[Hpn] Apartment hunting? Renters are cutting deals;MetroWest Daily News;MA;10/30/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 11:56:52 -0500


-------Forwarded article-------

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
[Framingham, Massachusetts]
Local & Regional News section
Apartment hunting? Renters are cutting deals

By Heather Anderson
Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The advertisement reads: Hudson studio, all new, large, $825 heated. Last 
October, a relocating Intel engineer would likely have cut a check for first 
and last month's rent, plus a Realtor finder's fee, minutes after it hit the 
market.

But not now.

The apartment hasn't had a taker for nearly two weeks. Rental agents say 
it's a sign MetroWest's once red-hot rental market has begun to cool.

"The last time I saw owners having vacancy issues like this was at least 
four years ago," said Bob Ochs, who runs the rental division for Hunneman 
Real Estate in Framingham.

What's going on?

Demand is down, and inventory is up. For instance, 130 apartments were 
listed in Sunday's MetroWest Daily News classified section last weekend, 
compared to 45 units at this time last year.

If the property is listed by a rental agency, tenants typically pay a 
finder's fee equal to one month's rent. In Framingham, the average 
one-bedroom apartment rents for $900 a month, while a two-bedroom costs 
about $1,200.

"When you see the apartment complexes start to pay a portion of the 
(finder's) fees, that means they have vacancy issues," said Ochs, who has 
worked in real estate for eight years.

Would-be tenants "are being more selective and want to spend less," he 
added. "It's something I haven't seen in four years."

In other words, landlords are no longer in the driver's seat - at least not 
comfortably so.

The recent increase in inventory, say rental agents, has landlords making 
deals. Some are agreeing to $100-a-month rent reductions, while others are 
paying finder's fees in full.

Still others are compromising on the length of a lease, or agreeing to allow 
dogs.

"The last thing (landlords) want to do is have a vacancy in winter time, 
which is traditionally slow anyway," Ochs said.

According to Ochs, the turnaround began about four months ago when the 
economy softened, the stock market hit the skids, and big companies like EMC 
replaced out-of-state hirings with massive layoffs.

"It all starts with commercial vacancies," he explained. "Not as many 
companies are bringing people in."

But Shelly George, property manager of Chestnut Apartments - a 200-unit 
complex in Ashland she calls "United Nations" because of the tenants' many 
nationalities - contends the change was more recent.

She blames it on war.

"People are going back to their countries because they are afraid to live in 
the U.S.," said George, who has seen an increase in tenants giving notice 
since Sept. 11.

"They're nervous about visas being checked," she added.

In Natick, Erin Dionne waited nearly seven months for a one-bedroom 
apartment to become available in 1999 at Kendall Crossing Apartment Complex. 
Nowadays, a seventh-month wait at most apartment complexes is history.

An adjunct professor at Emerson and Massachusetts Bay Community College, 
Dionne moved to Kendall Crossing, in part, because rent was cheap ($700 in 
1999) compared to what she was paying in Brighton.

But a recent, $100-a-month rent increase - for the second year in a row - 
has her wondering how, or if, she can swing it.

"I've noticed people are moving out for that reason," Dionne said. "They're 
finding (cheaper) places further west toward Worcester."

Despite the climate, property manager Patricia Franchi doesn't seem 
concerned.

At the moment, all 354 units are full and a vacancy isn't expected until 
February, she said.

What's more, rent is not negotiable.

The $100-a-month increase merely brings Kendall Crossing Apartment Complex 
in line with area rents, Franchi explained.

When the economy soared, "we didn't raise our rents accordingly," she said. 
"This is the first time we went up significantly."

She is forewarned that Framingham's Joe Ferrazzi is calling it a renter's 
market. Where apartment complexes once had waiting lists, he said, managers 
are now calling him to find tenants.

Owner of The Rental Group, Ferrazzi said negotiations between landlords and 
would-be tenants are resulting in 10 percent rent reductions.

The reason is MetroWest "is not seeing as many professionals relocating 
here," he said.

The lack of execs relocating to MetroWest has left Phil Sewell with an 
inventory of houses for rent - from $2,200 to $2,400 a month - that isn't 
budging.

"We have five (homes for rent) where normally we'd have one," said Sewell, a 
rental agent at Best Apartment in Framingham.

The owner of two of the properties has already lowered the rent by $200 - 
from $2,400 to $2,200, said Sewell. "There aren't even inquiries."

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA



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