Where can I afford to live around Worcester, MA?
August 19, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of taking a postdoc in at UMass in Worcester, MA but am having trouble ironing out cost of living expenses. Where can I can I afford to live around there, preferably with a (relatively speaking) easy commute to Boston?

I would prefer someplace that is <$1200/month, though I think that I can technically can only afford something around $1000/month (according to the "1/3 of your income" rule). Everything I have found so far, however, is more like $1400/month. The only real requirements are that the place is large enough for two people to live in, that there is reasonable accessibility for commuting to Boston, and that they allow pets.

Is this possible or is Massachusetts just unaffordable for my situation?
posted by The Bishop of Turkey to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Am a little unclear: Worcester is a huge city one hour away from Boston. Are you commuting to Boston, or Worcester?
posted by Melismata at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2013

Response by poster: I would be working in Worcester; my girlfriend, who would be moving with me, would most likely find a job in Boston.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2013

I lived in Worcester for years, and you should be able to find a place that fits your budget. It's a pretty inexpensive and safe city to live in. A ton of stuff is getting redeveloped on Shrewsbury St; it'll be a nice walk to the train station and a very short drive to UMass. There are some nicer apartments behind the hospital and over by the lake, but they'll be less walkable. MeMail me if you need a hand!
posted by thebigdeadwaltz at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2013

Just FYI: that is not going to be a fun commute for your GF.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

In my experience, Worcester has one of the lowest costs of living in Massachusetts. Perhaps areas further west are cheaper, but that doesn't sound like it would be of interest to you. I'm surprised you're having trouble finding reasonable options, to be honest.

A quick Craigslist search for the keyword "umass" turns up plenty of results with 1-bedrooms and 2-bedrooms available for under $1000/month. Can you take a look at some of these listings and report back to us with any reservations or concerns you're having?

It's also worth mentioning that if you're thinking of maybe living part-way between Boston and Worcester in order to lessen the commute burden on your girlfriend, you can expect to pay a lot more. I'm applying to medical school at UMass, and coming from Framingham (midway between the two cities), the low rents I'm seeing in Worcester are making me tear up with joy a little.
posted by lizzicide at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2013

Response by poster: Lizzicide: I think the looking that it is the looking in between Worcester and Boston that is creating problems for me. Also, many of those Craigslist listing are, for some reason, not Worcester but actually for UMass Amherst or elsewhere.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2013

Yeah, from what I understand Worcester proper is pretty affordable, but once you start looking east of Worcester (especially east of route 495, which Bostonians generally think of as the western border of the state) it will get expensive. Others can probably weigh in as far as the rush hour drive from greater Worcester to Boston, but I think the train would be a grind; even the peak-hour express trains take about 90 minutes to get to South Station.
posted by usonian at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2013

What kind of pets? If you're talking about one or two cats, some landlords are flexible on that even if their ad says "no pets"; I wouldn't limit a craigslist search to ones that explicitly say "cats allowed". Dogs are much tougher.

Framingham is a convenient midpoint, and I think you could find something for $1200 or less there. If your girlfriend's looking for a job in the Boston area but doesn't know where she'll be working exactly, you might also want to sublet or take a month-to-month lease in Worcester, and find a longer-term location based on her commute later.
posted by songs about trains at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2013

i live in worcester and it's really pretty cheap all around. i'm by wpi and becker and the area around that is mostly student housing, so it's really affordable. if you like the nightlife and going out, i would recommend finding something off highland or shrewsbury st (walkable to umass mostly) where there are tons of restaurants. the highland st community also has the art museum and a few nice parks. both areas are very safe. burncoat and west are both nice areas a bit further out but probably above your price range for the most part. tatnuck sq is nice but once again it gets pricey. forget living off main or south worcester - it's a hole.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2013

also, as someone who commutes on occasion to boston from worcester, the drive is 35-45 minutes without traffic for the most part. morning rush hour - i leave myself 1.5 to 2 hours in order to make it on time.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2013

I owned a home in Northborough from 2004-2008. When I bought the house, I worked in Marlborough, which was a beautiful 15 minute commute each way. I changed jobs, though, and starting in 2007 I commuted to Boston daily.

THAT IS A LONG, SOUL-SUCKING COMMUTE. Move close to Worcester and your girlfriend will not like you very much anymore. My commute took almost two hours EACH WAY. Now I live in Maryland, commute ALMOST 50 MILES to work each way and it **STILL** takes less time than Northborough to Boston did.

I drove to the Commuter Rail station in Southborough (~20 minutes' drive) and then took the 7:33a train to South Station (1h 30min, provided you weren't delayed by a CSX train on the tracks, weather, or any number of other reasons for train delays that the T could pull out of their arse). If you miss the 10am train, you are SCREWED and have to drive into Boston (Mass Pike tolls and $10-$15 parking in South Boston pay lots, plus you'll feel like you've wasted your monthly Commuter Rail pass). Similarly, if you need to be at work before 8AM (happened to me sometimes as my employer had an office in Singapore and we needed to schedule conference calls), you have to drive all the way to the Framingham station to catch a train.

My Commuter Rail pass cost between $200 and $250 per month (I don't remember exactly, but it was in that neighborhood). If she commutes from the Worcester Commuter Rail station, that will cost her even more.

Unfortunately for you, housing gets a lot more affordable the further away from Boston (and closer to Worcester) you get. A $1200 a month rent budget pretty much limits you to Worcester itself (or perhaps Millbury).

Does your girlfriend have a job yet? Depending on what she does for a living, she may be able to find a job in Worcester, Marlborough, or Framingham, or heck, even Waltham. Any of those will be much, much easier on her commute-wise.

Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but I think you're going to have to give a little on either the rent budget or the easy commute.

That said, there may be an office at UMass that would be able to help you. I was not a college student and didn't have the benefit of (for example) a residence life office.
posted by tckma at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I find it very difficult to believe that you could not find a 1-bed (provided that qualifies as large enough for two people) for less than $1200 in, let's say, Framingham. Any further from Boston is a suicidal commute, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Behemoth at 10:15 AM on August 19, 2013

The Boston thing complicates this enormously. You shouldn't have any problem finding an affordable place within ~20 minutes of Umass in Shrewsbury or even Clinton or Marlborough(~30 min) area. That's a fairly rural/suburban area and lots of low rents (though maybe not in nicest places). The commute to Boston is a drag, though my folks have been doing it for more than a decade now, combination of train some days, driving others, and working from home a couple days a week. If your SO can work on the train (don't depend on the wifi though) it's not a terrible option, but it is long.

Have you tried using padmapper to get a sense of where places that fit your budget might be? The ability to look at potential places on a Google maps overlay is helpful for me. Maybe look in Ashland to try to shorten the commute time to Boston (at the cost of stretching commute to Worcester to ~30min+traffic), it's also close to the Mass Pike (90)?
posted by Wretch729 at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2013

Yeah, also, is there a specific reason that you think your girlfriend will get a job in Boston and when you say "Boston" do you mean "Boston downtown" or "Boston/Cambridge/inner suburbs" or "Greater Boston"? Because Greater Boston basically bumps up against/overlaps with Worcester.

I agree it's probably a good idea to get a sublet until you know where your girlfriend will be working because if she's, say, somewhere on 128, you're probably going to want to live somewhere different than if she's working in the Financial District.

If you're looking on Craigslist, look in the Boston Craigslist in the Metro West subsection. That's probably the area you would want to look at if one of you is working in Worcester and one in Boston.
posted by mskyle at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel like I maybe didn't emphasize the Boston problem enough. Commuting from anywhere near Worcester to Boston is most likely going to be about an hour and a half each way if you drive in morning/evening traffic. One might be able to beat that by going in early (like 6am) but that's it's own burden. Spending 3 hours a day commuting is brutal. If you spend ~8 hours sleeping/showering/brushing teeth and ~8hrs working that commute becomes more than 1/3 of your free waking hours!

Like I said if your SO can work or sleep on the train, or has opportunity to work from home 1 or 2 days a week, it's not so bad but otherwise it is just the worst. Plan accordingly.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2013

I used to commute into Boston from about the same distance away (northeast Rhode Island), and it truly sucked.

Oh, I loved the amount of reading I did, but it was two hours each way, every day, of driving, waiting, train-riding, and walking. That meant essentially a half-time job on top of my full-time job, and one for which I paid a lot of money to "enjoy"!

I am guessing that you could rent in, say, Framingham to split the difference, but just keep in mind that our GF's "half" of the travel will be a lot slower and more miserable per-mile than your fairly innocent drive out to Worcestretrstret. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2013

I agree you should be able to find housing in your budget in the MetroWest region. That's a reasonable price range for many of the areas in the belt between Route 128 and Route 495.

And for what it's worth, I disagree with the hysterics about the commute between Worcester and Boston. Everybody has a different tolerance for commuting; but I've done that commute regularly by car, for a time I had coworkers who were doing that commute regularly by car and by train, and the opinions in this thread don't match my experiences.
posted by cribcage at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2013

Definitely agree with wenestvedt -- I, too, *loved* the amount of reading I got done on the afternoon train, and the extra sleep I was able to catch on the morning train, knowing South Station was the last stop (unless I got some loudmouth sitting behind me who thought the 6:33 AM or 7:33 AM trains were ideal for conducting LOUD business meetings by cell phone, which happened quite often). However, I was usually out of the house by 7AM and didn't get back home by 7PM -- plus I sometimes had volunteer/leisure activities at night time.

When the only time I got to enjoy this nice house I was paying a mortgage and upkeep on was when I was asleep or on weekends -- I started looking for a new job.

I want to stress just how much a Commuter Rail pass costs, too (oh, and parking at Commuter Rail stations isn't free either, but it's certainly much cheaper than parking in Boston). You two may come out the same or even better budget-wise if you rent some place more expensive closer in to Boston, but I can't run the numbers for you.

$1400/mo. or more for a 2 bedroom between Routes 128 and 495 sounds about right, if not downright reasonable.
posted by tckma at 10:58 AM on August 19, 2013

The best thing your girlfriend could do in this situation is find a job in the Metrowest area if possible. You can both find a nice apartment in Shrewsbury or Marlborough or Framingham for the budget you describe. I have a 2-bedroom that allows pets in the area for $1050+utils, but that level of cheapness is rare and comes with its own compromises. Seconding you want to be looking in the Metrowest tab of the Boston craigslist site.

Commuting to Boston from anywhere within 40 minutes of Worcester would get very very old very fast. One way you could make this workable if your girlfriend absolutely HAS to work in Boston is to get a 1-2 bedroom for very cheap in Worcester where you and the pets live, and try to spend 300-600 per month on a commuter arrangement for her where she could rent a room in someone's house or apartment in or near boston Sunday night to Friday morning, and spend weekends with you. A post-doc is (generally) a temporary arrangement, and this could be do-able for the 1 to 3 years it would take to finish. Otherwise, I would conclude that you cannot find work in the same city as your SO, and must find another job or post-doc.
posted by permiechickie at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2013

« Older Looking for Evergreen shrubs happy in partly shady...   |   Good online database solutions that hold images? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.