Best Places to Live
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.