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Old 01-28-2012, 03:18 PM
 
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Just moving to the Boston area with wife and kids-- not sure about areas to buy a house. We are coming with some equity, and kids are ages 4 and 6. We want decent schools, but over the top competitive is not necessary... I will be working in Cambridge near Kendall Square, and would like a short commute. Wife wants easy access to the amenities of Boston-- as she said, if we're out in a bedroom community, it's not worth leaving the midwest.

We've found houses we like in Newton, but have been out-bid 4 times now even though we put in offers above the ask. We found a house we like in Watertown, close to the main square, that seems very nice (sidewalks, houses with garages, but near Mt. Auburn St.).

Something you can never see on an MLS sheet, though-- are the folks friendly and neighborly? Plenty of kids to play with? Or is it a more closed community? Schools OK?

Any thoughts from those with direct experience welcome.
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvanbrunt View Post
are the folks friendly and neighborly? Plenty of kids to play with? Or is it a more closed community? Schools OK?

Any thoughts from those with direct experience welcome.
I come from the midwest myself. It took about 5 years to get over the culture shock but it might be an easier transition having a family and connecting with families. I was on my own.

I think northeasterners in general just have a different way about them - some people give the stereotype of rude, but I would say that's not really the case. Maybe just more closed, to themselves, in a hurry. It's definitely a major change in pace of life around these parts. I lived in Somerville for about three years - in a nice area of the city near Porter Square with young professional couples mainly, some young families, well-to-do. I was dying to find a suburban area like those back in the midwest after my three years in the denser area - they don't really exist here but I finally settled in a smaller town out in metrowest with lots of green and space and pretty views of the landscape/sky (something you might miss moving out here!). It's just a big change, in some ways very exciting, in some ways downright exhausting, but I think again, having a family will open more doors for meeting people perhaps.

Good luck with your move.
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:57 PM
 
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Thank you--- most folks I have met have been delightful and friendly-- more direct than many midwesterners typically are, and I think that gets mistaken as unfriendliness.

I have narrowed my search to Arlington, Belmont, Watertown and Newton, having ruled out Brookline mainly on cost (though if I find something good and within reach, I'd look).

it seems I can get more house for the money in Watertown, and I'm really wondering about the "vibe" there, especially in the historic home area near the high school and along Mt. Auburn St....
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Old 01-29-2012, 12:14 PM
 
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There probably won't be the competition for Watertown that you are experiencing with Newton. The schools are third tier, Arlington second tier and Newton and Belmont top tier.
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Old 01-29-2012, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Needham, MA
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What kind of budget are you trying to stick with? As you've likely already found values can vary a lot from town to town. I'm sure you've seen Newton is much more expensive than the other towns you've mentioned. Did you consider at all someplace like Needham or Natick? Not as costly as Newton but more desirable than say Watertown.
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MikePRU View Post
Not as costly as Newton but more desirable than say Watertown.
Which makes it all more interesting that Weston was "West Watertown" back in the day. Honey Fitz also upgraded by moving from Concord to Dorchester.
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MikePRU View Post
What kind of budget are you trying to stick with? As you've likely already found values can vary a lot from town to town. I'm sure you've seen Newton is much more expensive than the other towns you've mentioned. Did you consider at all someplace like Needham or Natick? Not as costly as Newton but more desirable than say Watertown.
I guess everything is truly subjective. There's nothing particularly desirable about Needham to me at all. It's a Wellesley wannabe town with very few of the amenities and always has been.

Watertown schools are just fine, BTW, and Watertown would be an absolutely acceptable alternative to either of its neighbors (Belmont and Newton). The other nice thing about Watertown is the easy accessibility of both Cambridge and Boston to it. Best of luck in your search. Is the actual City of Boston out of the question, BTW?
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Old 01-29-2012, 05:34 PM
 
12 posts, read 51,459 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikePRU View Post
What kind of budget are you trying to stick with? As you've likely already found values can vary a lot from town to town. I'm sure you've seen Newton is much more expensive than the other towns you've mentioned. Did you consider at all someplace like Needham or Natick? Not as costly as Newton but more desirable than say Watertown.
Desirability is a funny thing... it's very important to us to be closer in to Boston and Cambridge than Needham or Natick... we came to enjoy Boston's offerings.

As to price, we are looking in the historic district near Russell Ave. in Watertown. We are able to go as high at 1.2M, but would strongly prefer to stay well under that, coming from the midwest and selling a 4,700 sf house at 350k. And going right up to our limit, we've been outbid 4 times now in Newton and Arlington, even though our offer was above the asking price, and houses have gotten progressively smaller each time (half of what we left in Indiana). So for that, we'd like as much space as we can get, single family, some yard, a garage, and space with a separate entrance for setting up a small Pilates studio (just enough room for a few pieces of equipment... could be walk out basement, or other option)

As to schools, I'm comfortable with Watertown since I did some digging. The "GreatSchools.org" site rates high schools on a 10 point scale (10 being best), and Watertown High is a 6, Arlington a 7, and Newton North and South are... 9 each. For reference, the high school I attended rates a 5, and I managed to survive undamaged, getting a PhD and reasonable success-- so the Watertown schools don't strike me as bad enough to be a deterrent. Boston city public schools run the whole range, but the areas we may like (e.g., JP) rate 1's.

I really like the vibe in Newton Center, which would be ideal for us, but I'm pessimistic we can find something there in our price range. Maybe that's unwarranted and the spring market will be kinder-- there has been little inventory during the fall/winter, and bidding wars have erupted over everything (buyer's market? Hardly!)

I guess what I'm hoping for is someone with some first-hand experience with the Watertown schools. I don't know what "desirable" means, since it often seems to be function of socioeconomic status.
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Old 01-29-2012, 07:51 PM
 
Location: Needham, MA
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Originally Posted by rranger View Post
I guess everything is truly subjective. There's nothing particularly desirable about Needham to me at all. It's a Wellesley wannabe town with very few of the amenities and always has been.
I'm sorry but you clearly are unfamiliar with the town of Needham. Up until about 20 years ago it was an extremely blue collar suburb with lots of post WWII developed ranches, capes, splits, etc. Granted the town is littered with McMansions now but the friendly, neighborly vibe that was here 20 years ago is still going strong. Needham definitely lacks the snobbery and one-upsmanship that is common in Wellesley. In Wellesley you're out of place if you're not wearing Prada to the gym. In Needham, we wear sweats with holes in them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvanbrunt View Post
Desirability is a funny thing... it's very important to us to be closer in to Boston and Cambridge than Needham or Natick... we came to enjoy Boston's offerings.

As to price, we are looking in the historic district near Russell Ave. in Watertown. We are able to go as high at 1.2M, but would strongly prefer to stay well under that, coming from the midwest and selling a 4,700 sf house at 350k. And going right up to our limit, we've been outbid 4 times now in Newton and Arlington, even though our offer was above the asking price, and houses have gotten progressively smaller each time (half of what we left in Indiana). So for that, we'd like as much space as we can get, single family, some yard, a garage, and space with a separate entrance for setting up a small Pilates studio (just enough room for a few pieces of equipment... could be walk out basement, or other option)

As to schools, I'm comfortable with Watertown since I did some digging. The "GreatSchools.org" site rates high schools on a 10 point scale (10 being best), and Watertown High is a 6, Arlington a 7, and Newton North and South are... 9 each. For reference, the high school I attended rates a 5, and I managed to survive undamaged, getting a PhD and reasonable success-- so the Watertown schools don't strike me as bad enough to be a deterrent. Boston city public schools run the whole range, but the areas we may like (e.g., JP) rate 1's.

I really like the vibe in Newton Center, which would be ideal for us, but I'm pessimistic we can find something there in our price range. Maybe that's unwarranted and the spring market will be kinder-- there has been little inventory during the fall/winter, and bidding wars have erupted over everything (buyer's market? Hardly!)
I work with a lot of people relocating from out of state and this is the wall many people run into here in Boston. Everyone wants to live close to the city so that they can enjoy all it has to offer, but people either can't find housing that meets their budget/size needs or don't want to deal with the inconveniences of urban living in such an old city. This is exactly why I bring up Needham. It's maybe 5 minutes further from Boston than Newton Center and in your budget you could have a brand new 4,000 square foot home with a yard on a quiet side street. Personally, I find Watertown has more of an overall urban feel than I would want but that's a matter of preference. I like that many of my neighbors in Needham feel so comfortable that they often leave their doors & cars unlocked. I wouldn't feel the same way in a more urban environment. As for this being a buyer's market . . . not around here. These are some of the most wanted suburbs in the state. For every one rranger who doesn't want to live in these parts there are 12 more people who do. Values have barely dropped and I deal with plenty of multiple offer situations. To be totally honest, I think you'll see more of the same come spring. There will be more listings but also more buyers. If you move quickly eventually you'll get a house. However, even with your budget in one of the most expensive areas of Newton you won't be able to get a house like you had in the mid-west. If it were me in your shoes and it came down to having the house I wanted but I had to live 5 minutes further from Boston than Newton Center, I would move to Needham.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvanbrunt View Post
I don't know what "desirable" means, since it often seems to be function of socioeconomic status.
To me this is like the question of the which came first the chicken or the egg? A "desirable" town usually has good/great schools, easy access to Boston by car, public transportation options, a developed town center with shops & restaurants, low crime rates, and an overall "well cared for" look. I use the term "desirable" because most (not all) people desire to live in these towns. I don't determine the "desirable" towns. They're desirable because the majority of my clients tell me they want to live there. Now did these towns become the way they are because people with money moved there or did the ammenities of the town attract the money? Good question. The only town in recent history where I've seen a transformation from average suburb to desirable is Needham. In this case, the ammenities were there and the money found the town.
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Old 01-29-2012, 08:00 PM
 
12 posts, read 51,459 times
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Wow, that was a well-written post! Thanks.
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