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Old 07-08-2008, 04:02 PM
 
4 posts, read 57,041 times
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Hi everyone,
I'm looking to move to the Boston area with my husband at the beginning of August, and I'm wondering if you can help me out with neighborhoods. We are a young couple (me 29 and him 30) and our combined income is around $160,000. Wherever I look, it seems that everyone suggests Beacon Hill or Back Bay as very nice neighborhoods to live in. However, we are having a hard time figuring out which (if either) are best suited for us. Here is what we are looking for:

Safe area where we don't feel nervous walking around in the evening
Other young professionals - we don't want to live around too many rowdy students
Kind, welcoming people - I realize both of these areas will surely have their share of snobbery (as practically everywhere in the country does), but is one worse than the other?
Cat friendly
Lots of coffee shops, bookstores, pubs, etc. within walking distance

Does anyone have any advice? Any help in distinguishing the two from one another would be wonderful, as we have never been to the area.

Thanks!
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Old 07-08-2008, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
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They are somewhat different looking but fairly similar.

Beacon Hill is (no surprise) a hill, with narrower streets going steeply up. Charles St. runs through it and is a very attractive street lined with stores. Cambridge St. on the north end is busier, and uglier. Beacon Hill is mostly more sedate than the Back Bay.

Beacon Hill, Boston on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobbyfitz/2594835132/ - broken link)
Spring on Beacon Hill on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/libdespot/131273581/ - broken link)
Beacon Hill Boston on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bilvox/48368930/ - broken link)
Beacon Hill, Boston on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/66788325@N00/404185027/ - broken link)
030469 12 25 on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dboo/2581615512/ - broken link)
Boston - Charles River - Beacon Hill on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15434282@N00/2429918797/ - broken link)

The Back Bay, laid out in the 1850's or 1860's, is one of the rare places in Boston with a grid layout, and the streets are broader. Beacon, Marlborough, and Commonwealth are residential for the most part. Newbury is the shopping/trendy/cafe street of Boston, and Boylston is very busy and runs past the two tallest office buildings in Boston. These two, the Hancock and the Pru, stand out it the skyline photos as separate from the downtown skyline.

Skyscrapers at Back Bay on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brentdanley/2579629556/ - broken link)
Back Bay and John Hancock Tower on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathan020/190006642/ - broken link)
Back Bay, Boston on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenm_61/555373562/ - broken link)
Back Bay on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathan020/190006801/ - broken link)
Magnolias along Commonwealth Street, Boston on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_photos/2510261306/ - broken link)
A walk across Commonwealth on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/garrett/399407598/ - broken link)
Back Bay Skyline on Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/17033436@N00/513478095/ - broken link)

-Both have plenty of professionals and are generally safe.
-Beacon Hill might have more students due to Suffolk but I don't think of it as student central. The Back Bay has students near Berklee on Mass Av. and west of there (which I don't consider to be in the Back Bay, but real estate ads often do)
-Kind, welcoming people: to hear it from many threads on here, you are moving to the wrong state. Certainly both of the areas you name are urban areas where the neighbors are not all that likely to even notice you've moved in, but you could stumble upon kind, welcoming people right away, and eventually you'll meet some.
-I'm not sure that there is much difference as far as snobbery but maybe the south slope of Beacon Hill is a bit snootier. Cambridge St. on the northern edge is a little scruffy (not seedy, but not as gorgeous as Charles St or the neighborhood's side streets), so that is the least snobby main drag out of all, but the Charles St. area near Mt. Vernon might be the most. I wouldn't worry about it all that much though.
-Both have the amenities but the Back Bay has more, I'd say. The Back Bay is also a considerably bigger area and is more popular with tourists and suburbanites passing through the city on a weekend. Beacon Hill is generally quieter.
-Cat-friendly depends on the particular landlord. I'd not let a cat outside in either place.

Both areas are urban, beautiful, close to downtown, parking very tight and generally limited to resident stickers, expensive, smallish apartments (perhaps more so on Beacon Hill). They are very nice neighborhoods but there is a lot more to Boston than those two areas. Without getting too far from downtown or into too much suburbia, other areas around that you might want to look include the South End, parts of Brookline such as Coolidge Corner or Washington Square, and parts of Cambridge like Harvard or Central Sq.
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:55 PM
 
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Really good post by Holden125. I'm not personally familiar with actually living in either neighborhood you've asked about, but I have heard that Beacon Hill may get some concentration of Suffolk U. students in certain buildings, though I'd agree with Holden that the neighborhood is not known as a student ghetto by any means. You'd probably want to strongly consider Beacon Hill, but check about the presence or absence of students in the vicinity of any building you might consider moving into. Given that Beacon Hill is a small neighborhood than Back Bay, and less often frequented by tourists and suburbanites, you might find that Beacon Hill would have more of an intimate, neighborhood feeling once you had lived there for a time, more likely that the staff at a neighborhood eatery you patronized frequently would get to know you, that kind of thing. Both are really nice neighborhoods, but there are those differences in the details.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:45 PM
 
Location: Boston
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Hi there. I live in Back Bay and love it, but I happen to live in probably the most quiet part. Back Bay can get really noisy on Beacon St., Newbury, and Commonwealth (I totally just gave my location away as there's really only one more main street. Haha.) I love Back Bay due to it's amenities, but Beacon Hill is great as well! I wouldn't scoff at living in either neighborhood. Beacon Hill is closer to Whole Foods (which is a good thing). Both have Delucas (though the one in Beacon Hill has a wine cellar that is wonderful. it's a neighborhood type grocer. Theres a really good wine shop on Charles too). There are your typical things: CVS, etc. But, I find that Back Bay makes it easier to get to more of the typical things. While I love Beacon Hill, it's nice to be able to have a choice of pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, salons, etc on one line (the green line will take you anywhere from the North End to Symphony, Museum of Fine Arts, Fenway, etc). I really like that part of Back Bay. You can take the red line to the green from Beacon Hill if it's cold and you don't want to walk down to the park. It's not a huge deal to transfer, but I feel that Back Bay has more "stuff" because it's has two main streets close by (Boylston and Newbury) and if you live where I do, you're still close enough to enjoy Beacon Hill too. :-) As I said though, they both have their good points. I think Back Bay is a good intro to Boston though :-) Closer and easier to get to things. Cheers!
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Old 07-09-2008, 10:54 AM
 
4 posts, read 57,041 times
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Thanks so much to all of you! This is very informative, excellent advice. I meant to ask this in my original post, but can I afford to buy a small apartment in either of these areas and still live comfortably on $160,000? I have researched home prices, which seems to indicate yes, but others I talk to allude to the 'hidden cost of living in Back Bay or Beacon Hill', which somewhat freaks me out. Can anyone speak to what these hidden costs are and if I can live comfortably? Right now, I live in 'burbville and I am shamefully uneducated about living in the city
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Old 07-09-2008, 12:34 PM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
2,954 posts, read 11,825,008 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LLK760 View Post
Thanks so much to all of you! This is very informative, excellent advice. I meant to ask this in my original post, but can I afford to buy a small apartment in either of these areas and still live comfortably on $160,000? I have researched home prices, which seems to indicate yes, but others I talk to allude to the 'hidden cost of living in Back Bay or Beacon Hill', which somewhat freaks me out. Can anyone speak to what these hidden costs are and if I can live comfortably? Right now, I live in 'burbville and I am shamefully uneducated about living in the city
Hidden costs as far as I can see:

-Everything, from a gallon of milk to a drink out, costs more. There is a supermarket by the Pru Center but Beacon Hill can be pricier for groceries. Also hard to get stuff home from supermarket unless you drive to one farther afield; people drop $20 a week on cabs just to get stuff home
-Cost of taxis and parking garages/parking tickets, higher car insurance.
-Being lured out to do more shopping and dining out, risk of keeping up with the Cabots and the Lowells.
-Possibly, if you buy, spending money on repairs as some places are on the older side. There are often condo fees as well.
-If you don't keep a car, you'll likely rent one at various times or do ZipCar and that can add up
-Not a financial cost, but there are many people who move into those areas and (especially if they don't own a car), will spend years there and never get to know anything beyond Kenmore, which to me is sad since that's the real Boston

It should be doable on that income, but it will be pretty small. Personally having done that, I've moved toward looking for a hybrid kind of area. Not burbsville, but places with decent density and proximity, but also more room to breathe and costing 1/2 per square foot. But I am intimately familiar with the area beyond the Boston proper core; you might feel more comfortable with that kind of thing after a while or you might prefer to stay indefinitely in the heart of the action.
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Old 07-09-2008, 12:50 PM
 
Location: Boston
230 posts, read 1,102,165 times
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HOA fees, parking tickets, anything car related (insurance, parking garages, etc), mmm. . . .cost of groceries is higher, the lure to go out is real as the previous poster stated but not necessarily to keep up with the neighbors. more because it's right in front of your face and looks like fun, mmmm. . . .you tend to pay for convenience sometimes especially if you don't have a car (i get my dry cleaning picked up sometimes because, honestly, lugging a comforter down the street in the heat/snow isn't my idea of fun), PMI if you put less than 20% down. . geez I'm trying to think of all of the hidden costs, but it's hard. It's not really anything that isn't too much more than common sense. Oh yeah!!!! Heating costs if you buy. Make sure you buy something that has good insulation. But that's everywhere, not just BB or Beacon Hill
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Old 07-09-2008, 01:31 PM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
2,954 posts, read 11,825,008 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WannaGoHome View Post
HOA fees, parking tickets, anything car related (insurance, parking garages, etc), mmm. . . .cost of groceries is higher, the lure to go out is real as the previous poster stated but not necessarily to keep up with the neighbors. more because it's right in front of your face and looks like fun, mmmm. . . .you tend to pay for convenience sometimes especially if you don't have a car (i get my dry cleaning picked up sometimes because, honestly, lugging a comforter down the street in the heat/snow isn't my idea of fun), PMI if you put less than 20% down. . geez I'm trying to think of all of the hidden costs, but it's hard. It's not really anything that isn't too much more than common sense. Oh yeah!!!! Heating costs if you buy. Make sure you buy something that has good insulation. But that's everywhere, not just BB or Beacon Hill

Yes, I meant temptation to go out since it's right in front of you, but separately temptation to buy fancier clothes or coffee makers, etc. as a lot of people around you have it.

Heating does cost but not as much as elsewhere due to smaller spaces and attached buildings holding heat better. But check on the insulation for sure
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