Best Boston Neighborhoods for Young Families

Are you a young family on the prowl for your first home? Well first of all congratulations. That’s a big deal. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re doing your searching in and around Boston, Massachusetts. For that, I do apologize — seeing as how Boston continues to rank as one of the most expensive cities in America.

But there’s another ranking that might be a bit more appealing to you: Boston consistently ranks as one of the top ten cities in the United States to raise a family. So which neighborhoods stack up in that regard? And what should you be looking for as you weigh your housing options?

When looking for the right neighborhood there are a number of factors to consider.

Public schools

One thing’s for sure. Young families need to think about their children’s futures. A big part of that is the public school system. So when looking for your first house, it’s vital that you consider the state of public schools in the area.

Just outside Boston, in the city of Newton, Massachusetts, lies the West Newton neighborhood — in which reside 13,545 Massachusettans. According to Niche.com, West Newton ranks highest among all Boston-area neighborhoods for public schooling. For the youngins, that includes A.E. Angier Elementary and Cabot Elementary. For the young adults, Newton North High School ranks among the highest public schools in the region.

Downside about West Newton is that it’s not very affordable. The median home value stands at a hefty $701,758. Compare that to the National average of $178,600.

  • Runner-Up Neighborhood for Best Schooling: Oak Hill

Crime rates

What family, young or old, doesn’t want to feel safe in their own home? It may be a luxury of the middle and upper classes, who notoriously reside in areas with less crime than urban populations. Nonetheless, crime rates remain an important factor when considering what neighborhood to settle in.

The Sudbury suburb of Boston boasts one of the best grades for crime rate on Niche.com. Coming in with an A-grade for crime and safety, it’s easy to see why some 18,397 people call Sudbury home. This grade is divided into two categories: violent crime and property crime. For violent crimes, the national averages for assault and robbery are 273 and 133, respectively. In Sudbury, the average for assault is 10; for robbery, 0. For property-related crimes, the national average stands at 2,051 thefts a year. In Sudbury the number is 236.

So if you’re looking for that safe, secure suburban feel you’ll find it in Sudbury. Just make sure you’ve got a household income of around $165,745. The median home value in Sudbury? $640,700. But surprisingly rent is a bit more affordable at $569 — although that number is a little skewed because 94% of the residents in Sudbury are homeowners, not tenants. 

  • Runner-Up Neighborhood for Best Crime and Safety: Lexington

Cost of living

This is probably the biggest factor for most prospective home buyers. Young families, especially, are avoiding home owning more and more as combinations of a tight job market, student debt, and other factors push them toward renting. Nonetheless, homebuyers are out there — even with the National market still in recovery mode from the 2008 bubble collapse.

Well as we’ve already mentioned, Boston consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities to live in in America. So if you’re looking for actual affordability you might want to move to Iowa. But for those hard-headed homebuyers out there, the top choice in affordability is, again, Sudbury.

Other options include Ayer and Devens. Both of these small suburbs have relatively low median home values compared to other parts of Boston.

Final advice for young families

Rent. Save. Rent. Save. Rent. And save.

 

 

Addressing Boston’s Income Inequality

Boston is in the middle of a huge real estate boom right now. If you haven’t already, check out our main page for information on acquiring a real estate license. It’s about time you took the next step in furthering your career in realty, don’t you think? But even as the market heats up, a major problem continues to plague the city: income inequality. And we need to talk about it.

The hard truth about Boston’s income inequality

As I mentioned in my last article, Boston ranks number 1 in America for city income equality. Just to reiterate:

In 2014, households earning near the top of Boston’s income distribution made made $266,224. Conversely, households at the bottom of that distribution earned just $14,942.

Now, granted, Boston hosts one of the largest student populations of any city in the country. This is bound to impact the numbers. But the fact remains, that in Boston the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.

Studying the divide

Last year, the Brookings Institution released a study that showed these dramatic findings.

According to the study, Boston’s “95/20’’ ratio was 17.8 in 2014. In other words, an individual at the 95th percentile, bringing in $266,224 a year, earned nearly 18 times more than a person at the 20th percentile — earning $14,925.

One major effect of this inequality is a narrowing of the city’s tax base — which weakens the ability of the Bay State government to address low-income needs. On top of that, the price of goods and services for poor households inevitably rises.

So where does real estate factor in?

Another major impact of income inequality is a lack of affordable housing. As we’ve seen with the Millennium Tower, Boston real estate has a sharp focus on luxury condos, houses, and apartments for the city’s top earners. Meanwhile the city’s impoverished are being left in the dust.

Well, okay, not completely.

Committing to a better future

Thanks in large part to the city’s building boom, Boston permitted more units of affordable housing in 2015 than any other year on record, according to city Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

In 2015, the city issued building permits for 1,022 apartments and condos with rents deemed affordable to middle- and lower-income residents. In 20 years of record-keeping, this is the largest issuance to date. On top of that, the city approved another 1,443 units but have yet to receive issue building permits.

“We are committed to creating a Boston that anyone, at any income level, can afford to live in,” Walsh said in a statement.

More than half of the new apartments arose from a city policy that requires developers of new buildings to either include affordable units in their projects or fund them elsewhere in the city. That program — which the Walsh Administration revamped in December 2015 — has played a huge role in the surge in construction.

On top of that, the city collected $23 million in funds to subsidize lower-income apartments.

Clearly, Mayor Walsh and his team remain committed to tackling the problem of income inequality in the city. According to a statement released in 2016, they want to add 53,000 units citywide by 2030. If they can maintain their current pace of production, Boston will eventually hit its target of 6,500 new affordable units.

Still more work to do

But, even with the Mayor’s efforts, the situation remains far from solved. Some say it’s getting worse.

“While some are doing very well, there are still too many who are not,” said Kim Janey, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Take a look below at this map created by geographic information systems provider Esri. Each blue dot represents two households with an annual income greater than $200,000, while each yellow dot represents two households with an annual income less than $25,000.

Boston faces a steep climb towards closing the gap in household incomes. Currently the city ranks first in worst income inequality.

Peeling back the layers

Even with seeming improvements in affordable housing, further examination demonstrates some deep-seated problems. For one, unemployment rates are substantially higher for black and Latino workers and for those with disabilities.

“If you look at the people in the bottom half, especially the people in the lowest fifth, you really see that they haven’t recovered much at all,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the council, a regional planning organization that represents 101 cities and towns in the eastern part of the state.

According to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council report, the median income for black and Latino households is less than half the median income for white and Asian households. And while median incomes remained steady for white, Asian, and Latino households from five years ago, the median income declined for black households, from $45,800 to $43,600.

Moreover, the report showed that minorities, even wealthy ones, have a much harder time getting approved for mortgages than white people. An increasing share of older adults are continuing to work past age 65 and spend more than 30 percent of their income on a place to live.

“This housing cost burden issue is not only a huge social issue, it’s also a big problem for our economy,” said Draisen.

Moving forward, activists continue to try to shrink the gap in income equality. Critical to that, they say, is a 2018 ballot measure that would impose an additional tax on income over $1 million.

Millennium Tower, Boston’s Tallest Residential Building Keeps Getting Taller

With rental season in full swing, Boston finds itself in the midst of one of the city’s largest series of developments. Among these is the Millennium Tower, a sharp, shiny glass-covered monolith rising over Downtown Crossing. Considered one of the most opulent developments in city history, the Tower boasts some of the nicest digs you’ll see in the Bay State real estate market.

Filling Filene’s Hole

In 2006, Filene’s Department Store in Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA closed for good. After the company was consolidated into Macy’s, the flagship building went up for sale. Enter Vornado Realty Trust of New York. Vornado, in partnership with Gale International, bought the building and embarked upon a massive $700 million redevelopment of the Filene’s site. The redeveloped building would consist of a 39-story tower including a 280-room hotel, a 125-seat restaurant, 475,000 square feet of office space, 166 residential condos, 300,000 square feet of retail space, and an adjacent park. But then the money ran out, leaving a huge hole where Filene’s once stood.

Breaking New Ground on Millennium Tower

In 2012, Millenium Partners took over as head developers, earning city approval for 1.2 million square feet of commercial and residential space. Finally on September 17, 2013, the building officially broke ground. Seven months later, on April 26, 2014, 600 trucks convened at the Downtown Crossing site to pour 6,000 cubic yards of concrete, making it the largest pour in Boston’s history. Under the guidance of Ben Middleton of Handel Architects, construction commenced on what would be the tallest residential building in the city of Boston. As of October 2016, 97% of the building has been accounted for, either sold or under agreement.

Neighborhood in the Clouds

The city's first neighborhood in the clouds.
You might as well call it Cloud City. I hear Lando Calrissian bought a penthouse suite.

As has been noted, Millennium Tower, standing at some 690 feet (give or take) and 60 stories, is the tallest residential building in downtown Boston. Furthermore, this shimmering glass spire is home to 422 luxury condos — now owned by local residents and buyers from Asia and Europe. These condos boast unmatched views unlike any other private residence in Boston. The complex’s website calls it ‘the city’s first neighborhood in the clouds.’

Millennium Tower - One of the many fairytale views from this modern day palace in the sky.

And for good reason. Have a look for yourself. Among the building’s major amenities you’ll find customized kitchen and bathrooms courtesy of luxury designer Christopher Peacock. He will literally be working with individual residents to design the condo of their dreams. Also included in the build is the Tower’s own luxury clubhouse — called The Club. This resident’s paradise spans 23,000 square feet, rises two floors, and includes a screening room, a parlor with pool table and comfy lounge chairs, a library, pool, spa, bar, and salon. It’s a veritable xanadu — complete with everything you might need to survive a nuclear winter in serious style.

Oh. And did I mention the Tower also boasts a residential dining room manned by chef Michael Mina? Or that residents will also have access to the city’s largest residential-only fitness center? Why do you think people keep calling Millennium Tower the most anticipated residential development in Boston city history?

A City Divided

All in all, Millennium Tower will irrevocably transform Downtown Crossing into an epicenter of luxury and commerce. Not to mention, it has already spawned some of the priciest home deals the city has ever seen — such as the Grand Penthouse which sold for a ridiculous $35 Million in February 2016. Meanwhile, Boston ranks number 1 in America for city income equality.

In 2014, households earning near the top of Boston’s income distribution made made $266,224. Conversely, households at the bottom of that distribution earned just $14,942. Granted, Boston hosts one of the largest student populations in America. But nonetheless, as with many other parts of the world, the rich keep getting richer while the poor get poorer in Boston. Hence the beautiful monstrosity that is Millennium Tower.

 

 

Buying vs. Renting in Boston

With Spring in full swing, the real estate market is getting especially busy — as it tends to do this time of year. With that, it’s time to ask the age-old question: are you better off renting or buying/owning in the Boston area?

Around March through June, demand tends to shoot up as leases end and prospective home owners and renters seek new digs. Fortunately for those people, Boston is in the middle of a major building boom right now. Nonetheless renting ain’t easy in Beantown. As we speak, major projects such as that at 35 Lomasney Way, Washington Village, South Station tower, and Bulfinch Crossing are getting underway or are expected to pick up their construction pace toward scheduled openings in 2018 or shortly after. All these developments will make for a rather spicy market as the city expands its residential options. So with that, let’s have a closer look at the market so we can answer this question: Rent or own?

Rental Market Blues

For the umpteenth time, the rental market in Boston continues to be considered one of the priciest in the nation — not exactly music to the ears of apartment hunters. The latest monthly report from real estate listings site Zumper offers us a glimpse into just how much apartments cost in the city. According to Zumper, Boston ranks third in the nation behind San Francisco and New York in the cost of renting a 1-BR apartment. Fortunately for prospective renters, the $2,250 median rent for a 1-BR represents a 1.3 percent drop from February; and the $2,600 median rent for a 2-BR was essentially unchanged from February into March, rising only 0.4 percent. So in that regard, renting continues to be about as good an option as last year. Here are a few developments for potential renters.

  • Piano Craft Guild

    There are still some vacancies in this 177-unit, six-story development. One-bedrooms start at $2,500; 2-BRs at $3,300; and 3-BRs at $4,600.

    Buying vs. Renting in Boston

  • Radian

The 240-unit, four-year-old development has at least a dozen studios, 1-BRs, and 2-BRs available. Studios start at $2,646; 1-BRs at $3,187; and 2-BRs at $3,846.

Buying vs. Renting in Boston

  • AVA Theater District

This 398-unit building was the largest apartment complex to open in Boston in 2015. There are still a number of units available now. Studios start at $2,550; 1-BRs at $2,539; and 2-BRs at $3,435.

Buying vs. Renting in Boston

While these options are especially enticing, and while Boston continues to undergo a nice facelift, there’s just too much demand, too little supply, and too many potential tenants able to pay the high monthly amounts. Consensus says that renting in greater Boston is a nightmare — and it’s less due to high costs and more due to just plain scarcity. It is this scarcity that has sent Boston rents soaring, and prospective tenants running.

Buy Me a River

Still with that in mind, does it mean that it’s better to buy? Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself before going forward with purchasing your shiny new home.

  • How much is permanence worth to you? Owning a home can give you peace of mind and more control—owners can pretty much do anything they want within the four walls of their homes. Renters, however, are generally at the mercy of their landlords.
  • How confident are you that you’ll stick around? Buying a home tends to be a long term investment. This is because buyers need to cover the closing costs they might incur and the investment loss that comes with putting their savings into a down payment on a home. Plus there’s that pesky broker’s commission if you decide to sell.
  • How confident are you about your future income? Any number of things can happen to homeowners. For renters, losing a job or income only affects the remainder of a lease; whereas home-owners can face all sorts of darker troubles like foreclosure, eviction, and bad credit.

Whatever your situation, it’s important to consider the long term — buying a home requires you to look into the future and ask a potentially maddening question: where do you see yourself in ten years, twenty years, thirty years? It’s a major commitment. And beyond that, if you’re looking to buy the median-priced condo in Boston Proper, you’ll need to pay a $100,000 down payment — which is out of the question for many — and if you’re looking to settle out in the suburbs, you’ll need to have savings of up to $50,000.

Obviously, then, the answer to our question isn’t so simple. It depends a whole heck of a lot on your income, your career trajectory, your savings, your willingness to commit to a long-term investment, your ability to pay those costly monthly rents, and a whole host of other variables. Whatever direction you choose, make sure you give it as much thought and consideration as possible. Because, as we’ve demonstrated, it ain’t easy living in Boston.

 

The Most Expensive House on the Market in Boston

If you’re looking for an expensive house in or around Boston, look no further. The founder of Reebok has put his 14-acre Brookline estate on the market for $90 million.

Woodland Manor at 150 Woodland Road is situated amidst the lush green woods of the Brookline Country Club and Putterham Meadows Golf Course. Originally built andowned by Paul and Phyllis Fireman, the house was intended to be an oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston.

In attempt to fulfill this vision, the owners hired architectural designer, Shope Reno Wharton. In 2000, Wharton and their team took more than 14 acres of untamed scrub and ledge and transformed it all into a single property, complete with a breathtaking array of rolling lawns, ponds, gardens, sculpted rock outcrops and a horticultural encyclopedia of specimen plantings.

Turf walkways and pathways snake through this extraordinary environment and the winding driveway — stretching one third of a mile long — offers visitors a multi-faceted glimpse of this incredible estate.

With 8 beds, 7 bathrooms, 5 partial baths, 26,623 Sq. Ft of living space, 13.86 acres of land, and a 4 car garage, the Woodland Manor estate is built for luxury and opulence.

For example, every exterior and interior stone was individually drawn by hand with two- and three-dimensional project drawings. An extreme amount of detail was put into the customization of this house. Built in the classic colonial style, the estate includes golf course frontage, scenic views of the sprawling Massachusetts woods, and curving limestone facades. Also included in the design are extensive custom profiles of cornices, lintels, quoins, keystones, balconies, chimneys and decorative carvings.

Handling the sale of the house are Jonathan P. Radford and Deborah M. Gordon, sales associates working with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England, through the company’s luxury real estate division, Coldwell Banker Previews International.

Current owner and Reebok founder Paul Fireman said of the estate, “This has been our home for the last 16 years, and we’ve enjoyed many joyful gatherings with families and friends here. We took a significant amount of time to carefully create and design a home for day-to-day living, as well as casual and formal entertaining. It has truly served as our sanctuary and we will treasure our experiences and memories of this home.”

It has been on the market since September 2016.

A Look at the Oldest Houses in Boston

If you haven’t already discerned from previous articles, we here at GuaranteedMassRealEstateLicense.Com really like a good geography lesson. Because, let’s face it if you’re going to practice realty in the state of Massachusetts you’ve got to know at least a little something about the history of real estate. So for your knowledge and entertainment, let’s take a look at some of the state’s oldest buildings and houses, some of which date back at least a century prior to America’s declaration of independence.

  1. House of the Seven Gables
    This Salem, MA house, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, is a colonial mansion dating back to 1667. Built for Captain John Turner, the house stayed with the family for three generations. When Turner lost the family fortune, the house was acquired by the family, Ingersoll. It was during their residency that Hawthorne spent time at the house gathering inspiration for his book. Throughout its existence, inhabitants remodeled and refined the house, adding rooms, removing gables, updating it to a Georgian style. In 1908, Caroline O. Emmerton, founder of the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, purchased the house and spent two years restoring it with Boston architect Joseph Everett Chandler. During this time, the house was made to resemble Hawthorne’s depiction in his romantic novel. The house is now a non-profit museum, with an admission fee charged for tours, and an active settlement house with programs for children.

    Shown here, the House of the Seven Gables has been restored to its original glory. Tours are now offered throughout the day.
    Shown here, the House of the Seven Gables has been restored to its original glory. Tours are now offered throughout the day. There’s also a shop on the grounds for those looking to snag a souvenir.
  2. The Fairbanks House
    Located on the southwestern edge of Boston in the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, this house is the oldest surviving timber-frame house in North America. Built between 1637 and 1641 by Puritan settler Jonathan Fairebanke, the house was constructed as a farm dwelling for Fairbanke’s wife Grace Lee Smith and their family. For eight generations, the Fairbanks family occupied the house. In 1905, the house was converted into a museum. It is now a well-known Dedham attraction.
  3. The Paul Revere House
    Built in 1680 by wealthy Boston merchant Robert Howard, this original three-story house once occupied by American Patriot Paul Revere is the oldest surviving house in downtown Boston. Following the Great Fire of 1676, Howard constructed the house atop the former site of the Second Church of Boston’s parsonage. Around the middle eighteenth century, it underwent two major renovations. First, the street-facing roofline was raised to bring the house in line with the Georgian architectural style pervasive at that time. Second, a two-story lean-to was added in the ell between the two 17th-century portions of the house. Revere and his family took ownership of the house in 1770, living there periodically until 1800.
    In 1907, these renovations were undone in a restoration effort that returned the house to its original construction. In April 1908, the house became one of the earliest historic house museums in the United States. In December 2016 the Paul Revere Memorial Association opened a a sizable visitor and education center connected to the house by an elevated walkway. The education center now serves as an exhibit space for Revere’s famous Midnight Ride, as well as his work as a silversmith and industrialist after the American Revolution.

Whether you’re walking the sidewalks of Boston Harbor, roaming Harvard Yard, or exploring its various suburbs and bordering towns (including Salem), you’re sure to find a plethora of historic sites in Boston, Massachusetts. For prospective homeowners, a realtor’s knowledge of the area’s local architectural history might offer an extra appeal, giving greater context to whatever home they’re showing. These three houses are just a few of many prominent historical landmarks in and around Boston proper.

Exploring Beacon Hill: Boston, Massachusetts’ Historic Neighborhood

So you’ve just acquired your real estate license in the state of Massachusetts and now you’re looking to brush up on your knowledge of Boston’s famous neighborhoods and suburbs? Well look no further. Today we’re going to take a look at the historic Boston subdivision, Beacon Hill.

Exploring Cozy Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is a 19th-century residential neighborhood located to the north of the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden. It is by all means the exception to the apparent rule of city life: that it’s isolating and anonymous by nature. This charming enclave, home to nearly 10,000 people, is more a village than an urban environment. Here, neighbors know neighbors, residents take walks down cozy cobblestone streets, and not to mention the Hill’s commercial streets play host to a wide array of merchants and communal events and activities.

Here are just a few things that make Beacon Hill one of the most appealing areas in downtown Boston:

  1. Charles Street and Cambridge Street
    These two streets make up Beacon Hill’s main commercial thoroughfares. Charles, specifically, is the neighborhood’s main street. It is known for its 40 unique antique shops, home decorating shops, delicious artisanal food shops and several good restaurants. Cambridge Street offers more in the way of delicious restaurants, plus two gas stations and a supermarket. Both Charles and Cambridge offer a number of unique service shops, including one of the last independent pharmacies – Gary Drug – left in America. You’ll also find Massachusetts General Hospital on Cambridge Street. And for residents the best part is, everything is within walking distance.
  2. The Bustling Nightlife
    Though Beacon Hill has some of the highest rents in the city of Boston, its nightlife might just be one of the most accessible, not to mention of high repute. Home to some of the city’s best dive bars, Beacon Hill draws a lively crowd on the weekends. The Beacon Hill Pub, for example, consistently pulls in loads of millennials looking to party the night away. With cheap beer on tap and a good selection of domestic beers, it’s a popular locale for those who prefer a casual atmosphere to the club scene.
  3. Acorn Street
    This street just so happens to be one of America’s most beautiful city streets. Reminiscent of an old European city, its gas-lit cobblestone streets will make you wish you lived there. Known for its beautiful doors and shutters, brass door knockers, decorative iron work, brick sidewalks, perpetually-burning gas lights, flowering pear trees, window boxes, and hidden gardens, it’s no wonder Acorn Street is one of the most photographed locales in the country. And if somehow you’ve got a small fortune tucked away, you could easily afford one of its mid-19th century homes worth up to $13,000 a month in rent. There’s a reason Acorn Street is such prime real estate.

    Exploring Beacon Hill: Boston, Massachusetts' Historic Neighborhood
    Acorn Street is one of the most photographed streets in North America, and for good reason. The contrast of old cobblestone streets and lush flora makes it an ideal spot for Instagrammers.
  4. A Rich History
    They don’t call it Beacon Hill for nothing. Seriously, it’s an actual hill. The South Slope was developed in the 1790’s by the Mt. Vernon Proprietors for Boston’s richest families. Development began when architect Charles Bulfinch laid out the plan for the neighborhood. In 1799 the hills were leveled, Mount Vernon Street was paved, and mansions were built along it. One of the first homes was the Harrison Gray Otis House on Cambridge Street.

    Unlike the South Slope, the North Slope developed in a more organic fashion. It stretched up and down alleyways and into all sorts of nooks and crannies. Among its residents were former slaves, sailors, poets, and more. Notably, the African Meeting House on Joy Street became a community center for black abolitionists.

    Frederick Douglas spoke there, giving impassioned speeches on emancipation. William Lloyd Garrison also founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society there. As a result, it became known as a hotbed and important depot on the Underground Railroad. In the late 19th century, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe moved into the neighborhood and city planners remade many of the homes into tenements.

    Many homes built of wood were dilapidated by the end of the Civil War and were razed for new housing. During this time the black community migrated to Boston’s south end and the north slope was overtaken by an influx of Irish, Jewish, and other immigrants. Eventually, the African Meeting House was turned into a synagogue.

Whether you’re looking for some good eats, some good old fashioned antiquing, one of Boston’s many famous bars–including the Bull & Finch Pub now called Cheers after it inspired the making of the TV show of the same name–or just itching to take a walk down some of the city’s most bustling, eccentric, charming thoroughfares, Beacon Hill is the place for you.