It’s More Than Just Housing: Make Yourself a Home

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I wake up at 7 a.m. on the third Thursday of November. It’s too early, but the cold weather has left me no choice. Winter approaches; the temperature goes as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Tip number one of this blog post: if you want to make a rough conversion to Celsius, subtract 32 and divide by two. That means that 38 degrees Fahrenheit is roughly 3 degrees Celsius. I come from Mexico, I’m not used to this.

However, all my classmates are facing the same weather and I am sure they sleep soundly at night. What’s the difference? They don’t have a malfunctioning door in their rooms that cannot be properly closed, and they don’t have an unscrupulous landlord who replies to emails whenever he feels like it.

It’s useless to try to go back to sleep, so I take my computer to the living room (at least there’s decent heating there). I take a good look at our house. The kitchen is in view, and…it could use new appliances. The stove is really old and, sometimes, I wonder if it’s safe to use.

One of the main water pipes is exposed. One of the toilets was leaking when we first arrived and it took a month to have someone repair it. The shower in the other bathroom is broken. Almost none of the rooms have locks and the landlord has refused to fix this. And, most importantly, we must be the only fools in Somerville who pay for water! Everyone else has it included in the rent.

I suddenly wonder how and when we got ourselves into this. No more than a few weeks before the start of our MBA, that’s when. By not taking some time to travel to Boston and look for a place, that’s how. I don’t know about my roommates, but I hate the consequences.

I leave my house at noon; I have an appointment. After a 20-minute trip I get off the train at Central Square station. The neighborhood is much nicer. There are coffee shops, stores and houses, and beautiful red brick everywhere. A few minutes later, I reach my destination.

A kind lady welcomes me and shows me around a three-bedroom apartment. It is furnished, with a nice bed, a big closet and a set of comforters I would be free to use. There is a functioning heater and the view is amazing. I almost cry when I hear the price: $850 a month plus up to $150 in utilities—just $150 more than what I am currently paying.

What do I need to secure this place? It’s easy: an ID, an application, first and last month’s rent, and a deposit equivalent to another month (this is standard practice in the United States). The process is not like the thousand documents I had to send online. It’s still 10 days before the end of the month, but landlord kindly tells me I could start moving in tomorrow at no extra charge.

I then remember I can’t actually take it until I find someone to sublet my current room, or incur the risk of paying double rent. I don’t think I can do this before someone else takes the apartment, and I don’t want to take the risk. I say goodbye to my would-be landlord who, I am sure, would have been much better than the current one.

Why didn’t I do this before coming to Boston?

Because I was busy…and careless, that’s why.

In my last post, I compared “applying online” versus “building relationships” during a job search. We all know by now which will improve your odds of getting a good job. The same thing applies when looking for a place to live.

There are awesome places to live around Hult—in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford and Malden. I’ve seen people pay as little as $600 and as much as $2,700 per month, depending on how nice the place is, how far away it is from school, and how wisely they go about it.

A friend of mine found awesome accommodation for $650 because her landlord was specifically interested in Chinese graduate students, and found her. Another friend got his landlord to forgive one month of rent during his rotation, out of the goodness of his heart. My friends have one thing in common: they conducted their housing search “in the field” and subsequently found landlords with whom they could connect on a personal level.

While searching for a new place I came across at least two other offers as good as the one I described. All of them came within one week. And this was long after courses started. Imagine what I would have found if I had done this before starting my MBA.

Now it’s too late, because I was dumb enough to apply online and not properly research. Signing a contract for housing in Massachusetts is a very serious decision. You basically commit to paying an entire year of rent whether you live in the place or not. Only very serious law violations on the part of the landlord could give you legal grounds to leave. Even in this case, you risk litigation if you do. I assume you wouldn’t want to spend any time in court during your MBA.

So, please, my future fellow alumni, come to Boston and see places for yourselves. Talk to prospective landlords and start developing those relationship-building skills that will make you the great business managers of tomorrow.

My bottom line is this: any time and money you spend getting the accommodation of your dreams will be well spent. The sooner you start the better. So please, make yourselves a home. And make yourselves a good one.

Edgardo Macias is a Hult Global Ambassador. He is an MBA student at Hult Boston, a finance professional, and an amateur musician with a great passion for math, teaching and intellectual discussion.

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