The Ultimate Renter's Guide to Boston

Boston Apartments
Boston Apartments | © Jeremy T. Hetzel / Flickr

Boston is a fun and vibrant city to live in, and it experiences all four seasons and has plenty of outdoor space plus some greats bars and nightlife. Take a look at our renter’s guide to learn more about renting in this city, where the average rent is $2,955.

Boston has some of the United States’ most successful sports teams, plus there are always events going on in this lively city. It is home to many prestigious universities, and it’s a startup hub and an innovation center. Due to all of these wonderful characteristics and the fact that so many people want to live here, finding affordable rent in Boston is no easy feat.

Neighborhoods and areas

1. Cambridge


Cambridge is a pleasant neighborhood to live in, with many T-accessible areas; there are bus lines for areas that are not. If access to the T is at the top of your list, aim to live off the Red Line near Central Square, Harvard Square, Davis Square, Porter, or Kendall / MIT. On the Green Line, Lechmere is a great Cambridge stop.

Cambridge has a range of prices for those looking to rent. Like anywhere, it depends on the apartment’s proximity to the T as well as the number of roommates and apartment quality. Cambridge is a fun area with a lot of young people. There are plenty of bars, clubs, great restaurants, and music venues to visit. You’re also not too far from downtown Boston. Try looking a little farther out, around David Square, and move in with a couple of roommates to save money.

Cambridge, MA, USA

2. Somerville

Movie Theater, Theater

2. Somerville
© Tim Sackton / Flickr
Somerville is another great neighborhood in which to live. It is accessible by the Orange and Red Lines, and there are also some bars and restaurants nearby, depending on where you live. The rent here is often a bit cheaper than Cambridge, and many young people and families live here. Somerville is typically a good place to live if you have a car because not all areas are T-accessible, yet street parking is easier to find. Live around the Assembly Square area for awesome access to outlet shopping, bars, restaurants, and a movie theater.

3. Coolidge Corner

3. Coolidge Corner
© Bill Damon / Flickr

Coolidge Corner

Coolidge Corner is located in Brookline, off the Green Line, and is a hot spot for renters. There are a lot of young people living in this area, which has plenty of bars and fun restaurants, making for an enjoyable night out. However, finding a place to rent here can be tricky because demand is high. Keep your eye on all listing boards, and plan ahead to move here. If you’re a book lover, be sure to check out Brookline Booksmith on the main street.

Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA, USA

Coolidge Corner | © Bill Damon / Flickr

4. Downtown


Downtown Boston is filling up with luxury apartments and new developments. However, the old neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and the North End still hold their same character and have not succumbed to the modern style of new buildings. Downtown is a great place to be because you have easy access to everything, and there is always plenty to do. Live in the North End for great Italian food. Yes, apartments can be pricey, but there are some hidden deals here. Look around, and be prepared for tiny living quarters. The same goes for Beacon Hill, which is brimming with wealthy families in brownstones. Apartments for young people are still available – you just need to look carefully. Buddy up with a roommate or two, and call immediately if you see a listing you like. The best deals will go quickly.

Downtown Boston, MA, USA

Beacon Hill, Boston | © Xavier Häpe / Flickr

5. South Boston and the Seaport

South Boston and the Seaport

Close to the water, South Boston is a fun place to live, and it has a great sense of community and plenty of neighborhood pubs. However, it doesn’t have the greatest access to the T, so you’ll likely be off a bus line, which is fine if you have a car. Deals can be found in South Boston, too. It’s so close to downtown, but you can save a lot compared to the North End or Beacon Hill.

On the other hand is the Seaport neighborhood. This vibrant place is amazing in the summertime. Right along the water and piers, there are great eateries and harborside bars. In the winter, it can get windy and cold. Known as the Innovation District, it’s growing quickly with new buildings going up every year and even more in development. Many of the apartments around here are in luxury apartment buildings that are beautiful and offer great amenities. If that’s not in your budget, you can still look around for occasional deals. A lot of buildings are offering one month of free rent, or two, as incentives for new renters.

South Boston, MA, USA

Boston Apartment | © Ashley Kane

Real estate tips

Renting in Boston isn’t easy to do. Many experts suggest that the high rental costs will go down eventually because the “bubble” will pop – i.e. the rent can’t keep rising this much forever. For now, follow these tips:

Most leases in Boston will have a high broker’s fee, which is usually the cost of an entire month’s rent. Be prepared for this. If it’s an apartment you really love, and you’ll be there a few years, it may be worth it. However, if you are only staying there for one year, consider going directly through an apartment building or look for listings without brokers as it can be a great way to get around that expense and save some money.

September 1st is the busiest lease cycle in Boston. Moving around this time can be crazy, and good places go fast. Sometimes it’s best (as a renter) to not look during this busy month. Finding a place won’t be so competitive, and you may find a better deal.

Move in with roommates. Adding on roommates can save you a lot of money, depending on the neighborhood. Consider this when you’re embarking on your apartment search.

Be sure that your apartment is inspected, safe, and up to code. Make sure you have a good landlord you can trust, and check that the fire alarms are all in working shape. You have rights as a renter, and they should be met.

Happy apartment hunting! You can look on craigslist for some good deals, but Zillow is another popular apartment search tool.

Boston apartments

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