PLACING A BET: EVERETT
When Blessing Chitanda and her partner, Shawn Roberts, bought their home in Everett four years ago, even small condos near Chitanda’s Studio 27 Salon in the South End seemed out of reach. “We moved here from Boston — it’s close to the city, and way cheaper,” Chitanda says. Last May, the couple took over a commercial space across the street from their house, and now the salon has decamped to Everett, too, where they feel embraced by the community. “Our neighbors are so friendly,” Chitanda says.
Everett isn’t quite the bargain it used to be, with median prices rising 61.5 percent in five years. Realtor Tirso Peña says the boom is unsurprising, given its proximity to Boston, investments the city’s leadership has made in improving sidewalks and streets, and the economic engine of the Encore Boston Harbor casino. “People who live in my building work at the casino, and they want to live close to where they work,” he says.
Buyers looking for affordable homes near downtown Boston also pushed up prices in Lynn, drawn by its commuter rail service, dynamic restaurant scene, and enviable oceanfront facing the Boston skyline. But it’s also about the people, says Brothers Deli owner George V. Markos. “I’m from Greece, and I have the same connection with people here as I do with my family back home,” he says. “When you walk downtown, people say hi to you.”
OPEN SPACES: NEWBURY
Farther up the North Shore, a different downtown is the draw. In Newbury, buyers like being just down the road from neighboring Newburyport’s compact shopping district, but surrounded by farmland and salt marsh, says realtor Kevin Fruh. Residents and visitors alike love to shop at Tendercrop Farm, Fruh adds, and enjoy the serene beauty of Old Town Hill, a 531-acre Trustees of the Reservations property, and Plum Island, much of which falls under Newbury’s purview.
Despite an astounding 28 percent increase last year, the median price of a Newbury single-family is still below Newburyport’s — for homes that generally offer more space and a lower tax bill. People used to think it was too far up Interstate 95, Fruh says. “Then the coronavirus happened and everybody was like, ‘Oh, man, I can make this work.’”
Runner-up Malden isn’t home to a casino like Everett, but it does hold a pair of aces over many other communities: two Orange Line stops. Add to that a diversity of both housing options and residents, and “Malden is very attractive, especially with the MBTA,” says Peña.
CENTER OF CONNECTIONS: SOMERVILLE
There are many reasons Somerville appears on this list year after year. “You’ve got good restaurants, a vibrant community, and people are really drawn to that,” says realtor Eain Williams. And with Red, Orange, and (still on track for year-end) Green Line service, few communities are as well connected to Boston. That’s been a big selling point for Williams’s medical-professional clients. “They don’t have the option of working from home, so being close to the T is definitely a plus,” he says.
Meanwhile, Somerville’s many squares offer charming clusters of culture and centers of artistic gravity. It was the presence of the Somerville Theatre that inspired husband and wife musicians Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello to open The Burren in Davis Square 25 years ago, and the neighborhood around their Irish pub has changed, but still enchants. “It’s like walking into a village, that’s the atmosphere,” McCarthy says.
Runner-up Winchester boasts something of a village feel as well, says Lauren Costello, who, with her husband, Joe, owns the Costello Funeral Home. The town has an active and shop-studded town center, nearby walking trails in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, and a generous community spirit. “People here are just ready to lend a hand, always ready to support each other,” Costello says.
Jakob Menendez contributed to this story.
WINNERS IN THREE PRICE CATEGORIES
1. Under $500,000: Everett
Median single-family price: $497,500
Increase since 2015: 61.5 percent
> Runner-up: Lynn
Median single-family price: $420,000
Increase since 2015: 61.2 percent
2. $500,000–$750,000: Newbury
Median single-family price: $667,000
Increase since 2015: 51.6 percent
> Runner-up: Malden
Median single-family price: $545,000
Increase since 2015: 51.5 percent
3. Over $750,000: Somerville
Median single-family price: $917,400
Increase since 2015: 46.8 percent
> Runner-up: Winchester
Median single-family price: $1,250,000
Increase since 2015: 36.2 percent
WHAT YOU GET FOR AROUND $650,000 NORTH OF BOSTON
17 Bow Street Place #1 | Somerville
Square feet: 597
Condo fee: $141 per month
Bedrooms: 1 Baths: 1
Located in the heart of Union Square, this first-floor unit has bay windows in the living room and an updated bath with a custom-built vanity made from reclaimed wood. (Listed by Jaclyn Kryzak, Labrava Realty.)
Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.