Boston’s rental market has a few unique quirks that reflect its status as the largest and oldest city in New England. Boston’s housing is old, expensive, and predominantly tied to the traditional academic year. Below are a few aspects of Boston’s rental market to keep in mind as you search for a place.
- Costs — Boston is the fifth most expensive rental market in the country. Living with a roommate is the fastest way to reduce expenses. Also, consider neighborhoods that are a little farther away from downtown or the South End. Apartments in Kenmore/ Fenway, Jamaica Plain, and South Boston are significantly cheaper than similar apartments in the South End, Back Bay or Beacon Hill. Finally, consider what you really need versus what you might like in an apartment. The more amenities, the more expensive it will be. Visit Rental Comparisons for an idea about the differences.
- Lease Terms — Due to Boston’s large student population, many landlords and property owners rent their apartments on a 12 month, academic-calendar lease; September to August is the most common lease period. There is housing available in Boston at all points during the year, however the number of available apartments for rent increases during May, June and July as students graduate or move home for summer break, and their units become available.
- Age — A significant portion of Boston’s housing stock is 50 to 150 years old. Don’t write off older buildings, if they are well-maintained by the owners, they can be perfectly reasonable places to live.
- Heat — Most apartment rents in Boston include the cost of heating. However, if you are renting a floor of a house or a condo, heat may not be included. Since heating can easily cost $200-$300 per month in a decent-sized apartment, know ahead of time whether you will be responsible for it.
- Hot Water — As with heat expense, many Boston apartment rents include hot water in the cost. While landlords may charge you to heat the water separately, they rarely charge you for water usage. Unless your unit has its own water meter, water is a landlord expense.
- Parking & Transportation — Boston is not a car-friendly place, most apartment buildings do not have their own parking lots. Parking in a private garage or separate lot can be expensive. On-street parking is limited and difficult to find even with a parking permit. See Getting Around.
Boston Housing Styles
There are a tremendous variety of housing styles available in Boston.
Brownstones/Victorian Row Houses
Brownstones are amongst the oldest housing stock, and are located in many desirable neighborhoods. However, these buildings may not offer elevators, laundry facilities on premises, easy-to-access internet or central air-conditioning.
Small Apartment Buildings
Often managed by a property owner or management company, these buildings have a few units — between six and 20 – and may provide some of the convenience of an apartment building. Along with multiple-family houses, small apartment buildings are probably the most common type of housing.
The facilities in these buildings are more updated than most brownstones with central air conditioning, elevators, in-unit washer/dryers and dishwashers. Many of the recently built apartment complexes offer more expensive luxury units. Apartment complexes usually are a mix of studios, one-and two-bedroom apartments.
In the more residential and suburban sections of Boston, multiple-family houses are the dominant housing option. For students, this type of housing offers the most living space of any of the housing described here. They may offer more flexibility as well, allowing pets, and use of a yard.
Condos are similar to the types of units found in apartment complexes. When you find a condominium for rent you are renting directly from the condominium owner.
Generally, housing co-ops consist of groups of like-minded people who have agreed to live together in a building under certain guidelines.