Median home price: Single-family homes: $750,000, condominiums, $405,000
Residential tax rate: $7.56
Average tax bill: Single-family, $3,405; condo $1,206 (fiscal 2008)
Choice location: Harvard Yard is the quintessential Harvard locale, especially on a crisp, fall day when students toss Frisbees and sunshine filters in through the huge oak trees.
Cocktail party nugget: By day, hundreds of visitors pose for photos while rubbing the toe of John Harvard's statue, located in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard.
SOURCES: Warren Group, City of Cambridge, Harvard University
THE GOODS: From Harvard to Central and Inman to Porter, the city's numerous squares offer something for everyone who thrives on life in a university town. Sharing a neighborhood with beer-guzzling undergrads, post doctorates pushing strollers, and elderly professors makes for intellectually stimulating conversations at the numerous cafes, bars, and restaurants in this highbrow community. Between Harvard Yard, Fresh Pond, and the Charles River, the city offers gorgeous outdoor play spaces in addition to a storied history. The majority of the housing is in the form of decent-size two-bedroom condos, some of which have backyards or porches. There are some really grand properties, too, but you have to pay to share a ZIP code with John Malkovich.
PROS: You're right in the thick of things in this prestigious, forward-looking city where property will always be in demand. The city does a good job maintaining its park spaces, roads, and even its myriad of brick sidewalks. Much of the housing stock here is on the grander scale - featuring intricate woodwork, gleaming hardwood floors, and even exposed brick walls - and many properties come with generous backyards. Most neighborhoods are surprisingly quiet.
CONS: This isn't the place to pick up an inexpensive fixerupper. You will probably pay top dollar to live here, unless you are interested in North Cambridge, which offers less ornate housing. Parking can be hard to come by, and if you insist on off-street parking, it will cost a pretty penny.