Best Places to Live North of Boston

From starting out in Swampscott to moving up in Melrose, here's where to buy north of the city.
north suburbs boston winchester

Stroll around Winchester’s charming town center. / Photograph by Jed Sheehan

Top of Its Class: Home values rose by 12% in Winchester from 2015 to 2016, but the bigger news was the new high school.

north suburbs boston winchester chart

Plenty of land, gorgeous beaches, good schools: There’s lots to love north of Boston. And there’s no need to head too far up 95 for excellent buys, either. Read on for nearby gems with interesting housing stock and fair prices, plus a school renovation in one of the area’s most coveted towns.

STARTING OUT

Swampscott

Median Single-Family Price: $481,750
Median Condo Price: $255,000

Want to be close to the city on weekdays and even closer to your beach chair on weekends? Check out the bargains in Governor Charlie Baker’s town, where it’s still affordable to live the coastal lifestyle. “I think Swampscott is the best-kept secret in the world,” says Susan Sinrich, of the Jack Conway real estate company, noting the 22-minute train ride from Boston. Plus, odds are good you’ll turn a profit if you choose to sell down the road: Median single-family prices have increased by 35 percent over five years. Sinrich often recommends that first-time buyers look at the quaint Colonial homes in the Olmsted district; you’ll find bigger houses (and prime oceanfront views) along Puritan Road.

GOING BIG

Winchester

Median Single-Family Price: $1,062,500
Median Condo Price: $522,000

When it comes to real estate, it’s all about location, location, location—and, if you have teens, a kickass high school. Not only was Winchester’s ranked 10th on Boston’s 2016 top high schools list, but this year it’s wrapping up a renovation that will modernize and expand the facility for a growing population. It’s no surprise, then, that home prices in this idyllic area have shot up by 48 percent over the past five years. For larger, older homes, Carolyn Sheehan, part of the Sheehan Team at RE/MAX Leading Edge, suggests exploring the wide avenues of the Flats (really, they look like something out of a John Hughes movie); for shiny new digs, look on the western side along Aquinas Path.

MOVING UP

Melrose

Median Single-Family Price: $552,000
Median Condo Price: $385,000

Realtors steer clients here once they’ve had it with pricier listings in towns like Arlington and Lexington. And there’s plenty to recommend Melrose, from its woodsy location adjacent to the Middlesex Fells Reservation to its family-friendly mix of housing stock. Buyers who want unique architecture and more space should check out the Queen Annes and Tudors along Bellevue Avenue; those with more-modest tastes can find deals on Capes in the neighborhoods off Main Street heading toward Wakefield. And while traffic wending toward 93 or Route 1 can get congested, there are three commuter-rail stops in town for weekday warriors, plus a T stop at nearby Oak Grove.

DOWNSIZING

Salem

Median Single-Family Price: $365,000
Median Condo Price: $275,000

Condos are the draw here: 434 were sold last year, nearly twice the number of single-family homes. “I get a lot of clients who might have had a larger house in, say, Topsfield, and they want to downsize and be able to walk places,” says Coldwell Banker’s Sarah Myles-Lennox, who often suggests seeking out properties in the Chestnut Street area, known for its Federalist architecture, as well as waterfront offerings in Salem Neck. Situated on the northeast side of town, the peninsula is not far from Salem Willows Park, a stretch of funky cottages, arcades, and seafood shacks perfect for the grandkids. And on rainy days? The Peabody Essex Museum is free for town residents.

 


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