Boston Housing Market
Introduction to the Boston Housing Market
Boston is an awesome city. It is one of the most important locations in American history and practically every neighborhood in Boston hosts a site of historical value. It’s also the home of more colleges and universities than any other city in the world. Finally, Boston is the largest city in New England, and the unofficial capital of the region. As a result, Boston’s rental market, while similar in many ways to other large cities, has a few unique quirks that reflect its status. More specifically, the housing in Boston is old, expensive, and prominently tied into the traditional academic year. Below are a few of the aspects of Boston’s rental market that you’ll want to keep in mind as you search for a place to live in the city.
- Housing Expenses- Unfortunately, Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the country. Housing prices are similar to those in New York or Los Angeles. Here’s an idea of the price ranges you should expect: if you are living with another student or roommate, you can probably find a good apartment between $600 and $900 per month (each) in rent. If you want to live alone, expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 per month. On top of the cost of tuition, the housing costs can seem daunting, but there are a couple of ways to lower your expenses. First, living with a roommate will be the fastest way of reducing your housing costs. Generally, the more roommates you have, the less money you will pay. If you can live with other people, do so – it will save you a lot of money.Also, consider neighborhoods that are a little farther away from downtown or the South End. Apartments in Allston/Brighton, Jamaica Plain, and South Boston are significantly cheaper than similar apartments in the South End, Back Bay or Beacon Hill. While living close to campus is certainly convenient, it may not be worth an extra $150-$300 per month.Finally, consider what you really need in an apartment, versus what you might like in an apartment. The more amenities an apartment has, the more expensive it will likely be. It may be nice to have a dishwasher in your apartment, but it’s probably not a necessity. If you aren’t finding the type of apartments you would like for the price that you can afford, consider whether your desires are realistic or not.
- Lease Terms – Boston hosts more institutions of higher education than any other city on the planet. Because of Boston’s incredibly high student population, many landlords and property owners are used to renting their apartments on a full-year, school-calendar focused lease. September 1st to August 31st is by far the most common lease period in the city. While there is certainly housing available in Boston at all points during the year, the number of available apartments for rent is significantly larger during the months of May, June and July as students graduate or move home for summer break, and their units become available. Because so many schools begin their academic year at this time, September 1st is the biggest move-in day in the city. Aside from September 1st, the end of May is usually the next largest move-in time, as students graduate and leave the city. Late May also starts the informal “subletting season”, when many students go home for the summer and try to find someone willing to rent their place for a few months until they come back in September.
- Realtors – One of the ways many students find housing in Boston is to use the services of a licensed real estate professional who helps them find an apartment. A good realtor will find listings for apartments that are within his or her clients’ price ranges, in a neighborhood that they like, and will help the client through the process of filling out an application and signing a lease. Just as the housing market is different across the country, the realty market in Boston may be different than what you are used to as well. In Boston (and most of the Northeast, in general), realtors are legally allowed to charge their clients a finder’s fee, or realty fee, for finding them an apartment. This fee can be up to the equivalent of one month’s rent. If you work with a realtor who is qualified and competent, this fee may be money well-spent: realtors can sometimes help you locate an apartment that you otherwise would never have found without their expertise. If financial concerns are going to be of significant importance to you, keep in mind that using a realtor can be a significant additional expense.You can find more information about working with realtors on the ‘Working with Realtors’ tab, and in the “Neighborhood” section of this site, you can find a list of realtors that our students have worked with in the past.
- Age – Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country and some of the housing you might come across, could look as old as the city itself. A significant portion of Boston’s housing stock is 50 to 150 years old. While they may not look like sleek, modern constructions, don’t write off older buildings as garbage – if they are well-maintained by the owners, they can be perfectly reasonable places to live. In some neighborhoods, like the South End, old housing is the predominant stock and you may not have more modern options.
- Heat – The vast majority of apartments in Boston include the cost of heating in the rent. This is a good thing – Boston gets very cold in the winter and heat is by far the most expensive utility. 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, make sure you know ahead of time whether you will be responsible for it or not. On the flip side, Boston doesn’t normally get outrageously warm in the late Spring or Summer, but the city does get humid at times. If you don’t like humidity, you may want to consider buying a small air-conditioner to keep your apartment at a more comfortable temperature. Few apartments will have central air conditioning.
- Parking & Transportation – Boston is not a very car-friendly place. We do have a fairly extensive public transportation system, administered by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (the MBTA, or usually just “the T”, for short) that most students and residents use to get around. If you are interested in bringing your car with you to Boston, keep in mind that most apartment buildings do not have their own parking lots and that having to park in a private garage or separate lot can be expensive. If you don’t need a car to get around, the OHR recommends that you leave it at home (if you have a car to begin with).