- Download our Moving to Boston Guide (PDF)
Finding accommodation in Boston can be a difficult task. The compact city centre receives an annual influx of university students, increasing housing competition. The high property prices continue to make Boston one of the country's priciest places to buy or rent a home. Nevertheless, with a bit of patience and determination, new arrivals are likely to find their ideal accommodation in Boston.
Areas and suburbs in Boston
There are plenty of diverse areas and suburbs for house hunters in Boston to choose from. When searching for a property in Boston, newcomers should consider the proximity of their home to their place of work and their children’s school. Access to public transport is also essential for those who don't own a vehicle.
Young professionals looking to save a few bucks while taking advantage of Boston's spectacular views should look no further than East Boston. This waterfront neighbourhood offers beautiful views of Boston's skyline, is in proximity to Logan Airport and is a short drive away from downtown. One of Boston's oldest and most famous neighbourhoods, Charlestown is another fantastic area for young professionals who want excellent public transport links and access to the city's lifestyle amenities.
Jamaica Plain is the perfect neighbourhood for families, young professionals and singles looking to enjoy the artsy side of life and form part of a close-knit community. With exceptional schools, plenty of green spaces, restaurants and cafés, Cambridge is well suited to families and those looking for a quieter neighbourhood. Somerville, Fenway and Newton are some more family-friendly suburbs in Boston.
See Areas and Suburbs in Boston for more on the city's different neighbourhoods.
Types of accommodation in Boston
There is a diversity of housing options in Boston, and expats can typically choose between large family homes, apartments and brownstone rowhouses.
Brownstones are mostly historical homes built in the late 1800s. They are usually three or four storeys high and are typically constructed in a row with street-facing fronts. These are found in more affluent areas such as Back Bay, North End and Beacon Hill and are highly sought-after. This means they tend to be on the pricier side. Although spacious and well-built, car owners should note that these homes typically don't have off-street parking.
There are a variety of apartment types in Boston, from high-rise residential blocks to more exclusive condo or loft options. These buildings often include amenities such as air conditioning, central heating and laundry facilities. Apartments are a popular form of accommodation in Boston. It's worth noting that while apartments near downtown are typically snatched up by university students, the turnover rate is high.
Detached or stand-alone houses in Boston are primarily found in residential areas in the city's outer suburbs. There are many options, from large family homes to smaller units. Houses can be expensive in Boston, but they are popular with students looking for a house-share to bring down rent costs. Demand for houses is therefore high, so it can take some time to find the right home, particularly before the start of the academic year.
Finding accommodation in Boston
New arrivals will have several resources at their disposal. Online property portals are a valuable source of information when it comes to getting an idea of typical prices. Another option is to utilise the services of a reputable estate agent. House hunters should note that agencies typically charge upwards of a month's rent as their commission.
Renting accommodation in Boston
Once newcomers have found their ideal home, they will need to make an application to rent. If approved, they must then sign the lease and pay the deposit.
Making an application
With the high demand for accommodation in Boston, landlords can afford to be picky about whom they rent to. When applying, aspirant renters should be prepared to provide proof of their financial capacity to pay the rent. They may also have to undergo a credit check.
Leases, costs and fees
In Boston, the standard rental contract is 12 months. At the end of the rental term, leases can either be renewed or ended by either party. A month’s rent is usually required as a deposit. In addition, the first and the last month’s rent is often required to be paid upfront to secure the property.
Read Accommodation in the USA for more on national rental processes.
When signing a lease in Boston, it’s essential to read the contract carefully and to establish precisely what is included in the rental agreement. Tenants will typically be responsible for paying their own utility bills.
Boston operates a deregulated electricity market, and newcomers are free to shop around for the best rates possible. There are two options available for electricity supply in Boston: community choice electricity and purchasing directly from a utility supplier. Community choice electricity is when a town or community officials negotiate with a supply plan on behalf of the residents and businesses.
Eversource Energy is the leading electricity in Boston, and they handle all the billing administration in the city. New arrivals can set up or transfer their electricity by contacting Eversource online or through their customer service line. They will need to provide their new address, social security number, phone number and email address. Tenants can also set up an account online on Eversource's website to conveniently pay their monthly electric bill.
The National Grid provides the natural gas in Boston. The company recommends that new arrivals schedule appointments to start their service a week before their expected moving date. They will then send a technician to physically turn the service on and inspect its safety. Newcomers can call the company's customer service line between Monday and Friday during working hours to schedule an appointment.
Similarly to electricity, payments for gas can be made through one's digital account on the National Grid's website or through the bank and in person at various locations throughout the city.
Most of Boston's drinking water supply is sourced from the Quabbin and the Wachusett Reservoirs. The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) manages the water supply in the city. To start the service, tenants will need a valid account number and activation code, which their landlords can supply. Additionally, they will also need to provide their email address. Water bills can be paid online, in person, through the mail or at a local BWSC office.
Bins and recycling
The City of Boston Public Works oversees waste management in the city. New arrivals to the city can download the Trash Day App to find out about the collection schedule in their neighbourhood. Residents are encouraged to place their bins outside after 5pm the evening before their scheduled collection day. Tenants must purchase and replace their own bins if they get damaged.
For hazardous household waste, the city publishes collection schedules; for appliances, tenants can request a pickup online or by calling the Public Works department. New arrivals should be aware that this service will come at a fee. Tenants can simply leave their old furniture items on the curbside on their regular collection days, and they will be picked up then.
The City of Boston supplies apartment buildings with six units or fewer with a recycling container; property managers or building owners for larger apartment buildings will typically purchase recycling containers from the city and receive a Boston 311 sticker. The Trash Day App provides a comprehensive list of recyclable items and those that are not accepted by the city.
As is the case in the rest of the US, Boston boasts an excellent internet infrastructure and has several suppliers that new arrivals can choose from. Verizon, Earthlink and NetBlazr are among the most popular among residents.
Are you an expat living in Boston?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Boston. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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