Could Beantown Boom Bring More Renters To NH?

Jeremy Hetzel / Flickr

A classic itty-bitty Boston apartment

It’s tough being a renter in Boston right now.  Granted, Beantown’s always been a pricey place to rent, but moreso now than ever before, according to a new Boston Globe story by Jennifer McKim.  After rattling-off the obligatory stats, McKim cuts to the chase and gives us the horror stories.

“Erin Sagin, 23, a marketing intern and waitress from Miami, recently went out with a real estate agent to look at seven properties. As they were driving around the city, she learned that three had just been leased.

Eventually, Sagin decided on an Allston one-bedroom for $1,400 a month. Getting approved, she said, was a challenge. She and her boyfriend had to undergo credit checks, have their parents cosign their lease agreement, and pay first and last month’s rent as well as a $1,400 security deposit and a $700 broker’s fee.”

But that’s a better deal than this woman got:

“Tiffany Ma, who is starting graduate school in Cambridge in the fall, feels lucky she was able to lock in a studio for $1,350 a month for Sept. 1. “There is not a lot out there, and the turnover is extremely quick,’’ she said.”

Almost $1,400 a month for a studio?!

Granted, it’s not that unusual for 20-somethings to have trouble finding new digs.  Especially grad students, who are often up to their eyebrows in student debt.  And as anyone who’s tried to live in the town where they go to school knows, you’re almost certain to pay a lot more than the place is worth.  Landlords have a natural advantage when dealing with students desperate for an easy commute to the university research library.  But apparently, it’s not just young adults fielding a hostile renter’s market.

“…[Sixty-one year old Janis] Pryor, who hosts a public affairs show on WUMB radio, said she has rented apartments in Cambridge for decades and has never had such a hard time finding something that would accommodate her and her two cocker spaniels – even though she is willing to pay as much as $2,800 a month.

Landlords, enjoying the upper hand, are excessively demanding, she said. One wanted to see her tax returns, while another required the equivalent of four months’ rent to start.”

Boston, New York, DC and San Francisco are crazy expensive places to live, they have been for years, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, thanks to the economic staple of supply and demand.  But what’s interesting about this trend is that according to a story by Annie Lowrey in Slate, a number of cities have been seeing an unusual uptick in renters for some time.  And as Megan Woolhouse reports in another Boston Globe piece from last winter, it all boils down to this:

In the wake of the housing market collapse, committed homeowners have discovered what die-hard renters have known for a long time:  You might not have equity in a home, but you also don’t have to worry about losing all that equity if you can’t make your mortgage payment.

And the landlord usually mows the lawn.

But all of this makes me wonder if the increasing demand for a dwindling supply of apartments will push Boston renters to the outer limits of the metro area.  Will Nashua become a refuge for low-budget Boston renters?  Even with the costs of commuting, it might make better economic sense for those who don’t have a lot of income to spare.  And according to, you can get a two-bedroom apartment in Nashua for less than Tiffany Ma paid for her studio.


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