Chris and Allicyn Aubut knew they wanted to raise their children close to the ocean, where they could play in the sand, learn to fish, and swim in the waves.
They tried Falmouth, but the commute to Allicyn’s biotech job in Cambridge was too much. They spent a few years in Canton, but they didn’t feel the same connection to the hockey-loving community as they did to shore towns — Chris grew up in Westport, Allicyn in Acushnet.
And then Allicyn’s college friend told her about his hometown of Duxbury. The Aubuts fell in love with it and bought a home there about 18 months ago.
Allicyn drives to work, and Chris, a former saltwater fly fishing guide, manufactures fishing rods.
“We really wanted our kids to grow up the way we did,’’ Chris Aubut said. “We wanted them to have those opportunities of boating and the beach and fishing. Some weekends we go to a freshwater pond or a coastal river or the beach. It’s such a nice way to spend time with your kids. It’s so much better than video games and TV. There’s a lot here to keep them out of trouble.’’
On the verge of the spring home-buying season, real estate agents say there are three key factors families consider when deciding where to narrow their search — price, schools, and an X factor that fits their own personal lifestyle.
Realtors say the X factor is often connected to geography (where they grew up, for example) and what they want nearby (commuter rail, cultural offerings, shops, open space, or the beach).
The X factor is typically what separates people when they make the decision to search north, south, or west of Boston.
“Once you get outside schools and affordability, it’s all about lifestyle,’’ said Chris Doherty, president of Doherty Properties in Lowell. “Some people want to be close to family. Others want to be in a city downtown because they want easy access to shops, restaurants, and night life. Other people may want a big piece of land in a rural area, because they want privacy. How do they want to live their life?”
Ted Devnew, an agent at Waterfront Realty Group in Duxbury, said home buyers are drawn to the South Shore because it can be less expensive than the North Shore or the western suburbs.
But the key factor is its proximity to water — the bay, the ocean, rivers, and ponds.
“As much as anything, it’s a maritime draw and the beach itself,’’ he said. “A lot of people here want a connection to the water.’’
For those heading west, proximity to Boston and major highways like the Massachusetts Turnpike are top priorities, along with a sense of community and open space for hiking and privacy, said local real estate agents.
“They are looking for a good quality of life, good schools, and the best commute they can manage,’’ said Roberta Swenson, president of Rutledge Properties in Wellesley.
‘How do they want to live their life?’
Anne Forziat Halligan and her husband, Kevin Halligan, grew up in New York, so when he was transferred to Massachusetts last year, they had a clean slate. They moved into a rental in Arlington while they narrowed their search. They looked north and south but settled on Acton to the west.
Price was a factor, and with three young children, quality schools were a must. In the end, it came down to open space, transportation, and cultural diversity, and Acton had it all.
“You feel like you’re breathing fresh air here,’’ said Forziat Halligan.
Coming from New York City, they wanted their children to be exposed to other cultures, so they were happy to find a large Chinese population in town. Acton is on the commuter rail, providing quick access to Boston for work and big-city amenities.
But it’s also been an adjustment for Forziat Halligan, who is used to walking out the door and getting milk down the block.
“No place is perfect, but if you want space and a larger property and the quiet and nature, you’re not going to find a corner bodega,’’ she said. “This is definitely the right thing for us now.’’
Many young home buyers are moving north of Boston for small cities like Lowell and Haverhill that have shops, restaurants, and the commuter rail all within walking distance, Doherty said.
When Phil Caminiti and his wife, Ali Mercier, moved to Massachusetts from New York City, they wanted to be close to the action but far enough away for some peace and quiet. They wanted affordability, an urban environment, and access to the commuter rail for Caminiti’s job in Boston.
The couple, who welcomed a son in January, settled on a new town house in Lowell, across the street from a park, within walking distance of the commuter rail station, and a few blocks from restaurants and museums.
Proximity to the commuter rail station was a top priority for Caminiti, who didn’t want to fight traffic every day or sit on the train for too long. Caminiti works for Houghton Mifflin in Boston as a children’s book designer and illustrator.
“We were looking for that balance of accessibility to the city and having the amenities of an urban metropolitan area, but we didn’t want to live right in the city. Lowell has a lot to offer in its own right,’’ said Caminiti.
“It has an art scene, and restaurants. For us, we can have a car, afford a house, have more space than we’ve ever had, live next to a park for our dogs and kids.’’Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.