Best Places to Live 2010: City

The ultimate guide for every kind of house hunter.

Whether it’s the lack of a commute or the wealth of culture, urban living continues to have plenty of appeal. In fact, the allure of city conveniences has even created a “halo” effect, says RE/MAX Heritage Realtor Linda O’Koniewski, driving demand in towns at the T’s edges, like Arlington, Watertown, Milton, Melrose, and Needham.

>  Gold Standard
BROOKLINE

MEDIAN HOME/CONDO PRICE: $1.17 million/$451,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: +15.1%/+1.4%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: +4.4%/-3%
One-bedroom condos in the high $200,000s to $20 million ivy-smothered mansions; 15 minutes by T to Copley — these are just some of the reasons so many people happily call Brookline home. Budget-conscious house hunters can find deals in southern Brookline, along the J.P. border. The price-is-no-object crowd (think Pats owner Bob Kraft) heads to Chestnut Hill. Coolidge Corner is the town’s commercial hub, home to a stellar mix of indie commerce. But the real backbone of Brookline — and the reason it edges Cambridge for our gold standard — is its great public schools.

[sidebar]>  Best Value
JAMAICA PLAIN

MEDIAN HOME/CONDO PRICE: $529,000/$316,650
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: +4.6%/-4.0%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: +6.2%/-1.5%
This spring there were bidding wars at all prices in J.P., says Daphna Fields, senior vice president of a local Coldwell Banker office. And why not? Still a relative bargain, J.P.’s got the open space (Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park), plus a burgeoning restaurant scene. On the first Thursday of each month, bands perform and artists display their works along Centre Street. Affordable condos are sprinkled throughout J.P., while single-family homes that would command twice as much elsewhere start at under $1 million in Moss Hill.

>  Opportunity Knocks
WATERFRONT, SOUTH END FRINGES

MEDIAN CONDO PRICE: Waterfront, $650,000; South End, $520,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: Waterfront, -7.1%; South End, -3%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: Waterfront, +0.8%; South End, +0.4%    
Need space? Now’s the time. Across the city, slow-to-sell three-bedroom units and homes bigger than 2,100 square feet (the size of a suburban starter) sold for nearly 10 percent off their listing price last year, according to Michael DiMella, managing partner at Charlesgate Realty Group, who recently conducted a comprehensive review of the market. And while water views never go out of style, they do occasionally go on sale. Last year, the average price per square foot on the waterfront dropped 17 percent, to $641. Consider also the South End spaces along Massachusetts Avenue and the Harrison Avenue/SoWa corridor. The area is part of a neighborhood with robust demand (the South End boasted the highest number of sales last year), but units on the outskirts go for about 15 percent less per square foot than those in the heart of the neighborhood.

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  • christine

    the median household income in Massachusetts is @ $48,000. which means most of these towns are unattainable to the average family. how sad.