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The complete guide to moving to Boston

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

Moving from Australia to Boston is a popular choice when it comes to relocating. The capital of Massachusetts is home to over 4.5 million people and Boston’s academic, technological and medical industries attract people from all across the globe. As a result, Boston has one of the strongest and fastest growing economies in America.

Setting up home

As you can imagine, Boston has plentiful properties. But due to its population, these properties don’t stay on the market for long regardless of whether you’re renting or purchasing.

Boston, with Cambridge in particular, is currently going through a housing boom which means that if you’re planning on shipping your goods over from Australia to Boston and purchasing a property; you’ll need to act fast. Really fast - because property in Boston stays on the market for an average of three weeks if you’re lucky.

The median house price in Boston currently sits at around $561,000 which is up almost 9% from the previous year, and the market shows no signs of slowing down. According to recent research by Numbeo, London is 9.04% cheaper than Boston, Los Angeles is 13.31% cheaper than Boston, but New York still holds a record for property prices and is 28.46% more expensive than Boston. This has caused a sense of urgency amongst property purchasing and estate agents suggest that, despite Boston being named one of America’s most overpriced cities, people are still willing to pay above the odds in order to secure a property - with some people paying as much as $41,000 above asking price to do so.

If you’re looking at purchasing a property in Boston, ensure that you are prepared for the intense game of property purchasing that ensues. To do this we suggest that you know your budget before beginning, have a loan pre-approval letter (if necessary), and you wear comfortable shoes when you search - because securing your dream home in Boston can be a rat race all of its own.

Renting in Boston can be less pricey, but just as stressful depending on the time of year in which you are looking for a property. The university year typically starts on the second week of September and due to its academic ties, the majority of properties in Boston are rented by students. As a result, the majority of landlords tend to operate within this rental cycle to maximise the time in which they have tenants.

A large chunk of properties will become available in the months leading up to September, but competition can be fierce. In order to ensure you're successful with your search, we recommend that you leave an appropriate amount of time between looking and needing to move into a property. For example:

February, March, April, October, November or December: 1-2 months.

May: 2-3 months.

January, June, July or August: 2-4 months.

And if you’re looking to move in, in September, we recommend getting a jump on the market and looking for a property at least 6 months before.

Neighbourhoods

Rental prices in Boston vary depending on the neighbourhood. But to give you an idea, costs typically range between $1200-$1850 for a one bedroom property and between $2,200-$3,200 for a 3 bedroom property. When relocating, it can be difficult to know which neighbourhood may be most suitable for you—especially if you haven’t been there before. But Boston is typically categorised by in the following way:

Family Friendly

West Roxbury is a neighbourhood comprised of an abundance of tree-lined streets and single-family homes. It’s also the location of the Millenium Park - which has over 100 acres of ball fields, bike paths, trails and picnic areas.

Hip and Trendy
Jamaica Plains is an area with artistic flavour and as a result attracts academics, artists, activities and immigrant communities, which makes for an incredibly diverse and interesting place to call home.

Upmarket
Located on a narrow strip along the inner harbour is The Waterfront. An area filled with luxury by all definitions of the word, with the marina, luxury restaurants, condos and hotels.

Up and Coming
What was once a place with no hope of regeneration, is now a neighbourhood which is set to flourish thanks to the Central Artery Freeway which used to carve up the city, being replaced with the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Getting around

When relocating, one of the deciding factors in choosing a place to live is the distance you will have to commute between home and work or school, each day. Boston has been rated as one of the best, out of US cities, for having walkable neighbourhoods but it’s also an incredibly well-connected city and a place you could easily retire without a car.

The Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority (MBTA) runs Boston’s bus, rail, subway and boat service. The MBTA serves all of Boston and the surrounding areas and is an incredibly well-run transportation system. But if you don’t feel like public transport, then getting a bike is a viable option. Boston is a bike-friendly city and a great way to see what Boston has to offer, whilst getting some exercise in!

Getting a driving licence

If you don’t already have a driving licence from your home country, you can apply for a permit to learn whilst you are in America. In order to do this, you’ll need to apply for a permit from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The permits are based upon Gross Vehicle Weight Ranking (GVWR) which means that the permit you will require will depend on the vehicle you are planning to drive.

If you already have a full driving licence in your home country, then you can bring this with you when you relocate. If you get an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a tourist in America you are able to drive on your foreign licence for 12 months however, if you are working or studying in the United States then you can only drive on your licence for 30 days. It’s worth noting that the IDP is not a replacement for your licence, merely a supplement, and you will need to carry both on you whenever you are operating a vehicle.

Tip: International Driving Permits are not issued to foreigners whilst in the United States, so if you wish to have one you will need to ensure that you apply for one before you relocate.

Once the 30 days have expired you are required to get an American licence. To apply for one you will need to visit the RMV. They will convert your driving licence and issue you with a temporary photo-imaging driver’s licence which will be valid for 30 days. This will cover you whilst your permanent driver’s licence is delivered in the mail.

Registering your car

Rush hour is never fun, regardless of what city you’re in, and Boston is no different. The majority of people tend to use Boston’s public transport system, but as you’ll notice from the traffic; a lot of people still have and use cars. 

If you purchase a vehicle from a private individual or dealership, you’ll need to ensure that your vehicle is insured as it is against the law to drive without valid car insurance in place. You’ll also need to ensure that your vehicle has been registered.

In order to register your vehicle, you will need to convert your driving licence as mentioned in the section above. You’ll also need to complete the appropriate paperwork. The paperwork you will need to complete will depend upon where you purchased your vehicle as the documentation given from a dealership, will be different to the paperwork you would have received if you bought a vehicle from a private seller. If you are unsure of the type of paperwork you will need to complete, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle (RMV) will be able to guide you but when you go you should ensure that you have the following with you:

  • Your drivers’ licence
  • The vehicle title
  • An odometer disclosure statement
  • Proof of insurance
  • Payment for your registration fees.

Once you have registered your vehicle in America, the RMV  will provide you with the appropriate documentation which serves as proof that you have paid the appropriate registration and tax fees. The registration of a vehicle must be done immediately you will receive a metal license place together with a registration certificate and a validation decal which can take between six to eight weeks to arrive.

Tips: The registration of a vehicle only lasts for one year, so be sure to set a reminder on your calendar so that you know when that year is close to expiring.

School Options

Mark Twain once wrote: “In New York, they ask, 'How much money does he have?' In Philadelphia, they ask, 'Who were his parents?' In Boston, they ask, 'How much does he know?”.

It’s a saying known by many, and each year people aspire to the connotation behind it by seeking to become educated in one of America’s most prestigious cities for education. Home to both Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Boston has the cream of the crop when it comes to choosing a higher education.

For higher education, you have Harvard: an ivy-league research university with impressive alumni. Eight of the presidents of the United States, as well as other foreign heads of state, graduated from Harvard. In addition to this, you have MIT which, whilst technically not an ivy-league school is revered in stature and ranked as one of the world’s top universities. Each year an abundance of people seek out education in Boston’s prestigious offerings, and the city’s education scene is that revered that in 2011 alone, 350,000 students from across the world contributed more than $4.8 billion to Boston’s tourism economy due to the appeal of academia.

But it isn’t just higher education where Boston’s education opportunities strive. In the Boston Public School  District there are 27 schools, and out of these nine received gold, silver or bronze medals in the United States News Best High Schools ranking. Other top-rated schools include Boston Latin School, Excel Academy Charter School and Eliot Elementary school, so whether you’re moving from Australia to Boston to further your own education or that of your family, there will be plenty of options for you to choose from.

Legalities

Rumour has it that once upon a time there was an abundance of weird state laws in Massachusetts, which included it being illegal for mourners to eat more than three sandwiches at a wake. Nowadays your appetite is safe to run wild, and your obligations with regards to the law are very much like the rest of the United States: do no harm, and ensure that all of your paperwork is both legal and up to date. When moving to Boston the most important element of your paperwork documentation is your visa. As a place, America generally requires that you have a family member or an employer to sponsor your stay,  and without sponsorship, you may run into some difficulties in relocating. You can find more information regarding the visa application process, the American currency, taxes and insurance in our complete guide to moving to the USA.

Everyday Life

Recreational Activities

Much of Boston's culture revolves around the universities, but as we all know; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. When Boston’s residents aren’t educating themselves or working, the city has plenty to offer by way of recreational activities.

If you’re into sports then you have the ultimate hub; Fenway Park. A park which, since 1912 has been the home of the Boston Red Sox: Boston’s infamous baseball team. Or if you prefer balls of a different kind then the Celtics (Boston’s basketball team), will have something different for you to watch.

If sports aren’t your thing then there’s still plenty to do. Whether you want to head out of the city for a weekend trip to Martha’s Vineyard, or stay within the city and explore the local museums, libraries and public parks. There’s plenty for your senses to search out, both with Boston’s breweries and the hundreds of thousands of restaurant options that are available.

Once you’ve satisfied your taste buds, head to the bay and book yourself on a whale-watching tour at the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary. Each year an abundance of different types of whales congregate in the area to feed on sand lance, and a whale watching tour with Boston Cruises could provide you with the opportunity to see whales such as; finback, minke, humpback, pilot and even the critically endangered right whale. There are also dolphins, seabirds and an abundance of other marine life, so if you like the sea, there will be plenty to see.

Employment

Relocating to a new country is hard, after all, you’re not just packing up your belongings and memories. Moving often involves saying goodbye to old employers and workplaces, and the thought of restarting a career can be a daunting one. But the good news is that the greater metropolitan Boston area has a population of over 4.5 million and is one of the country’s largest economies, sitting comfortably in sixth place thanks to the combination of tourism, healthcare, academia and technology contributing to the economy.

As a result unemployment in Boston is currently below the national average, sitting at around 3.7%. There are plenty of opportunities to be found in Boston with around 100,000 jobs currently unfilled. No matter what rung of the career ladder you stand on, Boston has opportunities available across a variety of industries. The most popular job roles include retail workers, nurses and salespersons. But the jobs which are currently most sought after, are; marketing managers, information technology project managers, analysts, computer programmers and software application developers.

When looking for jobs there are a variety of avenues you can pursue. Classifieds such as Craig’s List often have jobs with immediate starts, whereas if you’re looking for a more corporate role then larger companies such as Indeed, SimplyHired, Monster, Career Builder can be worth your perusal. There are plenty of opportunities available, but as with most job markets sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know and so building and utilising a network on LinkedIn can help to open new doors.

Tip: Remember that in America employers look for resumes, not a Curriculum Vitae (CV). The main difference between the two, is the length and therefore it’s important to ensure that your resume highlights your experience, skill set and job history, but that it doesn’t span more than one page.