Median home price: Single-family, $441,250; condominium, $327,500
Residential tax rate: $11.50
Average tax bill: $5,803, single-family
Choice location: 92-acre Martins Pond in Clarke Park has a public beach, playground, and boat launch.
Cocktail party nugget: By the 1850s nearly every home had a workshop of some kind tied to the boot- and shoe-making industry, but the town's principal industry of making cheap footwear for slaves was erased by the end of the Civil War.
SOURCES: Warren Group, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Town of North Reading
THE GOODS: While new homes have popped up in the rolling fields and wooded areas that once defined North Reading, the town still takes pride in preserving its sleepy charm. Well-preserved center-chimney vernacular homes of the mid-18th century, including three that date back as far as the 1730s, can be found here. The theme is best captured in the town center, which has a federal village and federal-style meetinghouse abutting a town green. Newer houses are in outlying neighborhoods, and the really big ones come with really big prices. Older homes and center-entrance Colonials of varying age and grace abound in the $500,000 range, with many found on the streets running off of Route 28, North Reading's main drag.
PROS: Despite being classified as an "outlying suburb," North Reading offers ease of access for Boston commuters. Routes 28 and 62 link drivers quickly to interstates 93 and 95, while routes 114 and 125 also connect to I-93. The town also has a commuter rail station with 113 parking spots with travel times of 28 to 31 minutes to North Station.
CONS: The town may be too sleepy for some. While there are some restaurants and chain stores clustered along Route 28, lack of other commercial activity has residents heading to other towns for shopping and entertainment.