Best Places to Live 2014: You Belong Here

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Photographs by Steve Dunwell, Diane Anton, Frank Byrne

Sordid tales of crammed open houses, mythical cash buyers, and ferocious bidding wars abounded in 2013. In many coveted areas, these factors have inflated prices and turned house hunting into a blood sport that rewards the ruthless and the lucky.

If you’re neither, take heart.

Peter Ruffini, 2014 president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, points out that those frenzied bidding wars remain the exception, not the rule—particularly deeper into the suburbs. For the most part, “buyers aren’t willing to overpay, and appraisals keep things in check,” he says. “The highest offer isn’t always the best offer; it’s about putting together the most solid deal altogether.”

That’s where we come in. We’ve crunched the numbers, consulted the experts, and scoured more than 150 neighborhoods and towns in and around Boston to find the best places for buyers at various life stages. Then we’ve broken down how to assemble a Teflon offer that will make your bid stand out from the fray in a tight market. Finally, because things don’t always unfold according to plan (especially in this era), we’ve compiled a list of up-and-coming alternative hamlets. You might just discover some unheralded gems.

And while prowling for that dream abode, remember that mortgage rates remain at historic lows (about 4.3 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage at press time). Meanwhile, as the recession fades further from view and economic confidence grows, agents predict that more people will list their homes and inventory will expand.

This means greater selection for you, eager buyer. So whether you’re looking for a starter home, an urban lair, or a pastoral palace, prepare to seize the moment.

How does your town stack up against the rest?

Real Estate Chart: Single-Family Home Prices in Greater Boston
Real Estate Chart: Condo Prices in Greater Boston

best places to live boston 1 starting out

Starting Out

Didn’t snap up a home during the recession, when mortgage rates were in the threes? Don’t despair: They’re still historically low, at less than 5 percent. If you’re tired of brokering fridge space with a persnickety roommate, it’s time to get in the game.

best places to live boston 2 power couple

Power Couple

Ever the intriguing paradox, you crave a swanky refuge close to the action, yet also long for a respite from the social whirl. These areas offer regal, entertaining-friendly abodes with proximity to shopping and dining—while still managing to feel a world away.

best places to live boston 3 moving up

Moving Up

Considering kiddos but fear sharing office space with a changing table? Longing for a bigger lawn to mow, a spacious en suite, and maybe even a two-car garage? If so, it’s time to trade up. These towns provide solid value, a strong community vibe, and good schools. (The commute’s not bad, either.)

best places to live boston 4 growing family

Growing Family

The kids need a dedicated playroom. You need a big kitchen—and you’ve earned that master suite with the fireplace and walk-in closet. These towns offer sizable lots, superb services, and unique architecture.

best places to live boston 5 empty nester

Empty Nester

At long last, liberty! You’ve shed that pesky job, your final freeloader has been kicked to the curb, and time is yours to savor. Schools aren’t a factor and commute time doesn’t matter, but a waterfront view sure would be nice.

— Plus —

How to Win a Bidding War  |  Embracing Your Plan B

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