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A Guide to Renting in Boston: An Interview with Josh Freeman of Heath Properties

By Josh Freeman

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Heath Properties was formed in the 1980's as a real estate rental office. Over the past 30+ years we have expanded and currently offer real estate management, marketing, leasing, sales and development services. We service most of the downtown neighborhoods including Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, Bay Village, Symphony, Northeastern University, Fenway, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Allston, Brighton, Dorchester and Roxbury. We have also recently expanded into Cambridge, Somerville, Revere, Chelsea and East Boston. We have been instrumental in improving leasing standards and processes in the local real estate community. Our team has experience managing diverse portfolios including luxury residences, corporate housing, student housing, project and voucher based subsidized apartments, hotels, restaurants and efficiencies.

What are some popular neighborhoods for affordable, safe apartment rentals? What is it that is appealing about these neighborhoods?

I can't really speak to the safety of one neighborhood vs. another; if that is something that potential renters are concerned about I would suggest that they reach out to the local police departments who would be able to provide them with more accurate information regarding the safety in the areas they are looking to live/rent. Renters need to remember that regardless of which neighborhood they end up in, they are still living in the city and they need to take the appropriate precautions with respect to their safety and securing their apartments.

Any of the neighborhoods in the heart of the city are going to be more expensive but you are paying for the convenience of being close to the action. You are also paying for the 5 minute walk to school vs. the 30 min daily commute on the T. If you can afford it ? it's great to be right in the action but more frequently than not people are on budgets and need an alternative. Renters will definitely get more for their dollar if they look a little further outside of the city. Jamaica Plain, Lower Allston, Somerville and even Chelsea are all great choices if commuting is an option. Still very close the city, the apartments you find in these outlying neighborhoods tend to be a little bit larger in size and the rents are often much lower than what you would find in Back Bay, Beacon Hill or the South End. I think there is also a lot to be said about living somewhere you are not familiar with and taking the time on nights and weekends to explore a new part of the city that maybe is out of your comfort zone. Boston is a walking City and it doesn't take long to become comfortable with popular areas like Copley Square, Faneuil Hall and the like; but when was the last time you went for a jog or walk around Jamaica Pond rather than Boston Common or checked out some of the new restaurants in Union Square instead of the South End? All of the neighborhoods in and near the city are very unique and have something special to offer ? I've always felt it was fun and exciting to figure out why and what makes them special and different.

What are some things I should consider when I begin my apartment search?

The number one thing renters need to think about before beginning their apartment search is why they are living in the city. What reason are they there? Are they there for work, school or just a change of scenery? If keep that reason in the background of your mind when you begin your search you will be much happier with your decision and enjoy your living experience that much more. If you are not going to have a car in the city than public transportation needs to be an important factor in helping you to decide where to live. Take the worst case scenario and see how it would affect your life. If you wake up late for work, run to the T in the pouring rain in 40 degree temperatures only to find that the T is delayed and you need to catch a bus instead ? are you able to live with that? Was the extra half bathroom in your apartment really worth the 15 minute longer commute to school each morning? How far is the grocery store? Will it be easy to carry your groceries home in 4 inches of snow? I think people get excited about the potential of living in a specific neighborhood, and rightfully so, but you need to make sure you are still able to function and relax wherever you end up.

Is working with a real estate agent really necessary? What are the dangers associated with utilizing sites such as Craigslist for apartments?

Real Estate agents are great resources for potential renters. Real Estate Offices and Agents focus on specific areas and neighborhoods in the city; so they have lots of information on really specialized parts of town. They also see the most apartments on a yearly basis and would be able to help renters find exactly what they are looking for in a relatively short period of time. Agents and offices also build meaningful relationships with management companies and landlords and will be able to fit you with someone that will take care of you during your stay in the city.

If you have the time and energy to really search on your own for an apartment you may be able to save some money with respect to not having to pay a realtor's fee but you need to be very careful and it can be very risky. Make sure the people showing you the apartment are in fact the landlord or affiliated with the landlord and acting on their behalf. Ask about the leasing policies and required deposits ahead of time and don't write any checks to a specific person unless you are positive they are the landlord. Ask to see a copy of the lease ahead of time and always ask for references, they're going to ask for yours!

How competitive is the Boston rental market? Should I be prepared to put money down on the spot?

The Boston rental market is always very competitive, no matter what time of year it is. Renters need to be prepared to put down at least one month's rent as a deposit to hold a unit until they sign a lease. So make sure you bring your check book with you. Most landlords will not deposit your initial deposit check until you have signed a lease but double check just to be certain ? different landlords have different policies.

What are some of the price ranges for Studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, etc. apartments?

Apartment prices vary depending upon the time of year, location and finishes. Studios can range in price from $1,000 - $1,800/month
1 Beds $1,700 - $3,000
2 Beds $2,400 - $4,000
3 Beds $3,600 - $4,500
4 Beds $4,500 - $6,000
I think the average is currently between $1,200 - $1,350/bedroom.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

The best way to reach us is through email. We are often in the field visiting apartments etc. and are not always behind the desk ready for phone calls. You can always email info@heathproperties.com or call the main office at 617-266-1168, our website is also a great source of information www.heathproperties.com.

I can always be reached at josh@heathproperties.com or in my office at 617-226-0706.

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