The Best Places to Live 2005
THE FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER
Runners-up: Billerica, Everett, Hanson, Maynard
Nestled on the outskirts of Brockton, Whitman has steadily improving schools, rising home prices, and a prime location halfway between Boston and South Shore beaches. Most importantly, its median home price is still under $300,000. North and west of the city, Billerica and Maynard offer similar profiles for a slightly higher mortgage payment. The biggest sleeper among the inner suburbs is Everett, which has recently seen school-test-score improvements exceeding those in most of its surrounding working-class cities.
THE NEW PARENT
Runners-up: Arlington, Hopkinton, Sharon
For the budget-minded: Maynard
The inner suburb of Newton has not one, but 13 villages for you to maneuver your baby stroller through. It also has a bevy of family-friendly restaurants where you can park said stroller and feel like an adult again for a few minutes. Arlington has a similar feel, but adds to the equation several daycare centers situated around town. Lower-cost Maynard, meanwhile, is absorbing an influx of young residents eager to take advantage of a walkable downtown and access to acres of conservation land.
MARRIED WITH CHILDREN
Runners-up: Harvard, Sherborn, Winchester
For the budget-minded: Chelmsford
Known to generations of children by the brontosaurus out front, Acton’s Discovery Museums are suburbia’s answer to Boston’s Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science (on a slightly smaller scale). Add to that some of the best average elementary school test scores in the state and very little crime, and this town provides the right balance of stimulation and security for your tykes. More affordable Chelmsford has shown a steady rise in its own test scores, even while its median home price has stayed at $350,000.
MARRIED WITH TEENAGERS
Winner: Dover, Sherborn ( tie )
Runners-up: Carlisle, Harvard
For the budget-minded: Tewksbury
The adjacent towns of Dover and Sherborn share a school system and a rural character with little to distract teenagers from their studies (unless you consider sheep-tipping delinquent behavior). Perhaps that’s why Dover-Sherborn Regional is always near the head of the class when it comes to MCAS scores and college acceptance rates. Tewksbury saw its own grade 10 MCAS scores rise dramatically over two years; a teen center provides after-school and summer programs.
THE EMPTY NESTER
Runners-up: Arlington, Scituate
For the budget-minded: Hull, Plymouth
Who doesn’t dream of retiring to the seashore? At the same time, those in the over-55 set need culture and restaurants to productively fill hours once taken up by carpools and Little League practice. Newburyport satisfies both requirements, with smaller apartments located near a downtown shopping and gallery scene and a commuter rail station that provides convenient service into the city. On the South Shore, Plymouth and Scituate both offer high-end housing developments close to thriving seaside villages, while the high-rises in Hull provide that closeness to the water at much lower prices.