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Expensive house, so-so neighborhood

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis September 25, 2013 04:42 AM

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Should you buy an expensive home in a not-so-expensive neighborhood?

That is the question "Steve" in Melrose is asking himself right now as he moves ahead with plans to buy a relatively new and spacious colonial in a neighborhood of aging ranches.

It's been a long, hard road for our new friend, who has spent three years searching for a three/four bedroom home in Medford, Arlington, Winchester and Belmont, only to wind up on the wrong side of multiple bidding wars.

Writes Steve: "After 3 years, we honestly can't find anything that we like in the towns/neighborhoods that we like. We're tired of looking and don't want to wait another year.

So something will have to give, right?"

Yet while Steve is ready to make some compromises, he also doesn't want to make a big mistake he'll regret 15 or 20 years down the line, either.

That's his dilemma.

First, the good news. Steve managed to haggle the price down under asking. And the house is great - it has everything he has been looking for in terms of layout and features.

But he suspects one reason he's getting a deal is because of the humdrum neighborhood, which, while certainly safe, is nothing to write home about.

To say it is lacking in curb appeal may be understating it - in fact there's barely a curb, with no sidewalks and trees few and far between.

OK, it's not the most expensive home in the neighborhood - there are a few McMansions scattered about.

But still, Steve's soon-to-be-new home definitely stands out, and that makes him uncomfortable.

Here's Steve again:

"Am I overthinking this? Is a great house in a safe neighborhood with decent schools worth it even if it's among the most expensive and largest there, surrounded by tiny cheap houses? Should we stick to the "location, location, location,"  and "never buy the most expensive house" rules? Or is it better to raise a family in a house that works for us rather than the "crappiest house in the ideal neighborhood? (because that's what we'd be looking at elsewhere), and spend years fixing-upping it?"

OK, so what's your advice to Steve?

I'll share my thoughts in my Thursday morning post.

But don't punish him for his honesty.  Be clear but also be constructive.

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

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

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