Best Places to Live

By Katherine Bowers | Boston Magazine |
STARTING OUT

It’s time to buy your own place when you spend days counting the ways renting stinks. You can’t paint the walls, stoke up a fire pit, or have a pet. A multiflight walkup discourages you from grocery shopping, and you’re tired of overhearing your neighbors’ every fight and sigh. Plus, renting isn’t a good deal right now. Landlords have the upper hand because of high occupancy rates (94.6 percent in Boston, the highest level since 2006). The good news if you’re looking to buy is that anyone who already owns actually envies you. You’re in a prime position to get both low interest rates and the recession’s residual low prices. So, you’re ready to take the homeowner plunge. Here are the best places to look.

FENWAY
Median Condo Price: $324,000
One-Year Difference: -2%

Buyers used to shy away from this rowdy student neighborhood. But over the past decade, as the Red Sox won championships, the team’s front office invested in the area. That led other developers here, too, bringing swanky restaurants and condos with them. Fenway today is a terrific value: $500 per square foot versus $700-plus for the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, says Michael DiMella, managing partner of Charlesgate Realty. Where you should be looking: The quiet side streets behind Boylston: Peterborough, Queensberry, and Park Drive. The units don’t have a high occupancy, which means students aren’t likely to congregate there, and the streets offer a smattering of useful services: laundry, small markets, and hidden-gem eateries, such as Church.

ROSLINDALE

Median Home Price: $329,500
One-Year Difference: -2%

For the price of a J.P. condo, buyers can afford a house in nearby Rozzie. Young families snap up small Colonials and Capes (starting in the $300,000s), then load up their calendars: concerts at Adams Park, strolls in the Arnold Arboretum, and trips to the farmers’ market, the neighborhood’s see-and-socialize outdoor emporium. Where you should be looking: Roslindale Village has shops, restaurants, and the commuter rail, too, which will take you to more of the same in the heart of Boston. But don’t discount the Peters Hill neighborhood, adjacent to the Arboretum — a city address with bucolic charm.

MELROSE
Median Home Price: $405,000
One-Year Difference: +7%

In recent years Melrose has transformed from a townie sleeper to a suburban haven for ex-urbanites. Credit goes to Mayor Robert Dolan, the native son who has supported independent boutiques downtown, worked to improve schools, and hosted summertime mixers he calls “slush nights,” during which Richie’s restaurant serves takeout on neighborhood playgrounds. The real estate market has responded in kind. Houses zip off the market — 74 days on average in 2010. Where you should be looking: Restoration junkies opt for rambling Victorians in the highlands, which feature Queen Anne architectural swag, while those who love the tree-lined neighborhoods of John Hughes flicks opt for the flat east-side streets near Bellevue Country Club. (It’s like buying in Winchester, but 30 percent cheaper.)

MARSHFIELD
Median Home Price: $367,000
One-Year Difference: +11%

For another M-town value, try this South Shore enclave, which sits on a massive stretch of coastline below Scituate. In the $300,000 range, you’ll get a three-bedroom in move-in condition, says SeaSide Homes owner and broker Carol Keough. And you’ll get a town that’s sweet in spirit: This is where comedian Steve Carell saved the general store. Locals love the five beaches (sugar-sanded Green Harbor is the best), the turkey sandwiches at Gerard Farm, and the Boys and Girls Club, which will move into a new $3 million facility in 2012 thanks to community donations. Where you should be looking: Homes on side streets off Webster Avenue on the Brant Rock peninsula. They’re affordable — in the mid-to-low $300,000s — and still within walking distance of the beach and restaurants.

  • Carole

    My husband and I were the original developers of Tall Pines, Sudbury. Thank you for recognizing this fabulous neighborhood. Carole Daniels,VP Coldwell Banker

  • Carole

    My husband and I were the original developers of Tall Pines, Sudbury. Thank you for recognizing this fabulous neighborhood. Carole Daniels,VP Coldwell Banker

  • Bob

    You capture the essence of Hingham but there’s a lot more here. A great place to buy a home.

  • Mike

    “Since 2002 the median home price has risen $20,000, or 7 percent.” Lipstick on a pig – that’s a 0.75% compound annual rate in 9 years. Stick your money in a CD.

  • marilyn

    I was surprised that Lynnfield was not listed in your report. Its a great little town just north of Boston. It has much to offer.

  • Mary

    As always a whole segment was forgotten. What about those of us who are established singles or couples without kids. We aren’t interested in the school system and can get more bang for our buck because of it. If you don’t want to have a bunch of kids then you never get included in any of these articles.

  • Mary

    As always a whole segment was forgotten. What about those of us who are established singles or couples without kids. We aren’t interested in the school system and can get more bang for our buck because of it. If you don’t want to have a bunch of kids then you never get included in any of these articles.

  • Joe

    Tall Pines in Sudbury is a nice neighborhood in a great town, but a new house hasn’t been built there in years. Also, Atkinson Lane is not in North Sudbury. Fact checking is important if Boston Magazine wants to be taken seriously.

  • maggie

    That home looks might familiar. I doubt it would sell for as little as $660,000. Very misleading, perhaps a mistake via layout.

  • Felisha

    I’m twenty and just going to graduate from my university. I want to get my first apartment in Boston, I’ve been wanting to move to the East Coast. I am from California, and I’m single and love the city. What areas in Boston should I look into?

  • gerhard

    you should stay in California…

  • George

    A recent ASPS survey asked mothers, if cost were not an issue, would you consider a “mommy makeover?”62% of Mothers Would Consider Plastic Surgery

  • d.

    Starting out, you’re saying Marshfield is the best place to live? Out of all of the fabulous towns in the Boston Metro. Or Roslindale? Fenway? Why not suggest actual good neighborhoods in Boston that are affordable and up and coming. We recently bought a house in East Somerville near the Charlestown line for a fraction of what your article is stating as the expected amounts for a condo to pay. You’re called Boston.com, not Bostonsuburbs.com, and not all of your readers aspire to live in the suburbs. If I followed your lead and bought in the Fenway area, I’d move out of Boston as a next stop.

  • Bob

    who came up with Marshfield as a great place to live? If I was going to pick a suburb south of Boston, I would pick Duxbury, Norwell, Hingham or Hanover anyday over Marshfield! Marshfield is kind of dumpy.

  • FLAmoveGuide

    This may all be true but how do these places compare to other areas? In Florida you can buy the same kind of place for half or less and live free for many years on the difference. Best asset protection state in US, no state income tax, etc.

  • Finneas

    Melrose is nothing like moving to Winchester. The schools are in freefall, and if you talk to families living there, they are either moving or scraping money together for private school. Their MCAS scores stink, their High School is on warning status, and they were cited for ELL and SPED issues in their last review. Maybe if you are older without kids…