Top Places to Live 2021
Your guide to the best places to settle down in the city, the 'burbs and beyond.
If You Already Want to Move Back to the City
Median Condo Price: $1,160,000
One-Year Change: -3%
Is the Back Bay ever not in demand? Certainly not according to neighborhood real estate experts, who say inventory remains tight during the pandemic. “Even in COVID, it’s continued to be a top choice, because it’s low-density living,” notes MGS Group Real Estate founder Maggie Gold Seelig, pointing to the area’s century-plus-old brownstones. Those who prefer luxury condos, of course, also have plenty of options, from the Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons One Dalton to the new Raffles Back Bay Hotel and Residences, slated to open in 2022. Find something now and you’ll be glad you did: After all, “Buying real estate in the Back Bay is like buying a blue-chip stock—your asset will always hold or appreciate in value,” says Compass broker Jeannemarie Conley.
Median Condo Price: $619,500
One-Year Change: -11%
Always one of the city’s liveliest (and most delicious) neighborhoods, the North End got an upgrade last summer when European-style “café zones” transformed Hanover Street’s parking spots into a sea of patio umbrellas. That, coupled with the restaurants and Night Shift Brewery at the new Hub on Causeway, means you’ll never go hungry if you buy here. The dining scene isn’t the only reason to start your search in the North End: Sale prices dropped 11 percent in 2020, which should make finding your dream pad a little easier. “My prediction is that buyers will continue to see opportunities in the North End and take advantage of it,” says local agent Eve Dougherty, of Compass’s Ace Team.
Median Condo price: $775,250
One-Year Change: -4%
The Green Line Extension is (finally!) nearing completion, the absolutely massive Cambridge Crossing development is starting to come online, and there’s never been a more exciting time to get into this currently under-construction neighborhood before it positively explodes. Of course, the area isn’t all shiny and new: There’s plenty of old-school charm to be found as well. “It’s a true urban experience with a neighborhood feel,” explains Coldwell Banker agent Gail Roberts, of Gail Roberts, Ed Feijo & Team, who says that in addition to the recently opened Cambridge Valente Library, “Cambridge Street is loaded with shops and restaurants (when they come back), great fish markets, and Mayflower Poultry.”
Median Condo Price: $452,500
One-Year Change: 8%
Pining for that spare office/guest room—within city limits? Roxbury may be the place to find it: Prices for single-family homes, notes Curtis Howe Jr., of Howe Realty Group, fell in 2020. But he doesn’t expect the deals to last forever: “Look for single-families to rise again in value, with a continued upward trend expected for both condos and multifamilies.” For condo buyers, there’s no shortage of exciting new residential developments in the works, including several in Nubian Square, where a parking lot is slated to become a mixed-use complex complete with a food hall, theater, and marketplace supporting local makers.
If You Never Have to Work in the City Again
Median Single-Family Price: $559,000
One-Year Change: 19%
There’s no question: The Cape is hot right now, with historically low inventory, record sale prices, and skyrocketing demand from out-of-towners driving bidding wars the likes of which Bernie Klotz, of Kinlin Grover BK Real Estate, had never seen in his 41 years working in the area. Yet it still offers a relative bargain for suburbanites. “They sell for $2 million, and they can buy a house down here that’s similar to theirs for $800, $900,000,” Klotz says. The town of Falmouth, in particular, has emerged as a top choice thanks to plenty of beaches, shops, and restaurants; ferry service to the Vineyard; and varied housing stock. “It has a small-town feel with large town/city amenities,” says Falmouth-based Tara Franklin, of William Raveis’s Team Franklin. “And if the commuter rail comes to Bourne, it will be even more popular.”
Median Single-Family Price: $525,000
One-Year Change: 14%
Ready to join the mass exodus of Bay Staters looking to make Vacationland their new home? This seaside town just 70 miles outside of Boston may be the place to do it. “We actually joke that there are more people from Massachusetts that live in York than people who were born here,” says Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty’s Kerry Flynn, a Massachusetts transplant herself. While York has always been popular among those looking for a beach house, this year has brought an influx of remote workers looking to relocate full time, leading to a competitive real estate market. Still, there are some deals to be had, especially if you don’t mind a fixer-upper, as well as several upcoming condo complexes and single-family-home subdivisions. “We have so much to offer in town,” Flynn notes. “The pace of life is just a little more relaxed.”
Median Single-Family Price: $750,500
One-Year Change: 5%
Now may be the perfect time to dive into the housing market in this North Shore community—at least according to Kevin Fruh, of Fruh Realty, who notes that the coastal city, which already has a shop-and-restaurant-packed downtown, still has prime waterfront land that will eventually be developed in private/public partnership. “That will be when this place turns into a Nantucket and the prices will become unattainable for more and more people,” he says. For now, though, it’s still possible to find a fixer-upper with sweat equity in the North End neighborhood; the South End, meanwhile, is white hot, Fruh notes, thanks to its “village vibe.”
Median Single-Family Price: $480,000
One-Year Change: 42%
This Berkshires town might be 150 miles outside of Boston, but it doesn’t feel anything like the boonies thanks to the cute, walkable Main Street with trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and eclectic boutiques. And that’s to say nothing of the opportunities for outdoor adventures just beyond your front door: The town “has fresh air, plenty of it, with areas to bike, hike, downhill ski, cross-country ski, and snowshoe,” says broker Maureen White Kirkby, of Great Barrington–based Barnbrook Realty. As for a place to kick off those hiking boots every day? Kirkby points to several communities of spacious contemporary single-families under $750,000 as well as a new condo development downtown—complete with an organic supermarket on the first floor—starting at around $360,000. “The value cannot be beat,” she says.
If You’re Still Looking for a Place in the ’Burbs
Median Single-Family Price: $882,500
One-Year Change: 11%
How’s this for a little extra green space? The minimum lot size in Sherborn is one acre, meaning you won’t find any home in town without plenty of yard for the kids and pets—not to mention the adults—to roam. “It feels like Vermont but it’s only 2 miles to the Natick commuter rail and 4 miles to downtown Wellesley,” says Compass agent (and Sherborn resident) Laura Mastrobuono. The area, she notes, attracts both equestrians looking for acres of land and families, who can snag a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home in a neighborhood setting for around $850,000—much less than some surrounding communities. And given the top-performing public schools and miles of hiking trails, “It’s MetroWest’s best-kept secret,” she adds.
Median Single-Family Price: $729,100
One-Year Change: 12%
Beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, relatively affordable home prices, and a charming downtown, all within 7 miles of Boston? It’s no wonder Melrose was ranked the fourth-hottest ZIP code in the country in 2020 by Realtor.com. The city “attracts young couples and families with young children looking to move to the suburbs,” says local agent Zehra Behremovic, of Brad Hutchinson Real Estate, who notes that buyers can choose from a mix of historical Victorians, Capes, and Colonials. Those searching for urban living in the suburbs, meanwhile, will be pleased to find several freshly built condo complexes on Greenleaf Place and Essex Street. Bonus points for easy access to Middlesex Fells Reservation.
Median Single-FamilyPrice: $350,000
One-Year Change: 11%
Where in Greater Boston can you still find a three-bedroom single-family with plenty of green space in the mid-300s? Brockton, that’s where. “It’s always been a numbers game in real estate, and the numbers work beautifully in Brockton,” says Adelino Vicente, founder of Vicente Realty and a lifelong resident himself. Affordable prices aren’t the only reason to settle here, of course: Brockton itself is in the midst of a renaissance, with hundreds of new apartments steps from the commuter rail popping up downtown and plans for amenities like coffee shops and restaurants in the works. “This is just the beginning,” Vicente says.
Median Single-Family Price: $1,375,000
One-Year Change: 15%
To snag one of this town’s beautifully preserved midcentury-modern homes or 1800s-era Colonials, you’ll have to be patient, says Coldwell Banker’s Susan Law, of Team Law/Bradlee—especially now, as limited inventory gets even more squeezed thanks to urbanites looking to take advantage of the area’s many outdoor pursuits (40 percent of the town’s land is held as open space) and top-rated schools. “It’s not overpopulated; it’s not built up. The people who are buying here treasure that,” Law says. Once you do find the perfect spot to call home, you’ll have neighbors who care deeply about the community. “It’s really amazing to me to see how many people are active and involved…to make things work for the town, not just for themselves.”
Related: Has COVID Mover’s Remorse Already Set in?
More: Single-Family Homes Chart
Plus: Condo Chart