Shipping up to Boston
June 15, 2008 1:59 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to find a nice 2br apartment in the greater Boston Metro area?

I'm currently living in RI, but just got a sweet, sweet job right near South Station. While living in Boston itself would be awesome (and by Boston itself, I include anyplace you can reach from South Station by subway and/or a short bus ride), I'd be willing to look at someplace nicer/cheaper out where the commuter rails go. I just don't want to do a lot of driving - quick jaunt to the T station at most, and bike there on nice days.

Can anyone recommend a nice place to find a 2br apartment for $1200 or less?

Craigslist Boston seems kinda tough to find anything worthwhile - the one for RI is way, way better (found my current digs there). Is there a better source of rental listings?

More info: I'm getting married in October, and we'll be looking for a house in Jan-Feb, so month-to-month would be nice, but not essential, as long as we could sublet.

TIA, MeFi!
posted by Slap*Happy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can anyone recommend a nice place to find a 2br apartment for $1200 or less?

Not in Boston? When I last looked at a new apartment in Cambridge, I visited two $1200 apartments. Both were 20 minute walks from the nearest T station and were in rather unpleasant neighborhoods (dirty, unfriendly, run-down). Rents have been going up since in the area, I can tell, as my friends re-sign their leases. So, look further out.

Really, the only way to do it in Boston is by Craigslist. Figure out what you want, hunker down, and just do it. You might improve your efforts by using something like housingmaps to mix information from Craigslist and google maps.
posted by whatzit at 2:27 AM on June 15, 2008

Maybe an okay 1 bedroom for $1200, but not a 2 bedroom.
posted by k8t at 3:59 AM on June 15, 2008

I have had good fortune finding apartments in the past with and Use the criterion selection facilities to narrow or broaden the search to meet your needs.
posted by netbros at 4:00 AM on June 15, 2008

Craigslist really is the single best way to find housing here, though as you get further from the center of the metro area, a higher percentage start to appear in the newspapers. There's a lot of noise from realty companies posting every listing they have ten times over, but you quickly learn to recognize the posting style of the top few, and can avoid them if you want.

Nice 2br for $1200 do exist around Boston, but they're almost all in Malden near the Orange Line. Which means you'll have an annoyingly long trip getting to anywhere else in town, on a line that seems to be down more than any other. The occasional ones closer in will all be grabbed within ten minutes of the ad going live on Craigslist, but they do exist, if few and far between.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:46 AM on June 15, 2008

For 1,200, it's all about luck and dedication. My wife and I scored one of the mythical 1,200 2-beds that's 10 minutes from the T (Davis Square) and not falling apart. We did that by 1) looking outside the major September 1 move date 2) dealing with some minor imperfections (no fridge, cranky upstairs neighbor: we demanded a fridge, and waited for the neighbor to die) 3) looking, looking, looking.

We used Apartment Rental Experts in Davis. We found them via CraigsList. They were great. Avoid Maven Realty in Davis - they tried the 'show off a crappy apartment then switch to a nice new one that's just outside the stated price range' sleeze.

So it can be done (although I'd expect to pay 1,400 for our place were it on the market now - that's how much a clone of our place next door just rented for), but you need to keep trying.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:12 AM on June 15, 2008

Response by poster: As a clarification, I understand that renting anyplace in the City Proper except the Scorsese-bad parts of Southie and the Dot for $1200/mo is fantasy. (Which may be doable. I once lived on Federal Hill in Providence.)

I was hoping for tips on finding places near commuter rail stops to the north or south (or west, but not too far west).

Local newspaperpalooza, here I go!
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:18 AM on June 15, 2008

I just left my $1150 2ish-bedroom (well, one bedroom was a bit on the smaller side and was used as an office) apartment in Jamaica Plain, and I am sure there are others to be found. And JP is lovely, with a pleasant walkable core and lots of greenspace around. If you'd like, there were a couple of good realtors whom I didn't use personally but were showing my place for the last months I lived there. Email/mefi-mail me for contact. Good luck.
posted by zachxman at 5:33 AM on June 15, 2008

If you're willing to look at Quincy & Braintree I think you can still find good bargains there. Depending on where in those areas you live, getting from your apartment to the T could be a pain, but it's doable. If you'd be walking/biking from home to T in that area I'd try making the walk/ride a couple of times before you commit to the place. About 7 years ago I lived in an apartment complex that was about a 5-10 minute car ride from the Braintree T station but a 20-30 minute walk that involved crossing a dangerous rotary and was not pleasant in summer heat and winter freeze. It was a pretty good place to live, though, and if I had a car at the time I would have loved it (also, I was working in Davis Square, Somerville at the time and effectively riding the entire length of the Red Line twice a day, which got tiresome).

I do NOT recommend Harbor Point apartments in Dorchester. They are way overpriced for what you get (though the lure of two bathrooms in a 2-bed apt. was too good to pass up at the time for two young ladies living together), very noisy, and the management tried to pull sketchy business with our security deposit when we moved out.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:35 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Consider Waltham, which is about 10 miles outside the city. It has a commuter stop downtown, a fantastic main street (Moody Street), and a wide range of housing choices. I lived there for five years, and loved it. In the last apartment, (Aug 02 - Aug 04), we were in a three bedroom that rented for $1500/month.

On the other hand, I'm in a 1 bed in Harvard Square that I pay less than $1000 for. Found it on Craigslist, four years ago this month. So it's entirely possible to find those great deals in great locations, but they're not common!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:46 AM on June 15, 2008

places near commuter rail stops to the north or south (or west, but not too far west)...

Ok. I was a commuter-rail-commuter (Cambridge->Norwood), and have some thoughts not on finding the apartment necessarily but at least helping you narrow your target area:
* Don't go "north or south or west" (and def not east) - if you use the purple lines, you want one that goes direct to South Station. It is such a pain to get to N. Station and still have to get across town somehow.
* Check the actual schedule of the lines. Some stops get skipped over on non-peak hours, and it makes your commuting options much more limited.
* Bus coverage from some suburbs is Not Bad. The search function on is "meh," but if you can get enough information, you might consider it as a "rail alternative" - I would never want it as the only option.
posted by whatzit at 5:46 AM on June 15, 2008

This may be a stupid suggestion (where do you live in RI?) but you can get cheap, nice apartments in Providence that are in walking and biking distance of the train station, and take the commuter rail to South Station. Admittedly, it is a bit of commute - about an hour, if I remember correctly, and obviously if you are itching to get out of Rhode Island it doesn't make any sense.
posted by puffin at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2008

I've got two friends with a really nice apartment in Dedham for about that price. Check there? She uses the commuter rail in to South Station from there.
posted by olinerd at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2008

Yeah, if I were you I'd treat Boston as "the Office" and move to Providence, then commute each day. It's about an hour and fifteen minutes, station-to-station, but the nice thing about it is you're the first on the train, which means you beat the other commuters along the route to the good seats. An hour is hell in a car, but when someone else is doing the driving it's a great time to get yourself ready for the day ahead. Additionally, since you'd be traveling end-to-end, you don't have to worry about falling asleep and missing you stop.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2008

1. Look in the Sunday globe. Often, more old-fashioned landlords will post there and you can score decent deals.
2. Hyde Park and Roslindale are both nice neighborhoods that are cheaper due to lack of subway access. But Roslindale does have at least one commuter rail stop, and I think hyde park might too.
3. Don't be afraid of Dorchester. Dot Ave is undergoing a major rennaissace right now, with tons of Vietnamese restaurants and even a few gastropubs. So convenient, too. Two of my friends, who just had a baby and needed more space, moved from their teeny-tiny railway apartment in Cambridge to a two bedroom near Shawmut where they have a huge kitchen, deck, two bedrooms and a dining room for less money. Something to think about.
posted by lunasol at 1:35 PM on June 15, 2008

I have no useful Bostonian housing data to add-- I left years ago-- but I just like saying "Scorsese-bad." None of my transplanted-Southerner friends here in LA believe that The Departed could be accurate...
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2008

I live in Roslindale and it is pretty easy to get around using the buses and commuter rail, and if you live in the right part of Roslindale, the subway as well. Plus we have the Arboretum which is very nice. I rent a 2BR for $1650 but we have parking and a yard and a lot of square footage. I'm told by my neighbors that we pay too much for our place, but we like it. I'm sure if you just need a basic 2BR you can find one in your range. Rosi is coming up and we have an awesome new cheese shop, a great wine store, and some decent restaurants as well.

Also, you might consider the Forest Hills section of JP.
posted by mds35 at 6:27 AM on June 18, 2008

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