The Amenities Formula: The True Cost of Living for Burlington Renters
Burlington, VT is an awesome place to live. Situated right on Lake Champlain with the Green Mountains only an hour or two away, this small city is considered one of the best in the entire country. Anyone who has spent any amount of time here has quickly realized one thing: Burlington is expensive. When figuring out where to live in Burlington, how do you weigh how much is too much to pay for rent? And how much added value are you getting out of your apartment for the cost?
What are the basics?
What do you need to be living your best life in Burlington? You have an apartment, your zone to eat, sleep and chill out, but you might need any or all of the following:
- Storage space for stuff like winter coats and boots, outdoor gear, or holiday decorations (unless you want a Halloween skeleton as permanent decor).
- Stay active year-round with a gym membership, so you can work out when you want to despite the seasonal challenges.
- Laundry is a necessity, and without hook-ups for your own machines, hauling clothing to a laundromat can be burdensome and time consuming.
- Utilities like heat, electricity and water make your apartment comfortable, but can quickly increase your monthly budget when winter weather arrives.
- Parking in Burlington can be a nightmare, and like most cities, on-street free parking is in high demand.
- A yard can be wonderful, and can provide space for pets or kids to play, or for a flower or vegetable garden, but upkeep can be a giant time-suck.
With decades of living in the area under our team’s belt, we delved into each of these apartment value factors. We put together the "Amenities Formula" to help you gauge how much you should be spending on the cost of living in Burlington, VT.
Apartments keep getting more efficient, but that can often mean “smaller”. Less square footage to heat or cool during the seasons makes sense on paper, but it can limit storage available in the apartment.
For any paddleboarders, kayakers, or even cyclists, it can be a huge hassle to live affordably in this city without giving up your hobbies. Bikes can be chained outside, but without a kayak rack next to every building, you need to find a larger locker to keep your investment safe when you aren’t outside making the most of the great outdoors.
Some older apartments provide additional storage in basements or garages for only $25 a month, but this does leave your belongings at the mercy of the elements (rain, freezing temperatures, mice, etc.). As newer apartment buildings are built, some thought is being given to these storage issues. Find a landlord or recently constructed property that has on-site storage units. Typically, these newer storage units have little to no chance of a new foundation leaking or letting rainwater seep in to damage your things. And unlike a shared garage with no lock, you have the security of having your own allotted space, not a shared storage nook in an attic or garage.
If you don’t have the convenience of additional on-site storage, there are some storage units spread throughout the city. With costs starting at $30 for 9 cubic feet, you can certainly find a secure place to store your outdoor gear in the offseason.
We have a wealth of trails, parks and paths around Burlington, but let’s face it: we don’t all hike Mt. Mansfield everyday. It is more convenient (and less weather-dependent) to have a gym membership. Rates vary from gym to gym, but you can refer to the table below for a snapshot of pricing.
Limited access, basic gym pass
Full basic membership at a local club
$25 joining fee + $30-66 /month
$15-30 per class
Drop-in classes might be convenient, but the one-time costs can add up quickly to be $60-$100 per month. Buying bulk class passes or a membership can save you money, and might encourage you to go more often, too.
Maybe you’re not a gymrat and prefer burning calories outside. You’re in the right place to have four seasons of different sporting opportunities! But where do you store all of your gear?
Oh, the eternal chore of laundry! How can the average renter find the best laundry solution? Ideally, each apartment building would have a laundry room on the premises, or in-unit hookups for a household washer and dryer. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
A large number of managed properties do provide on-site laundering spaces, with a few washing machines and driers that are typically coin operated. With current rates averaging $2.00 - $2.50 a load, it would behoove you to hoard all of your quarters for laundry forever more. Factoring $2 each load, a $5-$10 budget each month (in quarters).
A few new developments understand the convenience of on-site laundry, and have made common laundry at no additional cost to residents. Explore more about Cambrian Rise.
Even if an apartment has hookups for washing and drying machines, purchasing large appliances rarely makes sense for renters. Starting at $550 for a pair of machines, buying your own washer and dryer adds considerable costs to your initial budget when moving into an apartment with hookups. It also adds a few more very large items to worry about for your next move (and measurements for hookup access and door openings vary greatly, making moving these machines a risk and a hassel). You might also need to negotiate with the landlord about the water bill with your own machines. Simplify the equation and wait for a permanent residence before investing in your own washer and dryer.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a shared coin-op laundry room, you might have to hoof it to a local laundromat. While this is inconvenient and time-consuming, usually laundromat machines are larger than household washers and dryers, so you can get more laundry done in each load. Costs might be greater using these larger machines, but if you find a laundromat with a rewards system, every 10th wash or so is free!
If you can find a place to live where at least some utilities are covered, take it. In northern New England, heating costs drastically increase your monthly budget once the snowy months hit. Additionally, daylight savings time can increase average electricity consumption during DST months. In Burlington, you could be paying a separate water bill, or it might be folded into the rent. Finding a landlord or a property that includes the cost to heat your apartment takes the guesswork out of your winter budget. Many apartments in the area include the cost of trash and snow removal, but only the rare gems cover heating costs as well.
Generally, utilities in the Burlington area for a 1000sq. Ft apartment will average about $200 a month. $40-$80 for electricity, $50-$120 for heat (based on the season), and $50-$150 for internet and basic cable options. That’s a sliding scale of $150 - $350 you’ll need to budget for on top of monthly rent.
Burlington is a beautiful city, and the surrounding urban areas are all full of green space and quaint small streets, but it can be a pain to find parking. Apartments in houses often can fit one or two cars in a driveway or on a side street, but if you and each of your roommates have a car, parking is often a fight with neighbors. Find a development or neighborhood with off-street or designated parking to help alleviate stress, and are generally safer than leaving your car on a main road. This parking can be an additional cost, typically $25 to $60 per spot each month. During the winter, having an off-street spot is imperative during the dreaded Winter Parking Bans, when the plows clear the streets and all vehicles need to be moved.
Studies have shown getting outside improves your quality of life. But having to maintain a perfect lawn can be a hassle and dreaded chore for anyone. One popular alternative to the care and keeping of your own yard is to downsize from a rented house to an apartment building, and find a local community garden. These shared plots have rules (like what you can and cannot plant, what size plot you are alloted) and a registration fee that ranges from $15-$60, but can come with other perks. Membership to such a garden often includes social interaction or gatherings with other gardeners. For a small fee, that means you get time outside, access to a new social circle, and a plot of land to cultivate as you choose.
We’ve summed up a lot of the “extras” you should keep in mind when budgeting for a new apartment, but let’s put it all in one place:
When living in the Burlington, VT area, the base cost to rent an apartment is only one factor you should weigh when finding the perfect apartment for your budget. The reality is that extra costs add up, and the cost of living in Burlington encompasses more than just your rent check. Some apartments do build some of these costs into the monthly rent, so be sure to ask about all that is included when looking for a new place.
We would all rather have more time to sit outside or play with our pets, instead of hunting down quarters on laundry day or worrying about retreiving moldy winter gear from a neighbor's attic when the weather turns. The old saying “time is money” is true, but time spent getting the basics done can also add to your stress. The more value you can get out of your apartment building, the more time and money you’ll have to spend the way you want to. Lower stress + more time spent your way = priceless.
Posted on September 26, 2017 , updated on February 01, 2019
October 10, 2017