There Are No "Cheap Apartments" in Boston

Posted in Boston Rental Playbook, Intro to the Boston Rental Market

That's right — there are no cheap apartments in Boston. 

With that knowledge, you're officially ready to start your apartment search.

Why did we just crush your dreams with that sad news? 

We don't mean to take the wind out of your sails — quite the opposite! We just want to prepare you for what's ahead so you can outsmart your competition (i.e. other renters who will want the same apartment that you'll want).

We've seen too many renters dive headfirst into their apartment search in Boston with lofty ambitions, but no strategy. Their dreams of getting a beautiful one-bedroom apartment with a view of the river, skylight and fireplace for $600/month faded away when they realized that: 1) that apartment doesn't exist in the first place, and 2) the only way to pay $600/month in Boston is if you have four roommates. 

A final sobering note: about 45% of renters in Boston are technically "cost-burdened" (i.e. paying more than 30% of their income on rent). Ouch.

We're here to help you understand what's ahead.

Our goal at Jumpshell is to give you the most honest representation of what finding an apartment in Boston is like and give you a plan of attack to beat the competition. That way you'll know exactly what you're getting into and can enjoy the process a lot more — especially if you follow our step-by-step process to get through as quickly and cost-effectively as possible with the best result.

So, bottom line — Boston is expensive, even for "run-of-the-mill" apartments. Now you're ready to get started. Here's a "table of contents" that lays out all the resources we've put together and how they can help you out:

  • Get Help Finding an Apartment — going it alone is tough in Boston. We'll offer some insights on how to tap your personal and professional networks in Boston to help you find an apartment.
  • Make the Move to Boston — the home stretch! We'll guide you through some best practices for physically making the move to Boston.
  • Get Settled & Live in Boston — now that you've moved in, it's time to get settled. We'll walk you through the nitty-gritty of changing your address, getting a parking permit and other little errands to square away.

Continue reading below to get a little more color on the Boston rental market.

What's going on in the Boston rental market?

Rents are high and on the rise in Boston.

We'll reiterate for the last time, but Boston has consistently been rated one of the least affordable rental markets in the United States. Just check out the numbers below:

We cover the average rent in Boston (by neighborhood) a few sections ahead for renters who are figuring out where to live. Feel free to jump ahead now!

Apartment availability is crammed into September.

According to Zillow, most of Boston's apartments turn over on September 1st  — 79% of the market to be exact. Just check out the visual below:

Image source: Zillow

Also, FYI: Over 2/3 of rentals listed in Boston are either 1BR or 2BR apartments — 36% and 35% of the market, respectively.

But how could this be?! Well, as you probably know, Boston is a serious "college town" — to the tune of 35 universities, colleges and community colleges with over 150,000 students enrolled (including 90,000 living off-campus). As such, it’s a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" scenario — if you’re looking for a September 1st lease date, so is everyone else. If you’re not, there isn’t much on the market. *sad trombone*

Demand for housing is enormous — and growing.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is a regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metro Boston. Their mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration.

"Along with population growth of approximately 9.6% over the next three decades, the [MAPC] projects that the region will need 395,000 new housing units."

The image below shows projected housing growth in the "Inner Core" (essentially what you imagine when you think of the Greater Boston Area). Here's a graphic with the specifics.

Housing Unit Change, 2010-2030 (label shows percent change in housing units).

Housing Demand Map

You can find exceptional data visualizations like the ones above a, which has a wealth of resources that transform the MAPC's research into easy-to-understand, visually compelling graphics. Here's the link to the Regional Map Gallery for Housing.

Boston is a top 3 "Walkable Urban Place" (WalkUP)

According to Smart Growth America — an advocacy group "for people who want to live and work in great neighborhoods" — wrote a report titled "Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros" in conjunction with The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis that identifies the top 30 U.S. metropolitan areas WalkUPs and ranks them based on their current and future commercial real estate metrics.

Yes, and...?

It means that a TON of research went into calculating which cities in the U.S. are the most walkable urban environments and Boston ranked #3 in the U.S.!

Walkable Urbanism of 30 Largest US Metros

According to the report: "Metro Boston...experienced urbanization of its suburbs, primarily Cambridge, which contributed to its high ranking ."

Boston also ranks #1 on future walkable urban performance, meaning the report predicts that Boston will be the most favorable urban environment for walkability. Very cool.

Curious for more details? Download the full report here.