Lack of Student Renters Drives Down Boston-Area Apartment Prices

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With thousands of college students expected to remain off campus this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, apartments in Greater Boston are losing out on renters.

Without students moving into apartments as they normally would before the start of the school year, rental prices — infamously high in the area — are going down.

Tenants are happy to reap the benefits, but landlords aren't so excited.

Since March, Rent Source in Cambridge has had a harder time finding tenants for the buildings they work with in that city, as well as Somerville and Medford.

"The market has been terrible," said Tyler Munroe, who runs the real estate brokerage.

While many in real estate had hoped the summer months would improve, it has only worsened.

"Really, the whole summer demand has been way down," Munroe said. "I think March and April really saw a drop off with the onset of COVID, and now landlords are really desperate."

That desperation has translated to big incentives for renters. The broker fees typically paid by tenants to Munroe and others, totaling roughly a month's rent, are now being covered by building landlords.

"I think it's made it a little easier to move, actually," said Ann Austin, who just moved into a new apartment in Inman Square in Cambridge.

Because of the lack of demand, many buildings are dropping rent prices by 10-20% and offering one month free of rent.

"We wondered if we would have gotten a better deal if we had waited," Austin said. "But it was already such a good deal."

Those deals have come with a significant cost to property owners, who are unsure of when the market will improve.

"Especially the small landlords that have two or three families, and they live off that income," said Mohammad Noorouzi of Bayside Realty. "Now, they're in trouble."

In Cambridge, where both MIT and Harvard have announced that the majority of students will be learning online this fall, property owners hope that by spring, things will improve.

"I've never seen anything like this. I've never even heard of anything like this even through '08," said Munroe.

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