When it comes to buying a home, there’s nothing but decisions, decisions, and more decisions.
What town is best for me and my family? Are the schools good? Can I walk to a good restaurant and stores? Is it too far (or too close) to extended family?
And of course: Can I afford it?
Buying a house is always a difficult decision, a tug-of-war between the hard logic of a small house with a fast commute time balanced against the emotional appeal of the spacious house and large yard far from the highway.
For those uncertain about what communities they might want to consider, the Globe has developed an online tool, called Dreamtown Finder, using a wide variety of data, to help people decide.
Using the tool, home seekers can decide how important various factors are to them, and the Dreamtown Finder steers them to a set of options. Everyone has a different set of criteria, of course, but the factors we chose for the tool include the following: schools (SAT scores), people similar to you (age, education), fun (movie theaters, restaurants), hipster (number of colleges, Starbucks, hybrid cars), location (crime, public transit, grocery stores), and housing costs (assessed values).
One couple who recently faced one of life’s big choices is Jessica and Heath Luedde of Stoneham. They already know what’s most important for their family: schools. The pair, both 35, have two young boys, 5 and 2.
They’ve sold their house on a busy street and are looking for a new home in Bedford.
“It’s a very good school system for the money,” said Jessica Luedde, a public-sector lawyer. “We can’t do Wellesley. This is a good balance. And we also have friends in town.”
They’ve also done the city, living in South Boston before moving to Stoneham. Both still work there, Jessica part time, and Heath full time selling rare coins for Bunker Hill Sales Associates.
Like many others, the appeal of city life lost some luster as their kids neared school age.
“Before, proximity to the city was more important. Now it’s not so important,” said Jessica, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania.
They are hoping to buy quickly, if not in Bedford, then perhaps Andover or Carlisle. There’s also the possibility of renting in Bedford until the right house pops up, so that their son can start kindergarten in the fall.
Ideally, they hope to buy a 2,400-square-foot house, with three or four bedrooms and 1½ or two baths.
Using the Lueddes’ circumstances, the Globe’s online Dreamtown Finder tool picked Berlin, Boylston, and Sherborn among area communities for the family. Jessica Luedde likes those towns, especially the Sherborn schools. But she is concerned that the commutes from Berlin and Boylston are too long. She’s happy with Bedford.
We tried some other scenarios of would-be home searchers, using the Dreamtown Finder.
Take, for example, a 23-year-old single person, who might not be interested in schools, but is very interested in the categories we call Fun and Hipster. His top towns, according to Dreamtown Finder: Cambridge and Boston.
For a mid-50s couple, without children, who are interested in fun in the city and are somewhat “hipsterish,” the Dreamtown Finder picked Cambridge, Boston, Brookline, and Newton.
On the other hand, the online tool found that a retired person, interested in fun and with plenty of money for housing, could find Boston, Cambridge, Marlborough, and Framingham to his or her liking.
One of the families interviewed by the Globe, Aidan J. O’Donoghue, a manager for Verizon, and his wife Danielle, a nurse, want to move from Quincy to a larger house, perhaps in Marshfield. They are also considering Hanover, Canton, and Norwood.
With three young children — Gavin, 6, Parker, 4, and Cooper, 3 months — the O’Donoghues are in the market for a four-bedroom.
“We’re growing out of our house in Quincy,” said Aidan O’Donogue.
Complicating the situation is location. Aidan works in Plymouth, while his wife’s family is in Burlington. The new community has to be not too far from work or relatives.
“You try to please yourself and your family, too,” said Aidan. “It’s not easy.”
A nice, kid-friendly environment is a requirement. “We want a neighborhood with good schools and lots of yard.” He wants the kind of neighborhood where his kids can just walk out the door to play with other youngsters living nearby.
Not everyone needs good schools and lots of friends for their kids, at least right now.
Christina Pascucci and her boyfriend, Chris Ciampa, are interested in renting in Boston. The 27-year-olds are looking to “live life a little more,” said Pascucci, who now lives in Melrose.
They haven’t settled on a neighborhood yet, although they have friends in South Boston.
Pascucci also liked what she saw in Savin Hill, where another friend lives.
She’s eager to try living in the city, after spending most of her life on the North Shore. She lived for one year in the city as a college student, but that was it.
“It will definitely be a transition, but I think it will be a good transition,” she said.
“We would be total newbies to the experience, but we feel it would be the right fit for us,” she added.
They already do some things in the city. Both are on a kickball team in Boston. Every other member of the team lives in the city, she said.
Her boyfriend is a little nervous about city parking. But a big plus for her is being less reliant on a car for getting around. “I don’t like driving,” she admitted.
She works as an administrative assistant in Peabody. Her boyfriend works in Chelmsford.
Where you live depends on your situation, she said.
“We always gravitated to the North Shore because that is all we knew for so many years,’’ Pascucci said. “We were comfortable — a little too comfortable. So we wanted to make a move to the city.”