The biggest price jumps of the last five years largely happened north of Boston. In fact, eight of the 10 communities outside Boston with the fastest-rising home prices were north of the city.
Housing demand follows jobs, says Warren, and these communities are both close to opportunities in Boston and creating new ones themselves. Some major developments took root in that time, including Assembly Row in Somerville, which brought with it the first new Orange Line stop in 27 years, and the much-anticipated Encore Boston Harbor casino across the Mystic River in Everett.
In the under $500,000 price range, the highest growth north of the city is in Everett. Its former industrial buildings are being converted to lofts and craft breweries, while the city’s majority-minority status is reflected by a refreshing range of restaurants along Broadway. “Everett is a great city for first-time buyers and families, with new schools, plenty of parks, and great sports programs,” says Steve Petrello, a real estate agent with Century 21 North East.
Neighboring Medford leads the midrange $500,000-$750,000 category. Elise Kopley and her husband moved there 10 years ago, drawn by its location, affordability, and neighborhood feel. They thought they would eventually “drop anchor” somewhere else, but when they had kids, “we realized that it’s just a fabulous place to be,” Kopley says. “It really embraces families.” The Medford Family Network organizes free classes and events, and there are citywide play groups that encourage families to discover the entire city and meet parents from other neighborhoods.
Those city-caliber social services come with a heaping side of nature and green space, thanks to the Mystic Lakes and the Middlesex Fells Reservation. Realtor Judy Sousa says neighborhoods near those parks — particularly Brooks Estates, West Medford, and Lawrence Estates — have traditionally been among the city’s most desirable. In the last two years, though, demand is high everywhere.
Topping the $750,000 to $1 million category is Somerville. Longtime resident Paula Woolley supposes the 47 percent increase since 2013 is preferable to all the boarded up houses that plagued her neighborhood when she first moved there in the early 1980s, but also feels “too many people have been priced out of the city.” While Woolley says Somerville’s vibrant arts and restaurant scene is particularly attractive for young people, she has loved raising her children there and notes the city’s free preschool programs and new playgrounds. “Every neighborhood has a park within walking distance,” Woolley says, but her favorite is the Somerville Community Path.
Winchester extends its reign as a top spot for million-dollar homes. Realtor Liz Darby says people love the town’s close-knit community feel, which is palpable at the Saturday farmers market. Buyers can expect to face competition on any home under $1.5 million or in walking distance to the town center, Darby says. “The closer you are to town and being able to walk to the train, the library, and shopping, those are the toughest neighborhoods to get into.”
THE WINNERS NORTH OF BOSTON IN FOUR PRICE CATEGORIES
■ Under $500,000 — Everett
Median single-family price: $445,000
Change since 2013: +71 percent
■ $500,000 to $750,000 — Medford
Median single-family price: $611,500
Change since 2013: +55 percent
■ $750,000 to $1 million — Somerville
Median single-family price: $797,500
Change since 2013: +47 percent
■ Over $1 million — Winchester
Median single-family price: $1,150,000
Change since 2013: +40 percent
ALSO TRENDING NORTH OF BOSTON, BASED ON MEDIAN SINGLE-FAMILY PRICES
■ Lawrence — $275,000
■ Lynn — $345,000
■ Malden — $486,450
■ Winthrop — $493,250
■ Melrose — $645,000
WHAT’S AVAILABLE FOR THE MEDIAN SINGLE-FAMILY SALES PRICE NORTH OF BOSTON*
38 GREEN STREET | WOBURN
■ Price: $609,900
■ Bedrooms: 4
■ Bathrooms: 2 full, 1 half
■ Square feet: 2,238
■ Lot size: 0.31 acre
■ Downtown Boston: 12 miles
This 1880 Colonial boasts Victorian-era details like pocket doors and a stained glass window, plus a basement in-law apartment.
* In 2018, median sales prices for single-family houses in the Boston area broke $600,000 for the first time since the Greater Boston Association of Realtors began tracking home prices, as half of homes sold for more than $610,000.