Boston Rental Market Still Struggling From Coronavirus Pandemic

Apartments in Boston are normally hard to find around this time of year, said one local realtor, but the pandemic has changed how people see the rental market.

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The rental markets in larger, more expensive cities like Boston have not pulled out from the economic woes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The national trends point to demand in the suburbs where people get more bang for their buck.

Landlords in the Boston area hoped for a near-full recovery by this summer, especially as college students returned to in-person learning. While there are positive signs, landlords are still having to give out incentives to keep and attract tenants.

Luke Welch and his roommates are happy to finally go back to in-person learning at Boston College.

"People ask me 'what are you the most excited for this year?' and I honestly say 'I can't wait to just sit in a classroom again,’” he said.

They are also happy to have found a bigger place to live in. The junior undergrads are moving in from across the street in Brighton on their first day of the fall semester and shelling out more money for an upgrade to their living space.

"Just like the frame itself is worth $1,250 a month,” said Kyle Cuklanz, referring to the cost of renting a bedroom in a shared house. “I think kids would pay whatever you ask them to pay to be back here to be perfectly honest."

People are often priced out when trying to buy a home in an incredibly competitive housing market, but there are some local spots where you can get a deal. In fact, four places in New England made's list of 10 hottest zip codes in the country.

The willingness to pay more for a larger space doesn’t mean rents are going up across the board.

“Right now, I definitely think they have options,” said Boston realtor Eric Lindsay.

While a recent Zillow report shows rent prices increased 9.2-percent nationally, Lindsay said expensive cities like Boston are also dealing with other factors.

“For the first time I’ve noticed in a long time we had apartments that would normally rent out right away, they sit for a few months,” noted Lindsay.

Apartments are normally hard to find around this time of year, said Lindsay, but the pandemic has changed how people see the rental market.

"For the same amount of money I’m paying for an apartment in Boston maybe I can afford a house in the suburbs,” he added.

The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s temporary ban on evictions, put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s driving prices up outside the big cities where there’s more demand, according to Zillow Economic Data Analyst Nicole Bachaud.

"We have a positive year-over-year rent price growth but that's from a really low starting point,” she said. “So rents are not really to the point where we would've expected them to be. They are still very low for these areas."

The prediction these experts make is that major cities like Boston will catch up to the national average by next year. A gradual recovery, but a recovery nonetheless.

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