1. Understand what you can afford.  Some people are better at managing their finances and stretching budgets in specific areas based on their needs.  So even if you have a very specific budget in mind and sense of what you can afford, this can hinder your search if it comes to odds with what landlords see as appropriate for your given income.  Here's a hint:  take your annual gross salary and divide it by 36; this will give you the landlord/agent perspective on what you are "qualified" for.  The basic premise is that it is not financially stable to spend more than 1/3 of your monthly salary on rent.  So, if you make $60,000/year, you are qualified to rent a $1665 apartment by yourself.  If you're eyes are bigger than your wallet, get ready to have a co-signor on board.

2. Prepare your documents ahead of time. If you've ever rented in the Greater Boston area before, then you know that you have to be quick on the draw! Some rental listings don't last through the day once showings start, so you have to be prepared to make a quick decision if you see a unit you like. Part of beating others to the punch will be having all of your documents prepared to submit within an hour of seeing the unit.  Your agent can advise you on specifics, but what is generally needed for a completed application package is:  two most recent pay-stubs, your credit report, the application itself, a copy of your photo ID, and a deposit check equivalent to one month's rent.  

  • Bonus hint #1:  if you are within two weeks of your proposed move-in date, make sure the check is certified funds of some sort (a money order, bank check, or cashier's check).
  • Bonus hint #2: have your agent share the application with you online to fill out as much as possible beforehand (when you choose a property, all you have then is to fill in the details and sign).
  • Bonus hint #3: this includes guarantor forms! Make sure your co-signor (if needed) is available to fill out any necessary paperwork and can also consent to a credit check and provide a copy of their photo ID. This is usually the part of the process that gets slowed down the most and causes people to miss out on apartments they like.

3. Have money set aside. Moving is expensive.  It's a bummer, but it's better to brace yourself early and prepare if possible.  Sure, it is possible to find a steal on a very rare occasion.  Sometimes you can find a place with no fee, or a landlord that doesn't need last month's rent...but you don't want to find your dream apartment and realize you don't have the move-in funds for it.  Be prepared to have First Month's Rent, Last Month's Rent, Security Deposit, and a Broker's Fee for your new place.  One of those checks will be due with the application, and the remaining funds will most likely need to be provided at lease-signing (which can be as quick as two days later).  That $1665 apartment you rented? You're going to want to have $6,660 squirreled away to be safe.  If one of those checks isn't need, then consider yourself lucky!