What The Cost Of Renting An Apartment In Boston Looks Like

A heat map of Boston apartments by price per bedroom with MBTA overlay.

A heat map of Boston apartments by price per bedroom with MBTA route overlay.

A new tool developed by Jeff Kaufman, a 27-year-old programmer at Google in Cambridge, allows apartment renters to visualize where Boston’s most and least expensive apartments are. Kaufman’s heat map displays the cost per bedroom relative to each Boston neighborhood.

The map indicates the most expensive apartments in Boston tend to hover between Back Bay and Downtown Boston and on into the Seaport District. The region’s least expensive apartments are found near Mattapan, Dorchester and Revere.

Areas of Cambridge along the Red Line also display expensive apartment listings, where the booming tech economy is squeezing commercial rents for startups.

Kaufman’s first iteration of the heat map originated in 2011 when he was looking for a place to live.

“I was looking for an apartment and didn’t have a good sense of how expensive different parts of the city were,” Kaufman says. “I wanted to have a map that gave you a rough idea of the city and how expensive they were.”

Reddit user “yiseowl” helped explain the heat map by overlaying the MBTA train map over Kaufman’s. The juxtaposition shows some correlation between rent and MBTA accessibility.

According to Kaufman’s data, which he took from apartment rental search engine Padmapper, the average cost per bedroom in 2013 is $1,314. In 2011, the average cost per bedroom was $1,141.

This is a much greater increase than inflation. The [Consumer Price Index] in June 2011 was 225.922 while the December 2012 one was 229.594, so you would expect $767/room then to turn into $780/room now instead of the $895 we actually see.

Curbed Boston also published a real-estate map in December of the 15 most expensive home sales of 2012.

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  • Andrew Winson

    I wish the map extended a bit further beyond Boston. It’s not much better the further out you go. I commute in from north of town, and my rent has increased twice in two years.

  • Ken Jacobs

    There’s no way this is accurate. I am in Arlington and last year in Cambridge, the price/BR I pay/paid for both was $750. I would like to see this without 1BR apartments included. They definitely skew the results up versus the real-life cost of renting an available bedroom.

    • Andrew Winson

      I think they’re absolutely fair to be included. 1BR apartments are a large part of the housing market, and a lot of people (especially past a certain age) don’t want roommates that aren’t their significant other.

      • Ken Jacobs

        True— not being past that “certain age,” I’ll admit I did not consider that. Still, it is possible to find a bedroom (at it’s simplest definition) to rent at a price significantly below these averages.

        • bnut

          That’s… why it is an average and not an “OMG EVERYTHING IN THIS GEOGRAPHY COSTS THIS MUCH.”

        • Andrew Winson

          Which is what makes it an average, not an absolute. Even if the listed mean price has significant variation above and below that number, the overall trend on the map is probably consistent across all apartment configurations.

          • Ken Jacobs

            How about mode price/BR instead of mean =) Regardless of our difference in opinion of the semantics behind this, mode price would be another data set that I bet would make an interesting map.

      • Sam C.

        this is a good point, but there should probably be something to let a viewer know that 1BR places will totally shoot the averages through the roof. i’ve lived in somerville right near the red line for 8 years and have never paid more than $600/month for a room, and have never lived with more than 3 other people. just takes some healthy searching/networking.

        • Andrew Winson

          See, for me at my point in life “never lived with more than 3 other people” sounds like “I’ve never been stabbed more than twice” or “I’ve only got one cancerous tumor”. (Kidding…mostly)

          • Sam C.

            hahaha well played. i can see we’re coming at this from different angles.

          • http://twitter.com/jordyclements Jordy Clements

            Also, I think the map’s strength is in relative terms. It let’s people know what neighborhoods are expensive in relation to others. There will always be wide price per bedroom variations, but in absolute terms, Beacon Hill is clearly more expensive than Mattapan (at least, so says the map haha).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Finkelstein/1385845930 Scott Finkelstein

      Definitely seems like the median should have been used.

  • InigoMontoya


  • Sarah

    This kind of map doesn’t actually make sense in terms of data visualization, because it doesn’t account for the fact that as you get more bedrooms, the cost per bedroom gets much lower (at least in the neighborhoods as opposed to downtown.) For example, there are absolutely NO decent 1 bedrooms in JP for anything less than $1300, and yet that whole area is in the $800-$1100 range. I also lived just a year ago in a fantastic 4 bedroom right in Porter Sq. and the cost per bedroom was $600, not $1200-$1800 as the map indicates.

    • http://twitter.com/jordyclements Jordy Clements

      It’s an average. It would seem to account for larger properties just fine.

  • J__o__h__n

    My greedy landlord is raising my rent $200 a month. Inflation doesn’t even come close to that rate. It went up significantly the year before too. The city needs more one bedroom apartments and needs to mandate the colleges build more housing or limit the number of students they admit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9106775 Jeff Jason II


  • http://twitter.com/Wonkderful faithiemae

    Listening to people disagree on npr vs anywhere else on the internet is like taking a valium. Bless you all ;).

  • Daena Martin

    I lived in Brighton last year, 1BR, $1500. Brighton is the wrong color lol

    • Jose Cuervo

      Absolutely. Living at the end of the B line and paying $1,475 a month.

    • rocketpanda

      I don’t know where in Brighton you are, but it sounds like you over paid. I lived on Falkland St 4.5 years ago and we paid $1500 for a 3 bedroom with heat and hot water not included. It wasn’t near the T, but it’s not a bad neighborhood.

      • pyewacket

        That’s the point, though. Since the housing bubble burst, rents have skyrocketed. 4.5 years ago things were cheaper.

      • http://twitter.com/jordyclements Jordy Clements

        No offense, but data from 4.5 ago is bordering on irrelevant. Prices have increased significantly since then. True, Oak Square is still a lot cheaper than living on the T (for obvious reasons), but you’d be hard pressed to find a similar deal today.

  • InBoston

    I’m a rental agent & I think these prices are not high enough actually. Padmapper is not the best, most accurate source of information (that’s what he used in his data collection). There will always be times when someone can find a less expensive unit here & there, but for the most part it’s pretty difficult out there & pricing keeps rising.

  • pjm

    What I want to know is, why is downtown Medford so expensive? It’s not close to Tufts and it’s not close to the T. My best guess is weak data: there’s not much rental stock in that neighborhood, so one or two pricey ones would drive it up.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/CCQHIEY6NA67AA6FQLTQC522W4 Look around you

      Probably that. It’s also between a whole bunch of different useful stuff – Tufts, Malden Center orange line stop, West Medford commuter rail station, easy access to 93, lots of bus routes.

  • April

    I have a 2 bed plus office and 1 off street parking on Cherry st in kendal/central for $3200/mo. avail now. The rents mentioned Seem very low. Low inventory for remters and buyers continue to drive prices up.

  • n

    so, when it says “-300$”, does it mean that they pay one to live there ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.bauer Nick Bauer

      It means less than $300

  • Lee

    interesting visual but was a heat map really required to reach some of those conclusions??

  • faceless worker ant

    I agree it would be better to see this separately for 1 bedrooms, for 2-bedrooms, and for 3+ bedrooms. It looks like there are some expensive rents in Dorchester bay!

  • info

    Data visualization is really taking off, these days. I agree with other commenters that it would be interesting to break apart the data by # of bedrooms (since it doesn’t scale in a linear fashion). More detailed statistical analysis (median, mode, etc.) would also be good. Also, to account for areas where there are few data points, the data should only include areas where there is a significant sample size to draw upon.

    I’m going to check out his website, see if I can learn more details about how he went about setting this up.

  • rogger2

    If you look on his site he has maps per room.
    Same trend as the above map.

  • Guest

    I’d like to see this broken down by $ / sf instead of $ / bedroom. Landlords in Allston / Brighton have a loose definition of “bedroom”

  • Gotty

    can you do this for other cities too? sounds like a cool start-up idea.

  • Pam

    Commuting from “less expensive” areas is very expensive.There’s a commuter rail pass,about $180/month,a T Pass($80) and you usually need a car to get home from the commuter rail station.
    Commuting by car is VERY expensive,the monthly usage costs and the actual cost of buying a car.Our highways and byways are clogged with pollution-spouting,budget depleting cars.
    Shoring up the T is a no-brainer.

  • Jasoturner

    You’re telling me your going to pay $4,500 for a 3 bedroom in Arlington? I find that very hard to believe.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroDerp Metro Derp

    Green Line extension is a good start, but seriously, how long until we can finally have a real conversation about multiple new lines? System is overtaxed as is; people WANT to live by transit; there obviously isn’t enough to go around.

  • Chris



  • http://www.RealEstateDealStreet.com/ RealEstateDealStreet.com

    Really nice post. We at http://www.RealEstateDealStreet.com will try to use in for Mumbai, India’s real estate market.

  • observer

    The area between Kendall, Central and Harvard makes the most sense these days due to a whole start-up mentality popping up, biotech companies, and the ease of getting from point A to B to C easily. Going to see a whole revitalization of Central.Grab your places before the heat map sizzles.
    Rents will go up significantly sad to say, the cost of owning property has gone up through the roof, pricing many out.

  • Paul

    We can all thank local legislature and cabals of landlords for preventing any new competitive real-estate development

  • Jason Strong

    I appreciate the post! I’ve been looking for some apartments for rent in Worcester, MA, and this gave me some great insight for what to look. Thanks for sharing!

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