What to expect with relocation
August 18, 2005 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering relocating from Albuquerque to Boston for work. I have many questions around relocation packages and expectations

My Albuquerque based company was acquired by a Boston area company last year. They've been after me ever since to move to the home office. The CEO has laid out a standing offer for whenever I'm ready and I've finally come to the place where I think I might be ready.

I've done some research and I see a range for what the difference in the cost of living: from a low of 25% up to 43%. I know rents/homes are more expensive, etc. Realistically, if I made $50k here in Albuquerque (obviously not my real salary), what might I expect/need to earn to live in the same manner while in Boston?

What other things might I keep in mind for relocation? Is it still standard for a company to pay for moving expenses? What about short term housing? Are there likely to be contracts requiring me to stay for X period of time, or conversely, should I ask for something in writing about a minimum of continued employment (barring performance issues, etc.)?

I'd be working about 15-18 miles North of Boston, but I'd like to live closer to the city, if not in Boston proper. Are the places I see on Craigslist for $1100-1300 decent? Is it reasonable to expect that I might be able to get by without a car? I'd love to be able to sell my car.

The particulars:
I'm in my 30s, single, queer, no kids, no pets. No interest in a roomie.

I welcome any tips, tricks, hints for accomplishing this, discussing and negotiating with my employer and advice about Boston areas to consider for living (I'm thinking Somerville, Cambridge, East Boston so far).
posted by FlamingBore to Work & Money (17 answers total)
Can't answer your job questions, but speaking as a 30s queer guy, the Davis Sq and Porter Sq areas of Cambridge/Somerville are pretty friendly with good restaurants and coffeshops and great T access. I'm in a large 2 bed in a two-family house with 2 off-street parking spots and pay $1600/month. Friends in the neighborhood pay between 1200-$1800 depending on the number of bedrooms. It's a nice place to live, fairly quiet streets, etc. It's also easy to get to 93N and Rte 2, depending on where your office is.
posted by FreezBoy at 12:38 PM on August 18, 2005

I moved from Silicon Valley to New York City in November 2003 after my boss was promoted, and my entire group got transferred. I don't have experience in regards to living in Boston, but here was my relocation deal off the top of my head:

- no cost of living adjustment (I asked, they said no)
- 30 days of temporary accomodations (crashing at corporate apartment while you look for a new place)
- a food per diem while I was in corporate housing
- the company paid for movers and packers as well as one month's storage while I looked for a new place (there's a cap on this, but I got nowhere near it)
-I had a corporate relocation agent who got me two apartment brokers to work with (though that's pretty NYC-specific), along with some maps and guides
- plus the company paid the broker fee, including application fees and credit checks
- one-way travel expenses to NYC (for me it was a one-way flight, and taxi fare)
- two extra vacation days to deal with packing and moving
- and a "disturbance grant" that was roughly the size of two week's pay

I think that's it, there might be some smaller stuff I can't remember. I don't know how much leeway you get in a relocation package, but what I got from my HR department seemed very reasonable. The catch was that if you voluntarily left before 12 months you had to pay some portion of the expenses back -- and the longer you were there post-move, the less you had to pay.

Good luck!
posted by kathryn at 12:47 PM on August 18, 2005

I'd say if you're working outside of Boston, life would be much harder if you don't have a car. There is a commuter train, but it's not great, and neither are bus services in the outer suburbs.

I'd second FreezBoy's suggestion of Davis/Porter squares. Watertown is also really nice, with good bus service into the city, and close to 1-90. A little further west of Boston.
posted by darsh at 12:51 PM on August 18, 2005

I lived in Cambridge and worked in Woburn (about the same distance north) for a few years. You've gotta have a car to work that far out of the city ... even if you work near a commuter rail or bus line you'll be doing the "reverse" schedule which has fewer options.

When I lived in Harvard Sq my drive was about 20-30 minutes, the bulk of which was getting through Cambridge and Somerville to hop on 93.

The Davis Sq area, as recommended above, would be ideal, both for activities and for highway access. I have a very good friend who lives on St Clements St, which is halfway between Davis Sq and the highway, and had pretty reasonable rent. This is technically Medford, but as you'll see the city lines are quite twisty and only matter when you're parking.
posted by sohcahtoa at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2005

Make sure to check how your route would be between work and home without the car - some parts of the suburbs are very accessible, others are not. The best place to look would be the MBTA website, which has a trip planner. Porter is a a hub for commuting to some of the northern suburbs as well as a good neighborhood overall. For other types of car use, Boston has a thriving car share company.

I've been living here now for seven years with no car, including a year living in Cambridge and working in Norwood, 20 miles away on the other side of Boston. Reverse commuting is nice because the trains are empty, but you have to have a set schedule because the trains may only run your way once every 30-60 minutes. I never had to use the buses, they may be different. Another friend of mine did Cambridge to Beverly for a couple years, same issues, but it can work. Only in getting furniture and other big stuff has this been a resentful experience.

Craigslist is The Way to find apartments here, unless your employer can set you up with something special.
posted by whatzit at 1:09 PM on August 18, 2005

And besides Porter, North Station serves the other half of the northern and northeastern suburbs. North Station isn't too far of a walk/subway ride from some nice neighborhoods in Boston proper.
posted by whatzit at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2005

Don't believe that MSN calculator. I just relocated from San Francisco to New Haven, and took a 7% pay cut. That calculator claims I it should have been more like 46%. Believe me, my standard of living would not be same making half as much, even in New Haven.

Oh, and I'll echo the whole Porter/Davis thing. If you are commuting north it is nice to not have to get to the other side of the city to start your commute. As for public transport, it depends where you are going. I worked in Bedford and Billerica for two years (and by my calculations you are probably going to be somewhere near there) while living in Porter Square. I took the T to the bus for a while, but it just wasn't worth it. It took an hour when I could drive it in 20min. The commuter rail didn't go nearly close enough for that to be an option.

I haven't been in the Boston rental market for a couple of years, but you should be able to get a respectable 1 bedroom in Porter or Davis for that price.

Let me also quickly recommend (in no particular order) Anna's Taqueria, Diesel Cafe, The Burren, Toscaninni's and Elephant Walk.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 2:14 PM on August 18, 2005

I agree with the Davis recommendations, and Porter if you're on the Somerville side - good urban neighborhoods, culturally alive and interesting, but without the huge premium you pay to live in Cambridge. If you're interested in Cambridge, I'd take a look at the Kendall / East Cambridge area - used to be very run down, but it's improved hugely over the past 10 years, and you can still find some good deals here and there. East Cambridge is less culturally vibrant than Davis - quieter, but still really diverse. (Harvard, Central, and Porter are all really, really pricy, but great places to live if you are into vibrant arts and urban feel). Harvard Square's becoming really gentrified - a lot of the old unique bookstores have been replaced by, say, Abercrombie and Fitch. Some other places to look at would be the Back Bay and Jamaica Plain. If you want a quieter neighborhood that's a little farther out, but still not straight "suburbia," look at Medford, Arlington, or Belmont. There's a wide range in all of those towns, but good places to live in all of them. All of the above, in my own experience, are queer-friendly.

If you're working 15-18 miles north of Boston, taking commuter rail is going to be a huge pain unless your new work place is very close to one of the stops. If you have to take a bus to, say, Porter to get onto the train, then take the train, and then take another bus to get to your workplace, it's going to put your commute times through the roof. You may need to keep the car. The farther out from Boston you live, the more likely it is that the apartment you rent will have a parking space attached, or that there'll be ample on-street parking.

$1100 - $1300 for rents is in the right ballpark, though it'll probably only get you a one bedroom or studio in the pricier areas of the Back Bay or Cambridge. It'll get you more a little further out, which is another reason why Davis is popular nowadays.

Cost of living is very high in all of these areas. I think ericb's $70,000 is in the right ballpark given $50K as a starting figure.
posted by Chanther at 3:03 PM on August 18, 2005

When my husband accepted a transfer/promotion he received, per company policy [meaning there was no room to negotiate] the following-

-All moving expenses (van & packers)
-Travel expenses (for required interview & the actual move)
-A moving allowance (a few grand) for living expenses while looking for a permanent residence.
[last company he worked for actually offered to buy his house providing it didn't sale in a certain amount of time]
No employment length contract.

Your best bet is to simply ask, they might have a standard policy, with or without leeway.
posted by LadyBonita at 3:25 PM on August 18, 2005

I'm relocating to Boston from Memphis. I leave in 10 days! I can't wait. It's a fabulous city. Lots to do; lots of green spaces, smart people, and diversity. It's expensive, yes, but I think it's worth it. My job will be in Newton, and I will be living in Jamaica Plain, and, unfortunately, my job location is not MBTA accessible... well, it is, but it involves a ridiculous number of transfers and about 2 hours while the drive is about 15 minutes. Anyway, my point is that is all depends where you will be working.

Let me share something I wrote on my blog: Why in the Hell Are You Moving to Boston?

I've also made a little Boston Wiki. It was originally just for me and my boyfriend, but it's useful, so I made it public and have shared it around a little. It's probably more JP-focused than you'd like, but still, it links to my del.icio.us links, and I have a ton of Boston ones.

Wicked Wiki

As for COL comparison, try Best Places.
posted by abbyladybug at 3:26 PM on August 18, 2005

Response by poster: This is all great information. I'd be working in Burlington, and I understand there is no T station there, but one in Woburn, about three miles away. May not be an option. Too bad.

I've a newish car, maybe selling it and buying a beater would be a better option. Something to think about anyway.

kathryn, thanks for those specifics. The CEO has said there would be a COL adjustment, so it's really just a matter of what % I'd be looking at. The difference between New Mexico and Massachusetts is pretty significant, not sure how SV to NYC was at the time.
posted by FlamingBore at 3:29 PM on August 18, 2005

I live in Harvard Square (Cambridge) now, and commute to Waltham, just down 95 from Burlington. I previously lived in Waltham and commuted to Boston. I'll echo the Davis Square recommendations--it's a great place to live, is close to Route 2, which gets you to 95N and up to Burlington. If I can help at all, I'm more than happy to. Email's in my profile.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:12 PM on August 18, 2005

If you're working in Burlington, the places closer to Boston would be Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge. All are more expensive to rent in than Burlington.

If you're working near the Burlington Mall, there are small buses from Lexington Center that go to the Mall (see Route 5 on the linked page). (It's not clear from that page what the schedule is; if it's interesting, call the number on the page.) Arlington may have something similar.

I think you'll find living without a car a pain, but that might just be me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:37 PM on August 18, 2005

I think you'll find living without a car a pain, but that might just be me.

No, I'd agree with that. If you were living and working within the city of Boston, it's one thing. If you're living and/or working outside of the city, it's just not worth the hassle.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:42 PM on August 18, 2005

Yeah, knowing now that work'd be specifically in Burlington, that'd be a pain without a car. Might as well be in Burlington, VT at that point...
posted by whatzit at 7:31 PM on August 18, 2005

There is, in fact, a bus route from Alewife Station in Cambridge out Route 3A all the way through Burlington. My wife used it briefly when we first moved out to the burbs. It goes right past most of the office buildings in the neighborhood of the Burlington Mall, though you would have to hoof it from the bus stops.

However, beyond your daily commute, you would find that life in Greater Boston beyond the innermost cluster of towns is as automobile-dependent as anywhere else in this country.
posted by briank at 7:04 AM on August 19, 2005

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