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Outbid in Greater Boston? Go west, young homebuyer!

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis February 15, 2012 09:42 AM

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West as in Central Massachusetts, that is.

Get out beyond the I-495 belt and home prices drop like a rock.

Check out today's Globe story - you can land a village colonial in Athol for about what it takes to buy a Toyota Camry.

The price differential has always been there, sure. But while the real estate downturn has dented prices in Greater Boston, it has absolutely laid waste to many small towns west of 495.

Athol now has the lowest median sale price in the state, at $78,250. And, as Jenifer McKim notes in her story, many now bank-owned homes can be bought for much less than even that.

Generally, there are several towns in Central Massachusetts now where the median sale price is falling fast towards the $120,000 mark and below, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

These include: Gardner, $127,500; East Brookfield, at $133,250; Southbridge, $125,000; Warren, $105,500; Winchendon, $135,000; Worcester, $155,000; and Fitchburg, $140,000.

Before the housing snobs start complaining here, Central Massachusetts has a lot to offer, with some gorgeous farmland and forests and towns that are arguably truer to old New England than posh suburbs like Concord or Wellesley.

I had a ball when I lived in Gardner as a young reporter - I was close enough to go hike Mount Monadnock and hit some good bookstores in Keene, N.H., a picturesque college town a short drive north.

But here's the rub: If you have a job in Boston, it is one hellacious commute. I did it for nine months before I bailed for Quincy. It took me 20 minutes to drive to the train station and then another 80 minutes to ride the rails to Porter Square. After that, it was another 35 to 40 minutes to the office I was working out of then on Summer Street in Boston.

Let's do the math - that's a two hour commute each way. Got a lot of reading done, but it quickly became a major drag.

Now if you work on 495 or 128, maybe that's a different story, it might be more workable.

But as I look back, living in Springfield and taking the Pike into Boston each day would have been an easier commute. (Of course, I couldn't afford to buy a decent car, so that wouldn't have worked.)

And there's also the school quality issue, a major problem, for example, in a town like Athol or Winchendon.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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