Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

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K72
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Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by K72 »

We are considering purchasing a summer/fall home (3-6 months a year) within a 30-45 minute commuter rail ride to Boston. Ideal (likely doesn't exist) is a community with a quaint downtown shopping/restaurant district. We'd probably rent a couple of times before actually buying. We'd considered Boston neighborhoods on a T line but prefer more modest prices and a less urban environment. We'll probably keep a car but really want to use mass transit. Our kids live in Boston. We are retired and live on the opposite coast.

Any recommendations of towns/communities to check out?
All we want are the facts...
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Wellesley?

So just past Rt 128.

I do know that there's a Weston one, on Rt 117.

Not sure where the stop is that goes to Littleton.

These are commuter rails.

For regular T, half hour might get to Davis Square (Cambridge).

Get a T map and look. I can tell you from DW taking Framingham for years that it was a solid hour to South Station.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Valuethinker »

K72 wrote: Wed Oct 12, 2022 6:08 pm We are considering purchasing a summer/fall home (3-6 months a year) within a 30-45 minute commuter rail ride to Boston. Ideal (likely doesn't exist) is a community with a quaint downtown shopping/restaurant district. We'd probably rent a couple of times before actually buying. We'd considered Boston neighborhoods on a T line but prefer more modest prices and a less urban environment. We'll probably keep a car but really want to use mass transit. Our kids live in Boston. We are retired and live on the opposite coast.

Any recommendations of towns/communities to check out?
Depending on your financial position you may find 30-45 minutes radius, being the "sweet spot" for commuters, to be too expensive?

MBTA has some serious issues right now, post Covid. This I have picked up from chatter on Transit Twitter (there is such a thing).

Train schedules are all important, and they can be changed.

A couple of random thoughts:

- look further out, c 1 hour. There will be steep price declines (or were, pre Covid) once you get outside of "normal" commuter range (which I would guess would be less than 1 hour)

- unfortunately many regional rail systems are on a "commuter" timetable. Couple of trains early in the morning, couple around 5-6pm outbound. That's it. That's definitely something to watch particularly as they trim operating costs post Covid. These systems were configured to match a rush hour which may never fully return (already, in London England, Friday commuter traffic pre Covid was noticeably below the rest of the working week)

- whether you buy a house or a condo probably has a significant impact. Given your need for only part of the year, might a condo be more appropriate? What you really need is a secure place for your belongings + a parking spot?

I had an aunt who sold her house in the big city and moved to the farm when she retired, but also bought an in-city condo. It didn't work well for them -- they found it was basically an expensive way to store furniture. After about 4 years they sold it**. So the question that raises is "how often will you be in Boston? And what are your day-to-day needs in terms of space? e.g. spare bedroom for visiting kids?" Also, your kids might move on from the Boston area?

** when it came time to sell the farm and move to the local resort/ retirement town, they were able to buy a condo right downtown and walk to stores & restaurants etc. Their friends were jealous.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Thu Oct 13, 2022 5:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by mrmass »

How much you spending? Where do you want to end? South Station? Back Bay? Noth Station?

Many choices from HCOL, to LCOL https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/file ... ap-v36.pdf

Even Newton HCOL will take 30ish min to South Station, Fitchburg LCOL will be double. Worcester is having a resurgence, that must be an hour ride though.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by JoeRetire »

K72 wrote: Wed Oct 12, 2022 6:08 pm We are considering purchasing a summer/fall home (3-6 months a year) within a 30-45 minute commuter rail ride to Boston. Ideal (likely doesn't exist) is a community with a quaint downtown shopping/restaurant district. We'd probably rent a couple of times before actually buying. We'd considered Boston neighborhoods on a T line but prefer more modest prices and a less urban environment. We'll probably keep a car but really want to use mass transit. Our kids live in Boston. We are retired and live on the opposite coast.

Any recommendations of towns/communities to check out?
Newburyport.

Seems like it would meet all of your requirements. Not sure about the "modest prices", but that depends on the specific house you purchase and your definition of "modest".
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by eric321 »

Look for areas where the schools aren't as great and you would find better value. Waltham comes top of mind with a reasonable price in mind.

Other options to consider. Assembly square in Somerville for apartments. Closer in and off the orange line. Cleveland Circle (end of the green line C train, with the faster D line trains, stay in the Boston/Brighton side of town vs brookline/Newton for lower prices.

Further out consider downtown Providence, RI. Roughly one hour out on MBTA or Amtrak.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by mrmass »

eric321 wrote: Thu Oct 13, 2022 6:02 am Look for areas where the schools aren't as great and you would find better value. Waltham comes top of mind with a reasonable price in mind.

Other options to consider. Assembly square in Somerville for apartments. Closer in and off the orange line. Cleveland Circle (end of the green line C train, with the faster D line trains, stay in the Boston/Brighton side of town vs brookline/Newton for lower prices.

Further out consider downtown Providence, RI. Roughly one hour out on MBTA or Amtrak.
Assembly is good suggestion. Trader Joes, and many places to eat out. On the Orange Line, and if you gamble, short ride to the casino. Dental and health services too. https://assemblyrow.com/
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by gatorking »

I recommend Wakefield for north of Boston. Decent downtown with some good restaurants, commuter rail station close to downtown, easy access to I-95 and I-93. Also, not too far to Oak Grove, starting station of the Orange line.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by CPA without a cause »

not sure what your budget is, but any place worth living within 45 min of Boston is gonna be $1M+ for a 2br condo.
protagonist
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by protagonist »

Why not pick something on the T, rather than the commuter line? You would have a lot more flexibility and cheaper transportation costs...plus if you use the commuter rail you will likely have to transfer to the T to get where you want to go anyway.

People could be more helpful if we knew more....how much you plan on spending, what months you would be there, and whether you prefer an urban, suburban or country feel. Also if you will have a car to deal with.

Your plan to rent before buying is a very good one.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by afan »

protagonist wrote: Thu Oct 13, 2022 4:44 pm Why not pick something on the T, rather than the commuter line? You would have a lot more flexibility and cheaper transportation costs...plus if you use the commuter rail you will likely have to transfer to the T to get where you want to go anyway.

People could be more helpful if we knew more....how much you plan on spending, what months you would be there, and whether you prefer an urban, suburban or country feel. Also if you will have a car to deal with.

Your plan to rent before buying is a very good one.
Agree. It would also depend on where you need to go in Boston. If it is near a commuter rail stop, then maybe you do not need the T. Are you always going to the same place- work place? Or just getting into town? How often would you go into Boston?
Is there a reason you specifically want commuter rail?
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Valuethinker »

eric321 wrote: Thu Oct 13, 2022 6:02 am Look for areas where the schools aren't as great and you would find better value. Waltham comes top of mind with a reasonable price in mind.

Other options to consider. Assembly square in Somerville for apartments. Closer in and off the orange line. Cleveland Circle (end of the green line C train, with the faster D line trains, stay in the Boston/Brighton side of town vs brookline/Newton for lower prices.

Further out consider downtown Providence, RI. Roughly one hour out on MBTA or Amtrak.
Providence RI regularly scores very highly on "liveability" as a city - high walk score, prices (relatively) low etc.

I am sure someone here will have a more recent impression & will know of the downsides. But it is certainly one to consider.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by bluebolt »

If you don't need much space, a condo in Brighton could fit the bill.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by RobLyons »

With all the problems with the T, I would also choose commuter rail over T. There's nothing close to Boston that interests me personally until you get to the Salem area. I agree with Wakefield and Newburyport. But unsure if it's really affordable. Salem doesn't have as much down town shopping as Newburyport but they do have a lot of restaurants. Beverly is up and coming. But if you consider driving at all, traffic is nightmare.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by TaxFreeNH »

Modest pricing in Boston area means expensive. Since you suggested renting look in Melrose MA. 6 miles from Boston with a very quaint downtown area with good restaurants and very large wooded conservation area called Middlesex Fells. Melrose has 3 commuter rail stops and borders Oak Grove station on MBTA Orange line. Either takes about a 20- 30 minute train ride into Boston. Depending upon traffic its a 20 minute drive by car to Logan Airport or Downtown Boston. Melrose has small town feel with all kinds of housing stock (from large Victorian to smaller Ranch style housing), plus condos and apartments.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by K72 »

Thanks for the suggestions! Please keep them coming. We don't want to set a budget yet until we get an idea of what's out there. No station seems ideal because DD is on the orange line near Forest Hills and DS is on the red line near Davis.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Millennial »

K72 wrote: Fri Oct 14, 2022 4:17 pm DD is on the orange line near Forest Hills and DS is on the red line near Davis.
This is good info. I would suggest either Concord or Belmont centers based on these locations. Both have walkable downtown areas and are on the Fitchburg Line commuter rail. These trains stop at Porter Square (either walk to DS or transfer to the red line, depending on whether he's on the east or west side of Davis) and go to North Station where you can transfer to the OL to DD. You'll be something like 20-40 min to DS and 60-80 min to DD.

Edit to add: Neither is priced modestly, but they check all your other boxes. If you want cheaper, Ayer could work the same way but you're probably close to 2 hr from DD at that point.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by jtboston »

Concord is a good suggestion, provided price works. Easy Commuter Rail ride to Porter Square, one stop from Davis. More importantly, downtown Concord is a nice place to live for a retired couple that doesn't want to rely on a car, which is not true of some other places on the list. Lots of cultural activities, shops, Walden Pond, etc. I think if you're spending 25-50% of your time there, not all of which will be spent w your children, that would be a priority. A condo in downtown Concord might be a good fit.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Watty »

I am not at all familiar with that area but one thing I would look at is getting a condo in an area where it could be rented to college students and you could use it in the summer when the college is not in session.

There are also lots of permutations with working around the college school year. I once had a six seek class where I was able to get a very good deal on a VRBO studio apartment. The seemed glad have it rented for six weeks straight without vacanancies or having to deal with checking people in and out. If there is VRBO property that is in a college area then summers may be their slow time of year.

In the area I was renting it at rental of over 30 days were not charged the hotel tax which was a significant savings.

One pitfall with looking for a long rental like that is that you need to book it very early since if the place is booked for even one night then it will not be available for a long rental.

Even if you don't want to do a VRBO for the long term you could book one for the summer of 2023 and then do your house hunting while you are there.

Be sure to also look at the tax implications of owning a house there since depending on what the rules are you may have to file a Massachusetts income tax return and your estate could have to pay Massachusetts estate taxes.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by K72 »

Update. DW and I were in Boston for Thanksgiving and took a day trip via train from Porter to Concord. Delightful town. We walked all over (old North Bridge, Sleepy Hollow cemetery) and had lunch in the cute downtown. Definitely high on our list. Will likely visit other locales as well this year.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

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Rockport?
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Hulu »

Concord stands out. Maybe Wellesley or Newton. Midday St in Waltham is a lot different however some folks love it
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by protagonist »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed Oct 12, 2022 6:38 pm Wellesley?

So just past Rt 128.

I do know that there's a Weston one, on Rt 117.



I doubt that the communities you mention have "modest prices" (as requested by the OP). Same with Concord, Newton, Belmont and other places suggested in multiple posts.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

I certainly agree that pricing being "modest" would not be found unless the OP is coming from the Bay area or the east side of Manhattan.

Someone mentioned Waltham and that clicked in my head as I used to work there. The commuter station is right on the common, pretty much. Right at Moody St and Rt 20 which is a bustling area with tons of restaurants and shops. Here's the T page.

https://www.mbta.com/stops/place-FR-0098

Waltham tends to be cheaper than surrounding towns having much smaller lot size requirements and being just outside of an easy area for Boston college students. (and yes, I know Brandeis and Bentley are in Waltham) The center is much more like a mini-city center than Concord, which is very small town center-like. I'm sure you'll find more available in Waltham for less money.

A stop farther out is Brandeis which is sort of a small college serving area with some office building areas. This is still in the town of Waltham on South St near the Charles River. If you wanted to rent to students, there ya go.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by onthenorthshore »

I'm originally from CA, lived in Newburyport for a few years, now back in CA.

+1 to Newburyport based on the criteria OP listed. Our family has great memories from the various beaches nearby (Plum Island, Crane, Hampton). Also many things to do in NH, VT and ME during those months, and were relatively short drives away.

Depending on where you live on the west coast, great change of pace from the more city/busy suburban lifestyle we moved back to.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by protagonist »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Mon Jan 23, 2023 12:22 pm I certainly agree that pricing being "modest" would not be found unless the OP is coming from the Bay area or the east side of Manhattan.

Someone mentioned Waltham and that clicked in my head as I used to work there. The commuter station is right on the common, pretty much. Right at Moody St and Rt 20 which is a bustling area with tons of restaurants and shops. Here's the T page.

https://www.mbta.com/stops/place-FR-0098

Waltham tends to be cheaper than surrounding towns having much smaller lot size requirements and being just outside of an easy area for Boston college students. (and yes, I know Brandeis and Bentley are in Waltham) The center is much more like a mini-city center than Concord, which is very small town center-like. I'm sure you'll find more available in Waltham for less money.

A stop farther out is Brandeis which is sort of a small college serving area with some office building areas. This is still in the town of Waltham on South St near the Charles River. If you wanted to rent to students, there ya go.
What about Watertown? I don't know what it is like these days....I live in W MA and haven't had a home in the Boston metro area since the 90s so I am not the best person to consult about this....but it is very close to the city and T-accessible and used to be a lot cheaper than bordering Newton or Cambridge. It also had an interesting ethnic base with some interesting restaurants, bakeries, etc. even then. Perhaps it is too gentrified now, I have no idea. I know Somerville and Arlington are hardly recognizable from when I used to live there.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by TheOscarGuy »

K72 wrote: Wed Oct 12, 2022 6:08 pm We are considering purchasing a summer/fall home (3-6 months a year) within a 30-45 minute commuter rail ride to Boston. Ideal (likely doesn't exist) is a community with a quaint downtown shopping/restaurant district. We'd probably rent a couple of times before actually buying. We'd considered Boston neighborhoods on a T line but prefer more modest prices and a less urban environment. We'll probably keep a car but really want to use mass transit. Our kids live in Boston. We are retired and live on the opposite coast.

Any recommendations of towns/communities to check out?
I can give recommendations on towns but I think T has some serious issues that you should consider before buying home just due to proximity to commuter rail stop. Prices are inflated and would stay so for a while maybe that is not a concern to you, just want to point it out.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by bluebolt »

protagonist wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:13 pm What about Watertown? I don't know what it is like these days....I live in W MA and haven't had a home in the Boston metro area since the 90s so I am not the best person to consult about this....but it is very close to the city and T-accessible and used to be a lot cheaper than bordering Newton or Cambridge. It also had an interesting ethnic base with some interesting restaurants, bakeries, etc. even then. Perhaps it is too gentrified now, I have no idea. I know Somerville and Arlington are hardly recognizable from when I used to live there.
Watertown has undergone a pretty intense gentrification in the last 10 years. Still much less expensive than Wellesley, Newton, Weston, Brookline.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by K72 »

TheOscarGuy wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:59 pm I can give recommendations on towns but I think T has some serious issues that you should consider...
Can you elaborate on the serious T issues?
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by ubermax »

We have family living in Newton and I went to school in Worcester but I can't come close to the great responses you've gotten already from people who really know all aspects of living and commuting near Boston - but I think this is a case where only you know what you want to spend in hard numbers and how long you want to be on the train , tops .

What you have now is time and I think it's a simple matter of flying to Boston and doing the legwork for maybe a few weeks , could be longer or shorter depending on what unfolds - good luck and a big plus is that you'll be relatively close to CC for those nice Summer days and nights .
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by beyou »

K72 wrote: Fri Oct 14, 2022 4:17 pm Thanks for the suggestions! Please keep them coming. We don't want to set a budget yet until we get an idea of what's out there. No station seems ideal because DD is on the orange line near Forest Hills and DS is on the red line near Davis.
I have a son living near Davis. If I wanted to be in the area, I would live near him.
Davis area is very nice, but expensive, as will anyplace nice/convenient in the Boston area.

One alternative I dream about is moving to New Hampshire, so I am a 1-2 hour drive away, but near beautiful parks and hiking.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by mrmass »

K72 wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 1:11 pm
TheOscarGuy wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:59 pm I can give recommendations on towns but I think T has some serious issues that you should consider...
Can you elaborate on the serious T issues?
Depends on the line. I’m on the Red Line near Davis and the new Green Line Extension. No issues on the new Green Line Extension. I really didn’t have issue taking the Red Line at Davis into South Station either.

The commuter rail seems to have sporadic issues as does the Orange Line.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by protagonist »

beyou wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:35 pm
K72 wrote: Fri Oct 14, 2022 4:17 pm Thanks for the suggestions! Please keep them coming. We don't want to set a budget yet until we get an idea of what's out there. No station seems ideal because DD is on the orange line near Forest Hills and DS is on the red line near Davis.
I have a son living near Davis. If I wanted to be in the area, I would live near him.
Davis area is very nice, but expensive, as will anyplace nice/convenient in the Boston area.

One alternative I dream about is moving to New Hampshire, so I am a 1-2 hour drive away, but near beautiful parks and hiking.
I lived in Davis Sq. in the 1970s. My share of the rent for a 3 br apt. split 3 ways (3d story walk-up) was $30/mo.
At the time there was a Brigham's (that soon got closed down by Steve's, which is now Herrell's, and was the first step towards gentrification). There was a movie theatre that briefly showed Kung Fu films, briefly porn films, and often boarded up. I think that might be what is now the Somerville Theater, but maybe not. There wasn't a lot more there then.
At the time you had to walk to Porter Sq. to get the T. When they built the red line out to Davis Sq and beyond in the mid-70s the area started gentrifying.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by beyou »

protagonist wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:36 pm
beyou wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:35 pm
K72 wrote: Fri Oct 14, 2022 4:17 pm Thanks for the suggestions! Please keep them coming. We don't want to set a budget yet until we get an idea of what's out there. No station seems ideal because DD is on the orange line near Forest Hills and DS is on the red line near Davis.
I have a son living near Davis. If I wanted to be in the area, I would live near him.
Davis area is very nice, but expensive, as will anyplace nice/convenient in the Boston area.

One alternative I dream about is moving to New Hampshire, so I am a 1-2 hour drive away, but near beautiful parks and hiking.
I lived in Davis Sq. in the 1970s. My share of the rent for a 3 br apt. split 3 ways (3d story walk-up) was $30/mo.
At the time there was a Brigham's (that soon got closed down by Steve's, which is now Herrell's, and was the first step towards gentrification). There was a movie theatre that briefly showed Kung Fu films, briefly porn films, and often boarded up. I think that might be what is now the Somerville Theater, but maybe not. There wasn't a lot more there then.
At the time you had to walk to Porter Sq. to get the T. When they built the red line out to Davis Sq and beyond in the mid-70s the area started gentrifying.
Yes, good old Slumerville ;-)
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by DVMResident »

Hingham has a MBTA-subcontracted ferry into Rowe’s wharf or Long wharf. Once you hit Rowe’s wharf, you next to south station to the red line and the silver line into the airport or just stick around seaport/little Italy. The town is small, has condos (better they take care of it if you’re not there in the winter), and coastal with lots of kayaking/boats options. You could even get your own dock. :beer
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by protagonist »

DVMResident wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 12:14 am Hingham has a MBTA-subcontracted ferry into Rowe’s wharf or Long wharf. Once you hit Rowe’s wharf, you next to south station to the red line and the silver line into the airport or just stick around seaport/little Italy. The town is small, has condos (better they take care of it if you’re not there in the winter), and coastal with lots of kayaking/boats options. You could even get your own dock. :beer
Hingham is pretty, but sort of a long haul if you want to spend much time in the city, and rather expensive. I wonder what Hull is like these days. It used to be an affordable seaside town- kind of lowbrow in a cool, honkytonk way. I liked it.
An aside....I had a girlfriend from Hingham in the 80s. When I would say something she considered lowbrow, she used to tell me "That is sooo Weymouth!" *giggle*

The thing about the Boston metro area is that real estate prices correlate with the quality of the public schools. So often, two neighboring communities can vary considerably in cost of living based on how good the schools are (I suppose Hingham and Weymouth were an example of that, as were Hull and Nahant, Newton and Watertown, etc....at least in the past...I don't know what they are like today, but I recall Hingham had very good schools).
If you don't have kids going to public school and are not concerned with status, that could be a consideration.
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Re: Summer/Fall home on Boston commuter line

Post by ubermax »

I'm locked into the idea of a "quaint" town feel as a like to have although OP seems to recognize that it might be tough to achieve - and I don't think you can equate quaint with many of the high cost of living areas , e.g. Newton ( at least now ) commands big bucks for homes and condos but it doesn't fit my idea of quaint - Concord and maybe Lexington do but I have no feel for the commute from those towns .

To be honest I feel as though OP is looking to buy something where all of them can live for that 6 month period and just the children for the other months - looks like the children have different daily destinations year round for now and the parents would join them during a time of year where the weather is more mild like the West coast .
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