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Apartment hunting in Boston

Life has been such a whirlwind recently. From entertaining my first guest, accepting a job, figuring out Massachusetts taxes, battling my first “snow storm” (it wasn’t that bad) and finding an apartment, I have somehow managed to slowly piece my life together here in Boston.
Boston Snow - January 2014

I’ve been stressed out, very happy, confused and discouraged multiple times these past ten days. I repeat, only TEN days. Sometimes, I wake up feeling like it’s already been 2 years. Then I realize most of my clothes are in space saver bags and I still don’t have a place to live for the rest of the year.

I’ve accepted a marketing coordinator position with a general contractor. Upon accepting that (my start date moved to tomorrow due to the storm), I immediately started looking for apartments. Apartment hunting is so very different here and I hate it. I almost thought about just going back to Texas so I could just coast through life without having to deal with this major headache. Of course, I’m not going to, but you know how that goes. I think we (my roommate and I) finally found a place suitable for our budgets and lifestyles. With any apartment, there are pros and cons. But the Boston apartment game is very different.

Fee vs. No Fee

In Texas, I’ve only rented two apartments. Both processes were exceptionally easy and both apartments were spacious and well under $1,000. Both management offices waived my security deposit fees and both apartments included utilities. All I had to do was show up to move-in day with first month’s rent and I was good to go. I was golden.

Then, I came to Boston and realized I’ll never have that again (I really, really miss college). I researched, made multiple phone calls and sent numerous emails just to go look at apartments. Mind you, they aren’t apartment complexes here, but privately-owned buildings that use realty companies and brokers. The biggest adjustment was realizing how much this was going to cost up front: First month’s rent + last month’s rent + Broker/Realty fee equivalent to one month + Sometimes a deposit. Did I mention rent is well over $1,000 here?!

Yes, I panicked a few times and I’m even breaking a sweat as I think about it. How could anyone my age afford all of this? Well, it can be done! I guarantee it. But it cannot be done overnight.


Denton, Texas is one big neighborhood with two universities. You rent based on what your friends know about the complex and it’s done. It’s a very safe town, students live all over it and you can find yourself content with your living arrangement in no time.

Big cities are much different. You have to research all of the neighborhoods, see how long your commute to work would be, see how close a subway stop is, yadda yadda yadda. The City of Boston has 21 official neighborhoods. You must research all 21 neighborhoods, Google map them and even walk around in them to make sure you feel comfortable. I’ve had to seriously choose a neighborhood based on the fact that I might have to work late. Of course, it is a city. You can’t be stupid and flash your dollar bills around, because you will get mugged.

The Small Adjustments

Most of the buildings that I can afford are older with squeaky hardwood floors, very narrow stairs and radiators that clink at night. Some without air conditioning in the summer and some with bedrooms that can barely fit a twin-size bed. I have had to keep reminding myself that I’m not in Texas anymore. There are no Texas-sized apartments that are within my budget and you’re lucky to get central heating and cooling. However, these buildings have so much character that you cannot get in Texas. I had the choice of going to a modern apartment similar to my last one, or to one of the older ones by Fenway. I chose the older one. Why? Because I moved to Boston to feel like I am in Boston. The ability to just walk downstairs and experience city life is exactly what I wanted. Sure, it may be an older apartment, but it’s a Boston apartment!

With all of the headaches, nosebleeds (it’s too dry here) and stress, I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is real life, nothing is easy but it’s all worth it! At least I now know the tricks to the trade in apartment hunting. Is there something I missed? Leave me a comment below!

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  • Shubham

    “Is there something I missed?”
    Your roommate. 😛

    It’s all going to be perfect, in any case. 🙂

    • Haha I didn’t know if you’d be comfortable with me introducing you to my blogosphere.
      Next post, I’ll do one all about you.
      🙂 <3

  • Jackie Goen

    Stephanie, I’ve loved reading your blog about your move to Boston and wish you the very best in this adventure–and what an adventure it is! Suppose all of us have had dreams similar to yours; however, most of us aren’t (or weren’t) brave enough to have pursued those dreams. I’m a retired teacher from Seminole–make us proud!

    • How sweet! Thank you for reading!
      I’ll never forget Seminole, it’s home! Go Indians! 🙂