Before starting at MSPP, I had been to Boston only twice in my life: once when I had a layover at Logan airport, and then again when I came into town for my interview at MSPP. So, when it was time for me to find an apartment, my wife and I had no idea where to begin. After a lot of help from my mom and some helpful real estate agents who I met through craigslist posts, we found a nice apartment in a quiet neighborhood. We've stayed in the same building ever since. I like living in Boston quite a bit. It's big enough that there's always something to do, but small enough that it's easy to get around. There's a lot of diversity, which means there are great restaurants everywhere. I've found that as long as sports and/or driving are not involved, Bostonians are wonderfully friendly and interesting.
Anyhow, I thought I would share what I've learned about apartment hunting in Boston, which will hopefully be helpful to any readers who are looking for a place to live right now.
Ten things you should know about apartment hunting in the Boston area:
- A lot of the apartments listed on craigslist (in Boston, anyway) are associated with a real estate group. In fact, when I looked a few years back, I couldn't find any that were not. Unfortunately, the real estate agents are expensive (they typically ask for about half a month's rent if you sign a lease). However, they are quite knowledgeable and will help you find what you're looking for.
- If you're planning on living in Allston, don't. Allston is an attractive neighborhood to many people, because it's cheap, has easy access to the T (Boston's public transit system), and has a good night life (good bars, restaurants, music venues, etc). However, it's also dirty, crowded, loud, and perpetually swarming with drunk college students.
- Brighton has all of the positive features of Allston with few of the negatives. It's right next to Allston, and it's easy to get to most parts of both Cambridge and Boston. Apartments in Brighton are relatively affordable, there are plenty of good restaurants and bars there, and it's usually quiet by 11:00.
- Jamaica Plain can be a very nice place to live, but some parts of it are pretty sketchy. There are some great apartments in J.P., but make sure that you'll be able to comfortably and safely walk to and from your apartment at night.
- Brookline is a very cool area, but in my experience, it's pretty hard to find affordable parking there. A few of the places I looked at were asking for $200 a month for parking.
- Make sure you consider the parking situation wherever you live. When you get home at the end of a long day, trust me, you're not going to want to mess around looking for a place to park.
- It's not very hard to find a place with the utilities included in the rent. I highly recommend doing so. A lot of the houses up here are old (and thus poorly insulated), and have old fashioned (and very expensive) oil heat. In the winter months, heating a house like that could cost $400 a month. I've heard some MSPP students talk about saving money by wearing coats inside their homes and drinking lots of hot drinks. I, on the other hand, pump the thermostat to 70 degrees and let my landlord pick up the tab.
- If you can, look for an apartment when it's cold outside. That way, you'll be able to see how well insulated the place is. Believe me guys, it gets cold here sometimes. You want to live somewhere that can keep the cold out.
- Find out about snow removal before you rent. Some landlords (like mine) will do this for you, but others do not. When you're getting ready for school/practicum in the mornings next year, the last thing you'll want to do is get up early to shovel snow.
- When you consider where you want to live, remember that you will not only be commuting to MSPP, but also to a practicum site. I've heard plenty of horror stories about this.
I hope that's helpful. Feel free to post comments/questions/feedback/whatever. Happy renting!