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Looking at the rental market, in charts

Posted by Rona Fischman September 21, 2012 01:55 PM

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Anthony Adamski, founder of PadMatcher wanted to share their look back at rental season. (John Moore brought you the August entry on finding a roommate.)

PadMatcher posted some graphs that show what is going on in rentals in the Boston area. Reminder: this is Boston-specific.

The bears, who live in the woods of cyberspace and come to feed on this site, like to make fun of “soaring rents.” Today is your day.

I find the first chart most interesting. The data comes from Zillow/Rentjuice. According to the first chart, there was a trend change last winter. Rents went up steadily through the winter of 2011-2012, which is not the typical cycle. Limited supply in Q1 and Q4 generally makes this the slowest time of year for rentals. After September first, demand generally drops as well. There are a number of factors that can explain that the difference last winter. One of them being an increase in demand. Another, an increase in higher-priced available units (and fewer lower-cost units available.) Neither bode well for the stability of the housing market.

The second and third charts are relatively stable factors in the Boston market.
The rental market is not atypical of urban markets in that it has a larger number of small, one-person-sized spaces for rent. (Studio apartments and one-bedroom places are less popular out of a city.) Boston is a college town, so the students who are packing into larger apartments compete for family-sized rentals with families who need more than two-bedrooms. Are you renting with children in Boston (or Brookline or Cambridge or Somerville) and found it hard to locate a three-bedroom or larger place? This is a problem that is not going away anytime soon in and immediately around Boston.

Walkability in the city of Boston is what it is. There is no expectation that it will get better. However, what PadMatcher calls “the bad” is not so bad. Boston is a very walkable city, mostly because it is a small and compact one. The problem with getting around Boston is the Green Line. There are many commutes that would be faster on foot than they are negotiating multiple branches of the Green line to go north or south through town. Have you had a three-quarter mile trip that took in excess of thirty minutes on MBTA? There are lots of them. Reminder for rental hunters: check out your commute and hunt in neighborhoods that have access to the subway or bus line you need every day.

The third chart shows that Boston is a city of renters. This data is from the US Census 2010; it is actual stats on the population of renters vs. buyers. No surprise there. With the annual influx of students and academics arriving on that schedule, September is the big lease signing month. The figure I keep seeing is 184,000 new leases. Does anyone have another figure? In addition, there are a lot of people here renting that are not tied to the colleges. They make up the rest of the sixty three percent who rent in the City of Boston.

Does anything here surprise you?

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

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

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