Ultimate Guide to Boston Apartment Living

Boston is a wonderful city – superb restaurants, museums, and centuries of history at every turn. At Cubiq, we have helped hundreds of people move into and out of apartments around Boston, so no one knows the city and its many neighborhoods and apartment buildings better than us.  

Each Boston neighborhood is different, has a different feel, and is better suited to some types of people/families.  

If you’re just moving to boston and have already signed a lease, this guide can teach you everything about your new home and neighborhood. If you’ve yet to move to boston or looking to change apartments, this guide can help you find the right apartment and neighborhood for you. 

Boston Geography
Getting Around
Renting Basics
Rental Costs
Types of Apartments
Moving In and Out
Master List of Boston Apartments
Boston Neighborhoods

Boston Geography

Boston is the name of the city, but also used generally to refer to the urban area in and around the city itself. Anything accessible by subway — called ’The T’ — can be considered part of the city. This includes the cities of Somerville and Cambridge, East Boston, and Brookline. You can see a full map of the subway below, and get an idea of how easily you can get around the city. 

Boston MBTA subway map

Getting Around

Many people who live in the city get by just fine without a car. In fact, owning a car in the city can be an expensive and frustrating burden. For those without cars, most walk and use the T, the Boston subway and bus system. A monthly T pass costs $90, and gives you unlimited rides on any bus or subway. Only the Commuter Rail is extra, for those commuters coming into the city from the more distant suburbs. 

If you’re going to use the subway on a regular basis (like for commuting), you’ll want to get a ‘CharlieCard’ for the lowest fares. Once you pick one up, you can set up a recurring monthly renewal online.

Cycling is also a popular option, and many people find Boston to be rather small and easy to get around. Its many neighborhoods are much closer together than most people realize. 

Renting Basics

Apartments are most common in the city, and single-family homes are in limited supply. In the suburbs, the opposite is true: single family houses abound, and while apartment buildings do exist, they are in the minority. 

Higher education is huge in boston. There are over 50 colleges and universities in the area. Many students live in off-campus housing, so they make up a big portion of the apartment-dwelling population. Because of this, much of Boston operates on the college fall-spring schedule. August 1st is the most common moving day, and many leases are up for renewal at this time.  The second most common date for new leases is January 1st. Expect to compete with other movers if you move on or around these days — for rental trucks, parking spaces, elevator or loading dock reservations, and everything else!

Rental Costs

Many people are surprised by how high the cost of living in Boston is. It currently ranks #3 in the US, just behind New York and San Francisco (see https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/apartment-rent-report/february-2020-national-rent-report/

Below is a table of current rents at some of the most popular apartment buildings. These are likely to change depending on what time of year you are looking to move. Now that COVID is sweeping the country, fewer people are moving and therefore apartment rents are not rising. In fact, you may be able to negotiate a lower lease price or receive some discounts such as a free month or two

studio1-bed2-bed3-bedfurnished from
Property
AVA Back Bay2765306042858235
AVA Theater District264528243625N/A3122
Avalon Prudential Center2610315544803320
Avalon Exeter2835367753659025
Avalon North Station2330277035355015
AVA North Point2500268531402583
AVA Somerville215522653075
Avalon at Assembly Row29213320
Avalon North Point2418244433545312
Avalon North Point lofts2145
Typical apartment prices in Boston

Renters usually need to put down a deposit of first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and pay a security deposit equal to one month’s rent when signing a lease. So for a $3000 apartment, expect to pay $9000 to sign the lease. 

Leases are typically 12 months, although some larger buildings do allow month-to-month leases. Smaller properties and individual landlords are less likely to accommodate short-term leases. 

 In addition, if you are working with a realtor or agent, expect to pay their fee of one month’s rent also.  This can really add up, so you may want to look out for deals requiring only first month and security, or work without a realtor to save the fees. 

Don’t forget to include moving and packing costs in your plans. 

Types of Apartments

High-rise apartment buildings have become more popular in recent years in and around Boston. However a number of older apartments are in brownstones. These are considered to be the more historic and often more desirable homes.  Brownstones are typically 2-3 stories tall, with a small number of apartments in each.  Most are walk-ups without elevators, but often are renovated nicely on the inside.  These are also found in the more central / downtown areas like Back Bay or South End. 

In the more residential towns like Cambridge or Somerville, you are more likely to see traditional single-family homes. Many of these are converted into 3 separate rental apartments, each on their own floor.

Moving In and Out

When making arrangements for your moving day, be sure to check out the parking situation at your new home. Some apartment buildings have loading docks off-street, so the moving truck can park directly inside. Others only have street parking, and in those cases will require a parking permit from the city.

 Your moving company may be able to take care of the permits, but be aware there may be some additional small cost. If you are driving your own car to the new location, you will need to arrange parking for it also. 

Check with your building manager to see if parking is available in your building, and if so if it’s included in your rent or extra. If not, you will also need a street permit for your own car. Read more in the Parking section of this guide. 

You should also coordinate with your building manager (if you’re moving into a high-rise) to reserve the loading dock and freight elevator, if your building has them.

Master list of Boston Apartments

Below is a map showing the location of some of the larger Boston apartment buildings. If you have a neighborhood in mind, this can help you identify buildings you might be interested in.

Boston Neighborhoods

Each Boston neighborhood is unique. We have broken out each neighborhood into its own detailed page. Choose the neighborhood you are interested in from the list below.

Back Bay 

South End 

Downtown/ Chinatown 

West End / North Point

Seaport

Fenway

Brookline 

East Boston

Cambridge: Central/MIT/Harvard

Somerville/Porter/Davis