Last weekend when it was so gorgeous out, I was looking for something to do *outside* and realized there’s no one place that lists all the cool (usually free) outdoor entertainment we are so fortunate to have in and around Boston in the summertime. I started compiling info I found on various sites and then realized this might be useful to my readers as well, so here it is!

Starting in Cambridgeville of course…

Somerville has a whole lineup of summer entertainment including SomerMovie Fest with outdoor movies at various parks around the city every Thursday from July 11 – August 29. The City of Cambridge also has an outdoor summer movie series — Screen on the Green — where the films are supplemented with magicians, clowns, music, and other family-friendly entertainment every Wednesday through August 14. Here are also a few neighborhood-specific options:

Harvard Square has a full calendar of events that includes outdoor summer entertainment.

Concert Series @ Kendall Square (co-sponsored by Berklee College of Music) — on the plaza at 300 Athenaeum Street on Thursdays 12 – 1:30 pm, now through September 5.  Plus evening concerts 4:30 – 6 pm on July 16, August 6 and August 27.

And if you’re in the mood to cross the river, there are many more options, and most of them are FREE (yay for free!) — check it out…

Boston Harbor Hotel Summer Movies

Hatch Shell Concert Series — a varying schedule (but mostly Wednesday evenings) of orchestra performances, starting with the Pops on July 3 and running through August 28.

Free Friday Flix at the Hatch Shell — July 12 – August 23.

Berklee Summer in the City — free mid-day and evening music performed at at a variety of locations in the metro area — now straight into September.

Mayor Menino’s Wednesday Night Concert Series — July 18 – August 28. Shows start at 7 at City Hall Plaza.

Summer in the City Movies & Music at the Boston Harbor Hotel — June 13 – August 30 live music every Monday – Friday evening,  followed by a movie at dusk on Fridays. Download the brochure here.

Shakespeare on the Common — July 6 – 28 — this year’s production is Two Gentleman of Verona.

ICA Boston’s The Art of Summer — includes an pop up oyster bar on Friday evenings, family activities, and the Harborwalk Sounds music series every Thursday from July 11 – August 29.

MFA Concerts in the Courtyard — June 26 – August 28 with shows starting at 7:30 — unfortunately this one is not free, but might just be worth springing the $30 for…

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Last month, my condo association received the following letter from the City of Cambridge, notifying us that we were required to schedule an inspection of our smoke & CO detectors and our fire escapes/second means of egress:

Inspectional Services Letter

Because the letter was addressed to the owners of the home before the condo conversion, back when it was a 3-family, I assumed it was a mistake. I’d never heard of such an inspection, nor had any of my colleagues. But when I called Inspectional Services, I was informed that this inspection DOES, in fact, also apply to condos… basically it applies to any multi-family dwelling, regardless of the type of ownership.

Those of us who see a lot of older multi-families and condo buildings understand that this is a very good idea. Still, the process was not super convenient, as we were required to produce an affidavit signed by an architect, engineer, or licensed contractor, certifying that our back stairs, which function as our emergency egress, were structurally sound. In addition, we had to have a recent smoke/CO detector inspection certificate from the fire department. Fortunately, one of the units in my building had recently sold, and we still had a copy of the smoke certificate. I also luckily have some good contractor contacts, so was able to call in a favor and get this done quickly (and for free!).

Yesterday we had the actual visit from Tom Barry of Inspectional Services, and I’m happy to say that we have passed and won’t have to deal with this again for another five years. But I’m sure a lot of my readers will be facing the same process shortly — they’re apparently going around the city by neighborhoods — so thought I’d share the info. Good luck!

Cambridge & Somerville Rentals

With September 1 looming in the not-so-distant future, I am beginning to field a lot of calls from friends, acquaintances and friends-of-friends looking for help with their apartment search. And while I work exclusively in home sales, not rentals, I remember my own days as a renter, desperately searching for a reasonably-priced, un-grungy apartment in Cambridge, so I always try to offer whatever assistance I can in the form of advice. So here it is: my best guidance on finding a rental in the wonderful cities of Cambridge & Somerville.

First, you need to know that when looking for a rental, is that an agent only gets you so far, and you end up doing a lot of the legwork yourself. This is because rental listings aren’t centralized in a multiple listing service as with homes for sale. While *some* listings may be posted on the MLS, many (perhaps most) are listed independently by rental agencies that don’t “co-broke,” meaning allow agents from outside their office to show their listings. This means you will generally end up looking at properties with several different agents from several different agencies — some more professional and ethical than others. On top of that, a lot of landlords are now listing their places themselves on Craig’s List, avoiding agencies altogether, so expect to spend a lot of time on that site.

Here are some strategies for finding an apartment in Cambridge or Somerville:

Find a reputable rental agent — As I said, this can’t be your sole tactic, but it’s worth connecting with a reputable rental agent at one of the larger real estate offices, who can set you up with access to MLS listings, and may have an inside track on new listings before they hit the market. They can also be very helpful in providing guidance on the timing of your search, what you can expect for your budget, etc. I’m happy to connect you to a great rental agent if you get in touch.

Search Craig’s List — Here, you’ll find landlord-direct listings as well as listings posted by agents, many of which WON’T appear on MLS. You have to really be on top of this, checking the site often, as good listings go fast. Beware, though, of scam listings — there are many. General rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Call the management office of the larger, professionally-managed apartment buildings — There are several of these around. Many are *luxury* apartments with perks such as central air, garage parking and other amenities. Not surprisingly, they will generally be at the high end of the price range. Here are some links worth checking out — this is not a comprehensive list — just a few that came immediately to mind.

  • Archstone Apartments — manages apartments around the country, including three buildings in Cambridge — North Point, Kendall Square & Cambridgepark Drive.
  • University Park Apartments — four luxury apartment buildings near Kendall/MIT & Central Square
  • Equity Residential — manages the Third Square & Church Corner apartments both near Kendall/MIT & Central Square
  • 7 Cameron — new apartment complex in Cambridge, near Davis Square, also has easy access to Porter
  • Watermark — on Third Street in Kendall Square, near MIT
  • 1075 Mass Ave — located between Harvard & Central Squares on the former site of Bowl & Board, these brand new apartments will be ready for occupancy soon. The website is not yet up, but the listings are on MLS and/or I can connect you with the list agent for details.

If you’re in any way affiliated with Harvard or MIT, reach out to their housing offices, which also help with off-campus rentals

Search Sabbatical Homes website — calling itself “the academic community’s resource for home exchanges and home rentals worldwide since 2000,” this site features (mostly) furnished rentals in and around university towns. Not sure if you are required to be affiliated with a university, but since many of you out there are, you might want to check it out.

Alright, I think I’ve tapped all my rental resources here — if anyone has further suggestions, please post!

I know it’s June, and we’re all thinking about air conditioning, not heating, but if you’ve got an old boiler (from 1983 or older), it might be worth shifting gears for a bit… Mass Save is currently offering rebates of $1,750 to $4,000 if you switch out your old boiler to a new, more efficient one before July 31, 2012. For more info on this deal and other current rebate programs for homeowners, visit Mass Save’s website.

Mass Save

Street Sweeping Resumes!

March 25, 2012

I’m sure that for most of us urban dwellers, *street sweeping* brings to mind seriously reduced available parking, last minute scrambles to move the car and bad memories of being towed. But I personally love to here that familiar early morning alert: “Street sweeping — no parking on the odd numbered side of the street. You will be tagged and towed.” To me, it’s a sure sign of spring, and evidence of our tax dollars at work. But… none of us wants to be towed, so here’s your notice:

Street sweeping in Cambridge and Somerville resumes Monday, April 2!

Keep an eye on those signs, and sign up for alerts of street sweeping in your area:

Cambridge & Somerville Street Sweeping 2012

The City of Cambridge is sponsoring a series of information sessions on the city’s affordable housing programs — the next of which is Monday, Feb 13. Visit the link below for more info:

Affordable Housing Programs Upcoming Information Sessions | City of Cambridge Website.

Here are links to some other great city- and state-sponsored homebuying assistance programs:

Am making my way through all the great new restaurants in my neighborhood…

Where to Eat in Boston in 2012: Success, Squared – How Kendall Square Became a Dining Hotspot |  Boston Magazine.