In a recent story, we examined the average rent in Chicago and how it’s changed over time. In that analysis, we found that Chicago’s average rent had reached its highest point ever. Now, we’re turning to the average rent in Boston, and it too has reached historic heights in late 2022. Evaluating data sourced from Zillow’s Zillow Observed Rent Index (ZORI), which is seasonally adjusted, the average rent in Boston has reached a level that surpasses places like New York City and San Jose, and is just barely behind that of San Francisco.
Read on to get a full breakdown of the average rent in Boston, how it’s changed over time, as well as the most expensive zip codes in Boston to live in.
The Average Rent in Boston
According to the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, the population of Boston is 672,814, making it the 24th largest city in America by population, ahead of Portland, Oregon (population 647,176) and just behind fast-growing Oklahoma City (population 673,183). At its pre-pandemic peak, the average rent in Boston was an estimated $2,962 as of February 2020. Then the pandemic struck, but Boston’s average rent didn’t take a hard hit in March 2020 like so many other cities did. In March 2020, the average rent in Boston fell by one $1 from the previous month, to $2,961. It would be much later, in December 2020, that the average rent in Boston would bottom out, at $2,691.
Since then, Boston’s rental market has more than recovered. According to Zillow’s data, the estimated average rent in Boston is $3,405, as of December 2022 (the most recent rental data available at the time of writing). Though that’s actually down from $3,411 in November 2022, Boston’s latest average rent of $3,405 is historically very high. Since 2015, the average rent in Boston was always under $3,000 until October 2021, when it reached $3,032, crossing the 3k threshold for the first time.
The average rent in Boston of $3,405, as of December 2022, puts it in league with other major, expensive cities, such as:
- Average rent in San Francisco: $3,465
- Average rent in New York City: $3,289
- Average rent in Miami: $3,202
- Average rent in San Jose: $3,086
- Average rent in San Diego: $3,041
No other major New England city comes even close to the latest Boston average rent. Providence, Rhode Island, with a population of 188,812, recorded an average rent of $2,048 in December 2022; that’s the highest average rent in Providence has ever been, but it’s still over $1,000 cheaper than Boston. Year over year, from December 2021 to December 2022, the average rent in Boston increased by roughly 9.4%, from $3,113 to $3,405. That’s a sizable year-over-year increase, but it doesn’t compare to the growth in average rent from December 2020 to December 2021, when it rose by 15.7%, from $2,691 to $3,113. Of course, that 15.7% annual increase was making up for the pandemic-induced decline of 8.5%, from an average rent of $2,943 in December 2019 to $2,691 a year later.
Looking at Boston’s average rent in a different manner, such as its average annual change from 2017 to 2022, shows that rent grew steadily but manageably in the years before the pandemic:
- Annual growth December 2016-December 2017: 3.4%
- Annual growth December 2017-December 2018: 3.5%
- Annual growth December 2018-December 2019: 3.0%
- Annual growth December 2019-December 2020: -8.5%
- Annual growth December 2020-December 2021: 15.7%
- Annual growth December 2021-December 2022: 9.4%
Boston’s five-year average growth rate in rent, between 2017 and 2022, came out to 4.6% per year. That average annual growth in rent is equal to Los Angeles’s 4.6% for the same period and slightly ahead of New York’s 4.5%. However, when compared to cities most notably in the southwest and southeast, Boston’s five-year average annual growth in rent is pretty tame. For example, Phoenix has experienced a five-year average growth rate of 10.6% per year; Tucson experienced average growth of 9.9% per year; and Jacksonville, Florida, experienced an average growth of 9% per year, to name just a few.
Below is a table of the average rent in Boston from December 2017 through December 2022:
Boston, on average, has always been more expensive in terms of rent than the nation as a whole. But one notable data point stands out: While the average rent in Boston fell by 8.6% from December 2019 to December 2020, the average rent for the U.S. overall grew by 1.1%. Otherwise, year-over-year changes in rent are fairly comparable between Boston and the nation overall.
Average Rent in Boston by Zip Code
Viewing Boston through the lens of its many zip codes reveals just how expensive nearly every neighborhood of the city has become compared to the U.S. overall. Of 24 zip codes that Zillow tracks in Boston, the zip code with the cheapest average rent was zip code 02132 at $2,417, as of December 2022. Boston’s most expensive zip code is the area covered by zip code 02120, which recorded an average rent of $5,093 in December 2022. Boston zip code 02120 stretches from Mission Hill in the west to Lower Roxbury in the east. Zip code 02210 is the second most expensive in Boston, with an average rent of $3,916 in December 2022, and covers the South Boston Waterfront. And the third most expensive is zip code 02111, with an average rent of $3,839, covers Chinatown and the Leather District, and includes Tufts University School of Medicine, which also happens to be one of the best academically and most expensive colleges in Massachusetts, according to BrokeScholar.
The Boston zip code that experienced the biggest year-over-year growth, however, was not one of the three mentioned above. It was zip code 02134, which saw its average rent rise by approximately 16%, from $3,048 in December 2021 to $3,535 in December 2022. Zip code 02134 covers Allston and Lower Allston, up to the Charles River, including Harvard Stadium.
Below is a table with the 10 most expensive Boston zip codes in terms of their average rent as of December 2022. Included in the table, too, are their respective year-over-year changes from December 2021 to December 2022: