Median home price: Singlefamily,$408,500; Condominiums,$274,900
Residential tax rate: $12.60
Average tax bill: $5,696
Choice location: The roof of the St. Athanasius Parish on Haverhill Street, designed by Louis A. Scibelli and Daniel F. Tully, is one of the largest hyperbolic paraboloids (saddleshaped) in the western hemisphere.
Cocktail party nugget: Two Nike missile sites, one on Bear Hill and the other off Haverhill Street, were located in Reading and inspired the Rockets nickname for the high school's sports teams.
SOURCES: Warren Group, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
THE GOODS: For those familiar with Reading, it is hard to picture it as the industrial boomtown it was in the 19th century. Clocks, shoes, neckties, and organ pipes were manufactured in town, and at one point there were 13 companies that made furniture and cabinets in Reading. Almost all of the industries, however, folded in the years around the Civil War, paving the way for Reading's transformation into the bedroom community that people flock to today. A recent wave of new residents has led to the construction of new houses and condominiums targeted for sale to middle-class professionals and families.
PROS: The roads and railways that once carried the goods manufactured in Reading to Boston's port now carry commuters to and from Boston. While plans to extend the MBTA's Orange Line to Reading died out a generation ago, the town is still accessible by MBTA buses and commuter rail, and it's also close to the crossroads of Interstates 93 and 95. The town boasts a wide array of homes in the midmarket price range. Age, size, and style varies. Big, new contemporaries are found here, but more traditional Capes, split ranches, and Colonials are plentiful.
CONS: Reading's status as a commuter town has led to an influx of new residents, forcing the costly construction of a new elementary school and renovations to Reading Memorial High School. Costs for both projects, which were approved in 2003, can be seen in Reading's property taxes.