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Old 06-11-2009, 10:21 PM
5,763 posts, read 13,336,578 times
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Shiver makes a good point with the question of whether you want to rent a house rather than an apartment. A desire to rent a stand-alone house would mean fewer options that would fit your budget. In addition to apartments within apartment buildings, another option found somewhat frequently in Boston's inner suburbs is a duplex, or maybe sometimes one large house divided into three or so apartments. You might find a single-family house for rent, but it would help to have some flexibility about the options you are willing to consider.

With your description of the kind of neighborhood you are seeking, one town that comes to mind immediately is Newton. Newton is just west of Boston, and has an older kind of suburban feel, like an upscale old-fashioned trolley-car suburb, with a few urban pockets. It's a small city of about 85,000, but is largely residential in character. Newton also can have a more intimate feel than its population might lead you to believe, because the city is divided up into a number of smaller sections, many of which have their own neighborhood commercial districts, instead of there being one large downtown for the whole city. The residential neighborhoods in most sections are made up of houses with small to medium-sized yards, and there are apartment buildings and condos here and there as well. The town is affluent, safe, and clean, with good schools, and a variety of public transit options.

If Newton sounds interesting, you'll find especially good options for neighborhood local shopping and dining in the Newton Centre section, as well as West Newton, and Auburndale to some extent. The Waban section may offer a bit less in this regard, but is also less densely populated, with somewhat larger yards often being found than what you'd find in much of the rest of Newton. Of course this also may mean less of a variety of rental properties available, but Waban is a section to look at if you really want to put a priority on open space. However, there are small city parks all over Newton.

Another upscale older kind of suburb very close to Boston is Brookline. It's smaller than Newton in both population and area, so it may offer fewer rental options, but there should be some. Brookline can also be tricky when it comes to finding neighborhood shopping. Rather than having small commercial districts scattered throughout the way Newton has, Brookline tends more to be pretty urban and commercial in some areas toward the north side, and then to be more heavily residential as you move south. The areas around Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village would be good neighborhoods to find the possibility of a nice clean residential area with some variety of residential options, and shopping and public transit nearby. One thing to note about Brookline is that they are very strict about prohibiting parking on the street at night, so you would need to make sure to rent a property with on-site parking.

You might also take a look at Belmont and Quincy. I know very little about the schools in those towns, so you'd need to do some checking on that before moving to either, but both fit the description of relatively safe and clean, reasonably affluent, inner suburban, with a little bit of urban character mixed in, within your preferred commuting range, with public transit into the city.

Next to Belmont is Watertown. Watertown is another small city in that transitional zone between urban and suburban, but it leans a bit more toward the urban side than the other places I've suggested. It's another town whose schools I don't really know much about. For these reasons, along with the fact that the principal transit option there is the bus, rather than some form of rail tranist, you might not want to put Watertown at the top of your list, but it might be a decent option to have on the early list of possibilities. Though somewhat urban, Watertown does have some nice clean detached-house neighborhoods. In terms of the population and neighbors, it's kind of a mix of blue-collar and basic middle-class.

Cambridge is also in the vicinity of Watertown and Belmont, and I'd call Cambridge a maybe. As with several other places I've suggested, I don't know a lot about the schools in Cambridge. Much of Cambridge is rather urban. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd be likely to think you were inside the city of Boston in parts of Cambridge, but if you get out toward the northwestern section of Cambridge, around the Fresh Pond area, you can find more of a clean, pleasant older single-family-house residential character. In much of Cambridge, public transit is readily accessible as well.

I don't know a whole lot about these towns, but from what I do know of their general feel, I would think that you might also want to check out Melrose and Beverly. Again, I don't know what the schools in these towns are like, but they both should fit the desire for a safe suburban character with some local shopping, moderately dense population but still basically oriented around detached houses, with some open space.

All the towns I've suggested so far are in the inner suburbs, fairly close to Boston. A few towns a bit farther out which you might think about are Norwood, Needham, and Natick. Don't know much about the schools in the first two. In Natick, it's my understanding that there is some inconsistency in quality, based on the grade in school. I've heard that the elementary schools are good, the middle school maybe kind of so-so, and the high school solid but not fantastic. However, keep in mind that this is all relative. The suburban schools in the Boston area are of generally high quality, so a school considered so-so by this area's standards is likely to be solid compared to what you would find in many areas. Norwood, Needham, and Natick all have more of a truly suburban character than the towns I've suggested earlier, though they are still not really out in the country, and all of them have some form of public transit, and some kind of local shopping options, though exactly what these will be will vary depending on the town.

There are probably some other possibilities, but these are a number of towns that seem to fit pretty well with your description of the kind of area you're looking for. A place to start at least. Best of luck with your search.

Last edited by ogre; 06-11-2009 at 10:29 PM..
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Old 06-12-2009, 03:08 AM
5,763 posts, read 13,336,578 times
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Default a note about my suggestions above

With those suggestions, I was giving a lot of regard to your preferred commuting times. Most of the towns I suggested are more or less inner suburbs, pretty close to Boston, not nearly as low-density as a lot of the territory well out on Long Island (since you used Suffolk County as an example of what you'd prefer; not sure, but maybe some of my suggestions would be like inner Suffolk County; not too sure since I'm not really familiar with outer L.I.). I tried to pick towns with fairly low population densities by the standards of Boston's inner suburbs, and they all do have parks, houses with yards, and the like. The last three towns I suggested are a bit farther out, and are more like typical suburbia in their density. I might be able to come up with some suggestions for towns that are more semi-rural, if you place a high priority on a lot of open space, more than just local parks and maybe some yard space, just so you understand that for the most part, the towns with a lot of woods and trees around will be far enough from the city to push, or stretch, the limits on your preferred commuting time.
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Old 06-12-2009, 08:33 AM
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Ogre's work here is fantastic and superhelpful. The OP is very fortunate.
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