Best Places to Live 2013: Going Huge

You're the broker's white whale—the all-cash buyer intent on a prestige address. Lucky you! But with great resources comes great responsibility…like figuring which swanky town to call home.


North Shore leisure and luxury.
Median home price: $692,500
One-year change: -11.3%


By the sea in Manchester-by-the-Sea. (Photo by Sam Gray)

Last year’s looming “fiscal cliff” and the prospect of an increased capital gains tax prompted many in the tiptop tax bracket to plow their fortunes into real estate. In Manchester-by-the-Sea, they found a safe haven—for their cash and their cabin cruisers. Here, eight figures buys a seaside manse with straight-line views down to the yachts and schooners moored in Manchester’s well-protected deep-water harbor (the best in the state for larger crafts). Private beach access is a must at this price point, as is a spic-and-span property (no one is looking for fixer-uppers). Lately, open layouts with first-floor master suites have become the thing, as forward-thinking buyers realize they won’t always be so nimble on stairs. More high-end homes should hit the market this spring as prices, which are projected to increase, entice waffling homeowners to list their estates.

67.1: Percent of open space, forest, or wetlands in town.


It’s not just for I-bankers anymore.
Median home price: $1,250,000
One-year change: +8.7%


Weston chic. (Brian Vanden Brink)

Weston has a new suitor. Once the ZIP code of choice for the investment-banking crowd, this MetroWest suburb is now pulling in young families with tech fortunes to burn. They come for the privacy, open space, tight-knit community, and excellent schools—Mandarin classes start in middle school, and the high school’s brand-new science wing, including state-of-the-art labs and an indoor/outdoor greenhouse, opened last September. Since many of the newcomers are two-earner households, they have no interest in overseeing huge renovation projects. (Estate spec-home construction, on the other hand, is all the rage.) The most desirable addresses are situated within the Weston Roads Trust, a series of private ways that snakes around Weston Golf Club but has quick access to the Pike.

3.26: Average number of vehicles per household.


Boston’s toniest neighborhood shines in a new gilded age.
Median home price: $1,950,000
One-year change: +1.0%

beacon hill

A stately home in Beacon Hill. (Photo by Bruce T. Martin Photography)

Not long ago, Beacon Hill’s magnificent 19th-century brownstones were being sliced up willy-nilly into condos and rentals. Today, moneyed buyers are restoring these grand properties to their original use as opulent single-family residences. The most spectacular five-story renovations feature open floor plans, retrofitted elevators, garage parking, and rooftop outdoor space. In short, no perk is too pricey or precious for these gaslit, cobblestone streets. Residents get spoiled with the best of both worlds—plenty of space, like in the suburbs, and swift access to the city’s goods and services. And look for buying opportunities this spring, when several nonprofit organizations with deeds to choice properties on the Hill cash out, adding a handful of gut-ready buildings to the shallow pool of available listings.

5: Number of stories in most townhomes.


A sunny seaside hamlet for nautical-history buffs.
Median home price: $650,000
One-year change: +4.0%

Hingham beckons high-end buyers who crave antique homes and have the patience and wherewithal for lengthy restoration projects. Nearly six years after the commuter rail went underground, the town center and old shipyard hum with vibrant street life, as pedestrians and window-shoppers shuttle between boutiques and restaurants. This long-time-coming transformation has birthed one of the most walkable communities outside of Boston (not bad for a city once known as Bare Cove). Meanwhile, Colonials and Victorians in Crow Point and World’s End, two of the more-elite neighborhoods, go for upward of $2 million, offering choice period details and sweeping views of Boston Harbor. New construction is rare here (the town is considered built out, though 57 percent is undeveloped), with the exception being the exclusive Black Rock Country Club, where developers are erecting McMansions on secluded sites overlooking the links.

85: Hingham’s walkability score.


by Dennis Lehane

dennis lehane

Photo by Ashleigh-Faye Beland

My wife and I were testing out living in California about 16 months ago, and at first she said, Everybody here is very nice, and I said, So what? Very quickly, her opinion changed. She said, Wow, nobody ever keeps their word, nobody ever means what they say. It’s maddening. And I said, That’s how far nice gets you. The thing I love the most about Boston and Brookline—and in some ways to me it’s a defining characteristic—is that Bostonians do not talk the talk but they definitely walk the walk. I saw it over and over again when my beagle, Tessa, went missing on Christmas Eve. We had these bitter-cold nights, and there were people—friends and perfect strangers—still going out to look. I don’t know what to do with that.

Dennis Lehane’s latest novel is Live By Night.


Check out all of our Best Places to Live 2013 coverage.