In an effort to contribute and share some of my knowledge, I'd just like to reach out to those looking into the metro west area of Boston, either to live, or to invest. It's an absolutely great area, close(15-30 minutes depending on town) to one of the best cities in the world, with a seemingly bulletproof, recession proof real estate market. Having said that, I wrote the following, candid, hopefully not offensive, summary based on the likely perspective of a young family (kids on the way up to teenagers), 25-40 yr old professional, or DINKS (dual income no kids). I wrote it up off the cuff for some friends that were moving to the area and wanted the low-down on the area as they were relocating from so-cal. Any questions or comments, please feel free.
I have to admit I am obsessed with real estate in the metro west area and I believe I have a good pulse on what's going on. I recently did a calculation on monthly mortgage payment comparisons for houses 300-600k town to town based on tax rates (they fluctuate quite a bit around here).
I left off Hopkinton and Framingham when I did it, somewhat unintentionally. I would definitely consider Hopkinton - it is convenient to 485 and 90 (depending where in town).
Framingham is in a great location, however the schools are the worst in the area, and they are assigned so you can't really get around going to whichever one falls in your address (having said that there's a big tech base in Framingham and if you live nearby, good chance your job is there). Having said that, they are still rated usually between 7 and 9, so they are likely still better than the top schools in other states. It is just hard when you are going up against truly world class school systems like Natick, Sherborn, Southborough, Holliston, and Newton. Those 5 have the best schools - all 9's and 10's, with plenty of tax money to support them. Teachers in this area of the state make a lot of money too, relatively.
Natick is really a sweet spot of convenience to the city and highways, while not being outrageously expensive (although this seems to be changing day by day). It is so hard looking at other towns because most of them give up something to Natick in terms of convenience. Also the schools, as I said, are world class.
Newton - more expensive than all the other towns listed here. If I could afford a house here I would live here. It doesn't make much sense for [friend's] position if your wife is going to work in Framingham, but if you find a deal, Newton is about the greatest place ever. Just for instance, they have a 200 million dollar high school. You are basically right next to the city, but in a quieter, prettier habitat. For instance when my grandmother moved to Newton Corner from Beacon Hill in 1956 they were moving to the "suburbs". What a joke now. The suburbs extend past 495. High cost of living keep out the riff raff. It's a part of town that's never needed any sort of gentrification. However the real estate taxes are relatively low.
Southboro and Sudbury are the next 2 convenient towns, still close enough to Framingham, and convenient to the city. Both great school districts. Still fairly expensive housing based on those 2 points but not terrible compared to Newton/Natick.
Sherborn- Ranked #1 school district shared with Dover (average house value in Dover is about 3 million so I wouldn't bother). Lots are 1-3 acre minimum depending on area. Slightly less convenient to highways than Natick/Southboro, however adjacent to Framingham, and not too much of a hassle to get to the city. This is the town where Boston bank execs buy $2-3 million dollar farms so their pre-teen daughters have a barn for their ponies. High taxes.
Holliston - world class schools, high taxes but less than Sudbury. You can breath in Holliston. There's elbow room and you can be in the woods in seconds. Parts are still rural. You can buy a house for reasonable money. It would be an easy 15 minute commute to most parts of Framingham. It's a bit of a pain to get to highways and to Boston (your probably 40 minutes out). It feels new england town-ey, which is a good thing in my opinion. This might be my landing spot if I didn't need to get to the city for work.
Millis - similar to Holliston but a little further out and schools just a slight tick less good (still very good).
Medfield - similar to Sherborn but a little further out and schools just a slight tick less good (still very good)
Hopkinton - the first town that has convenience and usable lakes. Town center is 26.2 miles from downtown Boston (Boston marathon starts here).
Ashland - left this one off my original list also due to schools. Again, 7s and 8s so I may be judging too harshly.
Again, just meant to be off the cuff, but if it helps start a discussion, I hope I can help.
@Henry Lorraine good info on the Boston metro west area. I've lived in Natick now for over 15 years and love it. So convenient, great schools, down to earth people even in the upscale neighborhoods, and the it's a well run town operationally and fiscally. The commute to Boston/Cambridge is about an hour each way during rush hour (6:30-9 am and 4-6:30 pm) if driving. Natick, Framingham and Ashland have good commuter train access as well.
@Aaron Stone downtown Framingham, like many towns is very blue collar. A bit more so as it is the largest town in the US ... should be a city. Immigrant population is mostly Brazilian and a smattering of other Central American countries. If living in Framingham your best shot at flipping may be Worcester which is about 20 min west. Best of luck!
Also, I have apartments in Framingham. If you plan to rent I'm happy to give you the scoop on neighborhoods and rents. I do find that Rentometer.com is fairly accurate here too.
@Aaron Stone hopefully you're still around after this post. This post was pretty interesting but I'm curious to hear about your experience moving to Framingham last year? I stay north shore but work in Needham so I'm looking to move in the next couple months. Not sure if you're familiar with the rental market in the area/surrounding cities but for 1, I'm hoping to find rent rates for 1400-1600 for a 1 or 2 bed room. Is this possible for a comfortable rental in the area? I know Malden it's definitely on the low end for luxury style but just right for say Worcester.
2. Have you been able to start your flipping venture in Framingham and how has it been finding deals? Ideally I'd like to start investing in Worcester but if I could invest "in my own back yard" I'd be all for it.
Look forward to hearing from you.
@Steeve Breton I just read your post as well and notice you have some rentals. Could you please share neighborhood info with me as well? I'd have to agree even back then that Worcester still may be the best market for investing (better commute to the city than I currently have). I'm very new to Mass so understanding the various cities sometimes gets overwhelming for me. I'm mostly curious to know about what towns/streets to stay away from within Framingham/natick.
@andr Natick is very expensive and low cash flowing. Framingham is getting there as well. Just south of rt 135 in downtown Framingham is the only area I try to avoid. You can also check out Marlborough which is still reasonable.
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