Jon Brophy and his wife, Kate, were feeling the pull of the suburbs last summer.
“We came down from Maine together, lived in Brighton for seven to eight years, dated, got married one and a half years ago,” Jon recalled recently. “It was time to find a house. The plan was to have kids.”
The Brophys weren’t pioneers in pursuing the American dream. But they had particular needs, too. Since the two 30-year-olds work near South Station, they insisted on living near an MBTA commuter-rail line. They also wanted plenty of land for the third member of the family.
“We have a gigantic dog,” Jon said. “He’s probably 140 pounds. He’s a Lab but also a Newfoundland.”
But the couple soon found that towns they assumed would be perfect for two professionals — he’s an actuary at insurance giant AIG; she works for multinational furniture designer Knoll — were way out of their price range.
“Things in Lexington or Wellesley and Wayland — those were not affordable,” he said.
Their eventual choice of a century-old Cape next to Callahan State Park in north Framingham is increasingly common these days among young families and others migrating west from Boston, said real estate agents and observers.
As the market in Boston’s suburbs has rebounded from sluggish growth after the 2008 financial crisis, properties in the tonier communities have skyrocketed in value, pushing all but the wealthiest buyers toward Interstate 495, and speeding trends that began more than a decade ago but slumped when the bubble burst.
“I can go back with a window of three and a half to four years of clients who have moved out of the city, or even have been relocating and hadn’t been setting their sights on towns like Framingham,” said real estate agent David Ferrini, who represented the homeowner who sold to the Brophys. “Then their world got opened.”
The Brophys paid $499,000 for their two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot house on Edmands Road.
Their purchase price was less than half of the $1.18 million median figure for home sales in Wellesley, around half of the $950,000 median cost in Lexington, and about $125,000 less than the median in Wayland, according to data compiled by the Warren Group, a real estate research firm based in Boston.
“People are finding where the value is if they don’t have the big pharmaceutical job in Kendall Square,” said Tim Warren, chief executive of the Warren Group. “If they have the big pharmaceutical job, then they are looking in Lexington.”
The Brophys aren’t alone. The number of home sales in Framingham increased by more than 31 percent last year compared with 2009, when the real estate market was in the doldrums, according to the Warren Group. The town’s median home price was $336,000, or 12 percent more than five years earlier.
Normally, those are healthy numbers, said Warren and others. But that price inflation seems tame compared with other communities in the region.
In the same period of time, the number of single-family home sales in Lexington increased by 16 percent, while the median sales price rose an eye-popping 51 percent, according to the Warren Group.
Much of the price increase in Lexington stemmed from old houses being torn down and replaced with grander ones. But prices were increasing in other towns where builders were not necessarily as active. Home sales in Wellesley increased by 24 percent, while median prices rose by 38 percent. In Wayland, sales went up by around 5 percent, while prices increased by 22 percent.
The trend has livened up real estate markets in towns where residents have only in recent years started considering them to be suburbs of Boston. In Bolton, for example, sales increased by 67 percent last year compared with 2009, while prices rose by about 4 percent to a median value of $467,500.
“When supply and demand come into play inside Route 128 and inside I-495, and values start to increase, people step over I-495 and start buying in towns like Bolton, primarily because of the location’’ near the highway, “the rural aspects of the town, and the good education system,” said a local real estate agent, Rick Freeman.
Other real estate agents also cited the quality of schools as a major driver in the price inflation.
Frank Chen, owner of Good School Realty, which has offices in Acton and Lexington, said his clients accept nothing less than school districts that can prove their stellar credentials, such as Lexington and Newton. He’s now steering many of his clients to Acton, where the median home price last year was $525,000.
Acton is part of a respected regional school system with Boxborough, where the median sales price of a single family house was $641,000 last year, around 11 percent more compared with 2009 but 32 percent more compared with 2013.
“The interest here is very high along Route 128,” said Chin. “In Lexington and Newton, the median price is very close to $1 million. That’s out of reach for most young people. Some of them are going to Acton or Needham.”
The Brophys thought long and hard about the quality of schools in Framingham. The more they learned, however, the less concerned they became. Too many people in the suburbs obsess about minute distinctions between school districts that are on the whole excellent, including Framingham, they decided.
“We’re from a very small town in Maine,” Jon Brophy said. “We turned out just fine. Sometimes I feel the school rankings can be elitist. It makes some of the people in those towns feel better. There can’t be that much of a difference if you are good student.”
The frenzy to live in the most affluent towns — for their schools and other reasons — and the commensurate rise in property values worries Warren.
“I hate to see real estate go up in value that fast,” he said. “It just seems like it’s a formula for another bubble.”
But he added that residents in towns that experienced the frothiest real estate markets were paying high prices for their homes because they hold high-paying jobs at Boston’s prestigious universities, hospitals, and financial companies — institutions that aren’t likely to go anywhere soon.
“The richer communities are doing better than others,” he said. “That’s just the way this recovery in the real estate market is happening.”
John Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this article had data with incorrect home price increase percentages for some towns.