Best Places to Live 2010: Inland South
The ultimate guide for every kind of house hunter.
Six major commercial developments have been planned or built over the past several years in the so-called Neponset Valley, the chunk of Greater Boston that’s midway between Providence and the Hub. Dedham’s Legacy Place is booming thanks to Whole Foods, L. L. Bean, and numerous restaurants. At Foxboro’s Patriot Place, it’s possible to have a beer at the movies or see a tribute band at Showcase Live. Besides small lakes and shiny new retail, these towns share extraordinary civic pride. Most communities have a town day celebrating the joy of being a citizen (in Norwood, about 15,000 people attend). The I-93/I-95 interchange is a massive headache, of course, but these towns still have some of the most affordable housing in the region.
> Gold Standard
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $520,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: +0.2%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: -14.5%
An infusion of federal stimulus cash may allow the mammoth, mixed-use development Westwood Station to finally break ground this year. Even if it doesn’t, no matter. As they say about true beauties, Westwood has good bones: top-scoring schools, train stations, and Hale Reservation, a 1,200-acre nature reserve with a membership beach and summer camp programs. Sales for homes above $800,000 are soft, allowing some savvy residents to trade up, says Realtor Barbara Shea McDonald. A small starter home goes in the mid-$300,000s.
> Best Value
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $350,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: -0.9%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: -12.5%
Nationally known for hosting Brady and Co. on certain autumn Sundays, Foxboro behind the bright lights is a smallish town full of civic pride. The commercial sprawl on Routes 1 and 140 is an eyesore, but it keeps Foxboro residential taxes low, at $10.91 per $1,000. Realtor David Wluka says buyers are attracted to the shopping and low taxes, but also to the town’s conservation land, easy access to highways, and performances at the Orpheum Theatre. A 1970s building boom meant farmhouses were razed for Capes and Colonials. Look for well-priced starters near the Sharon line.
> Opportunity Knocks
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $370,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: +3.2%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: -18.7%
Sharon’s steep tax rate ($17.92 per $1,000) makes frugal buyers wince. But for those who believe the finer things in life don’t come free, buying in Sharon now will get you a discount on terrific schools and top-notch outdoor recreation. Moose Hill, a nearly 2,000-acre Audubon Sanctuary, has 25 miles of hiking trails, while Borderland State Park offers cross-country skiing and off-road biking. The town operates two beaches and a newly rehabbed community center on Lake Massapoag. Die-hard athletes prep for Sharon’s annual triathlon by biking or jogging around the lake path in all seasons. But town officials know schools don’t subsist on residential taxes alone. As soon as the credit market opens, the new Sharon Commons retail development should bring in more commercial revenue.