This is an expensive city!
October 4, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Boston for a new job in a month, and wondering what's the best way to go about finding a place to live.

I've already looked at a few of the askmefi questions that relate to Boston neighborhoods, but this is the sort of thing that changes quickly with time so I'm writing a new question.

I've been living in Istanbul for the past couple years but I just got a new job in Boston. The office is located in Fort Point (right on the southern edge of Fort Point Channel). The job starts November 5th.

I've never been to Boston so I have very little idea (outside of web research) about neighborhoods; so far I'm considering South Boston, Somerville, Dorchester.

A few details:
- I plan to live without a car (So I'll be using public transit and biking)
- I'm allergic to hipsters but I like being (relatively) close to art and music.
- I'd like to live alone (1 bedroom) and would like a place with enough room to have a separate area for an office.
- I like running along waterbodies, the bigger the better.
- As mentioned the office is in Fort Point, so it'd be good to be close to that (or close to the red line) -- I like a short commute!

I don't think I could pay more than $1,300/month. From what I understand, heat can be a big surprise so I'll try and find a place where it's covered.

Can anyone recommend some neighborhoods to include in my search?

The second issue is a matter of timing; I'd really like to live in Boston for a month or so before committing to an apartment. Extended stay hotels seem very expensive, so I'm wondering if y'all could recommend some other options for short-term accommodation.
posted by mammary16 to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (16 answers total)
Cambridge or Somerville is where you want to look.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:42 AM on October 4, 2012

Add East Arlington, at least the part within walking distance of Alewife. A little cheaper than North Cambridge or Davis Square (Somerville).
posted by mr vino at 9:43 AM on October 4, 2012

Also, as far as staying for a month beforehand, I recommend googling "vacation rentals" listings. These listings are generally people who have an extra home and want to make a little extra cash when they are not using it, but don't want to deal with the hassle of being full-time landlords. These types of rentals typically are nicer and cheaper than hotel accommodations.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:47 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Arlington/Cambridge line near Alewife. You'll be within jogging distance of the Fresh Pond reservoir and a longer run (or a couple of T stops) away from the Charles River paths.

Davis Square would suit your "close to art and music" requirement but it might have too high of a hipster population for you.
posted by ann_disaster at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2012

Quincy hits all of your points.

-Many areas within walking distance of the Red Line, as well as good bus coverage.
-A very nice running path along Wollaston Beach overlooking Quincy Bay, as well as local parks, historic sites, rivers, etc.
-1-bedroom apartments available in your price range, including heat. Actually, if you look at private landlords, there are places available well below your price range.
-Mostly undiscovered by hipsters. Local music and access to music in Boston.

I think the residential neighborhood between the Wollaston/North Quincy T stops along the Red Line and Wollaston Beach to the east might be your sweet spot.
posted by pie ninja at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2012

Cambridge and Somerville are great but you'll get better value and fewer hipsters if you look in the neighborhoods south of Fort Point. If South Boston itself is too expensive, I'd try Savin Hill in Dorchester or Wollaston Beach in Quincy.
posted by otio at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2012

Also, as you probably have seen in other rental threads, the vast, vast majority of apartments in Boston turn over on 9/1 and (to a lesser extent) 6/1. Your choices will be rather limited, though I'm sure you'll find a place to live.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2012

You're going to have trouble finding a place under $1,300 if you want a short commute, unfortunately. Boston rents have gone waaay up recently. Even places in Somerville close to the red line are going to be tough to find in your price range. South Boston is a really expensive area now, so that's probably out. I don't know much about Dorchester except that there are good parts and really bad parts, so definitely do your research if you plan on living there. If you downgrade to a studio, you might have more flexibility.

For the kind of neighborhood you're looking for, Cambridge and Somerville might be your best bets. You may just need to live further from the T than you were expecting, which is actually not so bad! I live about 20 minutes from the closest T stop and just take buses and walk everywhere. Check out East Cambridge and Inman Square.

As for short-term stays, check out the sublet section of craigslist. Sometimes places on AirBNB allow for month-long stays too, though that might be more expensive? Like Admiral Haddock says, most of Boston moves on September 1st, but the plus side of that is that you'll have less competition.

Oh, and keep in mind that realtors in Boston often charge a months rent as a 'finders fee'. Prowl the by-owner rentals on craigslist as much as possible.
posted by sonmi at 10:01 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Quincy or Dorchester. Both are on the MBTA (Boston public transit system) "red" subway line, are fairly inexpensive, and are on the same subway line as a bunch of music/cultural things. Another option is Allston/Brighton, which is less convenient for getting to Fort Point, but very convenient for many music venues. All of these are, generally, cheaper than places in Somerville/Cambridge for similar levels of subway access.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: You're going to find it very difficult if not impossible to find a spacious 1br apartment anywhere in the city in your price range. If you're comfortable living in a dodgy part of Dorchester you might get lucky. I wouldn't even expect to find a studio for less than $1300.

Are you going to be able to spend some time in the city during your apartment search, or is it going to be more of a one day trip/marathon apartment viewing at the end of which you must decide? If it's the former you can afford to start picky until cold hard reality sets in, but if it's the latter then you need to decide what you're willing to compromise on before you waste your limited time looking at apartments that, if they appear to be what you want on paper, will invariably surprise you with major deficiencies.
posted by telegraph at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2012

I agree that your best bet for the short term, unless you are 100% against roommates even for the short term, is going to be to find a shared sublet for a couple of months (check craigslist under "sublets & temporary" and "rooms & shares").
posted by mskyle at 10:37 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: Quincy and Dorchester are on the red line and significantly cheaper than Somerville or Cambridge (also on the red line), but you really need to visit those areas and get lost in them to be sure that you'd feel comfortable living there. I would not recommend moving there sight unseen. I wouldn't even recommend renting after just walking around for a few hours. They are really unique places and not everyone is going to like them.

Fort Point is lovely - technically it's considered "Southie" but it's quite nice and therefore expensive. Definitely out of your range. There are some pretty expensive places in Southie as well but I think you might find something you like there.

You might also consider living off of the green line. Brighton or Allston might have something around your price range, you'd be close to music, and I actually consider them to be significantly less "hipster" than Somerville. That said I prefer Somerville by leagues and bounds and would move there in a heartbeat if moving wasn't such a hassle. The green line is the worst of all of the lines, I don't think anybody would disagree.

You could also consider Jamaica Plain. It is probably not so bad of a commute (orange -> red), but it does feel very isolated.

One of the things that's fantastic about Boston, in this situation, though, is that there is looooads of temporary housing. People come here from all over the world to work and live for a few months at a time, and so sublets are not hard to find. I would recommend finding a sublet (even on Craigslist!) so that you can have a home base while you get a feel for the city.

Boston is not like any place I've ever been, its neighborhoods are very lively, and very disparate. I"ve not been to Istanbul so maybe it's similar, but it takes a little while to get a sense of what living in each neighborhood is like. If you can sublet to get some time, you'll be much better off.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:55 AM on October 4, 2012

I agree with some of the above comments - $1300 isn't going to get you much, if anything, in Somerville/Cambridge. I've lived in S'ville for 4 years and the rents have gone up dramatically in the last two years - a two bedroom for less than 1750 is extremely rare, and a 1 bed or studio for less than 1500 is unlikely.

Even Southie is getting awfully pricey and you'd be hard pressed to find a rental in your range that was within walking distance (for me, walking distance is less than 1 mile) of the red line. Several bus lines (7, 9 and 11, if memory serves) come from the east side of Southie (rent is cheaper, closer to the water) over to South Station or Broadway, which are the T stops near Fort Point that you'll be interested in.

Rent concerns aside, Somerville and Cambridge are wonderful and vibrant and I truly love living on this side of the river. You'll have your access to water to run along (both sides of the Charles have lovely running paths) and plenty of art/culture/good restaurants. There will be hipsters, but as Boston is such a student-y city, they are nearly impossible to avoid. I lived in Southie for a year before I came back to Somerville, and having lived over here, I was underwhelmed. My biggest complaint was the lack of good grocery stores. I'm a cook, though, so YMMV.

I would encourage you to visit all the places mentioned here if you can to see what you like and what's truly available in your price range. A sublet of a month or two will not be hard to find, they are all over craigslist, especially if you don't mind starting out with roommates until you find a permanent spot for yourself.

Best of luck to you, Boston is great and I hope you like it here!
posted by hungrybruno at 10:59 AM on October 4, 2012

You could also consider Jamaica Plain. It is probably not so bad of a commute (orange -> red), but it does feel very isolated.

I don't think JP feels isolated. It certainly felt less isolated than Quincy! But JP is full of hipsters.

I think Brighton might work for you, but it might also be a terrible commute. The B-Line (the branch of green line that runs through Brighton) is packed to the gills with students every day. If you leave for work early enough, you might miss them, but you will be subjected to the inanities of BU/BC/Northeastern/Whatever 18-22 year-olds every day.

A friend of mine rents a one-bedroom place in Porter Square for $1,200/month. Maybe he found an apartment unicorn, but I think that you should be able to find something in that part of town. I wouldn't bet on finding a place with heat included and/or enough space to have a separate office, though.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012

Best answer: I agree that the way people make this work in Boston is roommates. I just finished an apartment search for 3-bedrooms within half a mile or so of Davis Square, and $2600 was our high end, with places as low as $1800. It's a good bit less than $1300 per person. (Personally I like having roommates, but even if I didn't love it, an extra $600 a month in my pocket each month would forgive a fair bit of hassle. Weekend trips? Theater? Dinner out every night of the month? Health insurance? It opens up some options.)

I also think, when you say you're "allergic to hipsters" but want to bike and be close to art and music, that we can't possibly pick a neighborhood for you -- each of us is going to have a different idea what that means. Just in Cambridge and Somerville, you might love or hate Central Square, Davis Square, Union Square, or Inman Square, depending what kind of hipsters you hate and what kind of art you like. You're looking for a culture that's pretty specific and is going to be hard to describe. The only way to find the neighborhood you'll really like is to spend some time getting used to the city (or at least that's the only way it worked for me). So I would definitely look for a short-term sublet and take the time to explore the area before you settle down. That will also put you in a position to jump on any good deals that come up.

(Oh, also, never live on the Green Line. It's more of a performance art piece than a transit system.)
posted by jhc at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I echo what many above have said; rent is pretty nuts in Boston. Avoid the green line; I think even orange -->red (ie Jamaica Plain) might be an annoying commute.

Arlington/Cambridge/somerville are probably nice areas for you, but you might want to consider roommates or increasing your budget if possible.

Of note, I posted a "where should I live in Boston" question about 18 mo ago, and wound up in Fort Point. It's a great area, welcome! Feel free to memail.
posted by maryrussell at 2:00 PM on October 4, 2012

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