How to move to Boston
July 11, 2012 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me everything I need to know about the logistics of finding an apartment and moving to Boston on a month's notice.

My husband just got an offer for his dream job in Boston. He starts August 7, so we have just under a month to find an apartment, and make the move from Syracuse, NY. We’re long-time apartment dwellers, and we are currently in an 800sf 1BR. We’d like to find something similar in size, and we’re prepared to pay twice what we’re paying now, which would put us around $1,500 per month. Oh, and we need to find a place that will allow a dog. Is this realistic, or do we need to adjust our expectations?

I’ve been browsing craigslist, and at a casual sweep, it seems do-able, but I don’t have a gut feel for neighborhoods, and I don’t know if the places I’m coming up with might really be hovels, or land us with student-y neighbors who’ll be throwing parties every weekend.

Can we find something close enough to be on public transportation? His job is in South Boston/ Seaport/ WTC area. I don't have a job yet, so who knows what my commute will be. We were thinking of selling at least one of our cars. Bad idea?

Also: parking permits for moving? This is unheard of in central NY. I keep seeing passing references to this when I look up moving to Boston. When I look it up on the city website, it says you have to apply in person. Some moving company websites say that you have to be bonded!? Does this mean that DIY moving is not feasible for us? We’ve never hired movers before.

How is the economy doing in Boston? I’ve never left a job before without something else lined up, so that is making me a bit nervous. Please tell me that Boston’s not an employment dead-zone.

Any advice you can provide is much appreciated!
posted by Kriesa to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: He starts August 7, so we have just under a month to find an apartment, and make the move from Syracuse, NY.

Not precisely true. You definitely need to move to Boston by then, but you don't technically need to have an apartment by then. This is partly why extended-stay hotels exist. They're generally more expensive than an apartment, but not as much as you might think. There's a place here in Fort Wayne that charges like $150-175 a week. Rates in Boston are likely to be higher, but that's still a possibility.

So consider staying in a place like that for a week or two while you apartment hunt. Give you some time to get to know the area and find a place at leisure rather than feeling a time crunch. If you've got furniture, storage units are cheap.

Is this the absolute cheapest way to do this? No. It could easily cost you $1,000, when all is said and done. But that might be worth the price in terms of both finding a place you actually want to live and taking off some of the stress of having that hard deadline.
posted by valkyryn at 6:28 AM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm of the opinion that jobs are like parking spaces at the mall at Christmas, it might be a bit difficult to get, but if you keep looking, you'll find one eventually.

That said, I think that Boston would be better than Syracuse as far as a job market is concerned. What's your skill set, what kind of job do you want?

I have friends who live in a Boston suburb and neither one drives. So you may want to sell a car if at least one of you can use public transport.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:29 AM on July 11, 2012

Best answer: Boston is most definitely not an employment dead-zone - but it definitely does depend on your line of work. What are you doing now?

Regarding your price range, pet needs, and your husband's job location, I'd recommend looking in and around Southie and Dorchester (particularly Savin Hill). You'll have to hunt, there are good deals, but there are parts of those neighborhoods that aren't good, and some that are great. Those are red line accessible and not too expensive.

Your dog probably complicates matters, but if you can swing it, I would look for sublets and temp housing on Craigslist, and then store all of your things for a month or two while you really get a feel for the neighborhood.

One major thing to note about Boston and renting is that leases are very much centered around the fall. Almost every least begins on 9/1 and ends on 8/31 - it really doesn't matter where you are. Many apartments are rented for September in May. It's very different from most cities in that regard. Rents also tend to skyrocket right around... now. Rents may be very high at the moment and it may be discouraging. They should come down a spell in the winter - but that won't do you much good if you've signed a lease!

If you want to be sure you avoid loud student parties, you should avoid Allston like the plague. If the areas in Southie, Dorchester, etc are too sketchy for you in your price range, areas in Allston and Brighton might start looking interesting to you (off of the green line) - it will be a crappy public commute for your husband. If you go that route, Brighton and Lower Allston have more families/young professionals than plain old Allston.

I don't know anything about moving permits. I don't think you'll need a parking permit to unload your car. Getting a parking permit for your neighborhood is very easy, although yes, you do have to go to city hall in person. It takes about 15 minutes.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:34 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

For that area, you're going to want to look on the Red Line for housing. You can absolutely find something in Cambridge/Somerville for the price you're looking to pay, or you can try going south of the city (Quincy or thereabouts) - rents will be cheaper, I think, but it's not as desirable an area. If you've never been to Boston before, the various neighborhoods do all have very different vibes to them, so it's probably worth spending a little bit of time to find the area that you like.

Moving permits are useful but not required. Most of the city streets around here are resident permit parking only, so getting the moving permit means your van won't get ticketed. You could just risk it, too - last time I moved myself (from Brighton), a parking officer walked by and just insisted that the hazard lights were on and someone was with the van at all times (it was parked in front of a hydrant).

Boston was not hit nearly as badly as other cities by the recession, and there are jobs to be had. Biotech is big and the local governments have been pushing hard to increase its presence here.

If you live on public transit I see no reason why you can't get rid of one or both of your cars. Especially if you'll be parking them on the street - some parts of the city are very, very difficult to find parking.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:38 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm in that area and it's VERY pet friendly. You're right there on the bus line and next to the ocean! It's awesome and you'll love it. MeMail me with any questions!
posted by floweredfish at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2012

Best answer: Definitely look around Savin Hill. There's a great park right in the center of Savin Hill that's *great* for dogs, plus the Dorchester beaches which, if they aren't technically dog-okay zones, everyone uses them for off-leash dog running.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:49 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

... aaaactually. Let me step back and mention race as an apartment-hunting issue. Some parts of Boston - particularly parts of Dorchester and South Boston - are still kind of racially tense with uptight old white people. If you don't look white, I would shift my suggestion of Savin Hill to a "check it out and see how it feels". There are definitely parts of Dorchester that are multicultural and awesome, however.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:51 AM on July 11, 2012

Best answer: You could look at Jamaica Plain as well --- your husband would have to switch at downtown crossing to go over to the red line, but if he's getting off at south station that's not bad at all. I'd take a weekend and come and explore neighbourhoods and get a feel for what you like --- once you have a neighbourhood in mind, it might be a good idea to get in touch with a couple realtors in the area if it's financially feasible. A lot of the best apartments never make it to Craigslist. On the plus side, outside of the south end and the back bay, Boston is chock-a-block with double and triple deckers, usually with a small landlord, which makes it a lot easier to find a place that's pet friendly. I rather like Somerville, myself. A bit rumpled, but it's got both old Italian and/or Portugese lady bakeries and fancy hipster cocktail bars. And it's on the red line. But a lot will depend on what you consider an acceptable commute....
posted by Diablevert at 6:58 AM on July 11, 2012

I have friends who live in a Boston suburb and neither one drives. So you may want to sell a car if at least one of you can use public transport.

I grew up in a boston suburb and it would be insane & impractical to not have a car. I suspect this comment isn't really referring to a suburb but to some place more urban like cambridge or at least a town that is on the T. In such a place, I would probably try to not have one as well, and use zipcar or whatever.
posted by advil at 7:08 AM on July 11, 2012

Seconding Cambridge/Somerville.

It would not be a bad idea to set aside a few days in the very near future for physically going to Boston and visiting a bunch of apartments for rent in different neighborhoods. This is for two reasons: 1) physically getting a sense of the neighborhood is way more valuable than reading about it on the internet, especially in terms of trying out the commute, and 2) the real estate market in Boston will be moving very fast this time of year because the school year is starting up soon, so college and graduate students are snapping up the cheaper places. If you see a place you really like and don't go in person and put down a deposit, it'll be gone the next day.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:10 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all. This is very helpful. I hadn't looked at Dorchester or Savin Hill yet.

I have ten years of experience as an architectural designer, and I know that there are many, many design firms in Boston, so I am hoping that my own job search won't be too prolonged. I'm hoping to find something that will be more usually a 40 hour per week gig than 60 hours, though. I also wouldn't be opposed to using this as an opportunity to sidle into some other career track...
posted by Kriesa at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2012

It would not be a bad idea to set aside a few days in the very near future for physically going to Boston and visiting a bunch of apartments for rent in different neighborhoods.

I would go so far as to say this step is pretty essential in the process if you are hoping to move directly into an apartment you are happy with. If you are OK with moving to an extended-stay hotel or some other sort of short-term rental so you can scout out the area while your husband starts working, that might be possible.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:04 AM on July 11, 2012

i'm relocating on short notice to southern california. One trip down there wasn't enough to really get the vibe of anyplace i really want to live, so i looked for:

1-short lease (6mos)
2-easy bike distance from the office
3-cheap-ish but low crime

moving in a few weeks into a place in Costa Mesa $500-700 less than most of the other options i'd consider for a longer lease, and i'll have time to explore and find the perfect place once i move.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:03 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have much to add that hasn't been said already, but I will note that Jamainca Plain, as far as I know, does not require a resident permit for parking. (I haven't actually looked up the regulations on this, since I don't own a car, but my mother used to come up from NY for the weekend and park, and she never had any trouble.) It used to take me about 45 minutes to get up to Cambridge, including a bit of walking; I'm guessing that your husband's commute to the probably wouldn't take much longer than that, although I haven't made that trip. JP is a neat little area, and you could do a lot worse than the orange line (e.g., the green line, which I'm stuck with now). When I was there, at least, the rent also tended to be a little better than some other areas, although I can't say how it compared to Dorchester, etc.
posted by divisjm at 9:04 AM on July 11, 2012

The thing I didn't realize about Boston is that going through the city adds so much to travel times. So if your husband's job is on the south side, I wouldn't look in Somerville for housing, at least not until you know the area better. Good luck!
posted by benito.strauss at 11:47 AM on July 11, 2012

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