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Old 04-29-2012, 04:18 PM
8 posts, read 18,997 times
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Hi Everyone

I realise that there are many posts about moving to Boston on this forum and I have taken the time to read through many of them although I am in a unique situation. I am a young (25 yo) female moving from Brisbane Australia to Boston in September to take up a position as a postdoctoral scientist at Tufts' Uni Medical Oncology Research Institute. I will be on NIH starting salary of $39,264 (although factoring in the 5.3% state income tax this will actually be $37,183).
I am hoping to find a 1 br or studio apartment as close to Boston city as possible although given my salary I don't know whether this is even possible. The Institute I am working in is in the City, near Chinatown, the Tufts Uni Boston campus and the Tufts Medical Center. Given the lovely public transport in Boston, I would prefer not to have a car and use public transport to commute to my place of work.
In addition to not knowing the area AT ALL or the way real estate is managed in the US (I am told craigslist is a popular way of listing rentals??) I am quite picky about where I live and would definitely not be able to live in somewhere horrible or infested (although I doubt Boston has the same "bug" problem as Australia!).

Can anyone please suggest some locations which I may be able to afford to look at? I also don't understand the difference between no-fee apartments and broker fees? Is there any legislation protecting renters from crazy landlords? In Australia we have an agency which lays down the law for rental properties and has many rules, such as requiring at least 24 hrs notice from your landlord if they wish to enter the property (and that is only in emergencies).

I realise I am asking alot but I would really appreciate any help given!!


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Old 04-29-2012, 04:45 PM
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I'm not living in Boston (yet!) but if you want to get a good feel for where other postdocs are living, you might want to look into talking with others in the postdoc association at Tufts. I'm sure they can give you some very specific advice for your situation.

Tufts University - Postdoctoral Scholars

Congrats on funding and good luck with research - (from a bioscientist)
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:27 PM
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Studio/1BR is going to be rough on that salary. You will pay at least $1,000 in the city, and more likely somewhere in the $1,300-$1,500 range. Add in food and a transportation pass and you're 60-65% of your after tax income on the very basics. I don't know how taxes work for you, but would you be paying anything beyond state taxes? I think a big question is how far away from the med school area are you willing to be? And are you willing to compromise on the living without roommates thing? Also, are you willing to deal with a marginal area in exchange for cheaper rent?

Personally, my preference would be to either find roommates and knock your rent down to $700-800 a month. Or, if living alone is a must, find a garden level studio in a suburb like Newton (or somewhere else on a mass transit line) where you can walk to the T and other basic amenities. I've seen those sorts of apartments go for ~$900.

I couldn't tell you anything about landlords having to provide notice. On the fee/no-fee thing, no-fee apartments are usually listed directly by the owner, so there is no middle man agent. You might find resistance in finding an owner listed property willing to get a lease done with someone abroad.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:58 PM
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Dear dravogadro and vfrex, thank you for your replies!

Dravogadro - I have previously looked at the website you suggested and I cannot access the forum as I do not yet have staff login credentials. I will email my future supervisor and ask them to email their lab members to introduce me and help me out but I thought I would try to help myself first .

vfrex - I was considering putting aside $1000 - 1200 per month for rent and I don't know what other expenses I will have apart from food and transport (or other taxes) although obviously things run a little different in Australia vs the USA. I have noticed many consumables such as food and clothing are alot cheaper in the US then they are in Australia and I currently live on $20,000 a year although not paying rent but paying food and car expenses (including insurance, registration and petrol - which IS more expensive in Australia).
Can anyone suggest suburbs which may fit these parameters?

Also, I plan on spending a week or two hunting for apartments before I move in and thus will not be arranging a rental from overseas. I want to be able to inspect the property prior to committing to it. Thus, I shouldn't have the issues vfrex mentioned, unless people don't like the Aussie accent...
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Old 04-30-2012, 01:04 AM
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Actually, most people will probably LOVE the Aussie accent! As for tenants' rights laws, how much protection they offer will depend on the individual situation, but MA does have some of the more extensive landlord/tenant laws of any U.S. state, and the one concern you raise specifically is the about the same here as you describe its being in Australia; except in true emergencies, landlords have to give at least 24 hours' notice before entering, the only reason they may enter other than an emergency is to do routine inspections for cleanliness and the like, and this must be done infrequently (how the courts define "infrequently" I don't know, but at least the landlord cannot legally enter your apartment day after day on any whim).

As Vfrex stated, the options that could work for you depend in part on how far from work you're willing to live. I second Vfrex's suggestion to look in Newton in neighborhoods near the transit lines. You'd want to be near the green line, not the commuter rail, because there are gaps in service on the commuter rail line serving Newton. Some of this also depends on what kind of general feel you'd like in the neighborhood where you live, but if you're flexible in that regard as long as you have a safe area with public transit and modest housing costs by Boston standards, I might also suggest Quincy and Arlington. If you live near a red line stop in Quincy, you can get to within walking distance of Tufts Med. Ctr. without a transfer. If you live near Mass. Ave. in Arlington, a short bus ride will take you to the red line in Cambridge, which again will then take you to within walking distance of the medical center with no further transfers. Quincy and Arlington are both sort of a mix of suburban and urban in character, depending on the neighborhood.

If you can handle an area that is a little more in the city (though on the outer fringe) with possibly a somewhat higher crime rate but still not an especially dangerous area, you might also want to check out the area around Oak Square in Brighton. That's another area where you would have to ride the bus to the subway. In addition to the fact that there may be a certain amount of city crime in that area, another potential slight disadvantage might be the presence of some student population, as I'm guessing that a young professional such as yourself most likely does not want to be surrounded by hoards of noisy undergrads. However, there's mostly a sort of sporadic presence of undergrads around Oak Sq. Farther east in Brighton--roughly east of Market St.--is a place you don't want to be if you want to avoid the undergrad presence, but around Oak Sq. it's mainly a mix of grad students, young professionals, and blue-collar or middle-class families, with some undergrads sprinkled into the mix here and there. This is not necessarily an area you'd want at the top of your list, but may be a neighborhood you'd have on your initial list just to maximize your options.
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Old 04-30-2012, 01:19 AM
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Thank you ogre!! I will definitely include the places you mentioned on my list!
Thanks so much for your help!
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Old 04-30-2012, 02:58 AM
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Just wanted to toss out (sort of implied in Ogre's post) that although the Green Line doesn't touch Chinatown, the medical school is a 5 minute walk to the Boylston stop.
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Old 04-30-2012, 06:10 AM
Location: Beautiful Rhode Island
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Most American uni's have "off campus housing" information located on their websites. Their housing offices also provide link ups for room mate situations.

Tufts University - Off-Campus Housing Resource Center
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Old 04-30-2012, 03:37 PM
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Thank you! I hadn't realised that there was a housing service, I had asked my supervisor and they did not know of any. I don't mind walking a few minutes and I visited Boston for a few days last year to interview and caught the subway and walked everywhere.
I think I am going to freeze there though .. It is currently 15 degrees C here (just heading into winter) and I am already feeling the cold!
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Old 04-30-2012, 10:25 PM
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It's certainly true that winters here are colder than you're used to in Australia. When our winter arrives, make sure you have warm clothing that includes sweaters and heavy shirts, not just a heavy coat. Dressing in layers helps keep in the warmth, since you have those several layers of air between your clothes acting as insulation. Also, keep a water-resistant jacket around even in winter, as we do get chilly rain here at times, mostly in the spring and late fall, but sometimes during winter. And, include a pair of good water-resistant outdoorsy shoes to wear to and from work, while also keeping a change of shoes for the workplace itself. Footwear that is right for the weather helps a lot with staying comfortable in cold weather.

And, try to relax about winter. We get real winter here, but nothing like the serious winters in the far north like northern Europe, northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, etc. Boston has basically a standard U.S. four-seasons climate, skewed a little toward winter. Most likely you'll get used to winter to some degree. Think of it as a new experience to look forward to, bundle up well when winter arrives, and you'll be fine.
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