Best Places to Live 2010: MetroWest
The ultimate guide for every kind of house hunter.
Double-income couples working in Boston’s tech corridor have long been drawn to this area for its powerhouse schools. Not surprisingly, such excellence comes with a sizeable price tag. Residential tax rates are some of the state’s highest, and home prices here have skyrocketed over the past decade. While things have settled down recently, finding a bargain still requires diligence.
> Gold Standard
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $705,000
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: +1.1%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: -2.8%
Picture-perfect downtown? Yup. Independent bookstore? Check. Commuter rail? Of course. Revolutionary War pedigree? (Did you really have to ask?) Concord may be as historic as they come, but it has also become chic in recent years, thanks to a number of sleek downtown boutiques. Once-modest neighborhoods are now rife with larger homes wedged into the original lots. And while anything close to town center or near the winding Concord River commands a premium, West Concord and smaller homes on the Acton line offer reasonable values.
> Best Value
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $417,750
ONE-YEAR CHANGE: -0.5%
SINCE MARKET PEAK: -9.1%
By any measure, Natick is a square deal. There’s the straight-shot commute along the Mass. Pike, sure, but the town of 33,000 also offers something more elusive: a wide range of affordable housing, including condos in the $200,000s and single-families in the $300,000s. The Natick Collection provides flashy luxury retail, but the less-known town center is a lively commercial district with a train station, art galleries, a mom-and-pop pharmacy, and the Center for Arts in Natick, which hosts nationally known performers and kids’ theater workshops. Look in West and North Natick for affordability. South Natick, by contrast, has most of the town’s top-tier properties: million-dollar construction on large lots.
> Opportunity Knocks
WELLESLEY, WESTON, DOVER, SHERBORN
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $629,000 (Sherborn)
Opportunity is relative, of course, and in the MetroWest that doesn’t necessarily mean affordable. But if you’ve got the money, a million ain’t what it used to be — in these towns, it’s more. Consider the one-year change in values: Weston, -8.3 percent; Dover, -9.9 percent; Sherborn, -11.4 percent; and Wellesley, -16 percent. There are simply too many “shingle-style, Arts and Crafts–inspired” mega-manses on the market to be absorbed anywhere near list price, and more high-end properties in these towns will hit the market through foreclosure over the next year, predicts Weston resident and Metro Realty owner Mark Pearlstein. For those who have the cash, the law of supply and demand is in your favor.