The City of Boston is currently the 3rd most expensive rental market in the US behind New York and San Francisco. Apartment prices have been steadily on the rise for over a decade due to a short supply of housing and a growing demand for apartment rentals. This demand-growth has been fueled by increasing enrollment at local Universities and an ever-growing stream of VC funding towards Boston-based startups.
2020 marked the first year since the housing crisis where rent prices dipped in Boston. The pandemic led to mass vacancies near Downtown and local Universities due to remote work and remote learning. Vacancy rates climbed as high as 25% in Downtown, and still remain above 20% currently. As a result, average rent for Downtown Boston apartments is down -21.45% YOY, Bay Village rents are down an average of -17.67% YOY, and in Beacon Hill average rent is down -12.36% YOY.
Still, many of the other premium neighborhoods near local Universities were able to prevent prices from slumping by offering reduced move-in fees as incentives. These neighborhoods have a more sizable student population compared to the business-professional crown that favors Downtown areas, thus are less likely to have long-term supply issues. Many landlords were correct in forecasting that remote learning would be relegated in Fall 2021. They also know that the remote work phenomena is more likely here to stay. For this reason, rent prices in neighborhoods like Back Bay, South End, and Fenway dropped by a much more reasonable 6-10% compared to prices for apartments near Downtown.
These prices are from the Boston Pads database. The data has been stripped of luxury listing prices as they are often outdated and/or inaccurate. By removing them, we can ensure better data integrity in terms of vacancy rates and average rent prices.
So without further ado, here are the 5 most expensive neighborhoods to rent an apartment in Boston in 2021:
1. Seaport Apartments
Average Rent: $3,456
Average Rank: 1.5
Average YOY Change: +10.35%
Move over Back Bay, there’s a new top dog in town. Seaport has seen a surge in luxury building development over the past decade, and as a result their non-luxury apartment inventory has been growing. Whereas a year ago there was very little rental data for non-luxury apartments in the Seaport district, their housing supply has grown by 20.6% YOY in that category, with a lot of rental activity occurring in the past year. As a result, there are now enough data points to provide an average rent price for studios, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom Seaport apartments, and it blows Back Bay out of the water.
Seaport is the most expensive neighborhood in Boston to rent a studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom apartment. It is the 2nd most expensive area to rent a 3 bedroom apartment, behind Downtown Boston.
|SEAPORT APARTMENTS||Average Rent Price||Rank||YOY Change %|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||$2,676||1||+10.35%|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$4,269||1||N/A|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||$4,371||2||N/A|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||N/A||-||-|
2. Back Bay Apartments
Average Rent: $3,533
Average Rank: 3.2
Average YOY Change: -9.23%
While Back Bay has been dethroned as Boston’s most expensive rental market, it still holds down the second spot on our list. Average rent in Back Bay is down -9.23% YOY due to a vacancy rate that has more than tripled since April 2020. In actuality, renters are saving much more than 9.23% in Back Bay because over 72% of landlords are paying all or a portion of the brokers fee in Boston Pads’ inventory of available Back Bay apartments. Because of this, renters will score deals over the next few months before the student population begins to reenter the market in June.
|BACK BAY APARTMENTS||Average Rent Price||Rank||YOY Change %|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||$2,374||3||-10.68%|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$3,292||2||-8.45%|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||$4,302||3||-8.43%|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||$5,900||1||N/A|
Back Bay is the 7th most expensive neighborhood to rent a studio, the 3rd most expensive place to rent a 1 bedroom and 3 bedroom apartment, the second most expensive place to rent a 2 bedroom apartment. Back Bay is the most expensive neighborhood to rent a 4 bedroom apartment in Boston.
3. Downtown Boston Apartments
Average Rent: $2,838
Average Rank: 4.3
Average YOY Change: -21.45%
Sure rent prices are down 21.45% YOY in Downtown, but you didn’t think that would knock them off the list did you? Prices for Downtown Boston apartments are still among the most expensive in the city, holding the title for most expensive neighborhood to rent a 3 bedroom apartment. It ranks 7th highest for 2 bedroom apartments, 5th for 1 bedroom apartments, and 4th highest for studio apartments.
|DOWNTOWN APARTMENTS||Average Rent Price||Rank||YOY Change %|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||$2,196||5||-23.59%|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$2,849||7||-25.01%|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||$4,433||1||-16.36%|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||N/A||-||-|
4. South End Apartments
Average Rent: $3,226
Average Rank: 5.0
Average YOY Change: -7.88%
Very similar to Back Bay, the South End rental market has been stalled by supply concerns related to remote learning. The vacancy rate is up 225% YOY and as a result, prices have slipped by an average of -7.88% for South End apartments. Even still, renting in the South End will cost you. It is the second most expensive market for 4 bedroom units, 3rd most expensive for 2 bedroom apartments, and 4th highest for 1 bedroom apartments.
|SOUTH END APARTMENTS||Average Rent Price||Rank||YOY Change %|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||$2,331||4||-11.30%|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$3,026||3||-7.80%|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||$3,778||9||-3.52%|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||$5,203||2||-5.26%|
5. North End Apartments
Average Rent: $3,119
Average Rank: 6.2
Average YOY Change: -7.27%
The North End is located in close proximity to Downtown and has had it’s fair share of supply concerns. The vacancy rate is up a staggering +485.82% YOY, but prices haven’t moved here as much as in other Downtown neighborhoods. Average rent for North End apartments is down -9.23% since April 2020, but it’s still the 4th most expensive neighborhood to rent a 4 bedroom apartment in Boston. They are the 6th most expensive neighborhood for studios, 1 bedroom apartments and 3 bedroom apartments.
|NORTH END APARTMENTS||Average Rent Price||Rank||YOY Change %|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||$2,175||6||-5.88%|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||$2,763||9||-7.56%|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||$3,807||6||-6.58%|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||$5,048||4||-8.58%|