Best Places to Live 2009

Our annual guide to Hub real estate spotlights the lucky towns emerging from the market crash with their values intact. Plus: The smart buys for those still shopping, and sanity-saving tips for those staying put.

Five Case Studies

We analyzed the current values for specific single-family homes or condos in Cambridge, Wellesley, Allston, Scituate, and the North Shore.


THEN: In 2005, this single-family five-bedroom sold for $2 million.
NOW: In 2008, it resold for $2.4 million.
CHANGE: +20%

Big employers Harvard and MIT provide a steady supply of well-paid and devoted Cantabrigians, keeping values high in the People’s Republic. With 3,500 square feet of living space, this sprawling five-bedroom home in North Cambridge sold for $400,000 more in April 2008 than at the market’s peak, showing that “recession” is a loosely defined concept around these parts.


THEN: In 2005, a 3,195-square-foot home at 16 Alden Rd. sold for $1.75 million.
NOW: In 2008, a 3,150-square-foot home at 25 Allen Rd. sold for $2.33 million.
CHANGE: +32.9%

Some real estate agents attribute Wellesley’s resiliency since the broader market peak to a disproportionate share of high-end sales in recent years. And in some cases, “resiliency” is an understatement. We found two comparable homes—just around the corner from each other in the sought-after neighborhood near the Wellesley Country Club—that show values increasing by almost a third since the 2005 peak.


THEN: In 2005, this two-bedroom unit in Allston sold for $340,000.
NOW: In 2008, it resold for $320,000.
CHANGE: -5.9%

A 6 percent drop in price over a three-year period used to seem precipitous, but not in the post-crash market, which renders a $20,000 decrease (since market peak) as “holding steady.”


THEN: In 2005, a 3,250-square-foot home at 23 Beech Tree Farm Ln. in Scituate sold for $935,000.
NOW: In 2008, a 3,626-square-foot home at 26 Beech Tree Farm Ln. in Scituate sold for $785,000.
CHANGE: -16%

The South Shore is more competitive with its north-of-Boston neighbors thanks to the new Greenbush commuter rail, which has made Scituate one of the last great suburban bargains within commuting distance of Boston. These neighboring properties prove that you can find a sweet deal if you’re able to strike while the iron is hot.


THEN: In 2005, a 3,284-square-foot home at 18 Cedar St. in Wenham sold for $815,000.
NOW: In 2008, a 3,540-square-foot home at 36 Howard St. in Hamilton sold for $585,000.
CHANGE: -28.2%

The kid sisters to stately Manchester-by-the-Sea, Wenham and Hamilton have seen significant discounting since the housing bubble burst. By waiting until May 2008, house hunters spent $230,000 less on this Howard Street four-bedroom than buyers of a comparable property did in 2005—and got almost 300 additional square feet in the bargain.