The Big Move (Part 2)

To continue my account of my move to Boston, I’m here this week with the second installment of “The Big Move.”  I left off last week setting myself up for quite a task, which is to tell my stories and offer some tips regarding finding a place to live in Boston and using public transportation.  In the interest of not overwhelming you with a term-paper length piece, I’m going to back off from that and stick to discussing housing only and saving the wondrous MBTA for another week.

One of the most intimidating elements of my planning phase leading up to moving to Boston was trying to find a place to live.  I was living in Missouri at this time, and I didn’t have the means or the time to schedule a trip to Boston to look at apartments in person.  In fact, I didn’t travel to Boston at all until it was time to move.  This means I was 100% reliant upon this good ol’ Web of ours in my apartment hunt.

I began, as I feel many librarians-to-be would, by conducting some serious research on Boston.  I quickly found out that “I want to move to Boston” isn’t nearly a specific enough desire.  Boston has 21 official neighborhoods, and that list doesn’t even include our neighbors across the river in Cambridge and Somerville, which act as homes for many Simmons students.  A crucial step in my process was determining the locations of and differences between the neighborhoods so I could narrow my search for housing. 

I ended up looking in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood because it’s chock-full of students, and prices are reflective of that--affordability was one of my main criterions.  I can’t say it’s the calmest place to live; the proximity to fun-loving undergraduate communities makes for some noisy weekends, but I personally don’t get too distracted by noise so it works just fine for me.

I stuck to Craigslist for my apartment/roommate search.  This approach worked out wonderfully for me, but it is important for anyone who goes this route to be thoughtful, aware, and careful as they get in contact with people regarding housing, whether they are landlords or potential roommates.  I started looking as early as March/April, but I found that most ads then were seeking immediate move-ins/summer subletters, and not for September movers yet.  If this happens to you, don’t panic!  The September 1 ads don’t really start flowing in until June-August; that’s the way the market is up here!

At first, I was stubbornly searching only for studios/1-bedrooms, but I eventually realized that that desire was at odds with my need for affordability.  I decided that I needed to stay within the price range I set for myself and expanded my search to include roommate living.  One of the most important things to do when looking for roommates is simply to be honest with yourself and your potential roommates.  As an example, if you’re the type of person who might leave dishes in the sink from time to time, either when you’re busy or lazy or both, don’t try to sell yourself as a neat freak.  Being honest about your habits isn’t going to kill your chances!  Even though most people say they want their roommates to be “clean,” it’s important to get to talking with your potentials to find out what their definition of “clean” is and whether or not it’s compatible with yours.  Nobody’s definition is wrong, but there are definitely some people out there that would work better for you as roommates than others!

I ended up posting an ad in the “housing wanted” section of Craigslist Boston.  I got a response from who I now know as my roommate, and we immediately hit it off.  She already had a two-bedroom place and was looking to fill the other bedroom.  We took care of most of the arrangement via E-mail, but we also Skyped before I committed to the place to make sure our personalities were compatible (and to ensure that we were both real people).  She has been an incredible help to me and I have to say I’m glad I didn’t go for a studio.  My roommate helped me acclimate to Boston, lets me use her kitchen stuff, and in general has been a positive element of my experience here.

I’d like to point you to this comprehensive how-to guide written for people who don’t know much about Boston but plan on moving here.  I found myself referring back to it constantly as I wrote, so it’s only fair to share it with you, as it goes into more depth than I did on certain aspects of the Beantown apartment hunt.  One of the most useful resources there is a list of the Boston neighborhoods with annotations that are helpfully biased--realistic assessments of each neighborhood and what it would cost/be like to live there.  I’d suggest seeking out message boards and other community-built resources about the neighborhoods to get an array of opinions on them before deciding which one might be best for you.

That’s all the experience and “wisdom” my brain can muster up for you this week.  I hope it’s been useful; feel free to comment with any questions you may have!


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