Housing Information and Tips




We advise that you plan to spend some time checking out the different areas and applying for apartments. Please note that when renting an apartment, you are often required to pay the first month's rent, last month's rent, and/or security deposit when you sign the lease. As a rough guide to what this means to your checkbook, studios and one-bedrooms in most areas go for around $1,000-$1,700 per month. If you're willing to share, you can find reasonable places for $500 and up.

If you use a realtor, you may also be required to pay a realtor fee (see Realtors and Realtor Fees).


Location, Location, Location


  Allston, Brighton, Jamaica Plain ("JP"), Fenway, Brookline, Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, South End, South Boston (different from the South End; the western edge, near the Red line) are the most convenient locations. Many parts of Cambridge, Somerville, and Newton are all convenient to the Longwood Medical Area. But most of Greater Boston is accessible, if you don't mind adding 20-40 minutes to your commute.

(FYI: All of the names above are names for areas of Boston, except for Newton, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville, which are different towns with separate administrations, school districts, etc.)

When you're choosing a place to live in there are a number of factors (outside of the rent) that you will need to consider:

Walking Distance to Work

If you want to walk to work you should probably look first in Brookline and the Fenway (JP, the Back Bay, and the South End are also possibilities)


If you have children, especially of school age, you should look first at Brookline and Newton, where the public school systems are excellent (but apartments are expensive)

Student and Metropolitan Lifestyles

Those looking for areas oriented towards a student lifestyle should try Cambridge, Somerville and Allston first. For a metropolitan lifestyle, try Beacon Hill, the Back Bay and South End.


If your priority is the maximum space for the money, try Brighton, Allston, South Boston, and Somerville.

Diverse Communities

If you like a racially diverse, pro-artist, pro-veggie and gay-friendly communities Jamaica Plain and the South End are the best bets. Some bits of Cambridge also have this character, e.g. Central Square, Cambridgeport, and Inman Square.


Another factor to consider when choosing housing is the safety of the neighborhood. If you're thinking of living in an area that looks as if it could be dubious, the local police station should be able to give you an idea of the number and type of incidents in your area. Two areas close to the Medical School that have historically been rather unsafe but now appear to be in transition are Dorchester and Roxbury. Jones Hill in Dorchester (bordered by Columbia Road and Uphams Corner to the west, and Stoughton, Pleasant, and Hancock streets to the north, east and south) is getting a lot of press lately as the new hot neighborhood, particularly for economic refugees from the South End.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is a very important issue, especially since you are unlikely to be able to drive to the Medical School (parking is essentially unavailable except in exceptional circumstances). If you're near a T stop, get familiar with where your line goes (see http://www.mbta.com). The closest stops to HMS are Longwood Ave (Green Line, D branch) and Brigham Circle (Green Line, E branch). Therefore, being on the B and C branches of the Green line is much less convenient for commuting to work than being on the D and E branches. (There is no A branch -- it used to go to Brighton but has not been operating for at least 20 years.) Check that you can get to grocery stores, etc. conveniently. Buses (also at http://www.mbta.com) and the Harvard shuttles (especially the M2 shuttle: see http://www.masco.org) are also worth checking out.

To Park or Not to Park!

Different towns have surprisingly different personalities when it comes to parking. Brookline has NO on-street parking overnight (even if you're a resident), so you essentially can't keep a car in Brookline unless your apartment comes with a parking space. Many other towns have large areas of "resident parking only", a sure sign that on-street parking will be difficult. But the resident parking stickers are usually free or very cheap.


Realtors and Realtor Fees



Some realtors or real estate agents handle the rental of apartments and houses as well as sales. It is best to have someone familiar with the area recommend a reputable realtor. Realtors usually charge a one-time fee of equal to at least half but most often one full month's rent. You pay the realtor's fee only if you sign a lease. You may find that the time and energy you save is worth the fee. On the other hand, when you deal through a realtor you won't know anything about the personality of the owner until you need something fixed or changed. And owners may give you priority over other applicants if they think you'll be a particularly desirable (i.e. responsible) tenant.


No-Fee Apartments



No fee apartments do exist and are usually rented directly from the owner of the property. Most of these listings will be found in the newspaper or on websites (see Links, below).





Most landlords require tenants to sign a lease, a legally binding contract outlining the conditions that both the landlord and the tenant agree to meet. Leases are usually for one year. Do check that you understand what you're signing before you sign it. Your signature on a lease commits you to pay the amount of rent specified on the lease every month for the duration of the lease whether you occupy the apartment or not.

Landlords may ask for the first and last month's rent when you sign a lease. Some will also require a security deposit (equal to a month's rent). The security deposit will be returned to you when your lease has ended, provided that there has been no damage to the property --- and the landlord is supposed to give you the interest on it, too, although many "forget". For your protection, the landlord must document in writing any damage that existed before you moved in the apartment. Many landlords now handle this by asking you to write an "apartment condition statement" within 15 days of moving in.





The cost of heat and electricity is an important consideration when you are pricing apartments. Always find out whether or not the rental price of an apartment or house covers utilities (heat, electricity, gas). Water usage for apartments is usually included in the rent.

If utilities are not included in your rent, your monthly expenses will be considerably higher, especially if the apartment is heated by electricity. Find out from your landlord which type of heat you have and which company supplies the service. You can ask the utility company for an estimate of the monthly bills for that apartment. Before moving in you will also need to call each of the utility companies to arrange service.


Renter's Insurance



Anyone living in a rented apartment should consider having personal property insurance to cover both property loss and personal liability. When discussing your coverage with an insurance representative, you should mention any special conditions such as subletting, roommate coverage, or additional coverage for expensive items like jewelry, personal computers, and stereo equipment. If you have automobile insurance, you may want to contact your insurer to see if they offer renter's insurance. Many companies offer discounts if you hold multiple policies with them. Renter's insurance can be as cheap as $100/year.


Useful Links

  General Boston information
  Apartment listings
  Massachusetts Housing and Rental Laws
  Harvard Housing Office
    or call 617-495-3377 or 800-252-5020

Until you have a Harvard ID, the people at the housing office will need to see your offer letter.

You can search listings on-line at http://mycourses.med.harvard.edu/tradingpost.asp.

This site will also ask you for a Harvard ID, but (at the time of writing) you can enter 9999 instead.

  School Systems and Daycare Options
  Harvard Medical School Office of Work and Family
    Buses and the T: http://www.mbta.com
    (Harvard offers a discount of up to 40% on T passes)
    Harvard shuttles: http://www.masco.org (the M2 is particularly useful)
    See also http://www.commuterchoice.harvard.edu/ (although it's somewhat Cambridge-centric)
    Call them at 617-432-3703 if you have an emergency!
J.P. Associates
(recommended, on the basis of one post-doc's experience in Fall 2002)
MacMillan 522-2286
Prudential 524-5060
CB Hunneman/Pleasant 522-4500
Innovative Moves     522-0020
J.P. Rentals   524-2787
CityWide  738-8080
Century 21 524-6900
EJS Linden 734-4200
Marshall Realty 232-1800
Phoenix Realty 731-3311
Greater Boston 391-3195
ReMax     323-5050
Gilmore   323-7330
James Brennan  327-1000
Pond Hill 524-2056
Boston Metropolitan  735-8999
Arborview 543-1948
Faye Realty    524-0243
Carol Brenner Realty 527-1290

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