With a lack of inventory around the region, the task of finding a home remains precarious for buyers. We looked at the 36 Greater Boston cities, towns, and city neighborhoods where demand — and prices — have surged the most (in three price categories) over the past five years. Here are the nine city neighborhoods that rose to the top.
Editor’s note: How high are prices in Boston and Cambridge? We had to adjust our median categories to reflect that there just isn’t much under $700,000. Also, the median prices that follow, from Redfin, combine single-family houses and condos since the proportion of single-families is much lower in the inner metro neighborhoods.
TOP SPOTS IN BOSTON AND CAMBRIDGE FOR UNDER $700,000
Top spot: Hyde Park
Median price: $623,111
Increase since 2017: 50.57 percent
Hyde Park is the kind of neighborhood where you could live all your life. And 69-year-old John Nicotera has done just that.
Nicotera still lives in the three-bedroom Cape with “a nice little yard” his parents bought in 1958, the house from where his mother sold homemade pizza to the neighborhood kids on Fridays. His cousin still lives next door. There’s just no reason to leave Hyde Park, he says.
“You’re close to the city, but close to the suburbs a little,” he says. “You’re right on the edge. It’s got that space to it — more than in Dorchester and other places. You got a little land.”
This is a neighborhood of single-family homes, with a mix of new and longtime residents. But rising home prices are encouraging development, including two new Colonials across the street from Nicotera. He’s wary of too much build-out, so he was relieved when a nearby vacant lot was turned into We Grow Microgreens, a 37,000-square-foot urban farm that sells produce from its greenhouse on Norton Street and at farmers markets.
The neighborhood is crisscrossed and divided by Hyde Park Avenue, Blue Hills Parkway, Turtle Pond Parkway, and Neponset Valley Parkway. But it’s on the commuter rail and only about a 20-minute ride to South Station. The main commercial center — Cleary Square — has seen better days, Nicotera says. But Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream and Twentieth Century Bowling Alley, next to the police station, is a popular spot. And both the Thomas M. Menino YMCA and the library have been recently updated.
This might not be the neighborhood if you’re looking for upscale coffee shops and a hipster scene. Nicotera describes himself as a “Dunkin’ kind of guy” — luckily, there are three in town.
Median price: $622,715
Increase since 2017: 37.66 percent
Median price: $615,271
Increase since 2017: 37.32 percent
Mattapan has single-family and multifamily homes, including new apartments and town homes, and is a community trying to balance gentrification with affordability. It’s a diverse neighborhood that’s home to the largest Haitian community in Massachusetts, and home to the 67-acre Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary. Roxbury, an epicenter of Boston’s Black culture, is a vibrant neighborhood with revitalized Nubian Square at the center of the action. Roxbury is also in the midst of ongoing development, with a focus on mixed-use buildings and affordable housing.
TOP SPOTS IN BOSTON AND CAMBRIDGE FOR $700,000 TO $900,000
Top spot: Mission Hill
Median price: $888,371
Increase since 2017: 51.14 percent
Mission Hill is another area where prices are rising as buyers looking for urban convenience push into neighborhoods beyond Massachusetts Avenue.
The neighborhood sits between Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street and is named for Mission Church on Tremont Street (the site of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral Mass). Less than a square mile, it’s long had a love/hate relationship with the Longwood Medical Area, the site of some of Boston’s top teaching hospitals, which have sometimes been hungry to expand into neighboring areas. But now some of the nearly 68,000 people who work at hospitals and other medical institutions see Mission Hill as a place to be close to work and avoid the higher prices of areas such as the South End and Jamaica Plain. Andrew McKinney, a real estate agent with Donnelly + Co. in Boston, says he’s seen Mission Hill condos sold to parents buying homes for adult children arriving for medical residencies.
Much of the neighborhood is three-deckers built for 19th-century German and Irish immigrants and mid-20th century apartment buildings, according to the nonprofit Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services. Demand is high and inventory is limited, however. There were only a dozen units listed on the market in early April, ranging in price from $452,000 to $995,000.
Mission Hill is popular because it’s a convenient and walkable “little pocket,” McKinney says, handy to the Jackson Square and Ruggles MBTA stations, as well as the Green Line running down Huntington Avenue. There’s a Stop & Shop at One Brigham Circle (the mixed-use mall), and the area’s popularity with medical professionals and students has made it busier at night and attracted new restaurants and bars. On Tremont Street, you’ll find Boba Me for bubble tea and the Milkweed restaurant, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to a neighborhood working long hours.
> West Roxbury
Median price: $726,520
Increase since 2017: 39.2 percent
> Jamaica Plain
Median price: $799,403
Increase since 2017: 33.47 percent
Families love West Roxbury for its single-family homes, yards, and school options, including two parish schools. It also has a busy roster of youth sports programs, and since it’s a neighborhood where people stay for generations, you’re likely to see grandparents cheering on the playing field sidelines. Jamaica Plain continues to rank as one of Boston’s hip neighborhoods, with a diverse population and a popular center with local shops and restaurants. It’s a street-car suburb with easy access to Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond.
TOP SPOTS IN BOSTON AND CAMBRIDGE FOR OVER $900,000
Top spot: The Port / Area Four
Median price: $1,550,634
Increase since 2017: 72.32 percent
The neighborhood Cambridge once dubbed Area Four now goes by the name its residents have long known it by, The Port. It’s the space between Inman and Central squares, west of Kendall. In recent years, the area has been transformed by workers from the booming biotech scene in Kendall.
“They want to be able to walk or bike to work,” says Leslie Belkner, a real estate agent with Compass. “It’s the perfect location for that.”
The result: A blisteringly hot market in which median home prices have surged 72 percent to a median of $1.5 million over the past five years, the highest growth in Boston or Cambridge. “Nowadays, you say ‘The Port’ and it’s hip,” Belkner says.
In the densely packed neighborhood, housing options include single-family houses, multifamilies, and apartment buildings. Though the neighborhood is short on sprawling lawns, it’s easy to get outside, with small green spaces scattered throughout and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus and the Charles River a leisurely stroll away.
Commercial activity is concentrated along Hampshire Street on the upper edge of the neighborhood, Massachusetts Avenue along the lower bounds, and Broadway through the center of it all.
In addition to iconic Port hangouts such as the Cantab Lounge, Lamplighter Brewing and Lord Hobo breweries, and acclaimed restaurants such as Oleana, new and interesting eateries are popping up to serve the influx of innovative young professionals, Belkner says.
> Porter Square
Median price: $1,860,982
Increase since 2017: 71.2 percent
> Huron Village
Median price: $1,859,531
Increase since 2017: 58.4 percent
Mass. Ave. runs through the heart of Porter Square, offering a convenient and vibrant assortment of coffee shops, restaurants, and both independent and national chain shops. But step off the main drag and you’ll immediately be surrounded by well-kept single-family and multifamily homes. As for Huron Village, it’s defined by gorgeous historic homes and its proximity to scenic Fresh Pond, where playgrounds and walking trails make it easy to get outdoors. Though largely residential, the area is in easy reach of supermarkets, shopping, and restaurants.
HOW WE SELECTED THE TOP SPOTS TO LIVE FOR 2023
Determining a “best” place to live is a subjective exercise, one with as many possible outcomes as there are home buyers. To arrive at this annual list of Top Spots, we rely on the finite but nonetheless valid wisdom of supply and demand: Sharply increasing home prices suggest that these are communities many people want to call home. We analyzed median home prices from 2017 and 2022 to find the biggest five-year increases across three price tiers for each region. In the suburbs, we looked at single-family data from The Warren Group, excluding communities with fewer than 50 sales in 2022. For Boston and Cambridge neighborhoods, we used median home price data — which include both single-family and condo sales — from real estate brokerage Redfin.
Susan Moeller is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Additional reporting by Sarah Shemkus and Robin Van Impe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.