Before coming to HGSE, I was finishing up law school in Virginia and then studying to take the Massachusetts bar (but studying in Virginia). It did not leave much time to go apartment hunting in the Boston area, and the Southern part of me rebelled at the notion of having to pay a broker a month’s rent just to find me an apartment.
Fortunately, Harvard offers housing through Harvard Real Estate Services (HRES) and the application process can be completed almost entirely online. You can register for a housing lottery in April. Your placement in the lottery will determine which lottery group you are assigned to … each lottery group is then assigned to a two-day window in which everyone in that group can select their housing from whatever HRES housing inventory is left on the website (there’s also a preview period prior to the selection period so you can see what’s still available). Last year, the selection windows opened at 6:05am EDT; if you’ve found an apartment you really want, you’ll want to be seated bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at your computer at 6:05am (or 3:05am PDT).
Many of the apartments are quite nice (these are definitely not dorms), and Harvard is usually a pretty good landlord as far as landlords go. I have a very nice studio in an interwar period building. You can live in a one bedroom or studio, or you can live with others (Harvard students, faculty, or staff) in a larger apartment. You don’t have to have a roommate lined up when you sign up for a 2+ bedroom apartment (but be aware that you’ll be responsible for the 100% of the monthly rent until you get a roommate). Rent, while expensive, is competitive with rental rates in the vicinity, and there isn’t any broker fee or deposit. Electricity, heat, and water are included for all apartments; some buildings also have free Internet and built-in air-conditioning. Rent is automatically billed to your Harvard account.
In an effort to be helpful, I created an online calculator last spring to help my fellow students and me come up with a ranked list of the best apartments (based on personal criteria input into the calculator). In addition to the directions and disclaimers noted below (from last year), the rent will probably be going up a bit, and some of the buildings may not be available for the upcoming (due to no vacancies or construction/renovation) and vice-versa. Even if some of the information is a bit out of date (Spring 2012), I hope that some of you might find it helpful.
HRES Apartments Interactive Rankings is now up. Weight how important location to HGSE, size, amenities, a/c, Internet, Graduate Commons, and rent are in deciding what kind of apartment to rent. Get a ranked list of apartments according to your preferences.
You will need a passcode to generate results. The passcode is: highered. Click here to access the calculator.
Please note that the un-weighted base ratings are my own (and hence are subjective and not necessarily accurate). The base ratings are relative to each other (so the cheapest HRES apartment gets the highest base rent score, even if it’s still expensive).
Also, only buildings with one-bedroom units are included. Although many studio and two-bedroom-or-more units are also included (if there are also one-bedroom units in the building), some buildings are not included as a result. Rent is only for one bedroom units.