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The Boston rental market heading into 2020 looks nothing like the sales market

Declining costs? Please. The city’s apartment scene appears as pricey as ever with little relief in sight

Aerial shot of two dense cities separated by a frozen river. Shutterstock

While the for-sale housing market in Boston appears to be moderating quite a bit, with declining prices and shrinking sales, the city’s rental market seems to be as landlord-friendly as ever heading into 2020.

Recent reports peg Boston as among the priciest handful of major U.S. cities to lease an apartment. It’s a position the city has maintained for years, suggesting that the newest year will bring little to no relief to tenants looking for deals not too far from work, school, etc.

National real estate listings site Zumper, which tracks its own database of empty and available apartments, put Boston’s median one-bedroom rent at the start of January at $2,590 a month, a 5.7 percent increase from the same time a year ago. The median two-bedroom rent was $2,930, up 8.5 percent annually.

And REIS Inc., part of ratings giant Moody’s, pegged the Boston metro region’s average effective rent—that’s rent less any landlord concessions—at $2,349 a month. Only metros and cities such as San Francisco, New York, San Jose, Oakland, Washington, and Los Angeles ranked with Boston in either report.

There are myriad reasons why rents remain so relatively high. One is, of course, perennial demand amid historically low supply (which itself is due to a whole smorgasbord of reasons, including often anti-multifamily zoning regs). Another is the number of prospective tenants in the Boston region who can afford such rents.

And another is that for-sale market’s high barriers to entry. Maybe the correction going on there will lead to more tenants making the leap to ownership. Whatever happens in 2020, we can all agree that the apartment glut expected last decade—and the resulting drop in rents—never materialized.