Insights From Boston’s Largest Apartment Rental Network

Demetrios Salpoglou was a Boston rental agent as far back as 1995, but it was a hiatus in high tech that provided a skill set that eventually helped him separate a network of Boston rental companies from the typical rental office you see just about everywhere in the city. Today, the CEO of Boardwalk Properties, NextGen Realty and Jacob Realty says his companies have 130 rental agents and operate around 90 rental websites that display a library of 383,000 pictures, 33,000 galleries, 7,000 videos and 1,000 virtual tours. Last year, he told me he wanted it written on his headstone that he cleaned up the rental industry, but more recently I spoke with Demetrios about his company and the current Boston rental market.

Q: How do your offices compare to the typical rental office?
A: It’s an entirely different environment and experience. We’ve made the apartment leasing process much more corporate in nature. It’s much more white-collar, professional, data-driven results instead of, instead of a sort of mom-and-pop shop, guessing at rent prices; what we’ve done is aggregated so much data that we can provide better rental comps and better information to the landlords and to consumers.

Q: How many landlords are in your database?
A: We are 63 landlords away from 15,000 landlords in our database.

Q: How many apartments?
A: 122,000, give or take.

Q: Is your rental database bigger than the MLSPIN rental database?
A: We’re 10 times the size of MLSPIN. Anytime you would look on MLS for rentals and compare it to our database, it’s not even close.

Q: Are you the largest rental company in Boston?
A: Absolutely! We’ve been the largest apartment leasing provider for a decade.

Q: How many apartments will your agents rent in 2014?
A: We are probably on a pace this year to get to 3,000.

Q: How much can a rental agent make?
A: A decent agent is always going to make $50,000 net a year. Every year I always have a rental agent that does over $100,000 – net – in their pocket.

Q: How important is Sept. 1 in the Boston market?
A: We took a sample of 10,000 leases that we’ve done and 66 percent of all leases roll over on Aug. 31. So you literally have two-thirds of the entire city moving in one day.

Q: Can you give me some insights on recent rent trends in Boston neighborhoods?
A: Allston rents have been flat for at least the past seven years. Mission Hill rents have been exceptional and continue to climb. Everything there is, generally speaking, a lot newer. … The Fort Hill market is trending up. Certain parts of Dudley are starting to get some good rents. South Boston has been white-hot the whole decade and has done nothing but go up.

Q: Have Hub rents peaked?
A: The beginning of the year was bang-up; rents were up big. I thought it was going to be a 10 percent year, but we’ll see in the next 30 days how it plays out. I’m thinking its going to cap out at maybe an 8 percent increase, depending on how much vacancy we are left with on Sept. 1; then we’ll be able to tell if it flatlines.

Q: Your company determines a real time vacancy rate in the city. What is the rate now?
A: Right now we are at 6.2 percent vacancy level. When I checked [on the morning of Friday, July 18], we had 4,447 apartments available. Even though that’s high compared to last year, we still have a month to go.

Q: If you were going to advise someone buying an investment condo or three-family, what would you say?
A: Knowing what the real rents are in an area are the most important aspects of renting or purchasing a multifamily. If you don’t know the rents, or can’t get those rents, or can’t position that property properly, then you’re not going to do as well as you should. For example, we had a landlord drop his price $1,500 a month recently; my agents kept telling him he was too high and had missed the market.

Q: What insights do you get from the Internet?
A: I can view the web traffic and get web stats and watch different areas light up. You can put up stuff and know that South Boston is going to be hot or that Cambridge is going to be hot. I’ll send out an alert to all the agents: “It’s going to be a hot weekend in Cambridge!” And then you get like seven or eight deals in Cambridge.

Q: What’s different about today’s apartment-seeker?
A: They are much more deal-specific and transportation-specific, and so much more educated than the one we had even five years ago. Access to good public transportation within 12 minutes is a good determinant if it’s going to be easier to rent or a lot harder.

David Bates is a broker with William Raveis Real Estate and author of The Bates Real Estate Blog, www.BatesRealEstateReport.com, and a recently published e-book, “Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.”

Article courtesy of Banker & Tradesman Bates Report, http://www.bankerandtradesman.com/news160485.html