I spent my first two years living in Boston in the dorms at Emmanuel College and boy, was it the life. Emmanuel is a nice, cozy little campus in the Fenway area, and all the major decisions and stresses were essentially out of my hands: Emmanuel decided which dorm I lived in, which floor, which room, and with who. But before I knew it sophomore year was over and I was thrust into the chaos that is apartment hunting in Boston.
I am a seasoned veteran of the process and currently beginning it once again. My years at Emmanuel were followed by a transfer to the University of Massachusetts Boston and a move to Mission Hill, followed by yet another move to Somerville, and now I'm on the hunt for something in the Brookline area. I’ve seen a variety of places, a variety of neighborhoods, and a variety of roommates.
Beginning the search means addressing the two W's: who and where.
“The process can be really frustrating,” says Leah Jurman, one of my past and current answers to the “who” question. “Especially when people are constantly committing and then changing their minds. First you’re looking for a three bedroom, then a four, then a three again, and then, somehow, a five.” Once you have the whos, those whos bring with them a series of needs and requirements that must somehow be compromised and combined to form a place that satisfies everyone. Sound impossible? “It pretty much is,” says Leah. “I mean, we live in Somerville now, which is great, because I work in Porter Square, and our roommate Emma goes to Lesley…but on the other hand, I have to commute to Emmanuel. And you have to commute to Umass Boston.”
Though the commute is sometimes killer, this year has been great. But it’s February now. That means if we want to find another great place for September, it’s time to start looking again. After two months of lineup changes, with people committing and then backing out, then committing again, Leah and I are in search of a five bedroom with our four other roommates: Bradford Krieger, my boyfriend and an Emerson student, and Nick Viau, Darin McDonald, and Adam Vaccaro, all Emmanuel graduates. Bradford and I will be sharing a room. “It’s great because it cuts down on costs,” says Bradford. “And a five bedroom is easier to find than a six bedroom.”
Sounds easy enough. But everyone has a limit on what they’re willing to pay, and everyone has those impossible little requirements: Bradford would rather die than live on the Green Line again, I don’t want to walk more than ten minutes to some form of public transportation, Leah kind of wants to live in Jamaica Plain, Adam refuses to live in Allston, Darin wants somewhere quiet, and Nick would love a place with a back porch.
Now that we've got the whos those whos have started to give some direction as to where. In spite of Bradford’s protests and Leah’s slight disappointment, we began our search in Brookline. We decided the easiest route to take would be to enlist the help of a realtor. She showed us a few places on the Brookline/Brighton border to no avail. “Way, way too far from everything.” Said Darin after the apartment visit. “The second one had some neat walk-in closets but that’s about it.”
But "neat walk-in closets" isn't enough motivation to make that down payment. Nick hears from a friend about some potentially killer apartments in…Lower Allston? My first reaction, along with Adam, is a vehement no. Nick insists that, “Lower Allston isn’t Allston. It’s different. It’s nicer. It’s definitely worth a look.”
The place in Lower Alston may just be the closest we can come to a compromise amongst everyone: a ten minute walk to the 66 bus (which connects to the Red Line in Harvard Square), in everyone’s price range, and easily accessible to a nice mix of both Boston and Cambridge neighborhoods. But one thing I’ve learned from apartment hunting in the city is that nothing is definite until the lease is signed.
Then, once you move in, it’s a whole new set of issues: Nick may leave his dirty dishes in the sink, and Bradford will probably play his music too loud when Darin and Leah are trying to study. But we’ll save that for another article.