some cases that could be a good strategy. But more times than not the amount of research needed to figure out everything and optimize your process out could amount to hundreds of lost hours. Compressing time by getting valuable help from an apartment leasing expert that is highly skilled in your neighborhood can make all the difference in the world.
Look for companies that specialize in apartment leasing. Always ask what sets them apart from other companies. You might want to check their track record and their google reviews. You should ask for references that they can provide to you from other landlords and property owners. You will want to talk with the broker and see how much experience they have with your particular type of property.
It is important to keep asking as many questions as possible about the brokerage you might choose. Ask them how much they spend on marketing. Do google searches and see how often the apartment leasing company you are using comes up in the search engine. Ask them how diversified their marketing is and if the cover the widest range of locations on the internet. Ask them how large their social media presence is, and if they have dominant Facebook groups. Ask them about their overall web traffic. Ask them how many people they have devoted specifically to apartment leasing. You will also want to know how cutting edge their technology is and if they have built specific syndication technologies that get your listings out to the most local locations on the internet.
Not All Brokerages Are the Same
There is a huge difference between residential sales driven organizations and professional apartment leasing companies. While some may tell you they do both – ask them to show you how many apartments they rented this week. Ask to see the deals and the corresponding paperwork. Most real estate companies in the Greater Boston Area focus on sales and have literally zero idea how to properly rent apartments. Always ask how many properties they have rented in your specific neighborhood in the past week. Ask what they specialize in and how they would approach getting your unit rented.
Can they provide you with the average days an apartment will stay on the market in your specific neighborhood? Can they provide you with the Real Time Availability Rate (RTAR) and the Real Time Vacancy Rate (RTVR)? How do they provide you with the most effective pricing of your unit? Do they give you weekly feedback? Can they tell you how many people visited your unit this week for showings?
Ask how up to date their addendums and paperwork that they provide to tenants. Ask how much training they put into each apartment leasing agent. Many national big box brand real estate companies provide almost zero training on professional apartment leasing training. Nearly all national real estate brands are devoid of hyper local marketing technologies to put your property in the best light possible at all times.
Details Always Matter
I can’t tell you how many landlords get burned by real estate companies that do not know how to properly market and price apartments. It is very sad to see some property management companies let an apartment go vacant because they tried to rental co-broke the apartment. There isn’t a real estate agent in Boston that likes to rental co-broke because the commissions are too small and best ones never co-broke because they are always showing the best units where they don’t lose half their commission to another office. A new landlord in the Greater Boston area has to learn the dangers of rental co-brokes and how it can reduce your rent, get you less quality tenants and possibly leave you vacant.
You also need to be mindful of sales oriented companies not using properly structured addendums. Many addendums out there are simply outdated or contain erroneous language that can get a landlord into hot water very fast. I can also tell you first hand that I have a ton of landlords come into our offices seeking advice and relief from making mistakes on paperwork because they tried to do it themselves or with a company that focuses on sales. Often times landlords or a sales oriented company don’t know what they don’t know, and put clauses into the lease that make them invalid or worse. Be leery of national portals as well because often times their paperwork is general and not specific to each state.
How Much Is Your Time Worth?
You might think you are saving money by not having to pay a fee to get your place rented; but I bet if you add up all the time you went through to save that money it probably worked out to less than 6 dollars an hour and your time is worth more than that. I have personally met countless landlords that go to show their properties over and over and realize it is a giant time loss for them. Many landlords realize that if they worked a couple more hours at their current job and focused there they would make more money than the small money they are trying to save by showing the property on their own.
Landlords quickly realize that the: commute in, gas, traffic, possible tickets, getting ghosted by clients, people showing up late is often a giant pile of stress in addition to time lost. Time is money. More importantly, many great apartment leasing companies will most often get the tenant to pay the fee to help rent your property. That way you won’t have to worry about: completing the leases, lead law, addendums, credit checks, co-signers and a few other important things.
The learning curve to renting your apartment can be very steep.
If you’re going to be out of the state — or country — for the duration, or you’re managing more than a handful of properties, working with a property manager practically becomes a necessity. You will want to work with a property manager that understands how to get your apartment rented first. If you are hiring a property management company it is IMPERATIVE that you ask them if they give out the listings directly to other offices.
You will want to provide them with a list of top rental offices so they don’t try to rent it only internally. Most property management companies are good at management – not showing and marketing. Have them send you proof of what offices they provided your listings to and to send you some examples of your unit being marketed. If they don’t know how to rent it properly or get your less rent than you deserve that can be one of the most costly mistakes period. Companies with a strong leasing platform can often get you more money than other companies and so the net effective result is that you end up with your property management possibly for free!
If you are truly dead set at renting your property on your own, you may need to consider and analyze a ton of different steps to success. At various stages in the process of renting out your apartment, you might consider professionals for things like photography, rent collection, legal advice, maintenance, or any other matters that come up. Your money is obviously valuable, but so are your time and stress levels. Figure out what trade-offs you want to make, and go with what makes sense for you.
Outline the Specifics of Renting Out Your Boston Apartment
Now we need to figure out the terms of your lease. If you lived in your property but are moving away for a job; do you have an idea of when you are coming back if at all? Is the property available in on an on-going basis through a self-extending lease, or for a limited amount of time? What type of apartment lease works best for you? Do you want to rent month-to-month, or a fixed-term lease? Do you want your property on the massive Boston migration of September 1st through August 31st onslaught? Did you know that in some neighborhoods you can actually get more rent if you are slightly off this heavily weighted lease schedule? Could it be possible to get more money if you position your leases correctly to get them into the right time frame? Would you make more money if you furnished the apartment?
Only true apartment leasing experts that have incredible data sets and experience can direct you to what works and what doesn’t. What type of data can they provide to you to help either guide or ease your decision to enjoy their services? What dates are they suggesting for the apartment lease renewal notification dates? I have lost count of the amount of landlords in Boston I have helped get their property back on the correct leasing cycle. The difference can be dramatic and often 20-50% higher depending on a number of factors.
Neighborhoods and prime time leasing dates and renewals often change over the years.
What worked five years ago in a certain neighborhood no longer applies as effectively. Even being a couple weeks off of peak leasing cycles can cost you anywhere from $100-$500 per month depending on location, price and number of bedrooms. Conversely, companies that have the most inventory and data about a neighborhood can give you the heads up on when to ask your tenants if they are going to renew or not.
If you move out, will you be leaving furniture behind, and will it help raise the rental price in a significant manner? Does it make more sense to sell your furniture or ship it to your new location? These decisions should all be monetarily based and having a great leasing agent can help you do the Rate of Return. Will you be deciding to fully furnishing the apartment with high end or moderate fittings, or providing a blank slate? How many tenants can the space accommodate, and just as important — as you will want to be very clear on this point — what is your policy on pets? If you live in a condominium; what the pet policies, are breed restrictions in place?
With those matters settled, you might want to consider last second touches or touch ups that could get you the most rent. Do you know the latest trends or styles that capture the most rent?
Just because you own the property doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a no-cost investment.
Between maintaining the property, paying taxes, utilities, and — if applicable — legal fees, make sure that you leave yourself enough room to turn a profit in your monthly rent! Never be afraid to talk with a property manager or leasing expert on a myriad of subjects.
I have spoken with thousands of landlords over the years and provided strategic advice on properly repositioning their asset for maximum rental income as well as future sale. Many other real estate companies were constantly telling the landlord to sell the property as is, but I often found significant additional value for the landlord that could be unlocked with some equity put back into the property. I have helped hundreds of landlords get a much higher leasing price which in turn raised the value of the selling price later on down the road. You really want to spend time talking with apartment leasing experts that also understand renovation costs and how much your rent can go up and how that correlates to upside value.
Get Your Apartment Ready
Just like when moving out, the apartment needs to be cleaned and reset for its new tenants. Get a punch list ready in advance. See if you can remedy a lot of the issues before the new tenants move into the property. If you’re furnishing the apartment, make sure that everything is in solid shape. And if not, then you’ll need to do the full move-out routine, as well as your landlord duties. Seeking apartment leasing companies that have performed tens of thousands of move ins over the years can help you significantly know what is important and what can wait.
Cleaning. Painting. Making sure that plumbing, appliances, and temperature regulation are all in good working order, as well as your smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, etc. Now is the time to handle any necessary maintenance, while there’s nobody else in the equation. Trust us: you’ll save both you and the renter a lot of hassle. Understanding how long each process will take can also help with a quicker and more effective turn over. Time is money – money is time. A great property manager with experience in leasing and communicating with future tenants can make all the difference in the world in setting expectations.
Is Your Apartment Ready for its Close-Up?
Images are your property’s introduction to the world: make sure to put your best foot forward. This is another case where you might want to hire a professional. Be honest with yourself: how good are your photos, really? It’s not just about having the right tools: it’s about composition, lighting, and showing the prospective tenant not just the bones of the apartment, but imparting how it would feel to live there. You want to get as many honest opinions as you can from a wide audience to really dial in on what is needed. Don’t be afraid to take a ton of pictures and videos of your own property. If you live there getting light at certain times of the morning or late afternoon can make the place stand out. Keep being persistent on your picture and video taking.
Look through listings on Bostonpads.com or another online portal, and make notes on the images you see. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don’t muddy the waters with substandard photos.
Finding a Tenant
Here’s where things, hopefully, get a little easier. You’re already on Greater Boston’s most comprehensive real estate portal: getting your property listed is incredibly simple, and gets you access to excellent real-time data, skilled professionals, and the largest syndication for your property. Just reach out to our Boston leasing experts to get started. If you want to go it on your own; think about the interview process. Where are you going to meet them? Are you going to interview them in your own apartment? What if you don’t like them or their credit turns out to be bad? Does it make sense to meet them at a common coffee shop? Are you good at telling people no?
You just need to think about these things; you might not want to jump on the first group that shows interest in your property if they can’t get their act together on paperwork in a solid and efficient manner. If you are going to lease the property on your own, have each prospective tenant fill out an application. Y will also want to decide if you should run all the standard background checks — confirming employment, credit history, criminal records, etc. — without asking for unrelated information such as age, gender, etc. This is a great resource: (screening tenants is on page 9). When it’s time to interview prospective tenants, meet in a public place such as a cafe before inviting them directly to your property: this will help both parties feel more at ease.
Make it Legal
Did you know that if your house is haunted by ghosts, you don’t have to inform your renters, though you do have to be truthful if they ask you? It’s true! Massachusetts state law has its share of — let’s say interesting — corner cases, so familiarizing yourself with it is a good idea. You don’t need to be, or hire, a lawyer for most of this: but you do want to take the time to learn what your obligations are.
Thankfully, this is actually pretty straightforward. Check out the Attorney General’s Guide to Landlord and Tenant Rights, and this list of resources from mass.gov to make sure everything’s legit. Once you know what’s in place, it’s time to put your lease agreement together. These outline the obligations for both you and the tenant, so make sure you cover like the duration, when the rent is due (and what happens if it’s late), what utilities are covered and which are their responsibility, eviction, trash collection, etc. This is a legal contract: once you both sign, it’s official. So make sure that you’ve got everything covered.
Renting Out Your Boston Apartment
Becoming a landlord can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. But handled intelligently, renting out your Boston apartment is a fantastic way to start earning passive income. If at any point you’re not sure how to proceed, feel free to reach out: Boston Pads is built from the ground up to leverage the best, most current data, as well as the expertise of seasoned real estate agents, to make this process as smooth as possible for all involved.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to it, Landlord!
Published October 2, 2023
Demetrios has pulled together the largest apartment leasing team in the Greater Boston Area and is responsible for procuring more apartment rentals than anyone in New England – with over 130k people finding their housing through his services. Demetrios is an avid real estate developer, peak performance trainer, educator, guest lecturer and motivational speaker.