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Moving to Boston, MA: Relocating Tips, Advice & Guide

Moving to Boston, MA? This comprehensive moving guide will help ease your planning process!

If you are relocating or moving to Boston and are looking for an apartment, then you've come to the right place. This "tips + advice" moving guide offers some insights on planning and executing your move — and offers some other helpful resources that can assist as well. I hope it helps!

My goal here is to provide answers to key questions, like:

Full disclosure, this article is really geared towards anyone who will be looking to rent an apartment in Boston.

moving to boston

Source: Aerial VP

If you're still planning your move, we've got a lot of resources for you. Let's start with costs.

If you're relocating to Boston, MA from anywhere other than New York City or San Francisco, you may experience some sticker shock when you see the rent prices here.

There are no cheap apartments in Boston. In fact, about 45% of renters in Boston are technically "cost-burdened" (i.e. paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent). And a March 2015 article in the Boston Globe showed that "more than 1-in-4 renters devote half their salaries to housing."

For context, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Boston is a little over $2,100. Why? Renters have been outpacing development of rental housing for years:

moving to boston

Want to dive into the numbers? Check out our article on finding cheap apartments in Boston (or the lack thereof). 

moving to boston 

Also, out of 92 cities ranked by Forbes (in March 2016), the Boston metro area was named the third most overpriced, with:

Get the details below.

moving to boston

Need some help figuring out where to live?

Figuring out how to move to Boston starts with where you'll end up!

Jumpshell's Boston Neighborhoods browser offers a great starting point. This app is designed specifically for renters to help them get a feel for where to live in Boston. We noticed that a lot of people had to cobble together information from Google searches, reddit posts, forums and brokerage websites just to get an idea of what neighborhoods in Boston might be a good fit.

We wanted to put everything in one place. Using your budget, commute and lifestyle preferences, our Neighborhood Browser can help give you a clearer picture of where to live in Boston. Check it out! Or you can simply check out our primer on where to live in Boston, which can also help you get a sense of which neighborhoods may make sense for you. 

If you're relocating to Boston with family, this tool can really help you pinpoint which areas have parks, playgrounds and other amenities that will be great for your children!

relocating to boston

Understand your odds of finding an apartment in specific Boston neighborhoods.

Jacob, one of our awesome software engineers, built a tool that tells you where you'll have good odds of finding an apartment in your price range.

This tool breaks down neighborhoods in the Boston area by price and availability of apartments. Since it's already a grind to find good data on apartments in specific neighborhoods, we only feature neighborhoods where we have rock-solid information (that's why you'll see a limited selection of neighborhoods).

Check out the tool below and read more about how it works here.

Ready to start looking for apartments?

That's awesome! I want to be honest, finding an apartment in Boston isn't very intuitive. There are a lot of idiosyncricies in Boston's rental market that make it different from other cities. 

I put together an article that walks you through some "pro tips" for how to find an apartment in Boston. Check them out by clicking below!

moving to boston

If you've already found a place to live and you're ready to plan your move, this section will cover renting a moving truck, hiring a moving service and getting settled into your new apartment.

Can't make a trip to Boston? 

If you're relocating to Boston with family or if you just can't swing a weekend trip to Boston to look at apartments, you'll likely have to rent "sight unseen."

Renting sight unseen is basically just industry jargon for renting an apartment remotely. We'll warn you in advance though, it can be a bit trickier to rent remotely for a number of reasons. However, as detail in this article on renting "sight unseen" in Boston, if you have a solid agent that you trust on your team, you'll be just fine!

relocating to boston

Looking for luxury lodgings?

Boston's got luxury apartments in spades — the past 5 years have seen historic levels of development in the luxury space. Check out this roster of just some of the buildings in the area immediately around Downtown Boston.

And if you're curious about how to find luxury apartments in Boston, check out:

moving to boston

What about physically moving into an apartment in Boston?

First, let's reexamine the city you're moving to. It's AWESOME. 

If you've got stuff to move...

First check out MovedWe don't have any affiliate deal with Moved, we just noticed they're new and they sound awesome: they "pair you up with a personal concierge who handles the frustrating parts of moving for you."

moving to boston

Check out all this info we've put together on Boston moving truck rentals. We're probably not telling you anything mind-blowing here, but U-Haul is definitely the best option for short-distance moves.

And also check out UnpaktUnpakt brands itself as a kind of "Yelp for moving" — essentially, you can enter your move details, compare prices and reviews, choose a verified mover, and book online. They'll instantly show you exact prices based on how much stuff you have—no ballpark estimates or hourly rates. 

What I really like? They have customer service standards for all the moving companies on their platform. If there's a complaint from a customer, the moving company is placed on probation. From a values standpoint, I really appreciate seeing a company that is looking to protect customers while also rewarding good partners.

moving to boston 

What about storage? Check out Clutter.

I recently updated this section of the article (April 2016), because I found a phenomenal alternative to the typical "find a storage warehouse, rent a storage space, haul all your stuff to and from" approach.

There's a relatively new company called Clutter that can handle the whole process for you, while still being competitive on cost. Here's a graphic demonstrating how storage works with Clutter:

moving to boston

Also, check out this awesome checklist of things to do before making the move.

moving to boston

Source: Apartminty

One item to note — check the forecast the night before you move!

The last thing you want to do is to be unprepared for a downpour on move-in day. Ugh! Tarps, boots and rain jackets will be key to have at the ready (not at the bottom of a suitcase or box!).

And snag your moving permit (you can do it online now!).

The day that we all thought might never come has actually arrived. Instead of having to wait for an hour at Boston City Hall to get a moving permit (essentially lets you block off two parking spaces for your moving truck), you can get yours online now. Internet for the win! Thanks to BetaBoston for breaking the momentous news.

moving to boston

Moving locally? Check out this trash vs. special pickup vs. recycle list for you unwanted items.

Major props to reddit user /u/danrennt98 for putting together this phenomenal post on what you can put to the curb on a trash day vs. special pickup vs. recycle.

moving to boston

Image source:

For those putting furniture/larger items out there, take a pic, throw it on Craigslist "Free Stuff" — one person's trash is another person's gold. It takes about two minutes and this is one of best forms of recycling — having someone else use your old furniture/items that you would've thrown out because it didn't work for the move.

Also, for those not moving check out the list of what you can recycle - because it's way more than you would think!

Acceptable Items for Regular Trash:

*after being picked up, portions of these items are recycled! 

Acceptable Items Needing Special Pickup (Limit To 5 Items Per Household Per Year)

Call 617-635-4500 or place an online service request to schedule pickup of these items: 

*after being picked up, portions of these items are recycled

Unacceptable Items for Regular Trash:

(If these items are reusable, you can donate them. Or, you must hire a commercial rubbish hauler to collect them; search the yellow pages for listings.)

Unacceptable Items for Regular Trash, but Acceptable by Other Means:

Acceptable Materials for Recycling

Unacceptable Materials for Recycling

And let's get you settled after you've made the move too.

Updater is the coolest.

There are a few address-related changes to make after moving into your apartment:

Updater — helps you easily change your address with the USPS and transfer subscriptions and utilities.

This entirely free service helps you organize communications about your move in one platform. According to Updater’s site, their experience saves you 4 hours of time/hassle, while also giving you access to some deals with their exclusive partners. Cool.

They partner with major brands that you’re likely using already. Not much else to it. Plain, simple, awesome. Here's a graphic of what they do:

updater features


Got a car? Get a permit!

Here are the five things you need to know to get in and out of the RMV (what every other state calls the DMV) as quickly and painlessly as possible:

moving to boston

1. Use

Their tagline is 'Take Your Life Back from the Mass RMV." Sign-up for Massachusetts RMV Wait Time and we'll text or email you when the wait time at your selected registry location is humane.

2. Attack When the Lines Are Shortest

The key to not going insane at the Mass RMV is to minimize the amount of time that you need to be there. There is a crucial resource that the savvy Mass. resident can use to get in and get out quickly: the RMV Branch Locator.

3. Capitalize on the Rare 5-6pm Time Slot

Another nifty trick to know is that the Mass RMV is open from 10am - 6pm on Thursday -- breaking the normal cycle of 9am - 5pm on other weekdays.

4. Budget Time for Multiple Lines

It would only make sense that if you were looking to register your car and renew your license that you could wait in one line and get it all done -- luckily, the Mass RMV decided to split that into two completely separate lines to increase your wait time and expand your headache. Awesome!

5. Have All Your Paperwork With You

There's a bunch...too much to list here, in fact. Get the full details by checking out the complete article below!

moving to boston

No car? No problem!

The MBTA is an often bemoaned, but overall extremely useful and incredible way to get around Boston's bizarre geography — not every city has the immaculate gridlines of Manhattan! Check out the details below.

moving to boston

Bus — maps & schedules, fares. Also check out Boston Bus Map if you're on Android. The bus is $50/month for a monthly pass if you ONLY use the bus. You might as well get a LinkPass, which will give you unlimited access to the bus and the T. Boom.

Subway — maps & schedules, fares. $75/month gets you unlimited rides on all T (and bus) lines in Boston. At $2.10 per ride without a monthly pass, that means the monthly pass pays for itself after 18 round-trips. That's like two weeks MAX.

Commuter rail (has free WiFi) — maps & schedules, fares.

Boat* — maps & schedules, fares.

*Not really relevant for commuting purposes if you don't live on the Harbor Islands.

Pro Tip: how to be a Red Line phenom.

Found an amazing blog post written by a super-talented UX/UI designer, who's cracked the code on eactly which Red Line train door you should enter from Alewife or Davis Sq. (going inbound). Here's her description:

"These maps are for Cambridge-Somerville residents who use the Red Line every day to travel inbound. It tells you exactly which train door to go through in order to reach the exit you’re looking for at your destination. How to use the map: The maps show the train as it would appear when you’re standing at the inbound platform facing the train. The train is traveling south to the right if you’re at Alewife, Central and Kendall, and it’s traveling south to the left if you’re at Davis, Porter and Harvard." - Michelle, The Design Ocean

Alewife Entrances

moving to boston

Davis Square Entrances

moving to boston

Other things to note about the MBTA:

Anticipating an unconventional commute? Check out Bridj — a private transit system that covers unconventional routes like Brookline (Coolidge Corner) to Cambridge (Harvard + Kendall) and Back Bay (Prudential Center) to Harvard Square.

moving to boston

If you're still planning your move to Boston, here's a quick recap of that market.

Rents are high and on the rise in Boston.

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

boston market average wage needed for rent

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

boston apartment availability by month

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. 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). 

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

boston change in housing demand

boston housing demand chart

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.

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.!

most walkable US cities

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.

Still wondering, "Why move to Boston?"

Here are some awesome reasons to get excited about making the move.

Boston Magazine has a wonderful article called 40 Reasons to Love Boston that does a great job showing some of the character and quirkiness that makes Boston a unique, special place. Here's just a glimpse:

Check out the article for the whole list!

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Cost of Living in Boston for Renters

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Average Rent in Boston, MA: Median Prices + Trends

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