If you want a bargain in overpriced Greater Boston, you have to look where the real estate downturn has hit the hardest.
While some of the more affluent western suburbs, as well as a few of the more picturesque towns on the North and South Shores, are seeing prices rise again, that's not the case in many of their less glamorous neighbors.
There are lots of towns now where a house can be had for less than $300,000, I noted yesterday. And while there are fewer members of the under $250,000 club, they are out there - often small industrial cities in the midst of transition or small towns that are a little rough around the edges.
I thought dreston78 put it well in his comment yesterday.
I realize no one wants to live in Brockton, Worcester, Haverhill, Methuen, Lawrence or Lowell (except for the hundreds of thousands of people that actually do) but those are some markets that have been crushed by the bursting of the bubble. A decent home can be had for under $200,000 in anyone of those areas and plenty of new/newer construction in the $300K to $350K range.
Dreston's comments are certainly on target when it comes to median prices in these communities, where you can get three or four homes for what you would be able to buy in a Needham or a Newton. A look at median prices in the records section of Banker & Tradesman is certainly revealing.
Worcester is a sprawling city with its share of nice neighborhoods and a median price ($152,500) that is well below $200,000, let alone $250,000. Better yet, you can get there by train, and, amazingly, it's only 40 miles from Boston. Brockton, 25 miles, is even closer to Boston, with a median price ($150,000) just a shade under Worcester.
The Merrimack Valley has a number of contenders in the more affordable category - it's a great mix of small towns and turn-of-the-century mill cities packed with history. (Industrial Revolution? This is where it all began.)
Haverhill ($212,500) has an up and coming downtown that winds its way along the Merrimack, and one of the largest footprints of any town in the state, with large tracts of more rural and suburban areas. You can go urban or rural here and stay well under $250,000. (Literary fans, this is short story master Andre Dubus' old stomping grounds, not to mention that of his son, Andrew Dubus III, whose recently published memoir "Townie" recounts growing up in Haverhill in the bad old 70s.)
There's also Methuen ($206,000), Groveland ($240,000), Amesbury ($249,500), and Georgetown, a little gem of a small town where the median price ($243,000) has fallen over the past year from nearly $300,000.
If commuting is not your thing, there are also a cluster of affordable communities just to the north of Boston where prices are even more affordable than the Merrimack Valley.
There's Lynn ($179,250), Everett ($219,000) and Revere ($180,000), among others.
Happy bargain hunting!
The author is solely responsible for the content.