MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE: HALIFAX
When realtor Moriah Wicker was growing up in Halifax, it was a sleepy little town: There wasn’t even a Dunkin’ Donuts, she says, and the fire department, where her mom worked, closed for the night at 6 p.m. Halifax has come a long way since, Wicker says, but still holds a rural charm. Locally owned Nessralla Farm runs a farm stand in the town center, and creates a gigantic corn maze on its property each fall. “The youth and rec department is really great,” Wicker adds, hosting family events like Easter egg hunts and Holidays in Halifax, a seasonal stroll downtown.
Yet, with a commuter rail stop on either end of town, and with Boston, Providence, and the Cape within striking distance, Wicker says, “you’re not in the middle of nowhere.”
Also on the commuter rail, runner-up Brockton has been investing in its future, leading to a remarkable comeback for the City of Champions. When Cappiello Boxing & Fitness Gym owner Michael Cappiello was growing up here, “People would walk down Main Street to do their shopping — and I think that’s slowly coming back now,” he says, as storefronts and buildings keep getting renovated. The city also supports its kids, both in and outside of school, he adds, with summer jobs and free evening athletic and enrichment programs for teens.
THE SECRET’S OUT: MARION
Hidden away on the South Coast, locals have long considered Marion, a quintessentially quaint New England town, their own little secret, says realtor and lifelong resident Margot Feeney Kalkanis. But this past year, as buyers flocked to rural and vacation communities, “It seemed like our secret was out.” The median price of a single-family home here jumped 35 percent last year alone.
And no wonder: The picturesque village includes small shops like Kate’s Simple Eats and an old-fashioned general store, set against the maritime backdrop of Sippican Harbor. Feeney Kalkanis appreciates that the intimate community she grew up in hasn’t changed much in 30 years. “The schools are great, there are a lot of recreational activities for kids and adults, and we have sweet traditions like the Halloween Parade and the Christmas Stroll, where Santa arrives by boat,” she says.
With two kids under 5, Lizz Esmond says the school system was one reason her family recently moved to Braintree, along with access to the Red Line, which allows them to own just one car. But with a big backyard, a pond nearby, and the Blue Hills Reservation on the west side of town, she’s been pleasantly surprised at how much outdoor space they have access to. “It’s been nice to be so close to the city without being in such a dense area,” Esmond says.
BEACHES AND THE BLUE HILLS: COHASSET
Lydia St. Onge and her husband, Mark, both grew up in Cohasset, and wanted to raise their own kids there, too. “It’s just a really special place,” says St. Onge, a member of the School Committee. “Even though time goes on and houses get bigger and new people arrive, it does still have a cozy community feel.”
Besides beaches, a working harbor, and a town common, this coastal community holds hidden surprises for those who roam it on foot, St. Onge says. “I went exploring with my kids the other day and, even in my late 30s, I felt like I was 8 years old again, climbing over moss-covered granite rocks and finding hidden coves amid the old oak trees.”
When Hawaii native Maile Panerio-Langer and her partner first relocated from Seattle to Boston, the family wanted to be near nature — which led them to Milton, and the 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation. “Hands down, this was the biggest piece of nature around,” says Panerio-Langer, now associate director of the Friends of the Blue Hills. They welcomed the 125 miles of hiking trails and the swimming beach at Houghton’s Pond — and their neighborhood welcomed them. “We didn’t know any of the neighbors yet, and all of a sudden all of these housewarming gifts started to appear on our porch,” she says. Panerio-Langer also appreciates the town’s built environment — sidewalks, bike lanes, the Mattapan trolley — and its schools’ French immersion program.
Katie Powers and Jakob Menendez contributed to this story.
WINNERS IN THREE PRICE CATEGORIES
1. Under $500,000: Halifax
Median single-family price: $411,000
Increase since 2015: 59.9 percent
> Runner-up: Brockton
Median single-family price: $345,500
Increase since 2015: 57 percent
2. $500,000–$750,000: Marion
Median single-family price: $610,000
Increase since 2015: 52.9 percent
> Runner-up: Braintree
Median single-family price: $550,000
Increase since 2015: 42.1 percent
3. Over $750,000: Cohasset
Median single-family price: $1,062,500
Increase since 2015: 42.9 percent
> Runner-up: Milton
Median single-family price: $772,500
Increase since 2015: 36.7 percent
WHAT YOU GET FOR AROUND $650,000 SOUTH OF BOSTON
31 Thetford Avenue | Braintree
Square feet: 1,440
Lot size: 0.35 acre
Bedrooms: 3 Baths: 1 full, 1 half
This 1950 Colonial sits on a quiet side street and has hardwood floors, arched doorways, and a side deck off the front-to-back living room. (Listed by Karyn O’Neil, Abbey Realty.)
Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.