Here’s one alternative to the real estate affordability crisis in Massachusetts: Leave.
Over the last few years, more people have been moving out of Massachusetts than moving in. And one of the most popular destinations is New Hampshire, the land of a lower cost of living, no sales tax, and no income tax (property taxes are often higher, though).
“Houses are more affordable than they are in Massachusetts,” says Bill Weidacher, operating partner of Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan, which has offices in Bedford, Londonderry, Keene, and Concord, New Hampshire. “And people can still work in Massachusetts pretty easily and own a home in Southern New Hampshire.”
If they can find one, that is. Over the past five years, the average inventory of single-family homes for sale statewide plummeted 70 percent, from 5,926 to just 1,791. Meanwhile, high demand pushed the statewide median from $266,000 in 2017 to $440,000 in 2022, according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. (Not great for buyers, but that’s still 25 percent lower than the Massachusetts median of $550,000.)
Another thing New Hampshire does not have a lot of: diversity. The state population is 1.9 percent Black, for example, and 4.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2020 Census. Growth in younger populations of people of color in the state will hopefully start to change that, with an estimated 16 to 18 percent of the under-18 population identifying as BIPOC and/or Hispanic. Weidacher says he’s also been talking with the NAACP about how to diversify the pool of real estate agents. “I just believe that the realtor community could be better served with diversity, if you want better diversity in housing,” he says.
One of the hottest New Hampshire spots is Hillsborough County, which includes Manchester and Nashua. More than 4,000 Massachusetts residents moved to the county in 2020, according to the Pioneer Institute, a Boston think tank. Buyers are attracted to places like Goffstown, a town known for its charming center, good schools, Saint Anselm College, and the Annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta on the Piscataquog River. It’s a 10-minute commute to Manchester and about an hour and 15 minutes to Boston down Interstate 93.
The interest in Goffstown is changing the real-estate figures fast. The median price of a single-family — $441,000 — is up 65 percent since 2017, and the average number of days on the market has dropped from 35 to 10, according the state realtors association.
One reason for Goffstown’s popularity is that it’s good for families, says Carroll Berg III, 38, whose parents moved to the town from Massachusetts nearly 40 years ago to start their family. He’s a graphic designer with a marketing company — he lived and worked in Portland, Maine, for a stint, before returning to Goffstown — and his wife, Marissa, 36, works for an association of agencies serving adults with developmental disabilities and volunteers with the Main Street business organization. They own an 1888 home in the village and both their children, ages 9 and 15, go to Goffstown schools. They like the town’s walkability, convenience, and community spirit.
“There’s always something going on,” Berg says. He ticks off events such as Springfest, with its business exposition and kids carnival, as well as the pumpkin regatta, which involves paddling a giant pumpkin down the river. “We’re 20 minutes from Pats Peak, which is a pretty ski area. So there’s winter stuff to do. Glen Lake — you can skate on it if you want. You can swim in it. That’s five minutes down the road.”
The town is good for kids, Marissa Berg says. It has a busy children’s sports scene — Goffstown narrowly lost to Concord for the Little League state championship last year — and an old-fashioned vibe. “Just listening to parents reminisce about the times when the kids would just run around and play in the neighborhood until the street lights came on,” she says. “It’s [still] very, very much like that.”
Susan Moeller is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org