A Guide to Boston’s Hottest Suburbs: Acton

Thinking of moving outside the city? Here's what you need to know about Acton, which is gaining in popularity in today's housing market.

Acton Arboretum photo by menapia via Flickr/Creative Commons

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 to towns you may have heard of, but never considered as a home before now.

This month, we’re looking at Acton. This town northwest of Boston got its start as farming land for its more notable historic counterpart, Concord, back in the day (at least according to the Acton Historical Society), before becoming a town in its own right. For a while, realtors found people overlooked Acton in favor of Concord, despite all that the former community offered—that is, until COVID home pricing hit. Then Acton, once a steady attraction, turned into a full-on hot spot. Now? Good luck finding a home for six figures in this pastoral community. Intrigued? Here’s what you need to know before househunting there.

The Costs:

Median listing home price: $862,500


Median sold home price: $811,000
Median sold condo price: $306,000

Source: Massachusetts Association of Realtors, March 2022

Average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $2,365

Source: Zumper

What Your Money Gets You:

Photo by Madore Photography.

186 Central St., Acton
Price: $599,900
Size: 2,150 square feet
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2 full

The Commute:

Drive: The drive to downtown Boston from Acton can take anywhere from just over an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes during rush hour.

Public transit: The Fitchburg commuter rail line has a station in South Acton, as well as ones in nearby Concord and Littleton that’ll get you back home in an hour or less.

Average commute time: 36.3 minutes

Source: US census data

Walkability: 33 – Acton is considered a car-dependent community, so you’ll need a set of wheels to get around town. However, the town does have some bike infrastructure, if you prefer two wheels over a four-wheel vehicle.


Downtown Life:

Unlike its Concord and Lexington counterparts, Acton has more of an “old downtown” feel, according to Coldwell Banker realtor Laura Baliestiero, who’s been selling there for more than 25 years. Rather than hipster coffee shops and shops selling small-batch homemade ice cream, you’ll find historic buildings and the town hall. But head over to West Acton for more of a yoga studios and artisanal restaurants vibe.

Weighing the Pros and Cons:

If anyone has a bad word to say about Acton (perhaps besides its lack of downtown), Baliestiero hasn’t heard it. “What people really like about this community is the diversity,” she says. “There’s people of all walks of life.” The town’s s high quality schools and abundant shopping also check the boxes for some, but the bigger draw is also the town’s plentiful conservation land (over 1,700 acres).

Of course, all these are pros for you if you can even get into town: Home listings there are scant these days (as they are everywhere), and beyond that, Baliestiero says most of the listings she sees now are going for over $1 million.

Local Secrets:

Got a theatrical side? Then you’ll be pleased to know Acton has a thriving local theater scene, according to Baliestiero, many of which have recently reopened after shutting off their lights because of COVID. Check out a show from Theater III, a nonprofit organization that puts on several shows a year, or the Open Door Theater’s annual musical production. There’s also the Acton Cooperative Theater for the budding thespian in your life.

Fun Facts:

Acton residents are quite proud of their town’s role in the Revolutionary War. The town marks Crown Resistance Day on October 3, the day in 1774 when the citizens of the town sent a list of grievances to King George III, leading to minutemen enlisting to begin the war.