A Guide to Boston’s Hottest Suburbs: Ashby
Thinking of moving outside the city? Here's what you need to know about Ashby, 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 to towns you may have heard of, but never considered as a home before now.
This month, we’re looking at Ashby. You might say “Ash-where?” This town on the New Hampshire border is one of the smallest population-wise in Middlesex County, with barely 3,000 people living there. Yet data shows it’s benefitted most from the housing market boom here in Massachusetts: The median home price here went up 25 percent between 2020 and 2021. What exactly is drawing people out here? “A lot of folks seem to prefer the additional land space,” says JoAnne Hamburg, a licensed agent and broker with Real Estate Exchange who’s been selling in the area since 1985. “It’s really been a great draw for folks, just the whole country atmosphere.” And you’ll be paying a fraction of the cost you would in the rest of the state with the average sale price of a single-family home nearly half of what it is in Greater Boston. Intrigued? Read on to learn more about this little town that’s making a big splash.
Average listing single-family home price: $404,311
Average sold single-family home price: $420,220
Median listing condo price: Not applicable
Median sold condo price: Not applicable
Source: MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) via Massachusetts Association of Realtors, June 2021-June 2022
Average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment: Not applicable
What Your Money Gets You:
89 Whitney Rd., Ashby
Size: 2,375 square feet
Bathrooms: 3 full
For more information, contact Keishla Quiles, Fermin Group/Century 21 Northeast, thefermingroup.com.
Drive: If you’re still commuting to the city regularly, be prepared for a longer drive if you move here. Ashby is about 60 miles from downtown Boston, which translates to about a 90-minute commute, depending on traffic. But road warriors will have their pick of routes to get downtown: MA-2 East, MA-119 East, and US-3 South.
Public transit: While Ashby doesn’t have its own commuter rail stop, you can take a quick 15-minute drive down the road to the Fitchburg Train Station. From there, it’s a 90-minute train ride to North Station.
Average commute time: 34.9 minutes
Source: US census data
Walkability: 33 – Ashby is a small town, but you’ll still need a car to get around most of the time. Luckily, you can get your steps in with a walk through the local forest.
Listen: Ashby is small. So expect the same from its downtown, Hamburg says. Their business district has a more “quaint country” than “suburban” feel with a café/tavern, a town common, the town’s public library, and a few small shops all within a short walk of each other. But you’ll enjoy a more unusual offering of local businesses than you might find elsewhere, like a local yarn shop and small hardware store.
Weighing the Pros and Cons:
Again: Ashby is small. This means there’s not as many box stores, according to Hamburg, so make sure you’re OK driving up to nearby Nashua for your name brands. If you can’t live without your daily Starbucks run or a Trader Joe’s nearby, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
But the tradeoff is you get to enjoy more small businesses (like the aforementioned Ashby Market and Hardware, a nice companion to the local architectural salvage store Old House and Landscape). Plus, you get a whole lot more of the great outdoors. Not only is Ashby near New Hampshire (the White Mountains would be at your fingertips), it has its own array of natural offerings, offering Mountain State appeal without actually having to move there. A state forest awaits you here with waterfalls and hiking trails sprinkled throughout and local mountains nearby for the more adventurous. “There’s so many great outdoor activities you can do to get back to nature,” Hamburg says.
To see exactly what is bringing people to Ashby, Hamburg recommends visiting Willard Brook State Forest. Its 2,597 acres spread across Townsend and Ashby. While the forest accommodates activities from any time of year (up for a little winter snowmobiling, anyone?), if you’re heading there this summer, you can enjoy some hiking and camping there.
Like many Massachusetts towns, Ashby has a history dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War days and has a rich agricultural history. It was once known for the number of apple, tree, and horse farms, according to the Sentinel and Enterprise. Some of these farms are still present in town today.