[Hpn] Apartment hunting? Renters are cutting deals;MetroWest Daily News;MA;10/30/01
Morgan W. Brown
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 11:56:52 -0500
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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