Budget, Research, and Plan Your Search

There is a lot to consider when you’re searching for housing. Before you begin, take some time to narrow your search and filter down to searching for the types of housing that meet your needs. Consider the following topics as you create your plan:



There’s no way around it – the housing market in Boston can be expensive. To get a sense of the overall housing market, consider researching local real estate blogs to learn more about market averages and trends. Boston Pads, Zumper, and boston.com are a few sites that offer market overviews and averages.

As you begin to develop your housing budget, consider the following:

How much rent can I afford?

Rent is likely your largest monthly living expense, so consider this amount carefully. Average rental rates can vary depending on a number of factors including size, location, amenities, and if you decide to live alone or with roommates. You’ll need to balance the price you are willing and able to pay in rent, with the apartment features you want or need.

What other fees are due up front?

Typical upfront costs include your first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit equal to one month’s rent. If you use a realtor or broker, they may charge a broker fee equal to one month’s rent. That’s a total payment equal to four months rent due upfront.


Heat, hot water, electricity – You can probably assume these are not included in your rent unless otherwise stated. When searching for an apartment, you may want to ask your landlord, realtor, or property manager to provide a history of the utility costs from the past 12 months. Don’t forget, it gets cold in Boston during the winter, so heating costs often go up during these months.

Internet, Subscription Streaming Services, and TV

Hard to imagine not staying connected or keeping up to date on you favorite shows? Don’t forget to factor these services into your monthly costs.


How will you be commuting to Harvard Chan School? If you plan to utilize public transportation, be sure to figure that cost into your monthly budget.

Other Regular Expenses

Remember to consider other monthly expenses like groceries, cell phone, social and leisure activities, and other personal expenses.

One-Time Expenses

Consider the one-time costs of moving, purchasing furniture, décor, and any other expenses to arrive in Boston and make your new apartment feel like home.

Use the Office of Financial Aid’s Student Budgeting Tool to help plan out your budget while you attend Harvard Chan.


Boston is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own characteristic and charm. How do you find the one that’s right for you? Here are a few items to consider:

Proximity to campus
Access to public transportation
Median rental prices by neighborhood
Neighborhood culture
Neighborhood amenities and businesses
For families with children, proximity to child care or schools

Learn more about the City of Boston’s neighborhoods. Don’t forget our Boston neighbors including Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Medford, and Malden.


Deciding what features you want and what features you need can be two very different things. Consider the features that are important to you:

Size and Number of Bedrooms

When living in a city, space comes at a premium. The larger the space, the more you can expect to pay.

Condition and Style

Some apartments will be newly renovated, with the most up to date features. Others may have older charm or more dated features. Your landlord is required to maintain a safe and habitable apartment, but beyond that you should decide what style and condition are right for you.


Your landlord is required to provide a stove. Most apartments will include a refrigerator, but it is not required by Massachusetts law. Dishwashers, laundry, and small appliances are not standard. Be sure to ask if these are important features for you.

Furnished or Unfurnished

Unless otherwise stated, you can assume an apartment is unfurnished. That means you’ll need to provide your own bed, mattress, desk, dresser, sofas, tables, chairs, lamps – the works.


Is the building and apartment adequately secured to protect you and your belongings? Is on-site security or a doorperson important to you? How will you, other tenants, or visitors access the public areas of the building, and are you comfortable with that level of access?


If parking is not included in your rent, you may be eligible for a resident parking permit. View the City of Boston’s and City of Cambridge’s resident parking pages for more information.


Are there enough closets for all your belongings? Is there storage in the attic or in the basement? Make sure you have the storage space for your belongings.


If you’re bringing a pet, make sure your apartment allows pets. It’s not just cats and dogs – some apartments may have restrictions on other pets including birds, reptiles, and fish.

Length of Stay

While you’ll find apartments available throughout the year, most leases in Boston are 12-months long and run from September 1 through August 31. If you’re planning to stay in your apartment for less than 12 months, you may want to consider a short term rental or sublet.


If you’re looking for a roommate, but not sure where to start, trying connecting with other Harvard Chan School students using the following sites:

Harvard Housing Off Campus
Harvard University Housing, Sublets & Roommates Group
Harvard Grad Market Facebook Group