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Scraping by on $100K?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis March 23, 2012 08:50 AM

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Bring home $100K a year pretty much anywhere else in the country and you'd have your pick of places to live.

But here in Greater Boston, well not so much.

Here are a couple insightful comments from folks out in the market looking at rentals.

A slew of surveys are pointing to rising rents, especially in the Boston area, where apartments have never come cheap. The median rent in the Hub is now $1,834 - the fifth highest in the country - I noted in a recent post.

And even that won't get you far these days, veterans of the local rental market will tell you.

Check out these comments from a couple of apartment dwellers who have clearly seen it all and were not impressed with the $1,834 median rent number. It wasn't too high - rather it was too low!

The reality is, if you want something beyond a worn out 1970s leftover, it costs a lot more than that.

Writes Mggio:

- $1800 rent on a $100k salary is doable but tight. It's almost impossible if you have a car payment/student loans/credit card debt. You won't be able to save for house down payment paying that kind of rent and if you do, you won't be saving for retirement. $100k is a great salary for a single person though and is far above "average".

- If you are married perhaps with a kid and need a two-bedroom, expect to pay at least $2,500 for something decent. Your $100K salary no longer will cut it. You really don't want to life in a 2 bed priced under $2k a month, not even in Allston, Cambridge or Somerville.


And here Caramel's short but to the point take on what it really costs to rent around here.

gcbma wrote:
"By the way, where does the $1,834 rent number come from? Seems high"

Nope. That would be a great price for a one bedroom in Boston. Prices are more like $2000 and up. Check out the slide show on the real estate front page.

$2400 in Cambridge gets you an okay 2 bedroom. $3000 gets you a nice 2 bedroom.

Now finally back to Mggio on what you can expect to get for your $1,800 a month:

This article is anything but good news. Here is the situation:

- Boston real estate is overpriced. We all know that. It still hasn't dropped to levels where it is anywhere near affordable for most people who would like to buy.

- Rents are also overpriced, at least for what you get. Your $1800 a month gets you a unit in a 100-year old building that hasn't been renovated since the 70's. Most Boston area landlords bought for nothing over 30 years ago and have no business being landlords as they don't know how to maintain their properties. These rundown units are basically glorified dorm rooms and sure enough, they are usually lived in by college students who don't care where they live. Thus landlords have no incentive to keep them in decent condition. If you are not a college student and make a decent salary, expect to pay at least twice as much for something new and in decent condition. I can't speak for Boston itself, but I've been renting in Cambridge and Somerville for 14 years, I've lived in 8 different apartments, and I've seen well over 100 apts every time I've looked. I've been in the market to buy for 5 years now but I'm still watching prices drop.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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