Best Places for Homeownership in Massachusetts

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by on February 21, 2014

Written by Maggie Clark

Massachusetts is investing in homeownership: Governor Deval Patrick recently created a new home ownership compact to provide 10,000 mortgage loans to first-time homebuyers by 2018 through the MassHousing and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership programs. And even before this plan, the Massachusetts homeownership rate has continued to rise since 2000, according to U.S. Census data.  In 2013, home sales in Massachusetts were up 4.9 percent from 2012 sales, as reported by The Warren Group, which tracks the New England housing market. While conditions are ripe for homeownership statewide, our top 20 picks were all located in the eastern part of the state.

NerdWallet analyzed the numbers for the 77 places in Massachusetts with more than 15,000 residents to identify the best places to own a home in Massachusetts. Our analysis answers three main questions:

1. Are homes available?  We looked at the metro area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher. Thinking of buying a home yourself? Check out our mortgage tool to find the best rate.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

For more details on our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the end of the report.

1. Wilmington

Wilmington continues to see a steady increase in home sales with the state’s highest home ownership rate at 89.8 percent and monthly costs that only take up 27 percent of median household income. Boasting of a short commute to Boston and a full range of municipal services, this city is a great place to lay down roots. The community is also drawing new businesses and offers classes and sports for kids and adults through the city recreations department.  The town is also home to the Ristuccia Memorial Arena, the training center for the Boston Bruins hockey team.

2. Franklin

Located halfway between Boston and Providence, this city has a high home ownership rate of 79.3 percent and reasonable monthly homeowner costs which take up just 29.2 percent of the median monthly household income. The largest industries here are manufacturing and scientific research and development. Franklin’s location between Providence, Boston and Worcester positions it within 30 miles of over 100 colleges and universities.

3. Reading

With a homeownership rate of 82.2 percent and monthly homeownership costs taking up just 30.9 percent of median monthly household incomes, Reading is very homebuyer-friendly. Located just 12 miles from the center of Boston, it is in very close proximity to many world-renowned cultural, recreational, and educational opportunities, and just a short drive away from beautiful beaches, mountains, and historic sites. Residents here have access to jobs in Boston and with local companies including Fraen Corp., which designs and manufactures car components including speedometers and lighted displays, and a number of local schools.

4. Burlington

Located 20 minutes northwest of Boston, Burlington offers close proximity to the city, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. With a 71.2 homeownership rate and the second-highest rate of population growth in the top 10, the city also has some of the lowest residential tax rates in the area. Burlington is also a shopping destination: it’s home to the Burlington Mall and Wayside Commons.

5. Hudson

Located just inside the I-495 loop around Boston, Hudson is the fastest growing place on our top 10 list and offers affordable homes with a median value of $290,100.  Residents here have access to jobs in Boston or can seek work closer to home at some of the town’s largest employers, including Entwistle, a machine engineering firm and Affordable Interior Systems, which designs and manufactures office furniture.  Art and outdoors enthusiasts will love the Assabet River Rail Trail, a 12.5-mile trail lined by multiple kiosks with art displays.

6. Wakefield

Wakefield is a scenic town 10 miles north of Boston and just next to our fourth pick Burlington, with a 77 percent homeownership rate. From 2011 to 2012, the city´s population increased by two percent. Wakefield has preserved much of its historic New England appearance and is recognized for its thriving businesses, and scenic Lake Quannapowitt, which plays host to countless outdoor festivals and benefit activities each year. Wakefield also has a strong local sports and recreation culture.

7. Randolph

Located about 30 minutes south of Boston, Randolph’s population increased by 2.3 percent between 2010 and 2012 and median home values in town are $279,800. It’s a diverse community where no one racial group makes up more than half the population and more than 30 percent of the residents are foreign-born. The city also offers parks, an aquatic center and volunteer-led community theater for kids and adults to shine.

8. Lexington

Lexington, located only 11 miles northwest of Boston, has a unique place in history. It is regarded as the “Birthplace of American Liberty” where the “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired, and the American Revolution began. Today it is a town of about 30,000 noted for its excellent schools and thriving downtown center with fine dining, art, and retail. Economic growth in the region has been fueled by the growing biotechnology industry. Lexington had the highest monthly median household income at $11,508 and 82.1 percent of residents own their homes.

9. Methuen

Located on the northern Massachusetts border with New Hampshire near the Merrimack River, Methuen boasts a 72.3 percent homeownership rate and affordable homeowner costs which take up just 36.2 percent of the median monthly household income. Civic pride is strong in Methuen: the city supports local artists through its “Artist of the Month” program where Mayor Stephen Zanni honors a local artist each month. Along with an active city government, the Methuen Board of Trade offers an outlet for citizens interested in the advancement of Methuen to meet and work to make the city an even better place to live.

10. Longmeadow

Longmeadow is located along the Connecticut River and is home to more than 16,000 people. This community has the second-highest homeownership rate of our top 10 at 89.1 percent. It’s also our second-most affordable place to own a home: homeownership costs take up only 28.6 percent of the median monthly household income. Stately colonial homes, tree-shaded streets and parks with swimming pools, tennis courts, and playgrounds characterize the community.

Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income Median Home Values 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Wilmington Boston 89.8% $2,228 $8,252 27.0% $378,900 2.3% 86.8
2 Franklin Providence, RI 79.3% $2,366 $8,106 29.2% $387,100 2.4% 80.6
3 Reading Boston 82.2% $2,646 $8,551 30.9% $443,700 2.0% 77.8
4 Burlington Boston 71.2% $2,449 $7,733 31.7% $414,500 2.7% 76.9
5 Hudson Boston 66.2% $2,010 $5,490 36.6% $290,100 2.8% 75.5
6 Wakefield Boston 77.0% $2,362 $7,151 33.0% $405,600 2.0% 75.0
7 Randolph Boston 70.9% $2,126 $5,230 40.7% $279,800 2.3% 73.6
8 Lexington Boston 82.1% $3,417 $11,508 29.7% $689,100 2.2% 73.5
9 Methuen Lawrence 72.3% $1,986 $5,488 36.2% $284,200 1.8% 72.6
10 Longmeadow Springfield 89.1% $2,361 $8,257 28.6% $343,000 0.3% 72.6
11 Winchester Boston 83.4% $3,402 $10,683 31.8% $691,300 2.0% 72.3
12 Braintree Boston 72.3% $2,250 $7,101 31.7% $369,900 1.7% 71.7
13 Saugus Boston 76.7% $2,228 $6,326 35.2% $355,200 1.4% 70.8
14 Abington Lynn 72.8% $2,173 $6,347 34.2% $325,600 1.4% 70.0
15 Danvers Lynn 70.8% $2,306 $6,599 34.9% $367,000 1.7% 69.8
16 Dedham Boston 73.2% $2,461 $6,849 35.9% $374,700 1.6% 69.7
17 Milton Boston 80.2% $2,779 $8,965 31.0% $483,500 1.1% 69.1
18 Somerset Providence, RI 82.8% $1,867 $5,871 31.8% $281,800 0.3% 69.1
19 Wellesley Boston 83.0% $3,851 $12,917 29.8% $882,900 2.0% 68.8
20 Milford Worcester 61.0% $2,153 $5,352 40.2% $300,900 2.4% 68.6

Methodology
The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:

1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population came from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data came from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.

Only places with 15,000 or more residents were included in the study.

Photo courtesy of Tim Sackton via Flickr Creative Commons http://flic.kr/p/7pbDB6

 

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