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Should I Renew my Boston Apartment Lease or Buy Boston Real Estate?

12 minute read
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"Should I Renew my Boston Apartment Lease or Buy Boston Real Estate?" This statement is arguably one of the most common questions that renters ask themselves every single year. Our clients bring up the topic of buying or renting daily. When you're showing properties for either rent or sale you will often get clients that are open to going in either direction depending on current market conditions and what is available. Chances are, you will find yourself agonizing over this situation at least once, but possibly multiple times throughout your life. Deciding to renew your lease is as important as deciding whether you should rent or buy. In real estate, market timing is important, but so is knowing what is a great deal, both on the buying and rental side of the equation.

The last thing you need is to rack up unnecessary expenses after moving into a new property.

However, if you stay put in your current Boston apartment, you have to deal with the potential of rising rent and perhaps a sub-par landlord. What happens if you buy at the top, and the market corrects in a long and tired asset bull run? What about this crazy inflation and bad energy policy we have been seeing that has been eroding our savings accounts? Could buying a property now with high interest rates and soaring insurance premiums be the straw that breaks the capital appreciation’s back? Yes, Boston has a limited supply of real estate, but you keep reading that people are leaving the state of Massachusetts because our taxes are too high and strange bizarre anti-business policies make our work force flee to other states. Yeah, there always is a lot to think about when you considering buying or renting in Boston.

When is the best time to look?

What is a time frame a renter should give themselves on thinking about buying? A lot of your decisions could be based on the length of your lease and the ability to quickly fill it with a sub-letter. Most apartment rental leases in the Greater Boston Area are usually fixed term and written to expire in one year. Landlords in the Metro-Boston are governed by the greater market forces of a huge university and educational system that puts leases beginning and expiring on a Sept 1st cycle. In fact, over the years we have extensively studied rented apartments and availability dates. We have noticed a range of as low as 68% to as high as 80% of all leases beginning and ending on 9/1. Those dates don’t leave much room for finding other timeframes to effectively move. Therefore, long range planning is a must in your quest to figure out whether you should buy or renew your lease.

Boston real estate

Planning is Essential

If you ever have heard the phrase “If you fail to plan, plan to fail” well, that certainly applies to Greater Boston Real Estate. You can’t approach real estate and leasing in a casual manner or your wallet will end up the casualty. The market forces of real estate need to be studied and master. If you are thinking of buying, it is important that you give yourself enough time to be successful and learn the marketplace in the neighborhood you desire. You want to think about putting in at least 2-3 months of groundwork to know the market before a purchase. You also have to consider the amount of time it takes to close on a purchase of a property. You also should look at contingency planning if there is a late closing or your deal falls through. Are there enough apartments left in your area to snatch a good one at the last moment? Or will you be couch surfing or living in an expensive short term rental?

If you are thinking of renewing your lease you have to think about your exit strategy and if you can sublet your place or not. Do you need to provide your current Boston Landlord with some form of financial incentive to break your lease? If so, what is a fair and reasonable consideration for breaking the lease? Perhaps offering one months rent is more than worth it for the property you just put under agreement that you believe is $50,000 underpriced? However, you certainly do not want to be in the position of paying rent and a mortgage at the same time if you move into your purchase but can’t sublet or find renters. You now have to start playing chess, not checkers, with your housing decisions.

What if you started marketing your property immediately and found a better qualified candidate to rent your place that even has a better credit score and job than you? Would that make the landlord happy to let you out of the lease and take on the new tenant? Do you know if the landlord wants the same rent for the following year or more? You have to start making your communication and math muscles get a good work out.

Tenants moving

How Long Have You Lived There?

If you are lucky enough to have lived in the same apartment for several years, you can always ask the landlord for a month to month lease. Sometimes landlords will be generous and provide that to you, if you have been a great tenant, and the landlord is considering upgrades to the place.

If a tenant has lived in a place for over seven years, some landlords don’t mind it being vacant for a couple of months as they renovate or reposition the asset for higher and better use. Chances are your landlord probably was charging you less than market the longer you stayed because it was a steady and good relationship. Many landlords will work with you to come up with ideas on a good mutually beneficial outcome for your exit strategy. Under a tenancy-at-will agreement, you can move out after giving 30-day notice to your landlord. This agreement also allows your landlord to give you a 30-day notice to ask you to leave or to increase your rent.

If you are strongly considering purchasing a property, try to work out a lease agreement with your landlord so that both of you can potentially win. You will probably want to show the landlord you are serious about it by getting a pre-approval letter. You might also find that your landlord knows of people that have either on-market or off-market deals and may even give you a couple phone numbers to call for inventory you might not have been able to find on your own. Many landlords do not mind ending a lease in April or May if they are going to do a quick renovation to put it back on the rental market for June which is the second largest month of lease availability and renting dates.

When in doubt, always seek the advice of a seasoned real estate agent to go over market timing and forces at play in the neighborhoods you are targeting to find your purchase. Knowing key factors will help you make a right decision that will save you time, money, and stress. The bottom line is once you take the position that you are seriously going to start looking for a property to buy; a world of new opportunities can open up for you that might not have seemed possible otherwise.

Boston neighborhood

Familiarity with your Rental and the Surrounding Area

You are a seasoned Greater Boston renter. You already know the kind of neighborhood in which your apartment is located and the services it has to offer. Since you live there, you already know the condition of your apartment and the layout of the floor plan. You have already optimized and furnished the place so that is a sunken cost that you don’t have to deal with again for a while. And you already are familiar with your landlord’s personality and their management style. You also know that if your roommate moves out that you could quickly fill the place because you are aware of the real time rents in the area. Renewing your lease means you don’t have to deal with many surprises. In fact, the last thing you want is any type of surprise unless it’s on your birthday. Familiarity and ease of use can help you focus on other things that might be more important. Think long and hard about your upcoming life plans for the next year.

There is a flip side to renewing the lease year after year without thinking. Your preferences and lifestyle often start to change and you can outgrow your neighborhood or don’t find it as exciting, convenient or rewarding as it once delivered. You have to step back and look at the whole picture. It may cost you a little bit more to move more frequently but what if it is providing you with other material benefits you didn’t calculate. Living in East Boston, for instance, has abundant parks for outdoor activities. However, you may now prefer to live in the Back Bay area that could have more shops or places to your liking so that you can hang out with your friends. Perhaps you have new commuting to work parameters that supersedes both those preferences?

You should keep track of how much time you are commuting and going to places of your interest. Boston’s failed bike lanes are making the roads more congested and commute times are increasing, so being efficient in Boston is a must for true happiness. You like many other people are starting to find they are being more isolated to their local neighborhood so it is more important now than ever to pick the right one that optimizes your life and reduces commuting stress.

The Expenses of Moving into a New Property That You Purchase

The cost shifts of not renewing your lease and switching to a purchase situation come in mainly these forms: mortgage, taxes, deferred maintenance remedy, moving out and setting up residency in your new property. The expenses you have to pay when moving out include but are not limited to:

  • Hiring a moving company
  • Buying packaging supplies
  • Renting a moving truck
  • Clean up and unexpected items breaking
  • Furniture not fitting properly
  • Storing items in a storage facility

The average cost of a move within the Boston area as of May 2024 ranges from $450 (studio apartments) to $2,700 (4 bedroom apartments). The average cost of storing your items for one month during the same year is about $180.

To set up your residency at your new place, the expenses you may have to pay include the following:

  • Maintenance updates
  • New furniture
  • New amenities and decorations
  • Landscaping costs (or equipment if you do it yourself)
  • Potential snow removal costs
  • Possible extermination and pest control costs

When renewing the lease, you won’t have to deal with the expenses and the hassles of moving. Plus, it gives you plenty of time to plan your move after the next lease expires. There are times when it makes sense to move. For example, you serve in the military and you have to be transferred to a faraway base. Or you work far away and you need to decrease your commute time to work.

boston parking option

Parking Access

Parking in Boston is challenging. The city designates many residential streets as “Resident Parking Only”. In order to park there, you have to apply for the resident parking permit at City Hall. The permit is free of charge, but you have to provide proof of your residency in Boston. When you decide if you want to stay longer at your apartment, you need to consider whether you can park at your residence without any problems. If your current apartment has a parking garage, off-street parking, or both, renewing the lease allows you to continue taking advantage of the parking convenience.

If you have to move out, make sure the new apartment will provide easy and convenient parking. The last thing you need is to move to a residence where it is difficult to park there. Never be afraid to check out the neighborhood both during the day and at night to assess parking demand. You can also hire a professional parking agent from websites such as to help scour the neighborhood to help find you great local parking spots.

landlord handshake

Your Relationship with your Landlord

You want a landlord who responds to your maintenance requests immediately, provides excellent customer service all the time, and is available whenever you need them. Not to mention, they must always act professional and make you feel comfortable and wanted. If none of these criteria apply to them, it would be best not to renew the lease. When you move into a new community, hopefully you will get along better with a new landlord. When moving out, you may have to establish a different relationship with a new landlord, so there’s a possibility that you may or may not get along with them. Having a good tenant-landlord relationship is crucial, so keep this in mind when you plan to move out.

boston roommates

Getting Along with Your Roommates

If you have roommates, getting along with them is crucial to living in an apartment peacefully. You will be living and sharing the space with them all the time. When your roommate commits misdeeds, it is best if you move out when the lease expires. You do not want to live with someone who invades your privacy, damage your property, or refuse to work and pay the bills.

Even if your roommate does not do anything wrong, something about having one just bothers you. Maybe you need more privacy. Maybe you and your roommate have personality or lifestyle differences that lead to conflict. Either way, it is a legitimate reason to leave. However, you should notify them in advance if you even start thinking about moving out. It will give them plenty of time to search for a new roommate. Otherwise, you could be responsible for paying your portion of the rent until they find someone to replace you.

Boston neighborhood fenway

Sacrifice Certain Amenities

Your apartment offers free heat and hot water, you pay a reasonable rent, and it is located near Revere Beach. You receive notice stating the lease is about to expire. You’re thinking about moving to the Fenway/Kenmore area where there are nightclubs, Fenway Park, and the Museum of Fine Arts. However, you have to pay for hot water and heat. All apartments and rentals offer different amenities to their tenants. Because of that, some amenities that you enjoy at your current residence may not be available at a new apartment. Not renewing the lease can prompt you to sacrifice some amenities that you want.

Compare the list of amenities at your current rental to the ones at the prospective rental and see which ones are available and which ones are not. If the new apartment does not have certain amenities that your current place has, ask yourself if they are important to you. Moving out won’t be an issue if you give up on the amenities that are not important to you. At the end of the day, you are probably looking at a cost increase of anywhere from $200-$400 dollars per month depending on a number of lifestyle habits combined with the insulation or condition and size of the apartment.

couple in boston apartment

The Bottom Line

You can see by the length of this article on buying vs. renewing your lease that there is a lot to consider. Life can have some very serious items to deliberate over. Living well in the Greater Boston Area requires a good game plan. There is nothing with starting your planning early and those that plan more tend to do a lot better financially than those who do not. You might want to work with an experienced professional that knows the succinct differences between renting and buying in your chosen area. To look for a new apartment or purchase a property with some amazing results, check out where you will find listings of both great apartments as well as condos and homes. You can work with trusted local and fully licensed real estate agents that will exceed your expectations and provide you with great hard to find deals that other companies simply can’t deliver.

Or if you prefer; please fill out a request form and we can have specialist contact you shortly. We look forward to working with you!

Andrew Pitsios

Andrew Pitsios

Published June 17, 2024

From the start of his career in real estate, Andrew has excelled at building client relationships and creating standards that set the bar high for fellow colleagues to follow. Focused on building and maintaining relationships in his career, he puts emphasis on the “little details” ensuring clients and landlords are happy to do business with him. Andrew continues to work meticulously with every client in order to make sure they move into an apartment of their dreams. He truly wants to make sure he helps as many people as he can. In his free time, he enjoys going up to the lake, spending time with friends/family, or walking his dog, Milton, along the Charles.