A Guide to Buying a House in: Massachusetts

(Because it was cool enough for the Pilgrims, Paul Revere AND Benjamin Franklin)

So, you've been playing around with the idea of buying a house in Massachusetts, but the sheer length of the state’s name intimidates you. We get it, any state with more letters than you have fingers can feel a little overwhelming.

We might just have the antidote for your nerves though - we've cooked up a little insider's guide to buying a house in The Pilgrim State (see, their nickname's WAY less scary), with a bit of fun state trivia on the side. It's something we'd totally eat up if we were in your position (and maybe even ask for seconds). We'll go over all the important deets to get that confidence boosted. So, let's get right to it.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Massachusetts

Making important decisions can be confusing, exhausting and time-consuming. Picking out the city where you'll buy your next house is no exception. It CAN make it easier, though, to know which places in the state will require more/less of your hard-earned green. So, we put together a list of a few of the most/least expensive cities in Massachusetts. Check it out.

Most expensive cities:

  • Newton
  • Cambridge
  • Somerville
  • Watertown 
  • Waltham 

Least expensive cities:

  • Gardner
  • Fitchburg
  • Leominster
  • Haverhill
  • Methuen Town 

And there you have it. You're ready to rock that city selection process like a pro adult, while considering the tender feelings of both your wallet and your bank account. They'll sincerely thank you for it. No matter where you choose to buy your new house, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Massachusetts's Housing Market

Before you move to Massachusetts (or virtually anywhere else), you might wanna check out their housing market. We've got an overview of just that for you, coming up next.

It's a seller's market here lately. Home sales and prices are both up from 2017, but inventory's down. So prices are actually STILL rising, as the demand soars and supplies continue to dwindle. Homes stay on the market for an average of about 45 days, and Zillow scores the housing market overall a 5.7/10, which is "healthy." So, you might wanna snatch up your new home sooner, rather than hesitate.

That's all great, but where is THE place to be, in Massachusetts? Boston, naturally. It's one of the most walkable cities in the country, and has great health care, lots of shopping and festivals, top-rated airports,  tons of education institutions AND history. 

Home values in the city are around $591,900, and the price per square foot for a house is about $676. Homes are listed on the market for about $709,950, and are selling for around $625,300. Renting a house will cost you about $2,700/month. Home values appreciated 6.4% in 2018, and they're expected to increase another 8.7% in 2019. 

And get this - there's new construction underway ALL OVER the place, seriously. Most of it's in the east, however, around Plymouth/Boston/Salem. Still, there's a lot further out west, especially around Springfield. So if you've got your sights set on a brand-new place, you know where exactly to hunt.

Home Property Values and Costs in Massachusetts

Great, so you've got a clearer image of WHERE to start your search, but wouldn't it just complete that picture if you knew HOW MUCH you might be paying for that new house? Well, we're moving right along to an overview of some home prices/values in The Bay State (boom: another nickname) next.

To start off, the median home value in Massachusetts is currently $401,500. Home values appreciated 6.2% in 2018, and are expected to rise another 9.1% in 2019. The average price per square foot for a house is about $253. Homes are listed on the market for about $439,900 currently, and are closing for around $371,500. Renting a house costs about $2,500/month.

Listen up, apartment hunters - we've got some average monthly rent prices in a few different cities for you:

  • Plymouth - $2,142
  • Springfield - $948
  • Cambridge - $3,001
  • Newton - $2,818
  • Somerville - $2,812
  • Gardner - $1,103

And don't worry, townhouse fans, we didn't forget about you. The average range in rent for townhouses here begins at a low end of about $800/month for a one bed/one bath place, and reaches up to a high end of about $3,400/month for a three bed/two bath place.

You'll Need Hurricane Insurance in Massachusetts

While it's true that Massachusetts has the awesome city of Boston, it also has some crazy hurricanes sometimes. In 2017 alone, the state was hit by a whopping 10 of the storms. So, it might not be too hard to believe that Massachusetts is actually one of 19 lucky states that requires a hurricane deductible as part of a homeowners insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. 

For example, those living in low-risk areas in smaller/cheaper houses might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in high-risk areas in fancy mansions might pay $30,000.

If you're not a fan of hurricanes (or extra insurance deductible costs), you could always consider moving to a state that's further from a coast. States that are more central may have a comfy cushion against some of these natural disasters, but honestly, no place comes without its risks - and if you're contemplating trading hurricane risk for tornadoes, you might just be splittin' hairs at that point.

...and Maybe Some Flood Insurance, Too

It gets cold in Massachusetts, too - like, really cold - which means a risk of blizzards. In fact, blizzards are the state's biggest natural disaster. And what happens when all that snow melts? Well, in addition to ruining the pretty, seasonal atmosphere vibe, it can create some really intense flooding. So, you might also need to get some flood insurance.

If you live in an area deemed to be high-risk, your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance coverage specifically for flooding. Hoever, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still need it. Why? Because as that old annoying (but even more annoyingly ACCURATE) expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Okay okay, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Check out your specific coverage, so that you're SURE you'll be good to go. Call up your agent and have a chat about what EXACT homeowners insurance you need, because you do NOT want to find out too late that you didn't have enough. Trust us. You'll thank yourself, in the long run.

Quality of Schools in Massachusetts

Those on a continuous quest for knowledge might be interested in the quality of the school system in their new state, so next up we've got a peek at an overview for The Old Colony State (look out - we just hit you with another nickname).

Here are some WalletHub stats about how Massachusetts schools ranked in the country:

  • #1 overall
  • #1 for quality
  • #1 for safety
  • #1 for highest math test scores
  • #1 for highest reading test scores
  • #1 for highest median ACT scores
  • #1 for lowest percentage of threatened/injured high school students
  • #5 for lowest incidence of bullying  

Check out all those #1s! We couldn't make that up. Way to go, Massachusetts.

As for the top-rated schools in the state, that title belongs to the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School, in Marlborough, and (unsurprisingly) Harvard University, in Cambridge.

Reasons to Move to Massachusetts (...or not)

Okay, serious stuff, take a hike. It's time to get to the (somewhat) lighter and fun-er section of our guide. Let's find out WHY people would even more to Massachusetts in the first place. But let's hear some awww yeah!s AND some awww, man!s of Massachusetts life, straight from some people who already live it.

PROs (as voted by real-life Bay Staters):

  • Fantastic health care: U.S. News and World Report ranks Massachusetts's health care 5th in the nation overall, with access to health care being ranked 1st. With all of the top-rated hospitals located in Boston, it's probably not surprising, either. This might come as some comfort to those who are a tad accident-prone.
  • Phenomenal education: We saw this a moment ago - the state's ranked first for education, hands down. That's pretty dang impressive. Boston alone has 35 higher education institutions. Also, 50.2% of Bay Staters hold a bachelor's degree or higher - wayyy above the national average of 33.4%. As far as the most educated state in the country, Massachusetts blows all the others out of the water, according to The Boston Globe. So break out your reading glasses (even if they've got fake lenses) and your dictionaries - you'll be living among some super-smart cookies.
  • Unbelievable scenery: The coastal, bay and harbor areas in Massachusetts are gorgeous, without question. And those lighthouses are super-charming, too. But the state's also got farmlands and historic villages packed with character. The entire place could be snapshotted and put onto postcards, really.
  • Extensive history: Massachusetts is home to some super-cool US history. Of course there's Plymouth, with the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock. But there was also the first-ever public Thanksgiving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's Ride, just to name a few huge events. Forget your old textbooks - you'll learn everything you need to know just from living here.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Bay Staters):

  • Everything's expensive: While Massachusetts has the best schools in the country, its education costs rank in the top 10 most expensive. The cost of rent is also crazy high, no matter what type of home you choose. So, prepare to move here with that mattress you stuffed with cash.
  • It's WAY people-y: Though it's the seventh-smallest state in the country by landmass, Massachusetts is the third-most densely populated state. People here are packed in like rice in an overstuffed burrito - at least in the eastern half of the state. If you're into a bit more breathing room, head to the western part of the state - it's a bit less populated, though you'll be sacrificing some amenities in exchange for stretching out your legs.
  • Wacky weather: Hurricanes, blizzards, floods. This place gets hit by it all. Also, make sure you're into super-cold winters, or you can really rock that bundled-up look - you'll be sporting it often.

Stuff to Do in Massachusetts

Alright, so now we know a bit more about WHY people move here, but what do these people DO, once they become Massachusetts-ified? We bothered the locals for just a bit longer in order to get their sweet insider secrets on some fun things to do - from islands to baseball parks and ...rocks.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • Martha’s Vineyard: Just south off the coast of Cape Cod, this island's only accessible by boat or air (or you could ride a whale or something, if you're feelin' fancy - and dangerous). But it's not hard to see why people make the crazy journey - it's got beaches, lighthouses and quaint towns for perusin'. Just be warned that it's a little on the pricey side.
  • Fenway Park: Boston's home to the oldest baseball park in the US. The Red Sox have lived here since 1912. Any local would argue that you're not a true Bay Stater - and certainly not a real Bostonian --  unless you pay it a visit , and your respects.
  • Freedom Trail: Boston's also home to a three-mile trail that connects  features 16 of the most well-known landmarks from Colonial America. Among them are the burial sites of Paul Revere and John Hancock, the Old State House (where the crazyyy Boston Massacre took place) and the birthplace of our favorite historical Ben - Benjamin Franklin. You'll also spot the Old North Church, the place that hung the lanterns for Paul Revere's famous ride.
  • Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation: The first permanent European settlement in New England was founded near Plymouth Rock , where Separatists from the Church of England landed in December of 1620. To this day you can check out the rock, which is housed in a fenced-off structure with a viewing area, and is perhaps smaller than you might expect (but it's still cool). While you're here, you can check out cosplayers reenacting early Colonial American life and explore their village. Also be sure to visit the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the Mayflower. You'll be hit with so much history you won't know WHAT to do.
  • Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: Located at the "mouth" of the Massachusetts Bay (it doesn't bite) is a marine sanctuary that is home to one of the top ten whale-watching sites in the world. It's also home to one of the most biologically fertile ocean environments. You can see humpback whales, white-sided dolphins, harbour porpoises, seals and more. Bring your camera, and your best "awwww" voice.

Settling in down by the Bay in Massachusetts

Well folks, there you have it - our Reader's Digest version of all things home buying, Massachusetts-style. It goes without saying that we're not able to address ALL of your concerns before making such a huge decision (we're busy learning about some crazy-awesome US history), but we hope we've scratched the surface of the info you need to boost that confidence and get you ever closer. 

If you can envision yourself buying your new house in the place with the best education in the country AND Plymouth Rock, then snap yourself out of that daydream and hop to it. Make sure your new house is protected with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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