This is FULL ON CRAZY TIME for apartment rentals in the greater Cambridge area. I spent the past week walking around the Harvard periphery looking for a suitable place for the fall, and this is what I found:
1. Cambridge is unbelievably expensive.
I’ve lived in a few college towns, and the nice thing about college towns is that the rents tend to be aligned with a typical college student’s budget. Cambridge is not one of those places. A simple 1 bedroom could run you $2,000 a month.
2. The rest of us get shoved into every nook and cranny.
Just outside of Cambridge, rent gets more affordable. Plenty of old houses have been chopped up into maybe 6 or 8 apartments each. I don’t think some of the places we saw were up to code. We climbed up one 18″ wide stair case. The banister was wobbly because it had been removed and reattached so many times – unscrewing the banister is the only way to move your furniture up and down.
3. Apartments have fees.
Almost all of the apartments we looked at have fees. This means that the owner doesn’t want to deal with showing the place himself so some real estate broker does the showing instead. If you like the place and want to move in you’ve gotta pay the broker half a month’s rent. So let’s do some math: Expensive rent divided by two, times the bijillion tiny apartments in the area equals A LOT OF FRICKEN MONEY for those brokers!
4. Public transportation is AWESOME!
The poor urban planning of Los Angeles sentences its residence to either car ownership or maddeningly long and inefficient bus rides. Cambridge/Somerville is different. You can catch a bus to a T station from just about anywhere. I’m so excited about that that I want to say it again, but in a different way: I get to sell my car! I will no longer be forced to idle on stalled freeways, or choke on exhaust, or spend almost $5 per gallon of gas, or get my oil changed, or hear my mechanic tell me that I owe him hundreds of dollars.
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