After you have determined a budget you are comfortable with and established a few neighborhoods you would feel comfortable living in, your next step is finding the apartment. Boston and the surrounding cities such as Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline are realtor-driven housing markets. This means you usually won’t be able to view and rent a property without the assistance of a realtor. Property owners in the Boston area often delegate the responsibility of working with renters to an agency whose staff members have exclusive rights to show and rent an apartment.

Working with a realtor typically means you will pay a fee, usually equal to the amount of one month’s rent. You will not have to pay this fee until you sign the lease of a property the realtor has shown you. Realtors will have access to many apartment listings in their representation area.

While some realtors will not feel comfortable working with international students if they are still overseas, there are many who do. Make sure to ask the following questions:

  • Does your company work with clients who cannot be present to look for an apartment?
  • Do you have landlords who are comfortable renting apartments sight unseen? (If they do, you may be required to sign a form saying that you are taking said apartment sight unseen.)
  • Are there any agents there that speak my native language?
  • How will you communicate with me and will you send me pictures of the apartment?

Until you sign a lease, you won’t have an apartment secured, so the property can still be rented to another person.

View a list of realtors on our Housing and Roommate page which the OCSS recommends our students utilize. Emerson College does not endorse any agency over another.