Tools to Start Your Search

No matter where you begin your housing search, the best advice is to start early. According to a fall 2016 survey of current Harvard Chan students, the majority of students entering in the fall began their housing search in March or April, and on average it took between two and three to find and secure housing. Even if you’re not ready to sign a lease now, make sure you are prepared with the knowledge and resources so when the time comes, you’ll be ready.

Personal and Professional Networks
One good starting place for your housing search is through family, friends, colleagues, contacts, and other personal and professional networks. In a fall 2017 survey of current Harvard Chan students, approximately 16% of respondents reported finding their housing through contact and networks. If you know people who are currently living in Boston, ask them where they live and how they found their housing. A personal recommendation goes a long way in finding trustworthy and reliable housing.

In the same fall 2017 housing survey, approximately 13% of respondents said they found their housing through a realtor. One of the benefits to using a realtor is that they are knowledgeable about the Boston housing market, and be able to tailor your search to only apartments with the features you are looking for. Be aware, though, that with this service comes a cost. Most realtor will charge a “brokers fee” for their services, often equivalent to the cost of one month’s rent.

Online Housing Resources
A warning about online rental scams:

Searching for apartments online can be a fast and easy way to view a large number of apartments, and is now more common than ever. Because there is little person-to-person interaction, scam artists can take advantage of this and create fraudulent advertisements to scam unsuspecting renters. Before you begin any online apartment search, review the City of Boston’s and City of Cambridge’s tips to avoid apartment scams.

In general:

  • Verify the landlord and the management company. Make sure you know who owns and manages the property.
  • Never wire money.
  • View the apartment in person. If you are unable to view the apartment, consider asking a local friend or relative to view the apartment on your behalf.
  • If a deal seems too good to be true, be cautious. It might be.

There is a certain amount of risk involved in any online housing resource. The Office for Student Affairs, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard University do not endorse or recommend any site or service, and are not responsible for any issues or problems concerning properties, rental units, landlord/tenant/roommate disputes, or accuracy of site postings that may arise from the use of these services.

Almost half of all fall 2017 survey respondents reported using one or more websites as their primary search tool. Below is a brief list of online housing resources current Harvard Chan students have identified as having used during their housing search:

Harvard Housing Off Campus
Harvard University Housing, Sublets, and Roommates Facebook Group
Boston Pads
Hot Pads
Pad Mapper
Sabbatical Homes