As a part of the move, I prepared myself for an epic battle of an apartment hunt. I was prepared for battle, I was prepared for blood. I was prepared for it to take weeks.
It took me one afternoon.
This isn’t to say that it wasn’t tricky. Here are the most Important Things I can tell you about apartment hunting in the Boston area:
1. Know what you want.
2. Be ready to act fast.
3. You need help. Get. Help.
On a recommendation from Colleen, I made an appointment with the “Apartment Experts” office in Davis Square. I sent an email outlining what I was looking for (1 bedroom or large studio, somewhere in Cambridge or Somerville’s Davis Square, hopefully lower rent than San Francisco, etc.) and shortly got a call back from a leasing agent named Tom. We had a chat about what I was looking for, and I arranged an appointment for the following Monday.
The week before I moved to MA, my sister introduced me to the addictive HGTV show “House Hunters,” wherein prospective buyers visit three dwellings on the market and pick the one they like most in the end. Watching so much of this show, it turns out, was very good preparation. Who says reality TV is completely useless?? The appointment on Monday went pretty much just like an episode of House Hunters, with less kvetching about granite countertops:
Davis Square – Two-room studio, 5 minutes to the T, gas stove, LOTS of closet space. Extremely budget friendly, close to Colleen and Davis’ awesome bars and restaurants, convenient to work. This was cute, and if you felt like getting really creative with your space it could certainly be a nifty place, but this was SMALL. Sharing this with two cats would have driven me through the roof. Next!
Porter Square – Another two-room “studio,” 10 minutes to the T, off-street parking spot included in rent. This was also extremely budget friendly, and bigger than the first place. There was also a cute built-in cabinet in the living room, which I’m a sucker for. But the apartment was in kind of no-man’s land, and the closet space was seriously lacking. Worth consideration, but I wasn’t feeling it. Next!
Cambridgeport – 1 bedroom apartment, 12 minutes to the T, studio price. On our way to this place I was so stunned by the price for a 1 bedroom that I grilled poor Tom the leasing agent about what could be wrong with it! I’m glad the current tenant was home during this viewing since I was able to get her opinion. I knew this was the apartment for me the minute I walked in. It’s super cute, with an open plan kitchen and living room, a little fireplace in the bedroom, and was cool and breezy even though it was 80* and muggy outside. AND – it has a full size gas stove. None of this “apartment-sized” bullshit that only fits two pans even though there are 4 burners. The neighborhood is awesome – I’m right on the river, but also a short walk to all the fun stuff in Central Square. Super bonus: my neighborhood grocery stores are the only Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that can sell beer and wine in the Boston area, meaning there will be no need to remember the awkward MA liquor laws! All in all, I knew what I wanted, and this apartment had it. Important Thing #1, check!
I forgot to take pictures, but I did remember the placement of a standard-sized couch in the apartment, and could draw up a rough floor sketch around it!
Come to think of it, this would have made a terrible episode of House Hunters. All the fun is in the suspense about which place they’re going to choose, and there was none of that today.
When you find what you want, Important Thing #2 is crucial. Be ready to act fast. Tom the leasing agent was literally checking his phone constantly to make sure the place in question was still available. If you find an apartment that fits all of your criteria, you don’t have time to hem and haw and think another day, you have to pounce. It feels like an impulse buy, it maybe feels a little irresponsible, but you just have to do it. I pondered for 3 awkward minutes in the car on the way back to the office, and announced “ok, let’s do it!” The apartment had been on the market for two hours.
None of this would have been possible without abiding by Important Thing #3 – Get. Help. The Apartment Experts not only drove me all over Somerville and Cambridge to look for this apartment, but they had an in with the landlord, and took care of all the paper work. Yes you have to fill out a lot of paperwork and hand over a couple fairly large checks, but they manage the whole process flawlessly. The next day they let me know that the apartment was mine. A few days later, I had a fully executed lease in my mailboxes, both real and virtual. There is almost always a fee when dealing with brokers in the Boston/Cambridge area, but in this case that (half) fee was 100% worth it. If you’re nice, these guys will do anything they can to get you into the apartment you choose.
Really, the only downside to this whole experience is having it be such a quick process that I’m now left with a little over a month to daydream about furnishing the place! June 1 cannot come soon enough.
If you’re looking for an apartment in Cambridge/Somerville:
Apartment Rental Experts – (617) 666.5031
My agent’s name was Tom Carr, but everyone was very helpful!