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Measuring the rental madness

Posted by Rona Fischman June 22, 2012 01:55 PM

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I asked Matthew Boyes-Watson and Raleigh Werner -- the co-founders of RentPrefs, a tenancy creation service for renters, agents, and landlords in Boston -- to provide some numbers regarding the local migration patterns of renters around Boston.

Measuring exactly how busy the September first rental influx is proves to be an eye-opening exercise.

The City of Boston houses about 370,000 renters in 170,000 renter-occupied units. With average rents floating around $2,200 per month, Metro Boston alone produces roughly $4.5 billion in annual rent collections. Add in two of the most populous living areas surrounding Metro Boston (Cambridge and Allston-Brighton), and you’re looking at over 450,000 renters spending about $6 billion annually on rental housing.

In addition to the sheer volume of the market, the Boston area has a rapid turnover period when over half of all rentals change – that’s about 120,000 apartment units. Testimonials from renters and agents indicate that this transition occurs for the most part between June and September.

Demand Now, here’s why September 1st is such a chaotic affair. In 2011, 79 percent of listed rentals were marked as available September 1-14. In a nutshell, all these numbers mean that when the pens hit the leases for September first apartments, landlords and property owners in Boston are securing contracts for about $2.5 billion in annual rent collections across approximately 95,000 apartments. Of course, a major contributor to this rush is the swell of college students who seek off-campus housing. Only about 25 percent of students enrolled in Boston’s institutions of higher education live on-campus.

So, to get a rough estimate of non-student demand, this is the quick math: Since about 184,000 people move in on September 1 (450,000 renters x 52% turnover rate x 79% of apartments), and 110,000 of those are students w/ off-campus housing, we could say it's about 75,000 non-student renters (or 17 percent of renter market). I would surmise that more non-student renters are drawn to the higher volume of listings available. Do you agree with that supposition?

How to beat the madness
Apartment listings generally go on the market about 60 days before the move-in date, so if you’re looking to sign a September 1 lease, competition will be swift and fierce starting on or before July first. The best course of action is to start looking now, before the real frenzy starts. Look for our next post where we discuss the best ways to locate apartments in Boston.

Readers, from your experience, have you had leases that terminated in the summer? Did your lease termination affect the timing of your rental move or purchase? Does the academic/student-driven rental market have a ripple effect in Metro Boston? Were you attracted to the increased supply of apartments in the summer months? Does it have a ripple effect in the suburbs; those of you who rent in the suburbs, did your lease begin in late summer?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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