Here’s why you may want to remain in your apartment long term


According to Psychology Today, moving is one of the most stressful experiences in life, topped only by divorce or the death of a loved one.

Here’s why you may want to remain in your apartment long term
RentCafe, an apartment-listing site, said there were eight prospective renters for every available apartment in Greater Boston in the fourth quarter. Adobe Stock

Ashley Korn knows all about the rental market in Greater Boston. The 33-year-old nonprofit executive lived in six different apartments in seven years until 2017, when she settled into a 1,000-square-foot apartment in a two-family house in Medford. 

“I used to move every September, so it’s fantastic to not have to move every year,” she said. “If I were to start looking now, I don’t think I would find something nearly as nice for what I’m currently paying. It’s a relief to be settled and have certainty in my rent, and to live in a place comfortably is a complete game-changer from when I was younger.”

Korn has renewed the lease for her current home six times. Her initial rent in 2017 was $1,950, and she now pays $2,150, an accomplishment in a competitive rental market like Boston, where the median asking rent in May 2024 was $2,835, according to brokerage Redfin. In addition to rising rents, tenants also have to deal with a limited inventory of rental homes and the possibility of bidding wars. In fact, according to apartment-listing site RentCafe, 94.9% of apartments in Greater Boston were occupied as of the fourth quarter of 2023, and there were eight prospective renters for every available apartment. 

Perhaps that’s why a May 2024 Redfin analysis of 2022 data indicated that just 26.5% of renters in Greater Boston stayed 12 months or less in their homes and that 18.8% stayed more than 10 years. After all, staying longer helps renters avoid the stress, hassles, and cost of moving.

“It’s advantageous for both a landlord and tenant to continue the lease relationship, unless there’s a real reason for the tenant to move, like a life change, job change, or relationship change,” said Morgan Franklin, an agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Boston.

Clearly, turnover cost, which includes any necessary repairs or maintenance to the unit, lost rent, and marketing costs to find a new renter, is the biggest incentive for landlords to keep tenants in place. “Eliminating the unknown is another advantage,” said Van French, director of rentals for Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston. “You have no idea who will move in, so you have to be careful. Why take that risk if you have a good tenant in place?” 

But there are important reasons why a renter might want to stay in place as well. In addition to the stress of moving — according to Psychology Today, it’s one of the most stressful experiences in life, topped only by divorce or the death of a loved one — and the challenge of vying for an apartment in a competitive market, there’s the cost of moving and the possible need to come up with four months’ worth of rent for the first month, last month, security deposit, and brokerage commission

By staying in the same apartment, tenants can establish a rapport with their landlords, which could work to their benefit as well. Korn said that when COVID struck, her landlord, a private investor, acknowledged the challenging times by not raising her rent. “They also take exceptional care of the apartment,” she said. “So, I definitely feel loyalty.”  

Tenants can use that loyalty to their advantage each time their lease renews. Vacancies are risky to a landlord. If you’ve been a stellar tenant, paid your rent on time, and kept the property in good repair, remind the landlord of that. If the landlord wants you to stay, he or she may keep the rent increase small or not raise it at all.  

Even institutional landlords have an incentive to keep good tenants in place. “There’s a lot of leasing activity in the summer, so it becomes chaotic for a landlord,” said Sarah Mathewson, senior vice president of operations for AvalonBay Communities, an apartment developer, owner, and management firm. “From a cost and staffing perspective, keeping turnover down is beneficial.” 

AvalonBay is a public company with an obligation to stakeholders to keep rents current, so they’re likely to increase every year, Mathewson said, unlike a mom-and-pop landlord, who has a greater incentive to keep a smaller rental property fully leased. But in markets where supply and demand rule, and tenants have an advantage, Mathewson said it pays to be informed when negotiating a lease renewal.

“Know your options,” she said. “Is it worth it to you to move? What is your apartment worth? If you’re living in a large community, the rents are available online, so it’s no secret. We try to be fair.”  

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