Best Places to Live
The problem with first homes, of course, is growing — or rather, outgrowing — pains. But buying to accommodate an expanding family has its benefits. Trading-uppers are generally savvier than first-timers, says Realtor Linda O’Koniewski, owner of RE/MAX Heritage in Melrose. “They know how a house actually works, and the value of things like mudrooms, storage space, and a master bath.” Brand-name towns (Wellesley, Newton, Cohasset) still command top dollar, because families love the schools. Moving into them may require a jumbo mortgage (meaning more than $417,000); these normally carry higher interest rates, but as of press time were within one percentage point of a traditional 30-year fixed rate. In other words, you may never find such favorable terms again. Moving up? Check out these great towns.
Median Home Price: $631,000
One-Year Difference: +5%
With its Derby Street Shoppes and posh but quaint downtown boutiques, its redeveloped harbor, and its restaurant scene colonized by Boston chefs, Hingham is the South Shore’s most sophisticated playground. All this development has been tasteful; historical homes still abound, and scenic Main Street winds past everything from clapboard Capes in the $600,000s to Colonial-era beauties at $1 million-plus. Where you should be looking: Growing families favor the Liberty Pole neighborhood; near South Elementary, it’s a maze of child-friendly culs-de-sac and wide yards with easy access to Route 3. Dedicated “Polers” love the street hockey, pickup Wiffle ball, and crab-apple fights.
Median Home Price: $619,600
One-Year Difference: +7%
If you find bigger to be better, Sudbury is overflowing with large, new homes — that just happen to be selling at discounts. For example, $1 million might fetch you a 6,300-square-foot, 18-room spread with nine parking spaces. (It’s 60 Atkinson Lane in North Sudbury, if you’re interested.) Because of an overbuilt luxury market, prices have dropped roughly 20 percent here since the 2005 peak. The deals won’t last forever, though. The town has rustic charm, powerhouse schools, and a handful of good restaurants. Where you should be looking: Tall Pines, which is off Horse Pond Road in South Sudbury. It’s the best neighborhood for top-notch, new-construction homes at a steal.
Median Home Price: $519,500
One-Year Difference: +6%
Look here for “that small-town American experience,” says Kathleen Buckley, owner of Star Realty and Hopkinton resident. With prosperous neighborhoods, good schools, and half-century-old grocery and drug stores, Hopkinton is indeed a Rockwellian throwback that seems farther removed from city life than the 26 miles that separate the town — the start of the marathon — from Boston. ] Where you should be looking: Because of overconstruction in the past decade, a fully loaded house — four-plus bedrooms, three-plus baths on an acre-plus lot — now goes for around $700,000 in neighborhoods like Blueberry Lane, coveted for its proximity to the town center and schools.
Median Home Price: $507,000
One-Year Difference: +9%
It’s a common summer sight: young Headers setting out in white dinghies from the Pleon, the 124-year-old kiddie yacht club. Marblehead’s other charms are equally storybook: clapboard homes downtown the shades of Jordan almonds; a summer sleep-away camp hosted on Children’s Island, one of half a dozen islands off Marblehead’s coast. Where you should be looking: Buyers willing to part with millions should pounce on anything in Marblehead Neck, Clifton, and Peach’s Point, which have stunning water views and large lots, a rarity in town. But slightly smaller lots, and lower prices (just under $1 million), can be found in the “Cliffs” area — Pinecliff, Driftwood, and Shorewood roads — a wooded stretch close to conservation land and playing fields.