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Big house, long commute

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 25, 2013 09:11 AM

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Buyers in Greater Boston are increasingly faced with a pretty tough choice, between space and drive time.

If you are of middling means, you can settle for a small house, maybe a fixer upper as well, within the 495 beltway. (Forget about inside 128, unless you are looking for a condo.)

Or you move out beyond 495 - or often enough out of state altogether to southern New Hampshire or Maine - and buy that larger, and relatively new, 2,500 square foot colonial.

Of course, in some cases, moving west beyond 495 may simply mean the difference between being able to buy and getting stuck forking over ever greater amounts of your paycheck on rent.

Either way, you get the house, but then you are stuck with an exhausting, maddening commute.

My wife Karen and I opted for the first strategy - buying a fixer-upper in Natick to avoid crazy commutes as we started a family.

I have worked out of a home office since I left the Herald in 2008, ditching my daily drive into Boston. And Karen commutes to Newton, which still can take 45 minutes along clogged Route 9 and the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Still, when it comes to commuting, we have a relatively good deal.

The trade off, of course, was buying a fixer-upper near Natick center that has taken years of work - and some substantial money to contractors as well as a fair amount of sweat equity -  to make our 1920s village colonial liveable for our little family.

A contributor to the comments section on this blog, Monday Monday decided to go for the house and settle for the longer commute. When he gave notice to his Somerville landlord, the guy apparently jumped for joy and raised the rent by $400. How heartwarming.

Here Monday's story:

I recently purchased a house west of 495 home. This was after looking for 2 years for a decent, affordable house or condo in Somerville, Boston, or Arlington. I never intended to go so far west--I'm now a mega-commuter--but going west was the only way that I could purchase a home. Either now or in the future.

My Somerville landlord was ecstatic that I was moving and promptly raised my rent by $400. It rented immediately. I have heard from other Somervillians that they will need to change rental properties soon because the rent in their building keeps going up.

I don't have any answers as to how to solve this problem of middle class families migrating to the outer limits of greater Boston. Or perhaps leaving the state altogether. (I considered NH and Maine once I realized how far out I was going to need to look.)

Perhaps just that the government needs to be committed to leveling out some of the income inequalities that are turning the Boston area into a home for the wealthy only (as in, people making significantly more than the median wage--see prior conversation about the meaning of the word "wealthy" on this blog).


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

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