Be prepared for sticker shock if you are coming from anywhere other than Manhattan, San Francisco or Tokyo. The vacancy rate in Cambridge is less than 1% and so it is a seller's market. Your options are the following:
Cats are usually not a problem, but landlords who will take someone with a dog are few and far between. If you find a place that accepts dogs, do not hesitate to rent it.
LOCATION vs COST
Are you willing to pay more for the convenience and other benefits of this area? This is something you need to consider. If you decide you want to be in the Cambridge area then consider the following:
* The residential areas bordering Harvard are the most desirable, including Avon Hill, Mid-Cambridge, and the Agassiz neighborhood.
* Any apartment within walking distance of a red line T stop will be more.
* The least expensive areas in Cambridge are North Cambridge (Alwife T.) and East Cambridge (Lechmere T.)
* Inman Square is slightly less expensive than Central because the T does not stop there.
* In general, Somerville is a little less expensive than Cambridge, but Porter and Davis Square are not less expensive because they are on the Red Line.
If you are a resident of Cambridge you will get a parking sticker that allows you to park on the street in your neighborhood for free. Parking is also free in Somerville. Most apartments do not have parking available, but if you are persistent you can find it. If you rent an apartment that does not have parking included you can usually find a garage or parking lot nearby that will rent you a place.
* Garage parking $150 / month ($250 in Harvard Square).
* Outside parking $100 / month.
Brokers are not allowed to give their opinions about neighborhood safety. If you are concerned, then call the Cambridge or Somerville police departments. They keep detailed records of every neighborhood and can give you a free booklet describing each area.
Landlords will require either First and Last or First, Last and Security. Some landlords also require a key deposit and / or cleaning fee. Brokers require a one month fee.
PERSONAL INFORMATION NEEDED
Landlords will ask you to fill out an application including landlord references, employment verification or proof of enrollment in school. You can download an application to see what will be asked.
You are competing against many other people who are also looking. Ideally, you will find an apartment that is under-priced, with the features and location you want. If this happens, it will probably be a new listing. The best deals usually go to the first or second person who see them, so be prepared to act quickly in case you see something you want to rent.
* Make sure everyone involved in the decision-making is together.
* Don't forget to bring your checkbook. A broker cannot take an apartment off the market without a deposit.
* Save time by filling out an application prior to looking at apartments.
Very often we get calls from people who are living out of state or in another country and they need an apartment sight-unseen.
* If you have a friend in the area, have them get in touch with us to look at apartments for you, otherwise we will take pictures of available units and email the photos to you.
* If you find something you want, then download the application, fill it out and fax it to us.
* We will prepare a lease and other paperwork and fax it to you. Sign and fax back to us.
* Wire the necessary money to our account or Fed Ex checks. This will usually be first. last, security and fee. Once we receive the wire, we will write a check to the landlord and have them sign the lease. Then we will mail you the signed lease.
FURNISHED vs UNFURNISHED
Furnished apartments in the Boston area are extremely expensive. If you are staying for more than six months, it makes sense to rent an unfurnished apartment and buy or lease your own furniture. Harvard and M.I.T. both sell used furniture and there are a number of companies that rent (and deliver) it.