Welcome to Beantown! While less glitzy than New York or Los Angeles, Boston still has a charm all its own, with numerous neighborhoods (both urban and suburban) to suit even the snootiest of newcomers. If you don't buy that, then just think of Boston as the place where Ally McBeal and The Practice take place. Now are you impressed? . . .

Despite a tight apartment market, it is not impossible to find the Bostonian loft of your dreams if you start early and follow our helpful tips. Before you know it, you could be moving into a one-bedroom yuppie-esque apartment with hardwood floors and a view of the golden-domed Statehouse. Or perhaps you'll be settling into the second storey of a quaint Victorian house in the diverse neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Or for baseball fans, there's always the dream of being within walking distance of Fenway Park. There's a neighborhood for everyone, and we can get you on the right track faster than you can say, "Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd."


Before you start looking for an apartment, you need to make an important decision: how much are you willing (and able) to pay in monthly rent? In downtown Boston and upscale neighborhoods like Cambridge, studios are at least $800 if not way over $1,000, and one-bedrooms command between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on how posh the zip code. Even in the suburbs, studios go for $500-plus, and one-bedrooms can't be snagged for less than $700 or $800.

But bargains are not unheard of if you're patient. A good way to find your upper limit for housing costs is to divide your monthly net income (after taxes) by three. If this figure seems unusually low, you have three options: 1) make more money, 2) consider living in a less expensive area, like Somerville or Quincy, or 3) save money on rent by finding a roommate.

Finding a roommate

Getting yourself a roommate is an outstanding way to lower your housing costs, as long as you feel confident that your roommate won't be a total nutjob. To find a roommate, you can either find someone yourself or you can use a roommate agency. Some on-line agencies include: www.bostonroommate.com and www.roommateclick.com, or The Boston Globe's apartment classifieds at www.boston.com. We recommend using an agency, because they screen out the weirdos (at least, to the best of their ability). It may cost you a little though, depending on the agency.

Either way, you must carefully choose your roommate or you will rue the day you opted for one. Obviously, not all strangers make good roommates, but less obviously, not all friends make good roommates. There are some people whose company you might well enjoy during the day, but who would drive you crazy if you lived with them. In an effort to screen unsuitable persons from your life, you should ask all potential roommates the following questions to assess their compatibility:

  • Have you ever had a roommate before? What, if anything, bothered you about your past roommates? Did you fight with your roommate a lot? About what?
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or other friend who will be staying here frequently?
  • Are you promiscuous? (Do not be afraid to ask this one. You probably don't want strange people sleeping over a lot, and if you explain that this is the reason you're asking, it will establish what you consider unacceptable ahead of time.)
  • Do you smoke? Drink? Do drugs? If yes to any, how often? Will you share your drugs?
  • Do you stay out late on weekdays?
  • Did/do you have any credit problems?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What do you like to watch on television? What music do you listen to?
  • Do you know how to clean up after yourself? Do you cook? Do you drink directly from the milk container?
  • Do you know how to clean a toilet?

Whatever you ask, in the end you should feel very comfortable with your future roommate. If you do not, you are taking a big risk shacking up with this person.

One last note about roommates: try to arrange it so that your roommate co-signs the lease. If your name is the only one on the lease, then you shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for the apartment from a financial standpoint. If your roommate loses his/her job (and by extension, a steady cash flow), you'll be stuck paying his/her share of the rent. Then you'd be angry, poor, and kicking yourself for not following our sage advice.