Author Topic: To move or not to move? (Boston)  (Read 6475 times)

fpacx

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To move or not to move? (Boston)
« on: March 27, 2013, 10:34:40 AM »
Hi!

Long time reader/first time questioner!

My wife and I live in an apt 12 miles from Boston/work. Our locale has excellent access to highways (93/95/3) and several bus routes (two direct to downtown/South Station; one local to the Red Line/Alewife).

My commute is subsidized (express), and 75 minutes (morning) and 40 minutes (evening). My wife's is unsubsidized, and 85 minutes each way.

Our rent will increase in two months for the third time (our fourth year). The increase this year is 14%, from $1714 to $1956 for a great apartment+dog (a super quiet, loving Shiba...which isn't really relevant, eh?). We must notify the complex within 30 days if we do not intend to maintain the lease.

Is this a good time to move closer to the city?

Some thoughts:

- The apartment rent increase will likely not be 14%. It was the same proposed percentage increase last year, and we talked them down to 8%. However, we know that they are trying to get lofts to a similar price point system-wide. Our rent is behind the curve because we began leasing during the downturn. Ultimately, our rent should settle around $2200 with modest increases afterward (probably in the next 2-3 years).

- We have no debt, strong salaries, and have no desire to buy in the "everything's old or obscenely overpriced" Boston area. We've looked, and are not casually passing on the option. Some places are nice, but we loathe illiquidity. Plus, the NY Times' wonderful "buy vs rent" tool is eminently in our favor, unless we intend to stay here for 7+ years, which is not in the cards.

- We would consider staying in our present location, rather than adding to costs with moving fees and the associated logistics. But our commute times are obscene!

- We are somewhat limited when considering replacement apartments - many apts do not accept dogs downtown.

- We do not have to remain with Equity, but since we are with them, certain account logistics are easier, and move timing is flexible. Plus, we like their properties, generally speaking.

- Our initial foray into apt reviews suggests what we like will be between $2350 and $2650/month (unless the place is an amazing 1br/1ba, we would like a 2br apt for family members' extended stays from overseas). Incidentally, staying in our current complex and switching to a 2br would be not that much less money so that's not in consideration.

- (For locals) Longwood looks nice, near the medical complexes and MoFA. We've had business in the area and one of the apartments is right near a Green Line stop, which would cut our commutes by roughly 2/3 on days the line is moving swiftly.

- Disclosure: we lived in DC for many years. Modern apts, great transit, very short work commutes (for us). After five years up here, we've really yet to find anything, or an area, that we really like. That makes "moves" like this difficult.

We know there's no easy solution. But I talk about the MMM blog a good deal at day's end, and we thought some of you might prod us with a few questions that could make a decision easier.

I will respond to any questions you have.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts (and any recommendations from locals)!

capital

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2013, 10:57:15 AM »
Those commutes sound awful; I'd definitely move. Why's there the big morning/evening difference?

My sister and some classmates who work in Cambridge live in Somerville, which seems like a nice place in my brief visits and has solid transit access to the Red Line, which should be faster than the Green Line. My sister lives on the first floor of a duplex, which certainly seems like the type of situation where you'd be able to keep a dog. It looks like you can get nice 2 bedrooms there for under $2k.

It looks like that Longwood area also has good access to that bike trail to downtown, which seems like another argument in its favor-- you could try out the bikeshare if you don't have bikes.

I personally like old buildings so long as they're well kept. They often have thicker walls and better locations, and are prettier and have more character.

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2013, 11:11:00 AM »
Those commutes sound awful; I'd definitely move. Why's there the big morning/evening difference?

It looks like that Longwood area also has good access to that bike trail to downtown, which seems like another argument in its favor-- you could try out the bikeshare if you don't have bikes.

I personally like old buildings so long as they're well kept. They often have thicker walls and better locations, and are prettier and have more character.


>>>My "express" in the morning has some local before it gets on the highway. In the evening, it's highway only...

>>>Yes, I would bike into town. The Green Line is generally a mess for those further out than we would be in Longwood. The flip is that my wife routinely gets stuck on the Red Line, resulting in missed bus connections at the metro interface. Argh.

>>>We found that to be the case. The two places here, prior to our current apt, were exceptions, however. We realize we can't always have vacancy above us, but our current place has no pounding feet. That's really nice.

Thanks so much for your response!

shedinator

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2013, 11:45:28 AM »
Ah yes, Boston, how I miss it... but not its prices.

Have you considered Mission Hill/Jamaica Plain, or anywhere else in the city proper, for that matter? Longwood is nice and all, but it's not really the most affordable area out there. A 2 bed in JP for under 2k is definitely doable, as well as in East boston, Mission Hill, Fenway... it should be pretty easy to beat your current rent cost and cut your commute in half, unless you have insanely high standards for what makes a 'nice' apartment. This one's not available until September, but it was the first result I pulled up, and seems pretty par for the course in terms of what I remember a $1700 apt looking like: http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/fee/3672707255.html

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 12:37:23 PM »
Ah yes, Boston, how I miss it... but not its prices.

Have you considered Mission Hill/Jamaica Plain, or anywhere else in the city proper, for that matter? Longwood is nice and all, but it's not really the most affordable area out there. A 2 bed in JP for under 2k is definitely doable, as well as in East boston, Mission Hill, Fenway... it should be pretty easy to beat your current rent cost and cut your commute in half, unless you have insanely high standards for what makes a 'nice' apartment. This one's not available until September, but it was the first result I pulled up, and seems pretty par for the course in terms of what I remember a $1700 apt looking like: http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/fee/3672707255.html

>>>Hi, Shea! Thanks for the comments.

We have visited JP, and don't care for much of what we saw (dirty, high crime, and battered infrastructure). I know that's not the *entire* area, but we were uncomfortable there, and folks we knew in the area have moved.

The prices I noted above were generated from downtown options - Waterfront, Pru, West End, some Back Bay, Longwood.

Our comfort level tends to be costlier, so we understand and accept that. We're most interested in reasonable cost as a function of convenience and quality - not the lowest price where we could find a place with questionable services and incommunicado "landlords". We did that when we were young - for just a year. ;)

I guess, if I were to reduce my points to a single question, it would be, "What's the most modern section of the city where a shorter commute would impel a move to a large REIT community, but be within $500-$600/month of our current rent including the doggie?"

Really appreciate the contribution, Shea!

NumberCruncher

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2013, 01:08:28 PM »
Do you need a "modern" section of the city, or just a modern apartment? There are a lot of nice renovated apartments even in some of the oldest neighborhoods.

You might want to look here http://www.mapnificent.net/  and see different areas that are a short commute from work, then search around craigslist for different apartment listings to see if any place catches your eye.

I love Somerville but am moving farther from the Boston to be closer to work.

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 01:19:01 PM »
Do you need a "modern" section of the city, or just a modern apartment? There are a lot of nice renovated apartments even in some of the oldest neighborhoods.

You might want to look here http://www.mapnificent.net/  and see different areas that are a short commute from work, then search around craigslist for different apartment listings to see if any place catches your eye.

I love Somerville but am moving farther from the Boston to be closer to work.

>>>Number - Thanks very much for the link. We haven't used it, but even a few minutes of testing reveals that it's reasonably accurate and could help us bound our search. The MBTA trip planner is so rudimentary as to be both cumbersome and discouraging. ;)

jnik

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2013, 01:53:31 PM »
Where exactly you're working (and currently living...) makes a big difference. The set of local service to Alewife plus express service to South Station doesn't match anything I'm aware of unlesss the express service isn't MBTA... And it sounds like your wife's work isn't right on the red line but she has to transfer off to a bus?

The dog's definitely an issue, particularly if you want a more modern/shiny building.

I suspect the greater Coolidge Corner/Brookline Village/Washington Square area would be a good bet, without having any further information. My place in Coolidge Corner was <5min walk from St. Paul and just under ten minutes from Longwood. It was really nice to be able to hop on either a C or D train to get home from downtown (and work was <1mi walk for both me and the lady.) Just be aware that if you're right on the D line you will be coming home with idiot Sox fans who don't know that the closest stop is KENMORE and they don't all have to crowd onto a D train. City Central Realty in CC found the place for us and it was great.

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2013, 02:03:17 PM »
Where exactly you're working (and currently living...) makes a big difference. The set of local service to Alewife plus express service to South Station doesn't match anything I'm aware of unlesss the express service isn't MBTA... And it sounds like your wife's work isn't right on the red line but she has to transfer off to a bus?

I suspect the greater Coolidge Corner/Brookline Village/Washington Square area would be a good bet, without having any further information. My place in Coolidge Corner was <5min walk from St. Paul and just under ten minutes from Longwood. It was really nice to be able to hop on either a C or D train to get home from downtown (and work was <1mi walk for both me and the lady.)

City Central Realty in CC found the place for us and it was great.

>>> Hi, Jnik,

We live in Burlington and work in the financial district, right near South Station. We use the 350/354/352 buses. The former drops at Alewife, while the latter two drop at State Street near Gov Cntr. I walk from there.

Thanks - don't know CC/Brookline V/WS at all and will look into them...

Thanks for the City Central note - are they are fee-based firm?

jnik

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2013, 03:20:44 PM »
>>> Hi, Jnik,

We live in Burlington and work in the financial district, right near South Station. We use the 350/354/352 buses. The former drops at Alewife, while the latter two drop at State Street near Gov Cntr. I walk from there.

Thanks - don't know CC/Brookline V/WS at all and will look into them...

Thanks for the City Central note - are they are fee-based firm?

Ah, that makes it a lot easier to improve! So throw these slightly less extreme options on the list, that still save you a lot of time but are somewhat suburban:
Watertown Square/South Watertown/Nonantum/Newton Corner: close to the Pike, 71 to Harvard, 57 to Kenmore, express busses to Copley and the financial district. I was in a two-bed, one-bath duplex with yard and basement for around $1550 a month, probably gone up by now. (I happen to know that place will be coming up for rent again soon.) Not bad to bike in from there, either: easy access to the Charles paths. If all you need to do in the city is express bus to/from work this is great; having an evening social life downtown is a little more commute-intensive.

Belmont/Arlington: lots of local busses to Alewife, 77 to Harvard, plus the Minuteman bikeway from Arlington (plowed in Arlington) and the newly-renovated Fitchburg Cutoff path from Belmont center. Plus 73 to Harvard from Waverley Square, or commuter rail to North Station.

Waltham: Interesting restaurants/shops on Moody St., express busses to the financial district, 70 bus to Central. Easy access to the Charles bikepaths.

Parts of Quincy or Milton might fit the bill, too.

City Central is fee-based, but in our case the landlord paid the fee. I think they'll also do a half-month fee although I don't know if that's split with the landlord or flat.

velocistar237

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2013, 03:40:07 PM »
Take a look at these rent maps.
http://www.jefftk.com/news/2013-01-29

Here's the 2BR one in particular.
http://www.jefftk.com/apartment_prices/rooms-2013-01--2br

Maybe you can overlay them on a transit time map.

4n6

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2013, 06:04:02 PM »
Have you checked out Quincy or North Quincy.  I used to live there before I moved south to be closer to my job (right across the street).  However, I know that there are apartments that have shuttles that run from the apartment to the Red Line and then it is only 20 minutes to South Station (right near the financial district).  Check out the Highlands at Faxon Woods, Archstone North Quincy (right next to the North Quincy station) or the Quincy Marina.  The Marina is really nice, we have friends that live there and there rent hasn't gone about $2100 in over five years.  The Marina has a shuttle that runs all the time and can take you to the North Quincy station.  Just hop on and be done.  I only mention that b/c prices in Quincy are cheaper, you are right near the Red Line and they are making major improvements to Downtown.  We plan on moving back in the future.

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2013, 10:36:50 PM »
Jnik, Velo, and 4n6 (and everyone else who wrote today),

Thanks so much for the leads and suggestions! We will look into these and update the thread...

fpacx

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2013, 09:44:39 AM »
Hey, folks ...

Has anyone you know, or have you, lived at ER Malden Gateway complex? Some of its apartment costs aren't much different than what we're paying now, but the commute (it's a block from the Malden Center Orange Line station) would be about 1/2 of mine and 1/3 of my wife's. We're trying to get an appointment to tour a few openings there.

Thanks!

velocistar237

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2013, 10:59:06 AM »
For what it's worth, Malden Gateway gets bad online reviews. I myself know nothing about it specifically, but in general, complexes are usually more expensive than similar apartments in 2 or 3 family buildings.

Bostonia

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2013, 03:33:09 PM »
Hi, there.

A bit late to your party, but I will chime in with my experience.  I'm in Newton Corner, one block from Brighton line.  Beautiful 3-bed apartment in two-family house.  Landlord lives upstairs, 83 and loves to putter and keep everything "perfect".  We pay $1,800 and get the low insurance rates of Newton, while also enjoying proximity to the city.  We are 100 yards from the Express bus routes into the city (501, 504, etc.).

Granted, we have a nice situation here, but it's not impossible.  Prior to this, we were in Brighton for 15 years in another 2-family with an elderly owner/occupant in the other unit.  We've found that in this area, the more "experienced" landlords appreciate the tradeoff in peace of mind for having a professional couple as opposed to a slew of partying college students who would pay more rent.

All the best in your search!

galaxie

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Re: To move or not to move? (Boston)
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2013, 03:40:36 PM »
If you're looking for an area that's on the T but has modern multi-unit buildings, consider Kendall.