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Old 06-13-2009, 04:26 AM
6 posts, read 13,944 times
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Just wanted share our story of frustration in looking for a home in MA. We are new to MA having moved from Chicago. Currently we are renting near Boston Commons and have been looking for home for nearly 6 months now. Just found this forum during a google search. This is a great online community and I wanted to thank you all for taking your time and posting messages.

Coming back to our search, we have been looking in Weston mostly due to recommendation from our friends and also we happen to like the town. However, it is darn expensive to buy a home there . It has been six months and we have not found a decent home there in our price range. Even a 1950's dump (in which you will not live) on the North side of the town (which is cheaper according to the realtor) is over 600K+ and they don't sell condo's to ones below age 55. The South side of the town is more desirable and houses are beautiful but are obviously horribly expensive. Even the low end homes where you can possibly live are all in 1MM+ range. I see people throw Weston's name in their messages (I did a search before I posted this) as one of the towns but do they actually realize how difficult it is to actually buy a home there (if you don't have boat loads of money)? The town has only few homes like 2500 or so and most that are on sale are budget breaking. I cannot even dream of a new home in that town. Most new homes are in 2.5MM or above range.

So are we missing something here? Why do so many folks suggest that town, I think that town should not be thrown around in the message boards, as it will only confuse a new comer to the state. We are working with a real estate agent with Coldwell but she is unable to find something decent for us. We have come from a great Chicago neighborhood and had our budget setup above 750K+ but we are completely disappointed and have decided to give up that town (not because we don't like it anymore but because we cannot afford it).

We have now decided to look in Newton and Lexington where we are seeing homes that we can afford and are not too old. Its not that these towns don't have expensive homes, but you can still find not too crazily priced homes there. Dover is good too but it is so out there. It took us forever to reach the home which the Realtor was trying to show to us. Actually we found some good homes there too but reaching that town in the morning or evening easily is so not possible. And that was one of the reason we liked Weston as it is very near to Boston and we both work in Boston. We don't have kids right now but we are planning to have them soon. So we don't want to get into some home just now and then move later when the schooling becomes important. We would rather get into the right town if possible.

We are going today and tomorrow to Winchester as I have read great things about it in this newsgroup and otherwise. We have a new realtor who is helping us in Winchester and Lexington. She is very nice and understands our needs well. Any other suggestions would be welcome. I just hope to find a home soon as the market might start to turn around sooner than later. It has already stabilized a bit according to the realtor.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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Old 06-13-2009, 06:27 AM
Location: Westwood, MA
4,657 posts, read 6,109,965 times
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Welcome to Boston. I think sometimes people mistake the question, "what would be a good suburb to live in" with the question, "what is the most prestigious suburb." I'm sorry that it took six months for you to discover that you got answer to the second question and not the first. Even beyond the price, I don't think Weston is necessarily for everyone. I'm surprised, given your budget and six months of looking, that your agent start to recommend other more affordable towns nearby.

For your budget, which is still pretty high, I think Newton, Lexington, and Winchester are all good towns to consider. You might also want to look at Belmont and Needham. If you know what you are looking for in a town--lots of activities, lots of space, great schools, easy commute to Boston, lots of nature, etc.--others may be able to offer more suggestions on towns, as well. Good luck!
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Old 06-13-2009, 06:57 AM
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When someone asks "what would be a great town for xyz", posters give their opinions. Weston is an ideal town to be sure. A quick search on average pricing, a conversation with a realtor and looking at comps could have made you aware in a few hours what it took you 6 months to find out: there are NO bargains in Weston. It sounds like you had your heart set on an area and like many people figured "the market is tough- I will find my dream house at my dream price". Your budget is high for many incredible towns, just not for Weston.

The other towns you're looking in are great! So don't feel like you are settling for less. From the sound of what you saw in Dover your realtor is showing you "house" but the location is off. As a person who launched what I would call a "schizpophrenic" search for my home, I have a piece of advice. Sit down and make a llist of your musts, likes and no ways. If you have a very strong must stick to it. You will be amazed by how much less stressful the search will be. Find a realtor you click with and then trust them, and let them do their job.

True story: I almost did not look at the house we bought. I walked in the front door, called my husband and a few weeks later, we owned it. My realtor knew it had all we wanted and I trusted him to do a walk through on the way to another house I had asked to see.

Good luck and happy hunting!
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Old 06-13-2009, 10:11 AM
270 posts, read 1,298,361 times
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First I feel very sympathetic to you...we moved several times and it is extremely hard. But the next question I have to ask you is how many homes have you seen? If you have been looking for 6 months you should at least have been in 60-80 homes. 100 is ideal but hard to do in 6 months. I know it sounds insane but it is the only way to find that one perfect house. Next you have to widen your search. You need to look at all the nice subs and some of the towns. Here is my list: Cambridge, Belmont, Boston, Arlington, Brookline, Newton, Needham, Lexington, Lincoln, Sudbury, Concord, Winchester, Dover, Sherborn, Wellesley, Westwood (my favourite next to the town I live in ;-)), Medfield, Milton, Marblehead, Sharon. I know some of these are too far out but you need to look at all of these towns so you know what is out there and so you can compare. And some of these towns are absolutely beautiful. You also now live in the city, the suburbs are totally different so you can not compare the two which I am sure you know. But maybe the city is what suits you better. Look at the Northend, Backbay and the waterfront.
I know how tiring that whole process is but you need to make it in to your live mission: Hitting the open houses every Sunday. Be out here all day Saturday. Evening appointments during the week etc. Your realtor should flood you with listings. The amount you are willing to spend is simply to high to not find the perfect place.
So hang in there and hit that pavement, you will find something.
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Old 06-13-2009, 12:33 PM
17,517 posts, read 30,793,673 times
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Maybe posters here could be more helpful if we know some of your priorities in housing. Do you have kids in schools? Need public transport (if you're living near Boston Common now, do you need or want easy access to that area of the city?) Are you working in a specific town or area of the city? Do you prefer easy access to the ocean or are you open to moving north/west of Boston?
I don't know why people keep saying "Weston." It's the highest-income, most expensive town here. Yes, it's pretty, but so are many other places. In your budget, you have *a lot* of choices. Please give more info.
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Old 06-13-2009, 03:30 PM
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Default Thanks everyone

No we have not seen 60-80 houses. I am a resident Nurse and my husband is a doctor. We don't get a lot of time to do the search as we work slightly abnormal hours. However, we must have seen around 30 to 40 homes. Its a small town and only few homes come up in our price range. We actually did like one but it was gone in one day . Anything less than 1MM in a good area of the town and in decent condition goes like candy to a child. Anyway, we just came back from Winchester, and it is a very good town too. Its just that homes are too close to each other. But that is something I am OK with would just have to convince my husband.

To answer some of the questions, its not that it took us six months to figure this out but the realtor kept our hopes alive by saying that something might come in Spring, then in Summer, etc. and we kept going on. Its about time we have realized we should move on. This is not going to work for us. Actually some of our office colleagues live there and they helped too. Since we are new to the area, we took their advice first. They bought homes in that town before 2001. In 2001, the town did some kind of tax assessment audit or something and every property became double in value (or nearly that). That is when the town must have gone out of hand. The last home we were looking was assessed 535K before 2001 and became 947K in 2002. Or atleast that is what the relator showed us in the tax papers. And then form 2002-2007 they went over the roof, and have not gone down that much since.

Anyway, we truly feel that we can find a nice home in a nice community soon. 6 months may look like a long time to some, but for two working professionals, who are completely new to the area, time just flies and we feel we still don't know the area well.

Thank you again.
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Old 06-13-2009, 07:23 PM
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Ah yes, good ol' Weston, and the surprise people are in for if the information that it's the wealthiest town in the area stirs up visions of one grand estate after another. In fact there are a few such places tucked away in some hidden corners of Weston, but these are few and far between. Weston is an old town--it dates back to Colonial times--and has a quite a few small older houses, and a fair number of '50's suburbia kind of houses, with the most typical property being an acre and a half or so, with a house that is on the large side but is still a regular house, not a mansion. The through-the-roof real estate values in Weston seem to result from a combination of the convenient location you noted in your original post, a powerhouse of a school system, and, for those who care about this kind of thing, the status of a Weston address.

I'm kind of surprised that your realtor has kept steering you toward Weston, given the discrepancy between your housing budget and the median values in Weston. However, the realtor is the expert in the field, and for all I know might know something about the possibility of some relative bargains in the current housing market. Still, I would think your realtor would have you looking at some other nice towns as well.

From the fact that you say that Winchester is too densely built for you, and that you've been focusing on Weston as much as you have, I'm guessing that you'd take a decent-sized yard over the "walkable" neighborhoods, with a bunch of shops and local eateries around the corner, that seem to be the fashion these days. If that is the case, of the towns Haberstroh suggested to check out (all nice towns, by the way), I'd suggest paying particular attention to Westwood. Also, when looking in Newton, you may want to focus especially on the Waban section. While Newton is very nice, much of the town is similar to Winchester in density, while Waban is a bit of an exception to this. Of other towns you've mentioned, you'll find Lexington to have many areas less densely built than Winchester, though the town is not as really low-density and woodsy as Weston.

If what you're after is a nice affluent town with some physical similarity to Weston, a roughly similar distance from Boston but without Weston's stratospheric property values, here are a couple of other suggestions:

Wayland. It's next door to Weston, the next town farther out from Boston. Overall, Wayland is a very nice, affluent town, with the woodsy look of Weston, and first-rate schools, but with housing costs that are well up there but still average out substantially lower than Weston's. Wayland might be tricky. How well it could work for you depends on some specifics. There are a lot of older, smaller properties on the south side of town, and a lot less density on the north side. Not being in the real estate business, I can't know for sure, but it's possible that the north-side properties may be more similar in cost to what you'd find in Weston. However, my best guess would be that even north Wayland will be affected some by the overall less expensive (less expensive being a relative term) housing in Wayland. Another consideration with Wayland is the commute. The town has no public transit, and the one part of town located close to a commuter rail in a neighboring town is the south side, with the greater population density that it seems you want to avoid, so if public transit is something you consider important, this may be a factor. Also, the north side of town, least densely populated in general, feeds into a main road (rt. 117) that gets very crowded in the inbound lane in the morning, so the local stretch of the morning commute would be tough if you would be working bankers' hours. However, there is a middle section of town with moderately low population density, closer to a main road (rt. 30)with less of a tendency to get badly clogged in the morning (the traffic is slow, but it moves, while 117 can be almost stop-and-go). All in all, Wayland is a town definitely worth checking into.

Bedford: Similar to Westwood. Nice and clean, good schools, more low-density suburban than Winchester, though not as woodsy as Weston. Bedford is not in the best location for commuting, given the roads you'd be using to get into Boston, and the fact that it has no public transit, but it still is not a really distant suburb, and has the lower housing density you seem to prefer. By the way, Bedford is near Lexington, and the only transit in Lexington is the bus, which I tend to think is not as good as the various forms of rail transit, since the bus deals with the same traffic you'd face when driving yourself. On the other hand, Lexington has a larger downtown, with a better variety of local shopping, than most of the other towns I've suggested, though downtown Lexington still would not compare to large local commercial zones in more urban areas.

In summary, if you place a priority on low-density housing, and are okay with having to drive across town for basic shopping and having to hit nearby towns for shopping beyond the basics, take a close look at Wayland, Westwood, and Bedford (though Bedford will be tough if public transit is important). The Waban section of Newton will be similar, but with more local shopping across town, and good public transit, but also in a much larger town (pop. approx. 85k) with bigger high schools. Lexington is also a good possibility if you want a somewhat larger downtown, and are okay with somewhat more dense housing than in most other towns I've suggested (though still significantly less densely built than Winchester), and if having anything for public transit other than the bus is not a high priority.

Last edited by ogre; 06-13-2009 at 07:40 PM..
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Old 06-14-2009, 03:41 AM
6 posts, read 13,944 times
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Default Thanks ogre

I am a nurse and husband is a doctor at the New England medical center. Currently we just walk to work (husband also gets parking there) but it is right on I-90 so we figured if could get on 90 we could be there in 15-20 minutes (traffic jams not withstanding) . So Newton might work because of that reason alone. Weston could have too.

We have not looked at Bedford and Wayland at all. Will look there as well. Currently we are going to focus on Newton, Lexington and maybe Winchester. We have more or less dropped Weston from our list now and have started working with a different realtor. So that we don't go crazy, she asked us to pick three towns where we can focus in the limited time we get during the week. It is really hard to think about a house when I am with a patient getting prepped up for surgery, there are many more important things that come to mind at that time

I will ask her to squeeze Wayland too.


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Old 06-14-2009, 05:39 AM
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Wayland is good. Suburban Brookline is not dense and in your budget, could certainly find something nice. If you're open to condos, the sky is the limit almost anywhere except the waterfront. Suburban Brookline is convenient to Rt. 9 into town. (I say "suburban" because in-town Brookline is very dense, although an excellent density for urbane living. There are beautiful Victorians and lots of greenery and you could take the green line into town, but it is certainly dense. Suburban is more high-end houses and large open spaces).
Wayland would be very nice, as would Sudbury. Open, green, semi-rural and high-end. I gather, with your professions, you won't necessarily be driving in M-F, 9-5, so commute traffic might not be much of an issue.
Maybe continue in a relo rental until you have a better feel for towns? I'm surprised this realtor kept pushing Weston. It's only one place. With your budget, you could live well in many places, and it's mostly what place feels best.
You could get something on the waterfront up the North Shore (Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead) if you wanted to make that commute. You have so many options. I'd ditch Weston and find another great town.
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Old 06-14-2009, 07:31 AM
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Just keep in mind this when considering a "good" town or place. The financial year for most governments and some companies ends at the end of this month. When layoffs occur sometimes in government they don't just lay them off instantly, they would adjust the budget for the next year. If you want to see an example of the services in a given town I'd highly suggest looking at the library for the budget or looking at the towns website. This also might give more of a chain of command so you know who to ask about what.
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