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Best Suburbs of Boston for Young Family - decent COL, great schools, the dream!
I am now a west coaster (VA --> Seattle) but we will soon be headed back east to the Boston area. We have two small kiddos (2 and 4) and we love suburbia with access to a big city. (Right now we live about 20 mins outside of Seattle and it's perfect.) Great family-oriented neighborhoods, cul-de-sacs, quality public schools, etc. We are looking for a similar area in Boston. Husband will be working from home, but will occasionally go to the Mansfield office (maybe 1x a week). I use and get awesome info there, but I was hoping for locals to really tell me the areas to look at, areas to avoid, etc...
Looking to spend no more than $600,000. At least 2500sqft, yard for the dog, etc. It's almost easier when you have a city you have to move to (ie, Mansfield) and then you look for an area w/in that city... we are lucky to have the opportunity to move anywhere within the Boston area, no restrictions except our price and our wish list above. But I have no clue where to start! Any advice is greatly appreciated!! THANKS!
Last edited by CaseyB; 12-06-2011 at 05:06 AM..
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What about buying a house in Mansfield? It's a smallish town with a good school system and housing within your budget. It has a downtown, a MBTA commuter rail station (Boston-Providence line), and plenty of shopping nearby. It's a family-friendly town with cul-de-sacs, soccer and sports. It's about 40-45 minutes on the train to Boston and driving WITHOUT any traffic.
Sharon, which borders Mansfield, has a better ranked school system than Mansfield and other towns in the area, but there's not much of a town center and it's a bit more sleepy than Mansfield, but it has a MBTA commuter rail station and more parks (Borderland State Park and Audubon's Moose Hill are located there). The housing is generally more expensive than Mansfield and the taxes are considerably higher.
I would have recommended Foxboro, also borders Mansfield, but there's a lot of hoopla now that Bob Kraft (Pats owner) may be putting a casino on Rte 1 near or at the stadium and residents are up in arms over it. Still, if you can avoid Rte 1 (and you'll know how to do this as a resident), it might be an option for you. At the moment, the taxes, I think, are higher than Mansfield, but who knows what will happen if Kraft pushes the casino. The taxes may drop considerably.
North Attleboro is another suggestion. It also borders Mansfield. It's a family-friendly town. It has a downtown with a good school system and a lot of suburb-type neighborhoods; I grew up here and couldn't wait to escape from suburbia. It's not on the MBTA commuter rail line but it's a short drive to the Mansfield and South Attleboro station.
Ditto for Wrentham, but it's smaller than North Attleboro or Mansfield.
Generally speaking, you'll get more bang for your buck in Mansfield and the surrounding towns.
Great info, thanks!!! We will be visiting (of course) before we make our decision about where to buy a house, but it's nice to narrow down some general areas first! School systems and suburbia (young neighborhoods) are our biggest factors. Aside from Mansfield... any info/advice on Medfield, Weston, Wayland... ?
I don't know about the commute from Wayland to Mansfield, but since you're only doing it one day a week it might be somewhat tolerable perhaps. There's also not much to Wayland, which may or may not make a difference to you, though they've got a top school system. I don't think there's a Y or any sports facilities, if this is important to you. Wayland, however, is accessible to Rte 9/MA Pike/Rt 20 and you're close to the malls and shopping in Natick/Framingham (where there's a MBTA train station).
If you're looking at Wayland, Sharon is a similar community - both are woodsy/suburb/rural type places with top school systems and not much to them. Sharon borders Mansfield and has a MBTA commuter rail station.
Weston - um, yah, you'd be hard pressed to find something in your budget there. Usually ranked the #1 school system in MA = #1 for housing prices.
Medfield - good walking areas. You'd be closer to Walpole and closer to Mansfield where there's a MBTA train station, malls and shopping. I'm not sure about housing there (some big name sports players live there or have - i.e. Tom Brady), but schools are very good.
If you're looking at Medfield, you might want to look at Dover, Sherborn, or Westwood - but these towns may not offer much in terms of housing with your budget; not sure if you'd get the land with the house for your budget. All three are woodsy/surburb/rural, very affluent, sleepy towns with good school systems.
Have you been to some of the towns mentioned or to the area? I don't know how much 'young' there is in New England, period. There is some new or newer housing in North Attleboro and Mansfield, not sure about the other areas, especially with your budget. Some of the towns you're looking at are pretty expensive and there may not be much new or land with your budget, though I could be wrong since the recession. A few years ago developers were only building at $800,000+ to million-dollar homes, even in North Attleboro which had been more aligned to Providence.
Take a drive around the area and you'll see how they compare. There towns are suburbs, some more woodsy and rural than others and some more affluent than others (i.e. Dover and Sherborn).
1. Southern loop - North Attleboro - Wrentham (KP Regional) - Mansfield - Foxboro - Sharon - usually seen as one belt/ are within the Hockomock area for high school sports
Thanks for all the great info! We will be visiting before we make a decision, of course... just want to narrow down some areas. I realize the Boston area is going to be completely different from Seattle and what we are used to out here. I was hoping for a big suburban area with large neighborhoods/communities without 1+ acre plots. Out here in Seattle, we've got a 0.2 acre lot and it's one of the largest in our area! We LOVE a yard, but we've found that the neighborhoods with 1+ acre lots don't really have the tight-knit community feel we're looking for. If this just isn't the way of the Northeast, then I'll move past that one! We are definitely looking for an area with close proximity to health clubs / gyms, schools, shopping, etc. A little downtown area with local restaurants, etc would be wonderful. We might have some wiggle room with the budget... or we might need to move farther out from Boston. Not worried about a commute to Mansfield... when I say once a week, that would be the max. My husband's office will be based out of our house... that's just where the local office is located.
West coast: big tracts of undevelopable land because mountainous or under federal ownership or both, etc. Remaining land in metro areas is very densely developed with tiny lots. East coast (especially New England): everything is buildable, no federal land holdings. However, much local control (town governance) over what is built and where. Increasing resistance to development, preference to "preserve rural character", etc. Large lot zoning an easy tool to use against development and towns use it. Result-- small, scattered developments of single houses on large 1+ acre lots. Major exception to this pattern is pre-1940 development, which is found in cities and in the suburbs of Boston built out / subdivided prior to 1940. (In the 19th and early 20th century, before automobile became the main form of transportation, small lot development was the norm.) Some of these are very choice towns, e.g., Wellesley, Newton; but they range a lot in status and desirablility. As you say, maybe you move beyond this issue. But it is harder to find tightly-built neighborhoods in towns farther away from Boston except in the older industrial cities.
I was hoping for a big suburban area with large neighborhoods/communities without 1+ acre plots. Out here in Seattle, we've got a 0.2 acre lot and it's one of the largest in our area! We LOVE a yard, but we've found that the neighborhoods with 1+ acre lots don't really have the tight-knit community feel we're looking for. If this just isn't the way of the Northeast, then I'll move past that one!
Smaller lots is the way of the "Northeast" if you're talking about much of New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, parts of Connecticut, Philadephia suburbs. In Massachusetts a lot of the towns have avoided that. 150 years ago the typical Massachusetts town was rural, with a central green and country roads radiating out from it to the neighboring towns. As suburbia has moved into those towns in recent years, the typical development will consist of one to three culs-de-sac off of one of those old country roads. Driving through many of them, except for some rush-hour backups on the old two-lane roads, you'd think it's still country. The good news is there's plenty of old New England charm and very little of the six-lane strip-mall fests Seattle's suburbs can have. The bad news is very few walkable neighborhoods.
That said, Missionhill's right. There are older, established suburban towns that have smaller yards and more walkable streets. Some of these, particularly if they have good schools, are expensive. In some cases the houses are smaller but often they can be quite large. Newton, a great example of this phenomenon, has houses ranging from tiny to enormous. And ranging in price from $500K to several million. I love it here but you'd have a hard time finding 2,500 square feet for $650K. It's an expensive town to buy in.
One town that comes to mind is Arlington, though it's a bit of a trek to Mansfield.
Originally Posted by eastcoaster1
We might have some wiggle room with the budget... or we might need to move farther out from Boston.
As you might have gleaned from Missionhill's post, the best way to get a walkable neighborhood, as opposed to the giant lots, is to move CLOSER to Boston. As you get farther out, formerly rural towns are the least likely to have densely populated neighborhoods. The walkable suburbs generally are inside or very near the 128 belt. Unfortunately for you, as you get farther out, you're more likely to find them north of Boston-the opposite direction from Mansfield. The North Shore generally is more urbanized than the South Shore, which has many woodsy towns. But if it's once a week...
That said, a lot of the towns have centers with older homes and more walkable streets. These can be four blocks long or considerably more extensive. Many are very pretty. You can look for a home in the center, which may allow you to walk your neighborhood more easily and often will give you proximity to shops, post office, train station.
Holden has some good suggestions. I just wanted to add that the idea of culdesacs with nice sized lots, combined with walkability is possible -- but generally close in to Boston and expensive. (Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, etc.).
If you are looking for a lot of house for your budget, plus the culdesacs and sidewalks, middle America - I would check Ashland. In terms of budget, school quality, house availability and access to larger centers (Boston 19 miles away, Natick/Framingham shopping - maybe 2 miles) it might offer enough.
Town center is not dolled-up quaint like a New England village postcard, but it's there - library, dry cleaners, park, etc. and commuter rail to Boston (think of resale value).
I don't live there, but have family who bought in with young children -- seems to work well for them.
Awesome feedback! In talking to my husband about all of this, he actually would prefer to be on the northern side of Boston as opposed to near Mansfield. His territory will be Boston straight up north through Maine... so being south of Boston would actually not be desirable. Let's nix the close-to-Mansfield thing.
I GREATLY appreciate the info/history about Boston suburbs, lot sizes, etc. Makes a whole lot of sense. I kept wondering why, the farther out we looked, the more rural it was?! You guys have explained that and I thank you!
MA is going to be a massive culture shock!!!!!!
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