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Finding housing in boston from outside the country

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I got admission into Northeastern university for fall 2015. and I am planning to arrive there in late August. I need some advice on finding housing and signing lease from outside the country. Will it be too late to sign a contract by person in late august? or can anyone sign the contract for me? I have no idea about this. It will be helpful if anyone can give me some insight in this regard.

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This is hard to do remotely. It is possible that you are able to sign a lease while not in the same city, but it is very risky to sign a lease on an apartment you have not seen. It could be completely different than advertised! Or worse, the whole thing could be a scam and there is no actual apartment at all and the scammer just takes your first months rent or deposit and disappears.


Here are some options:


1. If your university has graduate student housing, can you stay there for the first month (or semester or year, whatever the requirement is) and then look for an apartment after you arrive and get settled? My current school allows you to end your lease with the graduate student housing early for a fee (about 40% of one months' rent -- not tiny but better than stuck paying rent for an entire year in a place you don't like).


2. Can you arrive a few weeks early and stay in a hotel/motel while you look for an apartment? Be careful with this one because some cities have fairly long "notice to vacate". For example, in our last city, tenants give their landlords 60 days notice to vacate so a lot of apartments for Sept 1 are already leased in early July. However, even in these cases, there were still apartments available at the end of August for a September move-in date. Unfortunately, this means the majority of the choice apartments would already be taken, so you might end up with some place that isn't very nice, or is nice but way overpriced.


3. If you are able to somehow verify that the apartment exists and that you would like it (maybe you have a friend in the city, or someone in the graduate program is nice enough, or a friend that lives close enough) then it's possible to sign a lease while not in the country. For our first move, my wife and I visited a few apartments on a quick trip to the new city and finished up the lease by mailing documents back and forth. So while this is possible, it's not ideal and it could be tricky if you don't have a US bank account. You will probably need to pay deposits and other fees in US dollars, and you will need to find a landlord that is willing to deal with leasing the apartment to you. This may or may not be difficult, depending on how easy it is for them to just lease to someone local instead of having to deal with the extra hassle.


4. Some people actually visit the city one month (or 2 months if it's 60 days notice to vacate) in advance and view apartments and sign leases ahead of time. My wife and I were able to do this both times we moved far away for school. The first time, we were able to afford it because we got our flights entirely on points. The second time, we had a friend in the city so we were able to stay there for free while we looked for apartments. The flight was still expensive and we would have spent about $600 each to fly there but the airline screwed up our flights and ended up reimbursing us for $2000 (we had to also incur a few extra costs because of travel delays but overall we still ended up with a free trip). However, given that average rent where we live now is about $1400, we decided that it was totally worth 2/3rds of 1 months rent to ensure we didn't sign a 1 year lease (worth over $16,000) on a place we didn't like. Or to put it another way, the cost of going there and finding an apartment we'd like for sure is only 2% of the total amount we'd spend on rent over the 5 years we'd live there. Also, this trip into the US allowed us to pre-move a few essential items and do a few important errands like open a US bank account and transfer some money so that we'd have immediate access to US funds as soon as we arrived for good. However, depending on how far away you mean by "outside the country" and whether or not you have savings, this option might not be possible!

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I don't have good news for you. I would not sign a lease for an apartment in Boston without being there in person to see it. Apartments can be odd in all kinds of ways and you need to see them to know you want them, not to mention the possibility of scams. It's a very fast market and you need to be able to make up your mind and write a check pretty much immediately. It's also very much a sellers' market; the demand exceeds the supply, so prices are high. By the end of August you will definitely be settling on something, be it price, location, conditions, or more than one of the above.


TakeruK gave some good advice above. If you are able to come early, I'd say around late May or June is when you want to come. You could use a realtor; it'll cost you some money but if you're pressed for time and want to find something suitable, it's a good way to do it. Alternatively, since you didn't write about a family, I'm going to assume you're coming alone. Try and reach out to current students or other students in your cohort (ask to be put in touch with them, the secretary should know how); if someone is looking for roommates, it would be easy to go that route, or if you could team up with people who are local or can get there earlier than you, you might be able to rent a whole apartment together. 

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Do NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take an apartment with Alpha Management. They are notorious slumlords.


Apartment hunting in Boston is hard enough to do in person; I wouldn't think about doing it remotely. Does Northeastern offer any graduate housing, even if it's just for the first semester?


Check Padmapper.com - that's where all the last minute deals are.

Edited by telkanuru
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