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How to Navigate Renting Your First Apartment (Part 2): An Interview with Chris Taylor of Advantage Real Estate

By Chris Taylor

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

I work for Advantage Real Estate and we are a sales and leasing office on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. We pride ourselves in making the rental/sales process as easy as possible ? there are a lot of real estate agents (and a lot that give our profession a bad name). When you work with us you can expect honesty, professionalism, and someone who has your best interest in mind. And fun? we like to have fun while we do our job.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We specialize in rentals in the Allston/Brighton/Brookline area as well as residential and investment property sales in the Greater Boston area. Since we work with so many different investors we have exclusive access to some of the best rental properties in Boston.

Can I negotiate pricing with my potential landlord?

This depends on the landlord. Some landlords want what they want and won't negotiate until their apartment is about to go vacant. Other landlords are looking to avoid future headaches and for the right tenant, anything can be negotiable. In the past two years with the boom of the rental market, negotiations have been a lot more difficult. It never hurts to put in an offer at a lower price but if it's an apartment that you love, be prepared to pay full price if that offer is rejected.

What questions should I ask the existing tenants before putting down a deposit?

One of the best questions to ask is "how much do you pay for utilities." Heating bills often catch first time renters off guard. It's just an unexpected (and potentially costly) expense. I would also ask about the landlords responsiveness when it comes to repairs and maintenance. You don't want to live some in an apartment where it takes weeks to get the toilet fixed.

How important is it to get everything in writing? Can I ask that something be changed in the lease agreement?

It's always good to get things in writing, even if it's separate from the lease. This holds people accountable. You can ask that something be changed in a lease but more often than not, landlords and management companies like all of their leases to be the same. With the exception of the addendum, most leases are identical across the board in Boston.

Can I ask that aspects of the apartment be fixed before move-in?

The short answer: Yes. But in Boston most apartments rent on a September 1st cycle. That means everyone moves out on August 31st. With the exception of cleaning, it can be difficult to get repairs done during a 24 hour (or less) turnover. Be understanding, but make sure you have something in writing saying that repairs/fixes will be done within a reasonable period after move-in.

What are some of my rights as a tenant in Massachusetts?

You have many rights as a tenant in Massachusetts and Boston has been working to put an end to landlords taking advantage of tenants or providing insufficient living conditions. I would suggest to anyone looking to rent in Massachusetts that they look through the Landlord and Tenant Law on so they are familiar with their rights. There's a lot to know and it's beneficial to be educated.

What are my options if I can't afford my rent one month?

Your best option is to simply talk to your landlord and let them know what's going on. Believe it or not, most landlords would prefer to avoid taking you to court to get their money. Be upfront with your landlord and let them know what's going on. Let them know when they can expect to be paid and don't wait until the rent is already weeks late to tell them what's happening. If you are a good tenant and treat your landlord with respect, chances are you can expect the same back from them.

What are some safety standards every apartment should have?

Every apartment should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should also be a second egress (exit) other than the primary entrance to the apartment in case of fire.

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

The best way to reach me is via email: I always have my phone on me so I'll get back to you as soon as possible. You can look through Craigslist or Trulia/Zillow but in such a fast paced market as Boston, you're better off emailing me what you're looking for and I can let you know what options are currently available. I'm also more than happy to walk people through the rental process or field questions about the real estate market so feel free to reach out!
I'm also on Twitter: @ChrisTaylor_RE.

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