‘Avoid like the plague.’ It’s that time of year again: moving day.
“The origins of the September 1 move-in date are an open question for sociologists and economists around the world,” said Doug Quattrochi, executive director of the Massachusetts Landlords Association. “It really doesn’t benefit anyone.”
This year, between the scorching housing market and the city’s congested roads and rails, it could be even worse.
Soaring rents and tight inventory have created desperate times for those looking for new apartments. At the start of the year, the median one-bedroom apartment in the city cost $2,720 a month, and by July less than one in 200 apartments were vacant. To make matters worse, the process of finding accommodation – and moving in – has been complicated by the historic closure of the Orange Line, as well as a section of the Green Line.
“When so many leases are renewed on the same day, it creates a sense of urgency and panic around finding a lease and moving in,” said Brennan McConnell, a future Somerville resident. “If you’re wrong, you might be out of luck.”
But for McConnell, moving a few days before Labor Day was inevitable.
The 23-year-old, who uses the pronouns they/them, once hoped to find a two-bedroom apartment in Somerville by August 1. That way McConnell could leave Brighton immediately after their sublease expires in July.
But there were no suitable August leases for McConnell and their roommate, a graduate student at Tufts University.
Instead, McConnell moved to Harvard, Massachusetts, for 30 days, stuffing the essentials in a car and throwing the rest away — a 5-by-7-foot rug, an air conditioner, and an end table pulled from a Barnes who will soon be passing away. and Noble store — on the sidewalk. The floor of McConnell’s childhood bedroom is now littered with a mattress, clothes and art supplies.
“I live off a laundry basket,” McConnell said. “I feel like I’m stuck, and moving all my stuff twice in two months is a big deal.”
This is definitely a problem, especially in early September. Every U-Haul in the area is booked this week, and reservations for Aug. 31 start piling up six months in advance, said Jorge White, president of the Boston U-Haul company.
The city has so far issued 4,477 moving truck permits for the last week of August, the data shows. This is around a thousand fewer permits than a year ago, but in line with the number issued in August 2018 and 2019. The apartment search site renthop found that the neighborhoods with the most moving permits on September 1 are North End and Beacon Hill, followed by South Boston and Allston/Brighton.
Moving Truck Permit for Boston Neighborhoods
Data represents permits per day through August and early September, Boston’s peak moving season. Click the play button to watch a time lapse of where Boston is moving.
The Orange Line closure does not necessarily affect the number of permits, added Shane Lee, statistical data analyst for Renthop. But it does increase the number of cars on the streets, making it harder for tenants who use moving trucks and giving those without cars fewer ways to get around.
And good luck finding a mover. Niles Kuronen of Gentle Giant Moving Company said his company – one of dozens in Massachusetts – is helping 100 people a day for a week around September 1. Many customers make these reservations in the spring.
“Our movers have to wade through tons of U-Hauls and other moving trucks that week,” Kuronen added. “Sometimes you’ll see five on the same street in Allston.”
Even residents with relatively simple moves run into a crush of problems.
Narjes Jaafar, for example, is only moving two floors in his building in Brighton, but his efforts to find flatmates have consistently failed. She responded to dozens of requests on Facebook. Nothing worked.
Sometimes its owner refused potential tenants. Other times people just stopped responding.
“You interview them. But somewhere along the way you are ghosted or they find another place,” Jaafar said.
Jaafar arrived in Boston from Lebanon in the spring of 2021 and thought moving on September 1 would give her additional options as more people are now looking for housing.
“But the process is driving me crazy,” she added. “It’s taking a toll on my mental health and I’m tired of coming to work because I feel like I have two jobs.”
And those moving to Greater Boston are grappling with this whirlwind of stress for the first time.
Emily Fasanella, 20, has spent most of the summer looking for an apartment at her parents’ house in New Jersey. When she finally landed a place at Cambridge, Fasanella’s roommate had to recruit her mother to persuade the landlord to let them move in on August 30. She pleaded – hard.
“At least this way, thankfully, we get to avoid the rush,” said Fasanella, an online college student who previously lived in New Jersey and Florida.
Sophia Weinbar has a similar strategy, trading Sept. 1 for a Labor Day weekend move. An incoming postdoctoral fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, she plans to begin her multi-day journey from Chicago on September 1 to miss the horde of moving trucks and settle into her Brighton bedroom – with just clothes and plants in trailer — by Saturday.
“I just don’t want to process,” Weinbar said. “The process of finding an apartment was overwhelming, and now this. My only coping mechanism is scrolling Facebook Marketplace.
Ultimately, watching the chaos ensue is both a privilege and a curse for people who avoided a September 1 move this year.
Carolyn, an east Boston resident who declined to share her last name, intentionally walked away from the cycle seven years ago, even though it cost her dearly. She paid rent on two apartments in August and has since avoided any leases with a September start date.
Now she advises others to do the same.
“If you can, come down on September 1,” Carolyn said. “Because on this day, the city turns something that is supposed to be wonderful and exciting into something terrible. All of this is a thorn in Boston’s side.