By Mara Tu, Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning MA Candidate
New city, new people, new neighborhoods, where do I live!
Looking for housing felt like a huge task to me. I was moving to a new state, a new city, and I hadn’t looked for housing by myself before. The sheer amount of housing options felt as threatening and overwhelming as an oncoming New England hurricane each time I even attempted to start looking. However, after going through the experience of finding housing in a pricey, fast-paced market like Boston, I now feel much more confident and capable in finding housing in the future!
A quick note: My journey to find housing near Tufts was rather unconventional and honestly not recommended, so if you are looking for a helpful guideline and steps on how to find housing, feel free to skip this next section and scroll down to my suggestion on steps to finding housing near Tufts’ campus.
The summer before my first semester started, I had already secured one roommate through a mutual friend who also wanted to live in the Somerville area. After feeling each other’s “vibes” out and confirming that we wanted to live together, we discussed our checklist for a place to live: budget (less than $1000/month per person), aesthetic (good sunlight was a must!), transportation situation (neither of us had a car so parking was unnecessary but we did want to be near a T stop), preferred relationship with the landlord (we wanted to be communicative with our landlord and to be able to actually contact them directly/not a big landlord), pet situation (neither of us had pets but we hope to get a cat someday down the line!), and other must-haves. This was important and so helpful to have some guidelines to narrow down our search for housing.
A month before moving to Boston, I had scheduled a day where I would drive up to Boston and tour as many places as I could. After hustling and emailing landlords/real estate agents through Zillow (no shame, I contacted at least 20 different people to schedule a showing- many did not reply), I filled up my day with 7 different viewing tours. Looking back, I recognize now that my roommate and I are much pickier than I’d originally thought, as none of those 7 places really excited us/felt like they were worth the rent. We, thus, entered September with no secured housing.
My roommate couldn’t move in until a month into the semester, so I had decided to crash with my sister’s ex for a month (don’t worry, they are still on good terms and have a wonderful relationship) while I continued to search for housing with an October 1st lease start date. I honestly don’t recommend this, since living temporarily with a friend threw me off in the beginning of the semester more than I had anticipated.
Yet, with a stroke of luck, I was able to get in contact with a real estate agent (a Tufts alum!) who was kind enough to show me about 10 listings within the span of 2 hours that included wonderful properties below our budget even (big shout-out to Maven Realty!). Within a few days, my roommate and I discussed the options, decided on a wonderful 3-bedroom home right in Davis Square at $875/person, and were able to sign the lease with a delightful third roommate. It felt like the wait was worth it and everything was meant to be when I found out that my landlord was, in fact, an alum of my program!
Tips on Searching for Housing as a Tufts Graduate Student
Before looking for housing, it was helpful to get some context in knowing what situations other students were living in. The following website/social media groups were really helpful to find housing options, possible roommates, and open housing listings:
- Facebook: Tufts University Off-Campus Housing
- Facebook: Tufts University Housing, Sublets, & Roommates
- Facebook: Harvard University Housing, Sublets, & Roommates
- Craigslist Boston Housing: Apartments/Housing for Rent
- Tufts Off-Campus Housing Website
- Zillow Tufts Rental Search
Suggested steps on how to find housing as a grad student at Tufts:
- Criteria: Figure out your criteria for housing. Consider things like budget, location, if utilities are included, types of utilities, apartment/bedroom size, if pets are allowed, parking, in-unit laundry, if broker’s fee is on landlord or tenant, aesthetics, kitchen appliances, number of rooms, etc.
- Roommates: If you already have roommate(s) in mind, great! Make sure you’re a good fit and have clear communication on the housing you are looking for. If you‘re looking for roommates, you can either visit one of the listed pages above and look for people posting about an open room to see if you are compatible or you might want to look for housing first and be the one making a posting on one of those pages to pick and fill in your future housemate(s)!
- Search: With your criteria in mind, the internet is your oyster! Go ahead and get searching for housing through the abundant real estate websites/resources. A neat and very helpful tool I found was the Zillow Draw tool that allows you to “draw” a shape on the map of the geographical area you are looking in and save that search so that any time there is a new rental listing in your search area and in your search criteria, you can get immediate (or daily) emails about them. You can also potentially work with a specific realtor/real estate office if you want to make the process a little easier on yourself, so that they can use their database to connect you with properties that uniquely fit your criteria. If you are lucky, some landlords will pay for the broker’s fee, so you can ask your agent for landlord-covered broker’s fee properties only if you want to avoid paying an extra fee!
- Touring: I personally really like seeing spaces in person, so feel free to book a tour to places you feel are a good fit/are interested in. You might even look at places at different locations or budgets if you are flexible about those things to see what different properties look like when you give a little in certain criteria. The Boston rental market moves quickly, so if you find somewhere that feels right, I’d say go for it!
- Lease: When you have found the right living situation, make sure to go over the lease and even have a second pair of eyes go over it to make sure your needs/expectations from the landlord are met and that you are ok with the landlord’s requirements. When everything is all set, send over your deposit/rent, sign your lease, and get ready to move into your new home!!
- Find out about the communication style/effort/basic background of the landlord. It is totally ok to ask the realtors about this. A bad landlord situation is no good!! If the landlord gets to know all this information about you, you have the right to know about them as well.
- You will likely not find the perfect housing if you have budget constraints and that is ok! You might need to make a few compromises to match your budget.
- The more roommates you have, the cheaper your housing likely can get.
- If your other roommates can’t make an in-person tour, take videos for them.
- If it doesn’t seem like too competitive of a property, you can negotiate! You might be able to get the landlord to pay half of or even the whole broker’s fee to bring down the cost a little.
- After moving in, I highly recommend joining different Facebook community groups like the Everything is Free Somerville or Curb Alert Page for cheap or even free furniture! The Facebook Marketplace site is also incredibly helpful.