Boston draws new residents for a multitude of reasons – higher education, great jobs, history, and the many rich cultural resources the city offers. Bostonians, both native and transplanted, agree that once you settle into the city, there’s no place you’d rather be. Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the US and remains a thriving national seat of trade, culture, and education.
With four distinct seasons and countless nearby woodlands and beaches, there’s almost as much nature around Boston to enjoy as there are history and culture. From whale watching to museum hopping, there’s always something new to explore. Leafy historic neighborhoods appeal to many residents, but some prefer living in the exciting urban core. Whichever area of Boston you find enticing, you’ll notice a wide variety of housing and amenities for the lifestyle you hope for.
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Living in Boston, MA: What to Know Before Moving to Boston
The most populous city in New England, Boston proper is home to 694,583 people, but the greater metro area population is closer to 5 million. Living in Boston means living among rich US history in one of the nation’s most vibrant cities.
Pros and Cons of Living in Boston
- Booming job market
- Excellent educational opportunities
- Many professional sporting events
- Crazy good culinary scene
- Extensive public transportation
- Four distinct seasons
- Extremely walkable city
- Cost of living is higher than most cities
- Commuting can take up a lot of time
- Competitive rental market
- Public transportation often runs late
- Pro sports games make traffic insanely bad
- Harsh winters
- Navigating the city is challenging
- Property Tax: Suffolk County assesses a 0.862% property tax rate. The median state property tax rate is 1.21%. In Boston, your taxes on a home priced at the median home value of $594,600 would be about $5,125.
- Sales Tax: Residents of Beantown are happy to pay a combined sales tax rate of 6.25%, which is among the lowest in the country.
- State Income Tax: The income tax rate of 5.10% is higher than almost all other states that levy a flat rate.
Boston is largely a city of renters, with just over 35 percent of residents living in homes they own. The housing market is restricted by tight inventory and climbing prices, which is fueled by intense competition among buyers. Home prices rose 2.5% in 2018, and now in the summer of 2019, the median home value is $594,600.
Rental rates are also steadily rising. As of June 2019, the median rent price in Boston was $2,818, about twice the national average. Renters will find Boston expensive compared to most other large cities, but a bargain compared to San Francisco or New York. In spite of record-high housing prices, it’s still possible to score a good deal in neighborhoods like Allston-Brighton, East Boston, Hyde Park, and Rosindale.
Cost of Living
Compared to most American cities, the cost of living in Boston is high, but the majority of this is due to high housing costs. However, compared to nearby New York City, your money goes a lot further in Boston. Bestplaces.com compares a city’s cost of living to the average US index of 100. Boston’s cost of living index is 181.6. Costs are broken down into major expenses: Groceries 105.7, Health 83.4, Housing 313.9, Utilities 116.8, Transportation 151.7, and Miscellaneous 129.1
The median income in Boston, $85,691, is a good bit higher than the state median income of $77,385, and almost $27,000 higher than the national average. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a single person living in Boston can expect to get by on $3,908 per month, but a couple with one child must earn $7,708 per month to enjoy a reasonable quality of life.
Weather & Natural Disasters
While Boston winters are known for being harsh, in general Bostonians enjoy varied seasons that offer a great deal of lovely weather. Spring arrives cold and windy, but in between the odd snowstorms and rainy days, you can expect flurries of spring blossoms and gorgeously warm days. Summer days can be sunny, hot, and humid, but sometimes chilly and dramatically stormy. Autumn is as close to perfect as the weather gets here, with sunny skies, clear air, and gorgeous fall foliage colors. And winter is cold but often sunny and bright.
July is the warmest month. Highs average 81 degrees F, and it will cool down to the mid-60s at night. You’ll need to bundle up in January, the coldest month, when highs only rise to 36 and lows are about 22. The annual rainfall is about 44″ with 3″- 4″ of rain falling every month throughout the year. Most Bostonians wear layers and carry umbrellas in anticipation of rapid shifts in temperature. Get your snow gear and machinery fired up in November when snow season begins. You can expect about 35″ of snow per year.
Boston is safe from tornadoes and earthquakes, but as a low-lying coastal city, it’s at significant risk from coastal storms, flooding, and occasional blizzards. Checking flood maps before buying is advisable in Boston, and having a preparedness plan in place is always a good idea.
Economy & Job Market
Boston has one of the most thriving job markets in the country. The city is an educational epicenter, with countless jobs in higher education and research. It’s also home to some of the nation’s best hospitals, which makes healthcare a major industry. The tremendous number of tourists that flood into the city have put tourism and hospitality on the list of important local industries.
The largest employers in the city are General Electric, Liberty Mutual Insurance, State Street, Iron Mountain, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of technology, Beacon Hospice, IASIS Healthcare, Sapient, Bain & Company, Boston University, Filene’s, and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Job seekers should look for jobs in higher education, healthcare, tech, and hospitality. The bottom line is that there are always jobs to be found at all levels of skills and experience in Boston. Before you start your job search, make sure your resume is up to date. Boston employers mainly use digital hiring strategies, so send your resume in pdf format with an enticing cover letter. Search for jobs on betterteam.com, jobstars.com, bostonjobs.com, reddit.com, and many more boards you can find online. Venturefizz.com is a job board for Boston tech jobs while wickedlocal.com will distribute your resume to over 100 job boards.
Traffic and Transportation
Boston has a well-earned reputation for having one of the worst rush-hours in the country. Sadly, this isn’t limited to drivers but includes commuters using public transportation. The problem is that Boston is made up of many municipalities outside the city limits, which means a huge number of commuters use roadways and transit each day. The dated city road layout and limited parking add to the traffic problems. The main takeaway is to be selective about where you choose to live and make sure your commute is manageable.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is a cheap and convenient way to get around. The “T” in MBTA refers to the subway, the oldest subway system in the country. While this is certainly something to celebrate, it’s also an aging system that feels the strain of increased demands. In addition to subway routes, the MBTA provides 12 commuter rail service lines, five light rails, 113 bus lines, and two ferry lines.
Boston has an extraordinary walk score of 81, with over three dozen neighborhoods earning scores between 80 and 98. Half a dozen neighborhoods have transit scores of 100, and the overall bike score in Boston is 69, with many neighborhoods hitting the 80s and 90s. Boston is a truly walkable city, and the bottom line is that many Bostonians wouldn’t dream of owning a car because there’s little need for one.
If flying is the way to go, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is about 2.5-3.5 miles east of downtown, depending on the route you take. The T connects BOS to a station in downtown. Buy a $12 LinkPass for unlimited travel on bus, T, inner harbor ferry, and commuter rail for one day or a seven-day pass for $21.25. Amtrak provides service via three Boston stations and can get you to Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia, and points beyond.
What to Do in Boston
Bostonians may not enjoy their commutes, but they are willing to venture far and wide in a city that offers endless entertainment, leisure, art, and culture. Boasting unusually strong diversity, foodies can partake in cuisines from every corner of the world, while art lovers will find excellent collections throughout the city. Live music, history, seafood, parks, museums – Boston truly has it all. From the harbor to Harvard, here’s a shortlist of what you can expect in your new hometown:
- Food – Boston is a food lover’s paradise, offering up every type of cuisine and every price point you could ever want. Enjoy the smorgasbord of fresh seafood around town, starting with $1 oysters around every corner. La Brasa, Boston Public Market, and Marliave are just a few of the places where you can find fresh shucks for a buck. Visit the place where the magic happens, also known as the Taza Chocolate Factory, or dip into Chinatown for an early dim sum or an after-hours snack. For a year-round indoor food market, visit the Boston Public Market in the North End for regional wine and foodstuffs every day of the week.
- Arts and culture – Boston is almost impossible to beat when it comes to fine art, museums, history, and live performances. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest museums in America and boasts one of the most comprehensive collections on the continent. Come for a First Friday to enjoy music, cocktails, and tapas with your dose of fine art. Visit the Mapparium–a stained-glass globe inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library to get a view of the world circa 1935. History buffs won’t want to miss the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, which takes you on a tour of what life was like in 1773. Visit the Old State House, nestled right in the heart of downtown Boston, to tour one of the oldest public buildings in the US. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of the Museum of Science or the Boston Children’s Museum, and anyone interested in technology and innovation will be thrilled to check out the MIT Museum.
- Parks and greenspace – Anyone with a hankering for greenspace will not be disappointed by Boston’s 217 city parks. Greenspace accounts for 2,346 acres or 20% of the city, so you’ll never need to look far for some nature. Boston Public Garden is a perfect spot for strolling, having a picnic, or rowing the lagoon in a romantic swan boat. Boston Common is a treat in all seasons, hosting events, flash mobs, and ice skating. Arnold Arboretum, in Jamaica Plain, is open every day of the year for hiking and exploring a wilderness right inside the city. While Boston’s parks are beloved and many, just outside of Boston there are stunning trails in almost every direction just asking to be explored. Walden Pond State Reservation covers 335 acres complete with trails for exploration and swimming in the crisp pond waters. Wachusett Mountain is perfect for a day of skiing after a good snowstorm, or hiking during the rest of the year.
- Sports: Boston’s sports culture is no secret, and if you happen to enjoy spectator sports, prepare to become a fan of some of the winningest teams in the nation. Fenway Park is home to the Major League Baseball champs the Boston Red Sox. The Sox sell out almost every game since winning the World Series in 2018 for the ninth time. The oldest National Hockey League team in America, the Boston Bruins, has won six Stanley Cup championships and play at the TD Garden in September and October. Love them or hate them, The New England Patriots have won four Super Bowls since 2001, making them a sure bet for a good game at Gillette Stadium. For NBA fans, the Boston Celtics, winners of 17 NBA championships, are a team to love for their legendary sportsmanship and impressive record. Not to be overlooked, the New England Revolution is the local men’s Major Soccer League team who look to improve their record with new coach Bruce Arena. See them play the Gillette Stadium from July to September.
Schools and Universities
Boston Public Schools is the oldest school system in the US. Founded in 1647, today it encompasses 120 schools and serves over 53,000 K-12 students. The graduation rate is 75.1%, and the system has one of the most diverse student populations in the country. Education quality varies hugely, as it does in many large urban areas. Some of the best schools are Edward Brooke Charter School, rated 8/10 by greatschools.org; Mary Lee Burbank School 9/10; Baker School 9/10; Benjamin G Brown School 9/10; Arlington High School 8/10; and Boston Latin School, grades 7-12, 9/10.
The Boston area is home to several outstanding four-year institutions, including Boston College, Boston University, Emerson College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design. Additionally, the city is home to several two-year colleges including Bay State College, Bunker Hill Community College, Fisher College, Quincy College, and the Urban College of Boston.
Boston’s property crime rate of 35.8/100 is about the same as the national average of 35.4/100. Violent crime in the city rates 37.3/100, compared to the US average of 22.7/100. Boston is considered safer than 14% of the cities in the United States. Thankfully, the crime rate is dropping each year.
Boston residents rely on several providers for their utility services. If you’re lucky, water and sewage will be included in your rent. This information will help you get connected:
- Electricity and Gas: Eversource is the primary provider of electric service for Boston. Visit the site to start, stop, or transfer service. Constellation offers competitive gas and energy rates to Bostonians. Click the link to compare. Direct Energy is another provider of electricity and gas service in Boston. Visit the website to learn more.
- Water and Sewer: Boston Water and Sewer Commission is the water utility of Boston. To open an account, go online to register.
- Waste Management: Boston’s Department of Public Works manages the trash in Boston. To start an account, contact a representative online or call 617-635-4500.
- Internet and Cable: Residents can compare plans and prices for internet and cable services between Xfinity, AT&T, RCN, and Verizon. To start an account, click on any of the links above and view the available options. To see the several other providers available, check this list.
Best Neighborhoods in Boston, MA
Wondering where to put down roots? Check out some of Boston’s best communities:
While technically two neighborhoods, they are so synonymous that they’re considered one. This area is bordered to the north by Everett Street, to the south by Gordon Street, terminates to the west along Kelton Street, and is separated from Cambridge by the Charles River. Thanks to its proximity to Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University, this vibrant community comprises students, artists, and young professionals. Some 79% of the residents rent.
Safe and affordable, people love living in this colorful neighborhood a mere stone’s throw from downtown. The neighborhood bar scene leans toward beer over cocktails and is home to fantastic culinary options plus a great music scene. With excellent access to amenities within walking distance and multiple transit options, it’s little wonder that this neighborhood often makes lists of “hot places for millennials” to live.
- Population – 82,093
- Home Price – Median home value $336,749
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,401
- Employers – Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Harvard University, New Balance, WGBH, Genzyme
- Schools – Baldwin ELPA, Brighton High School, Edison K-8, Gardner K-8, Green Academy, Horace Mann School for the Deaf, Jackson Mann, Lyon K-8, Lyon 9-12, Winship
Something to try: Catch a stand-up comedy show at the Brighton Music Hall.
Most recognized for rows of beautifully-preserved Victorian brownstone homes, Back Bay is one of Boston’s more sophisticated neighborhoods. Bound on the north by the Charles River; Arlington Street to Park Square on the east; Huntington Avenue, Dalton Street, and the Massachusetts Turnpike to the south; and Charlesgate East to the west; this fashionable area offers high-end shopping and luxury hotels. An unsurprising 68% of Back Bay residents rent. Considering the relatively low median rent as compared to home prices, renting in Back Bay is one way of living the high life at a discount.
Right on the water, this is a nexus of Boston tourism, but residents find respite from the crowds at the Clarendon Street Playground, Public Garden, and Esplanade. Don’t expect any wild nightlife here but know you can always tuck into a quiet wine bar or enjoy some fine dining.
One of the most walkable communities in Boston, Back Bay has many amenities right outside your front door, and easy access to some of the best shopping in the city. Don’t miss the Boston Public Garden and the great view of the Boston Marathon every April.
- Population – 22,584
- Home Price – Median home value $991,794
- Rent Prices – Median rent $2,072
- Employers – John Hancock, Liberty Mutual, Deloitte, Pearson, New England Financial/Metlife
- Schools –Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, O’Bryant School of Math & Science, Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School, Fenway High School
Something to try: See a concert at the Paramount Theater.
Boston’s first official neighborhood, Charlestown is a perfect place for folks seeking a sleepy spot with great community and authenticity. Situated north of downtown Boston on the peninsula that juts to the southeast between the Charles and Mystic Rivers, Charlestown is most known for the Bunker Hill Monument located at Monument Square.
A quick hop from Logan Airport, this is the place to be for educated young professionals who want to be close to the water (read: rowers and sailors). The cobblestone roads and views of the city along with a family-friendly vibe attract residents who put down roots and stay long term. Neighborhood events like the Bunker Hill Day Parade, Halloween Parade, and Christmas Trolley Tour knit the community together and spread cheer.
- Population – 18,901
- Home Price – Median home value $523,805
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,457
- Employers – Visiting Nurse Association of Boston, RSM International, Keane Inc., Delta Dental of Massachusetts, and Costa Fruit and Produce
- Schools – Lowell Elementary School, Stevens Elementary School, Bright Water Waldorf School, Yellow Wood Academy, Hamilton Middle School, The Northwest School, Boston Academy, O’Dea High School
Something to try: Gawk at the Skinny House at 44 Hull Street, the narrowest house in Boston.
Fenway-Kenmore is home to the famous ballpark, but that’s only part of this neighborhood’s charm. Bound to the east by Massachusetts Avenue, the north by the Mass Pike, to the southwest by Mission Hill, and on the west by the Longwood Medical Area, the neighborhood is comprised almost exclusively of five and six-story buildings. Much of Boston is distinctly collegiate, but Fenway-Kenmore is the leader of the pack, with nearly 75% of the residents currently enrolled. As you might predict, this is a renter-heavy community, with 90% of the residents holding leases.
The youthful population adds an exciting, energetic, and distinctly fun-loving feel to the area. The bar scene is sports-centered but becomes increasingly low-key as you move away from Fenway Park. One note: this is not a great neighborhood for car-owners, even if you have the luxury of a garage. Traffic is a tangle when the area is overrun with sports fans on game nights.
- Population – 40,898
- Home Price – Median home value $234,729
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,475
- Employers – Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston University, Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and Northeastern University
- Schools – Boston Latin School, Brookline High School, Lawrence School, Coolidge Corner School, Boston Latin Academy
Something to try: Visit the infamous statue honoring Leif Erikson’s exploratory trip to Massachusetts. It’s been standing since 1887 and is beloved despite being built on a completely baseless claim.
Known for its diversity of housing, population, and ideologies, Jamaica Plain is still one of the best bargains in the city. The area is bound to the northeast by Heath Street, on the southeast by Washington Street, on the southwest by Arborway, and to the northwest by Perkins Street and Jamaica Way. These boundaries are hotly-contested, as are many neighborhood boundaries in Boston, but one thing that isn’t up for debate: a majority of the much-celebrated Emerald Necklace Park system falls within Jamaica Plain.
The community of Jamaica Plain is diverse. Young families, professionals, activists, and artists convene around Centre Street. This neighborhood is a perfect place to find independently owned boutiques and eateries, bright Victorian houses, and hipster hideouts.
With great access to public transport, many places to hang with kids or dogs, and affordable housing, Jamaica Plain is one of the last great neighborhoods for would-be buyers in Boston.
- Population – Just under 43,363
- Home Price – Median home value $426,595
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,375
- Employers – Faulkner Hospital, VA Boston Healthcare, Angell Animal Medical Center, Sherrill House, Brookside Community Health Center
- Schools – Boston Latin School, Heath School, Baker School, John D. Runkle School, William H. Lincoln School
Something to try: Sample the offerings at the renowned J.P. Licks ice cream shop.
Not to be confused with South Boston, South End is bound on the north by Back Bay, to the southwest by Roxbury, on the south by Dorchester, and to the northeast by Bay Village. This neighborhood has a storied history of ups and downs, and in the latter half of the last century was the pioneering LGBT center of Boston. These days it’s hot, hip, and happening – if you can afford it. With 43% of the residents of South End owning their homes, you can expect a real neighborhood here, with plenty of old-timers and long-timers around.
The area is extremely walkable and packed with precious playgrounds and parks perfect for little ones. Expect a modern, diverse neighborhood that’s central to everything — and has outstanding food options. The Silver Line will get you wherever you need to go, and most of the amenities you need are a short walk away.
- Population – 27,344
- Home Price – Median home value $747,884
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,675
- Employers – Boston Medical Center, Boston University, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Pine Street Inn
- Schools –Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, O’Bryant Schools of Math & Science, Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School, Fenway High School
Something to try: treat yourself to a night of jazz at Wally’s Café.
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