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Everything You Need to Know Before Moving to Boston

22 Feb 2019
Derek Crippin

Boston, also referred to as ‘“The Hub” (never "Beantown") is New England's leading city in just about every respect: population, jobs, sports teams, historical significance, and universities.

As the home of the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and the New England Patriots, for many, Boston is primarily a sports powerhouse. Others think of Boston first and foremost as a city of intellectuals due to Harvard and MIT being just across the river.

Although there is a city of Boston, many people use the city name to refer to the Metro Boston region, which extends from Saugus in the north to Weymouth in the south.

Boston is an ideal place to study, work, and raise a family with its eclectic array of arts and culture, restaurants, shopping destinations, outdoor activities, and historical sites. Here is what you need to know before you move.

Picking a Neighborhood

Like many major American cities, Boston is experiencing an influx of young people who prefer living in swanky apartments in the city to spacious suburban homes. This has created an affordable housing crisis  -  many residents cannot manage the downtown area’s expensive housing costs and opt for a longer commute from a neighboring town instead.

beacon-hill-alley

The government is working to bridge the gap between these prices and the income of most of its expanding population, but this situation is unlikely to improve for the foreseeable future.

Despite these challenges, moving to Boston is still a viable and popular option for those who can afford the high cost of living. There are a number of attractive neighborhood and suburbs where you can choose to live, both within the city center and in the coastal communities surrounding it.

Pick an area based off your income bracket or finances. More affluent neighborhoods, like Beacon Hill or Back Bay, are prime real estate locations and the housing costs in these areas reflect that.

boston-back-bay

In contrast, properties in Roslindale or East Boston will come at a more affordable price. Find a place that is central to the lifestyle and interests of you or your family. Commuting via car can be time-consuming, so factor in the distance and route from your place of work.

Popular Suburbs near Boston

Belmont

For those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of Boston but not go too far, Belmont is the suburb for you. It is close enough to still commute into work and offers large parks and outdoor spaces to enjoy on the weekend. This suburb is pricey, however.

Beacon Hill

Arguably the most picturesque town because of the rows of historical houses and cobblestone streets. Walking at night along the gas-lit streets take you right back in time. It’s a popular place for both residents and tourists to explore.

Cambridge

Home to both MIT and Harvard, this suburb is home to more than just over-achieving college students. Families love the quiet, charming residential area and excellent public schools.

Winchester

A small suburban town in Boston that is popular with working professionals who commute into the greater metropolitan area. It has earned “Green Community” status because its residents make an effort to cut down on waste and keep the neighborhood environmentally-friendly.

Worcester

Confusingly pronounced “Woostah”, here you’ll feel the small-town charm while being a relatively short drive away from Boston, provided you plan around rush-hour traffic. Worcester is brimming with college students and residents alike. Purchasing a family home here is significantly cheaper than in other suburbs. It is also a popular place to start a pop-up shop or boutique.

Cost of Living

Boston is one of the top five most expensive cities to live in in the country. If you plan on moving here, it is important to understand how it will affect your budget. Speak with a financial advisor or do research into the average living costs of the suburb prior to arriving. It is possible to share an apartment, especially if you’re a young working professional or student. It is also recommended to explore a variety of options to see what is available before purchasing a property online.

And if you’re the type that enjoys eating out or ordering take-out, this too will add up. With Boston’s endless selection of restaurants and cafes, it’s tempting to want to try them all out. As rent in the area is expensive, businesses need to mark up their products to cover such costs. A local, inexpensive restaurant will set you back around $10-20 a main meal if you include tax and tip, while a three-course meal or fine dining experience starts at around $50 a person.

boston-north-endBoston's North End, known for its Italian restaurants.
(Source: Boston Magazine)

Massachusetts is a higher-tax state, so if you’re moving here from somewhere outside the region, be mindful of the possibility of paying more. Fortunately, flat taxes apply for income and sale taxes. Taxes on capital gains and owning an estate are where the catch lies, but these typically don’t apply to the average resident.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll also need to pay the significantly higher ticket prices for the Boston Red Sox games due due to the immense popularity of the team and the size of their fan base. If you're on a budget, there are many college and state sports teams to support that do not charge for admission.

boston-fenway-park

Or if you’re not into sports, visit a museum or spend the day hiking along a trail or historical site. Public transportation is cheap too. A monthly pass gives you unlimited access to the Boston subway line (known as “the T”) and buses for just $84.50 a month. Public transportation is by far one of the most convenient ways to get around.

boston-green-line-t-stationBoston's Green Line subway, known for its loud screeching.
(Source: The Boston Globe)

Getting Around

Depending on who you speak with, you’ll receive a mixed list of preferred means of transportation. Boston's road infrastructure is lacking in many respects, but you can drive from one end to the city of the other reasonably quickly. The traffic in and out of the city, especially during rush hours, can be frustrating. So much so that griping about transit problems is a favorite go-to conversation topic.

mass-pike-boston-highwayThe Mass Pike, a highway which runs through the heart of Boston.
(Source: The Boston Globe)

Don’t let that deter you from living or commuting here. In Boston and its surrounding suburbs, there are reasonably efficient -- if somewhat antiquated -- public transportation systems in place. And if you’re fortunate enough to live close to a commuter rail station, T stop, or bicycle lane, you may not even need to own a car.

buffered-bike-lanes-cambridge-ma

Boston has also been nicknamed “America’s Walking City” for good reason. There are now plenty of sidewalks and pathways that allow one to easily navigate around the busy city districts.

If you do need a car, however, driving isn't all that bad once you learn the intricacies of our pothole-ridden streets, poorly-labeled lane markings, chaotic roundabouts, and nonsensical one-way streets. Not to mention that Boston drivers all seem to forget that turn signals exist.

massachusetts-potholes

To avoid traffic, keep in mind what weekends there are major sports games scheduled. Expect slowdowns before and after such events as the streets suddenly fill with cars. Remember to apply for a parking permit if it is not provided by your employer, as parking space in the city is limited.

Finding Work

This will vary depending on your qualifications and career choice. Boston is a major city in the United States and supports a large and growing workforce. You’ll find everything here from small startups to massive Fortune 500 companies.

There are always positions available for employees, it is just a matter of crafting a good CV and going out there and applying. The city itself is always looking for those eager to join their team. Use job posting websites to help you find work in your desired field and secure interviews prior to arriving.

Things to Do

You will never be bored living here. Few other cities can offer as many attractions and historical points of interest as Boston. It is rich in both culture and history, and can be explored affordably and on foot. Besides common tourist hotspots like the Boston Harbor, Fenway Stadium, and Harvard University’s campus, there are many hidden gems to be explored.

boston-waterfront-harbor

Walk the Freedom Trail and hear stories about the founding of the nation as you stroll through a series of important locations and landmarks in the American Revolution. Along the way, you’ll see renowned landmarks like the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s home, and the USS Constitution.

Visit one of the city's many cultural institutions. Our favorites are:

  • Boston Museum of Fine Art
  • Museum of Science
  • Boston Children’s Museum
  • New England Aquarium
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History
  • Mary Baker Eddy Library
  • Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Making it Happen

It is natural to feel a sense of anxiety and excitement when moving homes. It is also easy to overlook the small details and get caught up in this process. Take it slow and plan carefully. Do as much research as possible into the suburbs and properties available.

Take the time to explore the surroundings when you first arrive. And most of all, enjoy and keep an open mind. Boston is a big city, but the move will be rewarding.

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