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Old 12-06-2009, 02:01 PM
 
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As our search from a distance for a house to rent in the North Shore (15 miles in the Reading area) has been a painful experience, I see myself forced to return with some questions on this really nice board.
Life is finally twisting our arm and FORCING us to choose between 3 final options. My husband flew to MA yesterday (again) to see them:
Lynnfield, North Andover, Bedford. It's going to have to be one of these. All of them have aspects requiring serious compromises and eyes stoically closed. And stoic I'm not.

I just wanted to ask, one last time, which one of these would you encourage us to go for? In a nutshell:

1. Lynnfield: best location, higher walkability score; hardly attractive 60's house, kitchen and bathrooms not updated, somewhat weird floorplan.
This may not sound like a biggie, but for someone used to a brand-spanking new, elegant Atlanta residence, the big step down in house feels literally depressing. I departed with the positive thinking that now we will be living in an older but oh, so charming house. You know, the patina, the "classy, low key, non-flashy" feel, the jazz. This turned out to be a complete joke. Forget patina. It's called dumpy and depressing.
After experiencing "the old" for what it actually is... give me that new, crass, mass produced construction any time. I'll survive without the "class".

2. Bedford: OK location, OK to not-so-good walkability score, house OK, more updated than no1, overall better shape. No washer and dryer, and they want tenant to pay half of the agent fee (The nerve!, I think).

3. North Andover: Very nice house, newest (80's), all the space we would ever need, a bit worried about heating bills granted lots of glass and open layout; Middle of Nowhere feel, walkability score zero. Located on main road, no sidewalks, nothing. Lost in the forest. Still scared at the thought of kids going nuts with boredom there. They like to get out.

Thank you so much!
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Old 12-06-2009, 08:28 PM
 
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I'm guessing that you're looking for some inside info on these towns, since ultimately you and your husband will have to decide on which compromise works best. I'll tell you that one thing that makes it difficult to recommend one town over the others is that these towns are all broadly similar, all being nice clean middle- to upper-middle-class towns with with the same very suburban look and feel. From your description it does sound to me as if Bedford may offer the best middle ground of the three. It seems not to be the best choice regarding any of the factors of the location, the house, and the walking factor, but not to be the worst regarding any of these considerations either, offering at least an okay situation regarding all these factors.

So let me bring up an additional pro and one additional con regarding Bedford. First, the possible con, which is that there is an airfield--combination Air Force base and civilian general aviation field--bordering the south side of town. People have told me that airplane noise is not generally a problem in most of Bedford, but you may want to check and make sure the house you're considering is not very close to the field. Now the pro: Bedford's schools are good. Here is a link to Boston Magazine's rankings of Boston area high schools: Public Schools Chart - Boston Magazine (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/boston/public2009 - broken link). Bedford ranks 10th, while Lynnfield is 34th and N. Andover 83rd.

As far as the other two towns are concerned, it sounds as if you and your husband have a decision only you can make about which tradeoff you would prefer, the better house or the better location. I did wonder, when I read your concern about whether the kids would have anything to do in N. Andover, whether the N. Andover house is located in a neighborhood with other houses and children around, even if the houses may be widely spaced. From my experience having grown up in a suburban neighborhood with very little in the way of stores, entertainment, or the local library anywhere within reasonable walking distance, I'd say that as long as there are other children around, kids have a way of finding ways to spend their time no matter the setting. On the other hand, if the house is in an isolated spot along a country road, activities for the children might be an issue, although in this age of "play dates" the number of kids right in the neighborhood might be a somewhat moot consideration. The "play date" thing then brings this back around to the question you'll need to consider about how ready you are to get into a driving-oriented way of life.

Tough choices, definitely some compromise involved, but those are some thoughts to consider. It seems that trying to make a decision and then get moved is the worst part of this process. I have a feeling that once you've made a decision, you'll feel some relief, and once you're moved you'll settle in fine wherever you choose to live. Best of luck, and let us hear. Take care.
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Old 12-06-2009, 10:14 PM
 
Location: NH
557 posts, read 1,292,188 times
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Bedford and Lynnfield. Unless you know North Andover, you might want to stay away. The crime from Lawrence has been filtering down in recent years and just IMO North Andover isn't what it used to be. It does have great neighborhoods, though, in fairness. If you plan on staying in Mass for many years, Lynnfield and Bedford seem like the best choices to me.
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:56 AM
 
Location: Beautiful New England
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syracusa View Post
...I just wanted to ask, one last time, which one of these would you encourage us to go for?
Syracusa, I always choose location first. This gives me the most pleasure day in and day out, and it affords the most opportunities. My location now is EXACTLY where I wanted to be given my limiting parameters (commute and budget) and I can't tell you how pleased I often am when going to and from my home and I think how happy I am to be here. My house is good but needs some improvements/updating (most houses in Mass. do, right?). However, these don't concern me as much becasue my happiness with the location trumps the concern about old tile in the bathroom, etc. After a awhile you'll get used to that dated linoleum and ugly counter tops, but your happiness (or lack thereof) with the location will endure. Your calculation may be a bit different since you're renting, not buying. But I had similar feelings when I rented in the past too -- location always came first.

Thus my advice would be to go with the house in the location you like best, especially if you think you might want to buy a house there at some point in the future. You can make ties to the community and then buy in the same town when your budget allows, and this means you will still have the same connections in the area and a lot less disruption for your kids (i.e. moving to another new school system).
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:19 AM
 
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I would choose Bedford. I have lots of friends who love the schools and the town. There is a Whole Foods and a Starbucks, if these are important. A 24-hr CVS too! Anyway, it's a quiet town that is becoming more and more popular. It was a bit under-the-radar previously. Now that the schools were mentioned in Boston Magazine, it's getting a closer look. The town is quite convenient to Boston and to Reading.
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:13 AM
 
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I'd go with Bedford too. I like the location, near Concord and Lexington, not so far from Cambridge. It has the Minuteman bikeway connection. The Boston area is like a big wheel of cheese, cut into sections, and this is a great section--full of literary haunts, nice attractions for young people, and generally close to things. You have to drive more than you would like but give it a try.
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Old 12-07-2009, 04:19 PM
 
4,043 posts, read 7,065,163 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by professorsenator View Post
Syracusa, I always choose location first. This gives me the most pleasure day in and day out, and it affords the most opportunities. My location now is EXACTLY where I wanted to be given my limiting parameters (commute and budget) and I can't tell you how pleased I often am when going to and from my home and I think how happy I am to be here. My house is good but needs some improvements/updating (most houses in Mass. do, right?). However, these don't concern me as much becasue my happiness with the location trumps the concern about old tile in the bathroom, etc. After a awhile you'll get used to that dated linoleum and ugly counter tops, but your happiness (or lack thereof) with the location will endure. Your calculation may be a bit different since you're renting, not buying. But I had similar feelings when I rented in the past too -- location always came first.

Thus my advice would be to go with the house in the location you like best, especially if you think you might want to buy a house there at some point in the future. You can make ties to the community and then buy in the same town when your budget allows, and this means you will still have the same connections in the area and a lot less disruption for your kids (i.e. moving to another new school system).
Professor,

Believe it or not, but your post may end up helping us make the final darn decision. It makes sense, I kind of knew that deep down. The only trouble is we will most likely NOT afford to buy in Lynnfield. For buying, our noses can only turn up to the North Andover level.

Husband too says that it might be wise to rent where we are most likely to buy. That's North Andover...(more or less unfortunately).

As for Bedford, that's more like a back up/desperation plan in case Lynnfield and North Andover plans fail. They are asking way too much overall. Must be because of the schools.

We understand the power of a great school system all too well but I think we chilled out a bit on this one for now because our son is only 4 (daughter 1 1/2) and chances are we will move in 2 years when he starts first grade anyway. We can only rent for so long.
Two years of preschool in less than stellar educational environment will hopefully not damage him for life. For now I just want him to play with some kids during the day. Of course, if you ask people in the documentary "Nursery University" they would profusely disagree. But I pray every night to the Good Lord that I will be spared from ever going into that kind of parental frenzy.

Which takes me to another post above (the one about kids playing in the neighborhood) to which I will return soon with a furiously and passionately typed answer, as it's too great of a discussions starter and I can't help it.
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Old 12-07-2009, 05:07 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BriInNH View Post
Bedford and Lynnfield. Unless you know North Andover, you might want to stay away. The crime from Lawrence has been filtering down in recent years and just IMO North Andover isn't what it used to be.
Please tell me it's not that bad because when time will come for buying, this is the place that will most likely have what we are looking for, given our budget. I do understand that towns like Lynnfield and Bedford and a few others are way above North Andover (including school wise) but I simply cringe at the thought of BUYING any of the old constructions in our budget I have seen in such towns.

Now, if some crime from Lawrence is the only concern...I guess a good security system and some prayers should take care of it, right? :-)
But if you think North Andover is not what it used to be because of an overall decline in school quality or the neighborhoods themselves (which doesn't seem to be the case), then this might be more of a concern.

For renting though, those better towns are doable and we are clearly tempted by Lynnfield for its great location. Heck, at least for a few years.
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Old 12-07-2009, 05:16 PM
 
4,043 posts, read 7,065,163 times
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Originally Posted by 4panthers View Post
I would choose Bedford. I have lots of friends who love the schools and the town. There is a Whole Foods and a Starbucks, if these are important. A 24-hr CVS too! Anyway, it's a quiet town that is becoming more and more popular. It was a bit under-the-radar previously. Now that the schools were mentioned in Boston Magazine, it's getting a closer look. The town is quite convenient to Boston and to Reading.
Ay-ay-ay ...

In Atlanta, we had Whole Foods across the street (5 minutes walk), about 4 Starbucks in walking distance, the three best malls of the entire Georgia a few minutes drive (closest was 5 minutes drive) and just about everything else from grocery stores to fancy boutiques, hair dressers, plus the habitual jazz (Target, Wallmart, Farmers Market...etc) RIGHT THERE.
Boy, did we get spoilt or what. And we didn't even know it. We just had some vague idea.
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Old 12-07-2009, 06:23 PM
 
304 posts, read 733,980 times
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I really like Lynnfield. As long as the house is habitable, I'd go for that town. You do get used to "downsizing" your house expectations after living in Massachusetts long enough. We did when we moved from the midwest. And Lynnfield is a really nice town!
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