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Is '70s-style suburban living dead?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  August 5, 2013 09:37 AM

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Everything urban is hot right now - even in the suburbs.

That's right, the hottest growth areas in many Greater Boston suburbs are not in sprawling new subdivisions on former farmland but in and around town centers.

Here's what one Newton broker, who has been selling homes in the Garden Center for decades now, recently told me.

Once upon a time, no one wanted to be near Newton's various village centers, but now they can't get close enough.

"It's a huge change since I started. Anything closer to the center was lower. People didn't want to be close to the center - if you were really close, your house sold for less money," she noted. "But things have really changed. Sellers love those houses within walking distance, they want to walk to the coffee shop and use public transportation."

Natick is another great example, with a median single-family sale price of $422,500 that is less than half Newton ($855,000), The Warren Group reports.

Karen and I bought a fixer-upper within a 20 minute walk from downtown a decade ago and have seen Natick's downtown blossom. It's worth the walk now, with a nice assortment of shops and restaurants, and a commuter rail stop as well.

We were hardly trend seekers - we stumbled onto Natick in our search for something with potential we could buy for under $300,000.

But we have definitely liked what we have seen - call us converts.

Honestly, we have no desire to sell our Natick house and move into the kind of traditional '70s subdivisions where we both grew up. To do anything, you had to jump in the car and drive at least twenty minutes or more.

Still, it's more than just tracking the amount of time spent in a car - I still need to drive to get to the grocery store and the hardware store in the center of town closed, leaving only Home Depot out on Route 9.

Rather, it's the overall feel. Growing up in a suburban subdivision, you might as well have been on the moon, with little or no connection with the community you are living with.

Natick and Newton are just two examples - the interest in urban/town center living is growing across the Greater Boston area, with many other examples, with the giant Westwood Station project off 128 being one of the largest.

Are you sold on "town living" or is the now old-fashioned, '70s-style suburban subdivision still your thing?

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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