A Guide to Boston’s Hottest Suburbs: Bolton
Thinking of moving outside the city? Here's what you need to know about Bolton, which is gaining in popularity in today's housing market.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that buying a home in the greater Boston area is a costly endeavor (unless you live under a rock, in which case, congrats on finding an affordable home). This reality means by the time many city-dwellers are ready for home ownership, they’re looking more in the suburbs than the South End. When COVID-19 hit and everyone fled from the city to the comfort of a single-family home out in the ‘burbs (or further afield), this only drove home prices up more. Between the competitive market and the newfound ability to skip the commuter rail in favor of working from home, people are spreading further and further throughout the state, venturing into towns they’d only dream of living in (but not commuting from) before.
Alternatively, you may be looking through Zillow and filled with dread and confusion as you expand your house hunting radius further and further into affordable parts unknown. But never fear: We’re bringing you a guide each month to towns you may have heard of, but never considered as a home before now.
This month, we’re looking at Bolton. While its spelling may only be one letter off from Boston, it’s worlds away from the city. Though only a short 1.5 hours away, driving through Bolton feels like going through the set of a movie: It looks almost too pretty to be true, with its tree-lined streets, white picket fences, and classic New England Colonial houses. And while it may be closer to Worcester than Boston itself, the town is picking up steam with city workers as they spend less time in the office. Want to know why? Here’s why people are flocking to this Worcester County town.
Median listing home price: $679,000
Median sold home price: $725,000
Source: Massachusetts Association of Realtors, September 2021
Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,500
What Your Money Gets You:
576 Sugar Road
Size: 3,645 square feet
For more information, contact Sandra Naroian, Keller Williams Realty North Central, northcentral.yourkwoffice.com.
Drive: Bolton is about 45 miles from Boston. The drive between there and the city can take an hour to 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Drivers can take I-90 West or I-495 to get to the city and back.
Commuter rail: There’s no commuter rail stop in Bolton. The closest one is in Southborough on the Worcester line and is a 20-to-30-minute drive away during rush hour traffic. The train ride from there is another hour.
Average commute time: 37.3 minutes
Source: US census data
Walking score: 23 – Almost all errands require a car here.
Regardless of whether or not you’re commuting, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car if you move here. With no grocery stores in town and most shops spread out, Bolton is definitely a community where you need wheels to get around, so consider other spots if you want a place where you can walk to get your morning coffee.
Sharon Mandell, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker who’s lived in Bolton 33 years, said Bolton doesn’t have a traditional downtown area like you might find in other towns. “We don’t have much of a downtown,” Mandell says. “So maybe in that respect, (the town) is a little too sleepy for some people.”
What Bolton does offer is a small central area where there’s a park, a library, a coffee shop, and some other small businesses all within walking distance. And there are cute shops interspersed throughout the town such as a quilting store and some antique shops.
Weighing the Pros and Cons:
If you want small town life, without the suffocation that can come with everyone knowing everyone, head to Bolton. With a population of a little over 5,000, Bolton is definitely tiny, but it’s big on heart. Mandell says the town welcomes people from all walks of life, from farmers to tech workers, and offers plenty of opportunities to get involved, whether it be helping with the town conservation land or volunteering in the esteemed school system. And people do love to get involved. “It’s really great that way,” Mandell says. “There’s not a lot of (keeping up) with the Joneses. There’s a supportive community.”
And while the town has a bit of a “country feel,” Mandell says having the dining and entertainment of Worcester and Boston nearby adds the touch of sophistication many people want while being able to come home to a quiet neighborhood. But if you’re one of the few still heading back into the office every day, Bolton may not be for you. Mandell says the town can be a bit of a haul if you’re driving into Boston five days a week for work. And the market here is competitive right now, thanks to low housing inventory. If you’re committed to moving here, you might need to wait it out a bit to find any home, never mind the one of your dreams.
Listen to an Expert:
Bolton is a long haul to Boston, there’s no denying that. But what you get in return is a tight-knit community with plenty of hidden gems within the area, whether it be a tiny shop down 495 or a strip of historic homes dating back to the Revolutionary War located right in town.
“To me, the jewels are all the open conservation space with trails, the good schools, and the townspeople themselves,” Mandell says. “In this area, people are really genuine. I’ve always enjoyed living here. It’s the kind of place where you walk into post office and someone says ‘hi, Sharon’ or the postmaster [asks] what have you been up to.”
Bolton is known for its little shops and orchards. Pop by the Bolton Bean for a cuppa before heading to the Nashoba Valley Winery, Distillery, Brewery and Restaurant where you can enjoy apple picking, local dining, and some drinks. Craft lovers will enjoy the Quilted Crow quilt shop or a visit to one of the town’s antique shops.
Bolton is referenced in several of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories. However, the Bolton in his fictionalized universe is described as a “factory town” and is closer to Boston than the community is in actuality.