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Moving to Boston

Mai-KeroMai-Kero Registered User regular
edited February 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So, after hitting up PAX East a few times, two of my roommates and I are seriously considering moving to Boston. We live in Ohio now, so there's nothing keeping us here and we desperately want to escape.

Our main considerations are funds and transportation. We live pretty cheaply right now, in a large apartment of five people for $1100. Two of us make about $30,000 a year, and the other makes around $22,000. All of us work in retail at one of the best stores in a company, and can easily transfer to another store based on reputation. I imagine our income would go up a bit due to the cost of living in Boston, but I wanted to see a worst case scenario if we make the same.

As far as transportation goes, during PAX I loved the Subway, but I can see how that might wear thin after a bit. Are apartment buildings usually car-friendly?

As far as funding goes, what's rent like in a reasonably clean area that isn't far away from cool stuff?

Mai-Kero on

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    y2jake215y2jake215 certified Flat Birther theorist the Last Good Boy onlineRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    I spent a year downtown, at Audobon Circle. My apartment was literally 10 steps from the Brookline border, and was a solid central point to get pretty much anywhere. It was a dank basement, crappy enough to literally flood with sewage, putting us out for the entirety of July. And it was $1875 a month for 2 people. Get prepared to spend a LOT more on rent, unless you want to live outside the city and commute in to do cooler stuff. I'm not sure of the rent there, but Allston seems to be a lot cheaper, but a little bit more dangerous. Its where all the college kids live and throw parties basically every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so that's something you'll have to weigh against the cost.

    Edit: I didn't have a car, but I don't believe we had access to any parking

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    VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    O hi there. I also moved from Ohio to Boston just last year. Everything here is from my experience, which isn't much, but is similar. The rent cost seems to be proportional to the distance from a T (subway) stop. You can save a bunch on rent and still get to the T reasonably quickly by taking one of the buses to one of the stops.

    I live in Arlington in a single apartment for a little more than a thousand, but the location is right next to a bus stop that takes me to Harvard Square and the T to downtown. Arlington is a very nice town northwest of Cambridge and Somerville but also tends to avoid the crazy rent. I have an awesome apartment with two parking spaces and it's always quiet.

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    rizriz Registered User regular
    Boston is great. But it is not cheap. I only ever lived in two-bedroom or studio apartments, so couldn't give examples of what it would cost for a larger place. But my rent for a studio, in Allston/Brighton (i.e., not downtown, but not the 'burbs), was about what my friends in the Midwest pay for their multi-bedroom, more equipped places.

    Most of my friends' places did actually have parking, but you sometimes have to pay extra for it. Otherwise there's the joys of on-street parking. The T kind of sucks though. Maybe depends what area you're in. But it breaks down a lot, it's crowded, it shuts down around 12:30 a.m... It's also way more of a pain in the ass to get a taxi than in, say, New York. One of my roommates had a car for years and it was a huge convenience for us. But again probably depends what area of town you end up in. (A minor but very annoying related point: many concerts that purport to be in "Boston" are really 45 minutes south of Boston, or an hour west in Worcester, etc.)

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    ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    I live in Cambridge, right off of the Porter Square T stop. Our rent is $2500 for three rooms, which split between 4 people (my girlfriend lives in my room) isn't bad at all for the area. Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington are all quite nice locations that are T-accessible, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants and things to do up here too. The cities make it a superb pain in the ass to register your car for on-street parking, though, and I imagine Boston is the same way.

    The T sucks, but how much the T sucks depends on which line you're on. If you're riding the red line, it isn't typically THAT bad. If you're on the green line, however, you're pretty fucked and your daily commute will probably be pretty miserable.

    I recommend that you come visit the city and crash for some friends for a week while you scout out apartments. A lot of crappy, run-down apartments will look much better in the ad, and it can take a while to find a place that is reasonably convenient while also not falling apart.

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    wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    I've lived in Boston for the past 6 years, in three different apartments/neighborhoods.

    How many of you would there be? All five of you? How many bedrooms would you want/need? How many cars would you want to have parked? How few cars could you all have if you had to have fewer? Do you need dedicated reserved parking spots, or are you willing to deal with street parking. (Depending on the neighborhood, this can range from "not a big deal" to "every man for himself free-for-all.")

    The subway doesn't really wear thin. Well, unless you live on the Green Line, which is the oldest, slowest subway and the only one that has to stop for traffic lights. I live off of the Red Line, and I (happily) hardly ever use my car. It gets me groceries and lets me do weekend errands/excursions. I love that I can get just about anywhere by subway + walking.

    You should also know that almost every apartment lease in the area starts on September 1 and ends on August 31, because most landlords want to align with the influx and outflux of the enormous student population of the area. You'll see most apartment openings advertised at the start of the summer, maybe around early June when landlords are asking their tenants whether or not they're staying on for another year. As it gets closer to August, the prime apartments will be picked off more and more, but you also have a chance of landlords getting more and more desperate and dropping the price.

    The apartment culture here is also big on "fee" apartments, where landlords pay evil moustache-twirling vulture rental agencies one month's rent to find tenants. That extra fee usually gets paid by the new tenant. So just be aware that your initial payment could be sizeable: First and last month's rent + security deposit + "fee".

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    GenlyAiGenlyAi Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Assuming you're in your 20s, Somerville and Alston are the go-to places for people trying to keep the rent down. Somerville's a bit more nerdy, Alston a bit more fratty.

    I had a 2 bedroom in Somerville 5min from the T for $1400, and a 4 bedroom 2min from the T for $2000 (that one was like 10 years ago, though). Street parking is easy there, but you won't need a car for most stuff. Part of this depends on where you need to get to, as there is a big convenience boost in being on the same T line as your place of work. From your OP, it seems like you need to be convenient to some particular store, so you could tell us what T line it is near.

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    The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    Every time my bosses come out to Boston they get lost trying to find their way around. When I interviewed a while back it was a topic of conversation and I tried to explain to them that "Boston" is pretty much everything that sits inside the ring of highways which stretch in a circle around the city proper. Essentially, it takes the same general window of time to get anywhere in the city from anywhere within the ring, with exceptions if you're going from one extreme to another.

    There are usually a few options for location when one lives in the area. You can be in one of the "downtown" (and I use the term loosely) areas such as Cambridge or Boston proper (gross oversimplification, of course) from which you would be able to get to anything you need via public transport and your own two feet; the "urban-suburban" areas like Somerville or Alston/Brighton, which are usually more secluded from "lots of stuff" but are still mostly public transport accessible; thirdly, there are the "suburban" areas a bit further out that have quite limited but still accessible bus lines and a greater residential/car-based way of life.

    Not shockingly, the lowest rents that are reasonable are usually found out in the "suburban" areas like Waltham, Revere, Newton, Watertown, etc., but those also tend to require a car for decent transport that doesn't take an hour and a half to get anywhere.

    Areas like Somerville and Alston/Brighton tend to have the "best-of-both-worlds" approach in that they are usually transport accessible and fairly car-friendly. You'll find higher rents for less space, on average.

    One bit to keep in mind is that transport in Boston tends to be a bit segregated. It can be frustrating to get to a Green Line area like Alston from a Red Line area like Somerville without a car or changing buses/trains a few times.

    For example, I'm actually moving into a new apartment in Waltham in a little less than two weeks. I'm 27 and get pretty much everywhere by either car or car+train. I can get to the "city" areas in 30-40 minutes, usually. Day-to-day things like groceries and "supplies" are all car-based tasks for me. I'll be paying $1500 for six rooms on two floors of a split 2 unit with 3BRs.

    My girlfriend has been living in Somerville for the last two years or so, and she pays $1550 for barely five rooms (2BR). Before that, she was in Cambridge paying $1650ish for a similar apartment in a complex.

    If you're close to a subway line, you'll pay for it in rent. This is something to be taken into account as there are large parts of each neighborhood which are simply way too far from train stops to be convenient. In the case of Somerville, for example, the two T stops on the Red Line tend to gravitate toward a mixture of student housing for Tufts and 20-30 somethings. Essentially, in a lot of places you have to deal with rents inflating due to students' desire to live in the areas.

    I always suggest looking at areas like Watertown and Waltham as a bit of a "control" group as those apartments tend to be closer to a "no-frills" sort of location.

    And if you aren't aware, I've had a lot of success utilizing padmapper.com as a great way to get quick looks at various rents in an area.

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    wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    If they get too far out, though, I think they'll be missing the experience they're looking for. Even though Watertown isn't that far geographically, it's so far transportation time-wise that they'll hardly ever actually go downtown. I'm in favor of the recommendations of going north of the Charles River, as close as they can afford to get to the Red Line, or westward in Allston/Brighton.

    I'm much happier in Cambridge than I was living in two different spots along the Green Line, so I'm much more partial toward sending them to Cambridge/Somerville.

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    Tom819Tom819 Haverhill, MARegistered User regular
    If you're moving to Boston for the experience of living "in the city" don't move to Waltham, Watertown, or anywhere further than like Brighton, Cambridge, or Somerville. As listed those cities are probably highest to lowest in terms of rent, relatively speaking.

    Somerville was once refered to as "Slumerville" (Famous for Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang (Departed) etc), but has since gotten better but still has it's spots as does Cambridge. I lived there for 3 years and rented a place from a family friend for $900 a month for a one bedroom, 3 room apartment. They were going to rent it for $1500 and had takers till my wife and I had to move. That was 11 years ago. I've heard they get close to $1800 now. Has to do with proximity to Tufts University and the closeness to the bars and restaraunts.

    If you're gonna live in Boston, plan on not having a car, or a minimal number. One you won't need it, two parking can be a bitch and in the winter during snow, tenfold. Everything you need is there. There is a service called Zipcar http://www.zipcar.com/ . Not sure if it's in OH but they're essentially a rental car service for on a whim. Buses, cabs, subways, and the commuter rail can get you almost anywhere you need to.

    Also keep in mind that if the cost of living is higher here you may make a little more here also.

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    BagginsesBagginses __BANNED USERS regular
    Don't forget that there's the commuter rail. If you can get a spot near a station, you can be quite a ways out and still go into town easily as long as the train stops there (the train tends to skip stations when moving against the commute direction, so check the schedule).

    There's also Dorchester, which is still affordable in a couple small pockets.

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    Tom819Tom819 Haverhill, MARegistered User regular
    I'd stay away from Dorchester. That's all I'll say.

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    The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Bagginses wrote:
    Don't forget that there's the commuter rail. If you can get a spot near a station, you can be quite a ways out and still go into town easily as long as the train stops there (the train tends to skip stations when moving against the commute direction, so check the schedule).

    The commuter rail has become better than it used to be, but it is still far from a reliable form of transport.

    Zipcar is a fantastic suggestion, as all Boston massholes have a need for car transport from time to time (somewhat necessary in Boston, but not always).

    And I agree, cities like Watertown and Waltham aren't much in terms of city living, but do provide a cheaper rent in exchange for fairly easy access. I live in Waltham and drive/bus to the train when need be, in most cases. Driving in downtown (crossing the city, i.e. going from Somerville to Alston) can be a major hassle.

    Somerville and Alston/Brighton sound best for what you want.

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    y2jake215y2jake215 certified Flat Birther theorist the Last Good Boy onlineRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Tom819 wrote:
    I'd stay away from Dorchester. That's all I'll say.

    I've lived in Dorchester my entire life (other than college). He's right. Don't come here

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    Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    Tom819 wrote:
    Somerville was once refered to as "Slumerville" (Famous for Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang (Departed) etc), but has since gotten better but still has it's spots as does Cambridge. I lived there for 3 years and rented a place from a family friend for $900 a month for a one bedroom, 3 room apartment. They were going to rent it for $1500 and had takers till my wife and I had to move. That was 11 years ago. I've heard they get close to $1800 now. Has to do with proximity to Tufts University and the closeness to the bars and restaraunts.

    There are still some more affordable places in Somerville if you're willing to go further from the T. My bf lives in a 2 bedroom for $1200, it takes like 30 min to walk to Porter or Davis but if your social life mostly is just hanging out with other nerds it's ok. And I've been in some 4 or 5 roommate apartments right in Davis that were pretty nice and only like $500-700 per person. But they were *tiny* compared to what I'm used to in Providence.

    My best friend just moved to Waltham, and I have nothing good to say about it. Not a damn thing.

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    schussschuss Registered User regular
    Waltham is terrible. As others said - Brighton/Cambridge/Somerville are your best bets.
    Commuter rail breaks down or is delayed constantly, anything other than the T is unreliable, at best. Parking is terrible, so get parking including if you can. Have fun!

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    VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    I visited one of my co-workers who just bought a condo in Waltham without consulting any of us. It seems okay, but he noticed one of those Advanced Payday places and a military recruiting office right in the center of town. Too late.

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    BagginsesBagginses __BANNED USERS regular
    VeritasVR wrote:
    I visited one of my co-workers who just bought a condo in Waltham without consulting any of us. It seems okay, but he noticed one of those Advanced Payday places and a military recruiting office right in the center of town. Too late.

    Waltham seems to be one of the more inconsistent suburbs. It has a bunch of areas that could pass for Newton, one or two that could pass for Weston (especially near Stonehurst), and then a bunch of areas that look like they're from Worcester. Good eats, though.

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    schussschuss Registered User regular
    Bagginses wrote:
    VeritasVR wrote:
    I visited one of my co-workers who just bought a condo in Waltham without consulting any of us. It seems okay, but he noticed one of those Advanced Payday places and a military recruiting office right in the center of town. Too late.

    Waltham seems to be one of the more inconsistent suburbs. It has a bunch of areas that could pass for Newton, one or two that could pass for Weston (especially near Stonehurst), and then a bunch of areas that look like they're from Worcester. Good eats, though.

    The problem with Waltham is that it's best is other places mediocre. It's not a bad place, but it doesn't really have anything that compels you to stay, either. It's also not on the T, which is the gamebreaker. Newton, you can jump on the D line and be in the center of the city in 30-40 minutes (and always get a seat).

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    The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    schuss wrote:
    The problem with Waltham is that it's best is other places mediocre. It's not a bad place, but it doesn't really have anything that compels you to stay, either. It's also not on the T, which is the gamebreaker. Newton, you can jump on the D line and be in the center of the city in 30-40 minutes (and always get a seat).

    Absolutely. The full gamut of "places to live" around Boston generally starts with Waltham (and the like) on the low end of cost and reaches (realistically) toward the higher-end areas like Cambridge. I've had many, many friends start off in Waltham then move to Alston/Somerville before finally (over many years) migrate either to the real suburbs or to the higher-end areas.

    Newton is boring, but does have some T access. The Green Line is archaic and slow, not to mention that it takes far longer to get anywhere via Green Line than elsewhere (especially from Newton it can be an hour ride before you hit Park St).

    In all honesty, Alston/Brighton and Somerville seem best for the OP.

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    wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    Zooming out from the specifics about moving into Boston, let me just say that I absolutely love the Boston area after my half decade of living here, and if you're looking for a change of pace then I think you could have a lot of fun moving here. It's the perfect size of big city for me: big enough to have a ton of things to do, but not so big that it's oppressive.

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    schussschuss Registered User regular
    schuss wrote:
    The problem with Waltham is that it's best is other places mediocre. It's not a bad place, but it doesn't really have anything that compels you to stay, either. It's also not on the T, which is the gamebreaker. Newton, you can jump on the D line and be in the center of the city in 30-40 minutes (and always get a seat).

    Absolutely. The full gamut of "places to live" around Boston generally starts with Waltham (and the like) on the low end of cost and reaches (realistically) toward the higher-end areas like Cambridge. I've had many, many friends start off in Waltham then move to Alston/Somerville before finally (over many years) migrate either to the real suburbs or to the higher-end areas.

    Newton is boring, but does have some T access. The Green Line is archaic and slow, not to mention that it takes far longer to get anywhere via Green Line than elsewhere (especially from Newton it can be an hour ride before you hit Park St).

    In all honesty, Alston/Brighton and Somerville seem best for the OP.

    Don't confuse the D line with other lines. D line is fast, C line is slower, and B line makes me want to kill myself. That said, for the age and likely spending power, Allston/Brighton. Note that most apartments are shitty there though, as it's the living area for BU and some other colleges.

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    DragonPupDragonPup Registered User regular
    If you like Armenian food, Watertown is the place to go. (I've lived here for over 25 years now)

    Seriously, if having a car is highly important, looks at the suburbs that others have already mentioned. Hope you like Dunkin Donuts cause we got a million of them here. :-)

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    rizriz Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    wonderpug wrote:
    You should also know that almost every apartment lease in the area starts on September 1 and ends on August 31, because most landlords want to align with the influx and outflux of the enormous student population of the area. You'll see most apartment openings advertised at the start of the summer, maybe around early June when landlords are asking their tenants whether or not they're staying on for another year. As it gets closer to August, the prime apartments will be picked off more and more, but you also have a chance of landlords getting more and more desperate and dropping the price.

    The apartment culture here is also big on "fee" apartments, where landlords pay evil moustache-twirling vulture rental agencies one month's rent to find tenants. That extra fee usually gets paid by the new tenant. So just be aware that your initial payment could be sizeable: First and last month's rent + security deposit + "fee".

    Yeah the college-based rental turnover is something I actually think is helpful up there. People know many months ahead of time when and whether they're moving out and you have a lot of time to look for places that will be vacant. At the same time, by far the nicest apartment I've ever had I moved into on October 15. I'm 99% sure something happened like the place was a mess when the previous tenants moved out, and by the time they fixed it up enough to rent again, they were offering a lot less than it was worth because there's so few people looking for new places in October rather than September.

    Also, are rental fees not common elsewhere? I've only lived in Boston and New York, and both places make you pay soul-crushing realtor fees if you do end up going the realtor route.

    riz on
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    VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    Get heat included in the rent. It's saved me hundreds of dollars so far, and it's a significant addition to the rent/utilities if you don't.

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    TheOtherHorsemanTheOtherHorseman Registered User regular
    y2jake215 wrote:
    Tom819 wrote:
    I'd stay away from Dorchester. That's all I'll say.

    I've lived in Dorchester my entire life (other than college). He's right. Don't come here

    I lived in Roxbury for a year. I loved Boston but, man, rough neighborhood. At least, where I was.

    I agree with everyone's assessment of the car situation. Having room for multiple cars is iffy unless you just get lucky or live far out, but you generally don't need a car if you are in Boston and want to get to a different part of the city. Plus, who likes driving in Boston anyway? Streets were laid out by having city planners following drunk horses around and meticulously tracing their stumbles.

    Feh. Boston streets.

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    XX55XXXX55XX Registered User regular
    I second what has already been said about Dorchester. Don't live there. It's the crappiest part of town, and what is more amazing is that I attended high school there for six years.

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    ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    VeritasVR wrote:
    Get heat included in the rent. It's saved me hundreds of dollars so far, and it's a significant addition to the rent/utilities if you don't.

    This can be both good and bad advice. When heat/hot water is included in the rent, that often means that the building is super old -- landlords usually roll H/HW into the rent when the building is so old that it doesn't even have a gauge to monitor gas usage. Old buildings can be crappy in a multitude of other ways that you wouldn't necessarily think of (crooked floors, bad insulation, thin walls, bad pipes, etc.) so be careful when you see "heat/hot water included." (If you do get the rare H/HW included with a decent construction, though, jump on that shit! It's almost always cheaper than fluctuating H/HW costs.)

    If you do end up having to pay for H/HW separately -- which is the norm -- try to steer clear of apartments with electric heating systems, as those are pretty much the most inefficient and costly. Gas furnace / forced hot air are good, but if you can help it, try to get a boiler / forced hot water system. Those tend to use the least amount of energy and cost the least amount of $$, and they are also the best for isolating heat to particular rooms (so you don't end up having to pay for heating the whole house when you spend most of the day in the living room).

    Also, pay attention to insulation when checking out apartments. Check to see if the windows fit the frame well, or if they are double-paned. Stuff like that can make a big difference in what you have to spend on heat.

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    WaldoWaldo Registered User regular
    Speaking of heat, try to avoid oil-burning heating systems. Gas seems to be way cheaper (I wish I didn't find this knowledge out the hard way).

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    rizriz Registered User regular
    If you do end up having to pay for H/HW separately -- which is the norm --

    Is it? Maybe we're talking different areas or different tiers of quality/rent prices here, but I never lived in or was even shown an apartment up there where I had to pay for heat. And not just talking shitholes either.

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    wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    From the apartments I've seen, H/HW included means the apartment has a hot water radiator heating system, which is pretty common.

    You save a lot of money, but you're also at the mercy of your landlord as far as winter temperature, since they set the thermostat for all units together. Some friends have to fire up space heaters because the landlord turns on the heat too late or two little. My past two apartments were always too hot in the winter, and I'd have windows open when it was 10 degrees outside.

    Also, since the two are tied together, any time the heat would go out, it meant the hot water was gone as well. Brr.

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    ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    riz wrote:
    If you do end up having to pay for H/HW separately -- which is the norm --

    Is it? Maybe we're talking different areas or different tiers of quality/rent prices here, but I never lived in or was even shown an apartment up there where I had to pay for heat. And not just talking shitholes either.

    Huh. Well, I live in Cambridge, as I mentioned earlier. When I moved here last summer I looked for housing in Cambridge, Somerville, and Allston, and it was definitely the case for me that H/HW-included was pretty rare, and usually a sign of a pretty old construction.

    But it makes sense that it would be different elsewhere in the city. Students like me, after all, have very low standards for housing as long as an apartment's t-accessible and/or near their schools, which allows landlords to get away with renting total shitholes around here.

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    witch_iewitch_ie Registered User regular
    I lived in Boston about 7 years ago, but thought I would second or even third a lot of the advice already given.

    - Brighton/Allston is a great place to live. I lived farther out in Brighton, so wasn't near the college kids.
    - Don't live in Dorchester/Roxbury. I considered those places, because I was going to school near there, but they are not nice places to live.
    - Avoid oil heating situations.
    - I didn't have a car when I lived there, but my friends who did had to pay a lot for parking and it wasn't always easy to find. I think it's good to have a car for things like grocery shopping (I carried everything on the bus) or for getting outside of Boston occasionally (like to Foxboro or elsewhere), but you probably don't need to use it everyday.

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    wavecutterwavecutter Registered User regular
    What about Jamaica plains?

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    schussschuss Registered User regular
    JP is alternately cool and sketchy. I know a bunch of people there who love it, but it's still gentrifying.

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