moving house in the US is an adventure. We will move house by the end of the month and the apartment hunt was definitely quite different from what I’ve experienced so far in Europe. Let’s dig a little deeper.
#1 More people are involved in the apartment hunt
While you usually have an interested renter and a landlord in the mix in Switzerland, you’ll most likely have a a broker, a landlord, an owner and an interested renter talking to each other when apartment hunting around here. Many people use a real estate agent to find a place, which usually comes with a 1-month fee, which you will pay in addition to first, last, and security.
#2 Most apartment leases begin on September 1st
With such a large student population, it makes sense for the Boston rental market to operate on a September 1st schedule. Still, moving day is organized chaos it seems (I’ll see it in a week and will report back). The streets become parking lots for trucks and vans, the sidewalks become homes for unwanted furniture. In one part of the city called Allston there’s so much chaos going on that people lovingly call it Allston Christmas. It basically means that everything that renters don’t take with them ends up on the streets. Yum. It looks a little bit like that. Still, people from other parts of town know about Allston Christmas and will show up to get the things for free.
#3 You might have to sleep with your furniture for one night
What sounds like a weird exaggeration might actually be true for some people. As EVERYONE’s old lease ends on August 31st and EVERYONE’s new lease starts September 1 you basically have a problem. If possible, contact the current tenant of your new apartment to schedule moving times. Sometimes you’re lucky and you’ll be able to move in earlier. If not you’ll have to find a storage or pod for storing your furniture for a night. YES. Weird, right?
#4 You don’t have time to “think about it”
If you’re buying something like a couch, you get to shop around, take a while to think about which one you like, go see a few more and then make the best choice for you. If you’re looking for apartments, you do NOT get that luxury. You should assume 4 or 5 other people are trying to rent any apartment you see. You have to pretty much decide on the spot if you want a place or not. That was definitely a new experience for me. Apparently, most apartments in Cambridge are usually only on the market for less than a week.
We were basically standing in the kitchen of an apartment we liked and after 10 minutes of looking around were already talking to the broker about the deposit and application process. We went home (it was 5pm in the afternoon) and filled out all the forms that night and also had to wire them the deposit. It went pretty fast to say the least. NO comparison to the slow process in Switzerland.
#5 Don’t touch anything you find on the street in Allston
Going back to #2, Allston Christmas might sound like fun, but it’s not. In fact, Allston Christmas is the least sanitary time of the year.