Our Move to Cambridge, MA


My wife, daughter, and I moved from Michigan to Cambridge, when I took a new software-engineering job there. I've recorded our various mistakes and hurdles, as well as thoughts on how we could have planned better now that we have hindsight in our favor.

Finding an Apartment

My initial idea of the steps for finding an apartment were:

  1. Browse Craig's list and make a list of places to see.
  2. Schedule appointments to see the places a week ahead.
  3. Make a weekend trip to Cambridge to see apartments.
  4. Pick one and sign a lease.

What I did not know:

Most apartments worth renting in Cambridge are usually only on the market for less than a week.

I also learned that most of the apartments listed on Craig's list are put there by agents not landlords. So when you call on one, you will likely talk to an agent who can find other listings that may meet your needs as well.

The agents work off of a fee that is usually one month's rent. The landlord may or may not pay half of the fee, but it is all built into the rent anyway, so you have to make comparisons based on total cost. I found that rent can be negotiable, but only by $25 or $50 per month. After talking to a few agents I found one whom I liked--he was very attentive to meeting our needs, he was a competent negotiator/facilitator, and he didn't try to push us into something beyond our budget as another agent had done.

A revised plan for finding an apartment would be:

  1. Make a long weekend trip to Cambridge.
    The Amory Guest House worked well for us. It was in the right location, had wireless internet, and was only $80/night. Hotels were priced as much as $200 a night. Amory is no longer in business. Bed and Muffin is another similar option.
  2. Browse Craig's list and make a list of three apartments you would like to see. I say three because you can waste a lot of time on Craig's list.
  3. Call on the apartments and make appointments to see them. When you see these apartments you will meet a few agents. If you don't end up renting any of the ones you see, check with one of the agents you met and liked to find something that meets your needs.
  4. If you end up working exclusively with an agent you liked, tell him/her about the apartments you've seen and what you liked/didn't like about them. They should know of other closely matched options.
  5. When you've found your jewel, sign the lease. We had to come terms with the fact that there was no jewel in our price range and that we had to comprise on some of the requirements.

Why renting U-HAUL Was A Huge Mistake

UHELL The biggest mistake I made was to rent a U-HAUL Truck. My family helped us load the 24 foot truck with a three bedroom house worth of stuff. As soon as I started driving on the highway a warning light began flashing along with a beeping alarm. I pulled off at a gas station about 5 miles from my house, called U-HAUL, and to make a long story short, eventually found out that the power steering pump was bad and that we would have to switch trucks. So we drove to another U-HAUL location and spent three and a half hours loading our stuff into another truck without any help from U-HAUL. The most annoying sight was a U-HAUL worker just standing around smoking a cigarette and watching us. Thankfully nearby friends and family came and helped us out. The only compensation from U-HAUL was a promised $200 + $100 in U-HAUL coupons, which is much less than it would have cost to hire moving help on short notice. I'm still waiting for my money.

The Ideal Way to Move Stuff

Looking back I think it may have been worth spending the extra money on Portable On Demand Storage [PODS] or something simlar. I know someone who moved and had a lot of water damage, so inquire whether the pod is water proof or not and pack appropriately. Here are the steps I would take:

  1. Get a moving permit from the City of Cambridge.

    Schedule your move-in time so that it overlaps with the hours that the traffic department is open. This way if someone has something in your spot, you can call the traffic department and ask what to do. We encountered a door-to-door storage container in our reserved spot. I called the number on the pallet-box and they claimed the container was supposed to be there even though the posted permit was expired. We had to work around it because they weren't going to move it and the traffic office was already closed.

  2. Schedule a pod to be parked in front of your house (get your local permits if needed).
  3. Load your stuff in the pod.
  4. Have them take it away and put it in storage.
  5. Travel to cambridge.
  6. Take your time finding an apartment.
  7. Have your pod delivered to your apartment and unload.

One choice we were happy to have made was to hire help from a local moving company, B-Movers through emove.com. The guy who helped was friendly and a hard worker. We were unloaded in under two hours.

All The Random Things that go with Moving

Here is a list of all the random tasks that you may have to take care of:

If you've read this far ...

If you've read this far then I think it's safe to assume you are someone moving to Cambridge. I hope you were able to get some ideas from our experience. Good luck with your move!