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Globe Magazine

Top spots to live 2020: North of Boston

New economic development and transit projects have spurred price growth to the north of the city.

Alexander Vidal for The Boston Globe

Explore the 2020 Top Spots to live by region: City Neighborhoods | North | West | South

A Winning Bet: Everett

It was September 2014 when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett. However you feel about the cursive-crested addition to the local skyline, there’s no question that the casino and resort, which opened in 2019, created a jackpot for Everett property owners over the past five years.

“It’s put a spotlight on the town,” says realtor Hudson Santana of the Santana Properties Team/Keller Williams in Cambridge. “We’re seeing more cafes and restaurants popping up.” He says the Chelsea Street, Ferry Street, and Broadway triangle is popular with home buyers for its easy access to Boston and businesses in walking distance. “It’s a very heavy Brazilian population there, so you have a lot of bakeries and Brazilian restaurants.”

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Runner-up Revere lost the casino sweepstakes, but buyers are betting an Assembly Row-style mixed-use redevelopment of Suffolk Downs (which straddles the Revere-East Boston border) will complement the city’s existing perks—like its 3-plus miles of beachfront and Blue Line access to downtown.

It’s Hip to Be Square: Somerville

While the Assembly Row development brought a new Orange Line station and another retail- and restaurant-packed neighborhood to Somerville, Assembly Square is just one of the city’s commercial clusters. From Davis to Ball to Union, Somerville’s varied squares are the key to its perennial popularity with urbanites, Santana says. “Anywhere you buy in Somerville, you can walk to a restaurant or cafe, and in most places you can walk to a train station ... that’s what made Somerville such a popular community and made the prices really increase.”

In recent years, so many of Somerville’s three-deckers have been scooped up by developers, gut remodeled, and converted into high-end condos that it’s buoyed home prices throughout the city—but also eroded the supply of rental housing. In response, the city in August implemented new protections for tenants that have effectively put a halt on new condo conversions, Santana says—a move he expects will boost prices even further in surrounding communities. Runner-up Arlington, for example, has been a popular “next-town” alternative to Cambridge and Somerville for so long that prices in the immensely livable streetcar suburb are already near the stratosphere.

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Green Space and Green Line: Medford

Medford is also heating up because of the freeze on Somerville condos. “Now that Somerville isn’t an option, I’m seeing developers buy up the multifamilies in Medford,” Santana says. But Medford isn’t just a second Somerville. With dense, tree-lined neighborhoods of single-family homes, the top-tier Tufts University, a surprising amount of green space between the Middlesex Fells Reservation and Mystic Lakes, and its own piece of the Green Line extension, this city of nearly 60,000 has plenty to please buyers. “You’re so close to the city and it’s kind of hip,” says Mary Gillach, principal at The Gillach Group in Chestnut Hill. Two of her clients moved from Jamaica Plain to Medford last year, “to a cute little bungalow for $700,000. That’s the price of a two-bedroom condo in JP.”

Farther north, quiet runner-up Wilmington offers more space for your money plus a straight shot into Boston, says realtor Jonathan Parker of RE/MAX Encore in Wilmington. “We offer four exits off Route 93 and two commuter rail stations that lead to North Station,” he says.

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Explore the 2020 Top Spots to live by region: City Neighborhoods | North | West | South

THE WINNERS NORTH OF BOSTON IN THREE PRICE CATEGORIES

> Under $500,000: Everett

Median single-family price: $450,000

Change since 2014: +58.7 percent

> Runner-up: Revere

Median single-family price: $445,000

Change since 2014: +56.1 percent

> $500,000–$750,000: Medford

Median single-family price: $619,500

Change since 2014: +47.3 percent

> Runner-up: Wilmington

Median single-family price: $530,000

Change since 2014: +41.3 percent

> Over $750,000: Somerville

Median single-family price: $850,000

Change since 2014: +56 percent

> Runner-up: Arlington

Median single-family price: $813,000

Change since 2014: +32.5 percent

WHAT YOU GET FOR ABOUT $620,000 NORTH OF THE CITY

348 Upham Street, Melrose.
348 Upham Street, Melrose.

348 Upham Street | Melrose

Price: $625,000

Square feet: 1,698

Lot size: 0.09 acre

Bedrooms: 3 Baths: 1 full, 1 half

This charming 1925 Dutch Colonial comes complete with a white picket fence out front — plus hardwood floors, built-ins, and updates to the kitchen and baths.


Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.