Today is a post that’s about me, mostly. I could use some sage advice. And, you guys are always a fountain of great information. Yes, there is an update on my search for a new home.
However, it’s yet another twist in the saga of the quest for a change in my life.
Still, I realize that most of us have, are, and will still be making changes in our lives.
As we are now into our 6th month of having our lives turned upside down by something we can’t see, I know that many of us are still struggling with decisions and adapting to the new now.
Of course, we’re all in different situations and don’t all have the same issues.
Younger readers may have school-aged children. I know that some of you need help with creating a home learning environment.
Some of you are working from home. And, for the first time. It’s pretty great, isn’t it? But, for some who miss interacting with people, it can feel very lonely and isolating.
Then, there are some like me, who were already alone most of the time. I was so lucky to be able to spend over six weeks near my son last May into early July.
Added to this is the stress of the unknown.
Will the virus get worse before it gets better? What will happen when it gets cold again? Scientists, at this point, are uncertain. But, one thing that they pretty much agree upon is that this thing is not going away completely. And, the chances are good that it will get worse before it gets better. They also say that it’s imperative to wear your mask in public.
But, don’t get me started.
Still, it’s clear that whatever we’ve been dealing with, whether it’s the loss of income, kids home almost all of the time or isolation, we’re probably going to be dealing with these changes a while longer.
So, please indulge me as I get back to my search for a new home.
During my stay in Northampton about nine weeks ago, I was sitting outside on the ledge above.
It was then that I knew that I needed to live here in this charming town, close to my son, Cale. I had already been there for four weeks and was having such a wonderful time. It was my #covidsilverlining.
Subsequently, I found a house I loved. And many of you may recall that I had an accepted offer on that house in Northampton, MA. But, don’t go looking for the post about that house because it no longer exists. The owners asked me to remove the photos and so I took down the entire post. If you happen to still have the link from an email, it will take you to the blog home page.
And, since the house is still on the market, I don’t feel it’s right to tell you why I walked away.
However, everyone who has guessed the reason, got it right.
In the six weeks since all of that happened, I have been looking for a place to purchase or rent. There is very little to choose from. And, nothing that appeals to me. And, one thing that I find disturbing is that it’s very difficult to find a place with a decent kitchen. Even the more expensive and historic homes have crap kitchens.
They’re neither high end or gushing with charm like Ben Pentreath’s kitchen, for example.
What’s tripping me up isn’t moving to a new home.
What’s clogging up the works, to some extent, is me wanting my dream home. Well, at least as close to my dream home as is possible. And, one that’s within a two-hour drive of my son.
The truth is, I don’t know if my son is even going to stay where he is. He is lucky that he has a job teaching music. But, if he didn’t, he’d have to go where he could find one.
My other issue with Northampton is that I’m not totally positive that it’s the best fit for me, at this point in my life. In some ways it is, but in others, like finding a boyfriend, it’s not. The place isn’t exactly hopping with single, available men between 50-65. It’s not.
And, no judging, please. That’s my age range. And, I’ll go a little younger, too. lol
So, let me just cut to the chase.
*Where is a place that’s within two hours of Northampton, MA, has exquisite architecture, history, culture, beauty, ballet, art, great food, interesting people…?
Yes, you guessed it, right again!
Frankly, two years ago, when Cale said he was moving to western Mass from his home in Boston, I was hoping that it wasn’t true. The reasons were purely selfish because I had just started thinking of moving to Boston.
Why not stay where I am?
Well, I could. However, after living in Westchester County for 29 years, I am ready for a change. It’s funny, Bronxville is ranked #one on at least one report of best places to live in Westchester, County. I won’t disagree with that.
What’s also funny is in this one report, they gave Bronxville an A- for “nightlife.”
Haha! Dream on! There is NO nightlife.
But still, Bronxville is the best place to live in Westchester. There’s only one problem.
Westchester kinda sucks.
And yes, it’s taken me nearly 29 years to fully embrace this truism. Of course, it doesn’t suck in all ways.
However, I have always maintained that it matters not where you are but who you’re with and what you’re doing. The problem is that I’m not with anybody. And, that is what’s missing.
Okay, so let’s get back to my search for a new home in Boston.
Let’s look at the pros and cons.
- I already have some friends there, or at least nearby. That one is huge.
- Some of you guys also live there. Raise your hand if you do. We’ll have a party!
- Cale loves to visit as he still has friends there and also his old Aikido Dojo that he loves.
- Taxes are lower. I realize that’s relative. But, for me, they’re a lot lower.
- The cost of living is probably about the same as I’m used to. Yes, expensive.
- I get to decorate a new place.
- Boston is highly walkable.
- Boston has everything listed above* including a place capable of being my dream home.
- I most likely won’t be able to afford my ultimate dream home. haha
- Noise, sometimes. But, it depends on where one is living. I lived in Manhattan, and it was quiet on the side street I lived on.
- Driving and parking is a big problem in the city. It might be Ubers or public transportation when it’s safer to do so.
Of course, there are many more positives and more negatives.
But, where I am is just so sleepy. After-all, Westchester is mostly known as a “bedroom community.” However, that might change soon.
So, what part of Boston is Laurel going to search for a new home?
Well, of course. Beacon Hill Baby!
@Drestratis – Beacon Hill Boston – a classic townhouse
Beacon Hill is an area in the center of Boston, at the base of the state Capital building. It is full of brownstones and other historic homes. It is known for it’s winding cobblestone streets, beautiful doors, window boxes. And of course, exquisite architecture.
Yes, it’s expensive, but some of the smaller apartments are not entirely out of reach at this time.
Gigagorgeous 17 Louisburg Square is for sale!
And, if I were a bazillionaire, I’d live somewhere in the vicinity of Louisburg Square or Mount Vernon Street. Or, Acorn Street!
via @thedicamillo on Instagram – 59 Mount Vernon St. Beacon Hill
These are near what is known as the “flat of the hill.” That is in the western quarter of the hill. The two houses above are on a street that’s still fairly flat, but not for long. For those who are familiar with Beacon Hill, you will know that there are streets that are quite steep.
However, I also like the Back Bay Area of Boston.
Back Bay is known for fabulous shopping on Newbury Street, and for its residential streets. My favorites are Marlborough, Commonwealth, and Beacon, in that order.
via @_wanderlustandwhiskey on Instagram – A stunning brownstone on Commonwealth Ave
Another Back Bay beauty via @drestratis on Instagram
Beacon St is closest to the Charles River, and so has a vantage point of some spectacular views of the Copely Sq. Skyline, I believe that is. This view is from a rooftop terrace at 175 Beacon St. which is currently for sale!
I also love the South End of Boston, located just south of the back bay. This is not to be confused with “South Boston.” In fact, the South End probably suits me best because it’s a little more hip and stylish. The South End is full of brownstones and tree-lined streets. The Boston Ballet has its school and rehearsal studio there, as well.
I don’t believe I have any photos from the South End at this time. However, I have a few more from Back Bay.
409 Beacon St – Boston, MA – Is an absolutely stunning building with equally gorgeous apartments. In fact, the one with the three large windows is currently on the market. And, it’s only $699,000. It has a lovely, but small kitchen and an okay bathroom.
The problem for me is that the bedroom is directly off of the living room. And, from what I can see, the storage is inadequate. It’s really a pied a terre.
96 Beacon St. is also on the market. And, again, with stunning architecture. It is just a tad too much of the French Rococo style, but those French Doors! It’s also way out of my price range.
The next and very important question:
If I move there, should I rent or should I buy?
Okay, unlike Northampton, where there is no inventory, Boston has a crapload of places. And, the prices have come down in price, in many cases. This is true for both rentals and purchasing.
However, for the answer to this, I recommend consulting with a professional financial adviser. Well, fortunately, I have one, and he’s the best.
Oh, Laurel. Who is he? Is he taking on new clients? Please share!
Yes, I’m happy to share his name. Eugene Lonergan. Here’s his contact info. He’s the best.
And yes, he’s Eileen Lonergan’s husband.
I miss her terribly. There is no doubt that I would NOT be writing this blog post had it not been for her.
However, one day, about three months before she died, I received an email from her in which she deftly made sure I realized that her husband “is one of the top financial advisers in the country…should you wish to make a switch…”
I wish I had signed up with him right then and there; but, I didn’t until the spring of 2019. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Of course, there are huge tax benefits for buying over renting.
So, this is what I’ve been doing. In case that’s not clear, I’ve been obsessively looking online in search of my new home. I know that I’m not alone. Isn’t it fun?
I feel sorry for people who say they get bored. I’m never bored. And, I can entertain myself all day long with my internet addiction. lol
What about the outlying areas of Boston? I’ve spent most of my time where Cale lived in Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. (JP and Rozzy, as the natives call those areas). They are very nice areas. However, I really want to be closer to the center of town.
Are you going to show us some places you’re looking at, Laurel? ;]
Well, not any places I’d be upset if one of you took it away from me. lol
However, there’s one place on Beacon Street facing Boston Common. Spectacular location!
Here it is. It has the huge wonderful windows I love. I am easily seduced by these windows. These windows could kidnap me and take me anywhere.
However, the kitchen in this place is a dark, tiny piece of crap. And, the place is a bit grungy. Plus, it’s expensive at over 5k a month. I realize that for many of you, that sounds more like what you would pay in a year.
In New York and Boston, that price is typical for a two-bedroom in a prime location.
In Manhattan, the equivalent of this would be Central Park South, and the rent would be at least triple what this is.
But, here’s the other thing, there are FOUR lanes of traffic just outside these magnificent windows, plus two parking lanes. True, the traffic is one way only and not going fast, but still.
It’s a major artery of the city. However, Beacon street narrows considerably just past the Boston Commons and Public Gardens.
Then, there’s this 3-bedroom on Charles Street. For those that don’t know, Charles Street is the most charming main shopping drag in Beacon Hill. It’s not a quiet side-street. However, it’s only two lanes.
The other day, I left a message with the number on the listing with some questions. And, I was told that the manager would get back to me. He did not. This place has its charm, but it might be a tad too funky. It definitely needs a good cleaning, new paint and the floors refinished. But, the price is also much better at only 3,200 a month. In fact, the price just came down $600!
One thing about Boston that I love are the fireplaces!
However, most of them are merely decorative. But, some of them do burn real wood.
I really want that. There is nothing better in the winter than sitting in front of a lovely crackling fire.
She captured the inherent charm of Charles Street with this image of this US post office. Yes, you definitely feel transported to another century. It’s closer to a Disney theme park than anything else.
Well, this is only one reason why I love Boston so. It’s the most European of all of the US cities.
And, then there’s City Feed.
I know it sounds like a place where they slop the hogs. But, they have the best bran muffins (and other goodies) you’ve ever tasted. I could live on those. And I’m seriously not joking. There are two locations, and I’ll have to rent a rickshaw to take me to Jamaica Plain where they’re both located.
Okay, I guess that’s enough for one post.
For those of you who LIVE in Boston, please clue me in. I’m sure there’s plenty that I don’t know I don’t know.
And, for everyone else, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my favorite city in the US. There’s sure to be more to come.
By the way, I briefly considered moving back to Manhattan. Prices have come down there too. But Manhattan is soooooooo crowded. It’s intense, and I think I would find it draining to live there. I certainly did 35 years ago. Like they say: It’s a nice place to visit, but…
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES and especially the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale– early access!
Ahh, you’re bringing back my memories of living in Bronxville as a single mom in my early 30’s. On nights my daughter was with her dad I would drive my exhausted self to dinner in the city just to be amongst single people 🙂 I’ve also lived in Boston and LOVED it. Best of luck in your new life adventure! Covid has ended my 25 year run in nyc- I’m a Catskills mountain girl now!
Laurel, in addition to being brilliantly talented with an incredible wit and impeccable delivery…..you are just a woman after my own heart. I love your “I don’t plan to age in place, I plan to stay active, agile….” Yes. And Yes again. Love the 80 year old ballerinas and you taking classes with them. I hope to become a 95 year old yogi….anyway…from a fellow 50-65 year old in Rhode Island, who also just up and sold her home of 25 years and is moving to a more peopled area….and you is ALSO temporarily without a home..you go, woman. You’re an inspiration, and I appreciate so much your writing and your stories. Oh. And your design expertise—that’s pretty essential too 🙂
Laurel, I loved this post! Boston is my favorite city too, and when we get to retire to Cape Cod in a few years (hooray) we are excited about its proximity to Boston’s theater, museums, restaurants, not to mention wonderful life-long friends. I’m planning a respectful but fun refresh of an old family house to and scour your blog for ideas. Your good taste shows across so many styles and I’ve learned a lot from that.
Only one point of disagreement: much as I love Boston, to me there’s no question that New Orleans is our most European city. Even the light feels like Paris. If it weren’t so beastly hot too much of the year!
Looking forward to seeing where you land and indulging in the gorgeous photos along the way.
You will listen to your heart and do what’s best for you! I wish you much joy on your journey!
After reading this, I now want to live in Boston. I live in a suburb 30 miles south of DC where there is no interesting architecture whatsoever. All I need is a couple mil and I am getting one of those beautiful places! I can’t wait!
Laurel, You are making me nostalgically homesick!! I LOVE Boston, and am originally from MA. However, we unfortunately, live in FL and where the virus is rampant and people are shocking idiots as far as masks are concerned. Oh I also have MS so I do NOT want to catch this. I am constantly worried. Best of luck to your new happy home (and man) in Boston. (but you have to say Baahh-ston, but you figured that one out. and everything is wicked cool or wicked pissah which is to say awesome again. I so miss it. I love the architecture. I love reading your posts and getting all of these ideas and knowledge that are impossible to implement in my crappy box long 1 window open plan boring apartment. I do fantasize with you daily on a wonderful dream home with amazing architecture.
I am excited you are thinking of MA. Esp Boston. I hope it works out and you find The One. (In all ways!) I would love to move back if only we can afford it and afford a personal snow boy. (The MA equivalent of a pool boy?)
OK, I rarely ever comment but I just love reading your posts on design and dive right into your dream house plans and ideas with relish.
We lived in Boston for one summer when I was young – what an amazing and interesting city! Even though I have been on the west coast most of my life, Boston has always been compelling to me – I think it could be such a good next home for you too. The architecture is stunning and there is a lot of dimension to the culture there that is hard to find in the same mix in other cities. I see a real benefit to the university presences and the deep resources available as a result. Besides, people will love to visit you.
I wish you nothing but happiness and creative joy as you work on finding your new home. Can’t wait to see what you share.
I’ve started slowly dreaming of what could be the next home and have developed a mild obsession with moving to one of those low cost fixers in Italy. Hey – I was there too for a summer and if I am going to leave this home to find another, why not, right?
One more input, we chose not to follow daughter and grandkids, never regretted it. Younger generation move more than we did for jobs and now with so many working at home they’re fleeing expensive cities. Pick a location you can afford and still enjoy life. Personally I’d hate to spend winters in Boston.
Rent for a year definitely no stairs. I took a header down my stairs 15 years ago, luckily I didn’t have a concussion. My husband was out of town so I dragged my ass up the stairs limped to car and emergency room. Two days later torn ACL and meniscus surgery.Shit happens, and as a single woman I’d stay on one level.
Honestly, Laurel, I know you don’t agree with the “no stairs” advice, but I’ve known wayyyy too many people who built their dream house with stairs and regretted it.
Every one of them built in their 60s when stairs weren’t a problem . . . yet. By the time they were in their 70s, they wanted to take a time machine to go back and kick their younger selves. LOL
Moving again in their 70s wasn’t in the plan. If aging in place is the goal, then it’s a prime consideration.
Hi Lorri, I take ballet classes with three women in their 80s. Stairs aren’t an issue for them. And, they weren’t for my mom who lived in her home with stairs until she was 90.
Aging in place is not my goal. Staying active, agile and strong, however, is.
Guys, Pleeeeeease! I’m a big girl now. I’m even potty trained. Therefore, I’m respectfully asking you to give it up. Thank you.
It is Linda from ballet and TKD, many, many moons ago. So happy that I came across your info and beautiful designs on Pinterest.
Linda Vergo??? Oh my! How wonderful it is to hear from you! I will contact you directly. But, probably tomorrow.
So happy you’re considering Boston! We’re up in Beverly (next to Salem) and don’t get into the city as much as we’d like, but when we lived On Brimmer for a bit (back in the 70’s), we loved it! We walked everywhere and marveled at Boston’s beauty. It will be even better by having you in it!
Looking forward to seeing how your adventure unfolds. At age 50, divorced, I moved from a pleasant small city to pursue life as an artist in my dream location in the mountains of NC. I bloomed. About 2 years after the move I went to my high school reunion in my home town and reconnected with an old friend. The problem was, he lived in the town I left. We dated for two years. We married, I moved back and I’m living with my dream husband in my dream house on my dream lake.
Here’s to your dreams!
sounds like an amazing story and thank you, Elizabeth!
Hi Laurel, How exciting for you! I have lived in the Boston area for 30 years. Given that you love historic character and want a fully walking location, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and South End are your best bets. You may find better pricing in South End. Just beware of fringe areas. Just east of the Boston Medical Center is a very rough area. While I have never lived in Boston Proper, my children have. I lived in Cambridge for 8 years after my divorce in 2007. It has lovely neighborhoods and great dining. I agree with one commenter who recommended the area between Harvard Square and Porter Square. If I had to compare Boston and Cambridge, I would say Boston has a more business driven culture, whereas Cambridge is more brain trust. Boston will be a bit more chic in dress, while Cambridge is more laid back. I found people in Cambridge very friendly. I was truly starting over, and I made some wonderful new friends. While a number of commenters recommended some towns outside Boston, it doesn’t sound like that is what you are looking for. The suggestion of east side of Providence is intriguing. I spent a lot of time in Providence when my son was in college there. The College Hill area is charming and it is a short walk down the hill to the train station. Boston is 45 minutes by train, Penn Station is 3 hours. I now live just west of Cambridge and can get into town quickly. There is no T here, however, so it’s car or Uber/Lyft. I split my time between the Boston area and Newport, RI. Newport is very fun! and there are a lot of people in our age group there. Again, I’ve met some great new friends. Of course, social distancing is making an active social life difficult. Best of luck in your search. I second or third the recommendation of the Athenaeum. It is stunning.
Laurel, I suggest you take the leap and move to Boston because it excites you! Maybe you can get a 6 month lease on a rental to see what area is most to your liking before you make a purchase. Then when you do purchase, don’t have stairs! Once you live without stairs, you will see how much easier it is to navigate your home. Will spare you the details, but I learned the hard way. Also, life is always changing, so your son’s job might not always be in Boston but you can cross that bridge when and if the time comes. (I only live close to one of my children and would give anything if I could also live close to the other three.) Good luck and enjoy the journey!
For whatever it’s worth, here are the steps I’d advise you take before making a decision: 1. Speak to your financial adviser to get a firm idea of exactly what you can afford, factoring in closing, moving, insurance (including flood insurance), parking, as well as other associated expenses. 2. Contact a few realtors in the Boston area. Boston is notorious for its traffic so you may want to find an area that allows you to get in and out of the city with more ease. 3. Consider buildings with elevators if you decide to buy above the ground floor. 4. Enjoy the search and best, best of luck!
After I split with my husband, I joined one of the best dating sites. Honey, there ain’t nothing out there! I feel for you. I quickly dropped out of the site, because it was so depressing. I decided that my autonomy was the most important thing to me, and that’s that. But I get where you are coming from. Best of luck there. The largest city near your son is Springfield, and I’ve been looking at housing there for a year. It’s called the City of Homes. Maybe check some things there on Zillow. No, it’s not Boston, but housing there is half the price, and the taxes are magically low! Especially compared to Westchester. You could afford the swankiest place in town. Good luck!
Laurel, a trip down memory lane… great classic photos of Beantown, my hometown and have lived in Back Bay and the flat of the Hill as well as other areas of Boston. I am in the same place as you right now, a tad older, and with all the uncertainty out there I’d advise to rent first. I now live in a sweet place called Saint Michaels, MD, reminds me of Marblehead but pretty sleepy, but winters are so much better. I’ve lived up and down the East Coast and each place has its charms, but I’m now heading to the other side of the pond once Covid lockdown is done. I studied 18th century decorative art and historic interiors in London and Paris. Fell in love with Bordeaux, a mini-Paris. My advice is to rent for at least one year and experience all the seasons. Forget Charlestown, Roxy, and the others you mentioned. If you’re looking for straight men probably not the South End, at least that was in the past, but the South End is where you’d find places that have been fixed up to the level you’d want, and it’s flat walking. The Hill isn’t pretty walking in the winter with lots of snow piled up making the sidewalks super narrow with lots of ice. Good luck. The hunt is always fun!
I guess it is misery loves company, or at least angst. It is so mirror =like to read about your struggles as we are doing the very same thing. Hve lived in richmond, va for 31 years, ready to retire, don’t know where our only son will end up and do not want to be too far=as in within 2 hrs, I want a dream house that we cannot afford and am obsessed with windows and trim and floors and having to have tings like a foyer that is large, etc- all components of our current old house. Sigh. Good luck to you! I look forward to updates on your journey.
We moved to Naples, Florida from London and I was sure I “knew” where I wanted to live. We decided nonetheless that it made sense to rent for a year before buying. We rented a house that we had the option to buy. The house was perfect – location, style, etc…But I am so glad we didn’t buy because as much as I loved the house, the neighbourhood was just not right for us. The year we rented gave me the chance to get to discover other neighbourhoods and ultimately find the right area for our family. I’m a big fan of renting when making a big location move! And, if available, the rent to buy option is always a good one. It seems many sellers are open to that option – especially if their homes have been on the market for awhile. Good luck! It’s all very exciting!
As one who did the search at one time, I know somewhat how you feel. We bought, we should have rented for a year. After a few months our dream wasn’t what we had hoped. We were locked into a city we thought was perfect, but was not. We loved the house, stayed there for 25 years because of the house, but not I can only say it wasn’t worth it in the long run. With the pandemic going the way it is, I would rent for at least a year and give it a try. Good luck with this.
Before you give up on western Massachusetts, have you looked in the Berkshires? Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington specifically? The homes are spectacular and largely intact and you’ll find plenty to do there. I can also assure you there are plenty of men suitable for dating the further you get out of Northampton. I’ve lived in the area most of my life and I love Shelburne Falls in particular.
Those are my dream locations! Especially Beacon Hill. Have you considered Charlestown? The area with the gas lights has some beautiful row houses.
Rent! We are in a very dynamic, fluid moment in our country. Things are changing so rapidly that what lured you to a new city may not exist in a year or two. I do envy you the art museums–I’ve not been, but I understand they are fabulous! I think being near family is so important, it’s worth pretty much any sacrifice.
We have never lived there, only have been there 3 times (a week at a time) for the Marathon. However, we loved it! Friendly, easy to get around, beautiful, love the food!
We stayed in houses in Scituate, So. Boston, and Hull. We were tourists all over Boston, though, including walking the neighborhoods that you mentioned.
Wishing you the best in your search for a new place to live. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for all the wonderful posts.
You couldn’t have made a better choice than Boston based on what you say you want. I will live vicariously through you as you search for the perfect home there. I have long considered a move into the city, but Lexington, MA is also a great place to live. I can drive into Boston when I want a quick injection of city life, or rent an AirBnB for a few days if I need a temporary immersion. I look forward to your future posts and hope you find the perfect home.
I agree with you about Westchester. I do not see the appeal. But, everyone has different tastes. I personally do not prefer Boston over NYC but that is just me.
What about Long Beach? Great beach, there are still some affordable properties and Joan Jett has a ocean front property there. You could be friends.
Dear Laurel, We hope you will come visit the Athenæum no matter where you end up living in Boston. A lot of people treat us like the big, beautiful, 19th century living room they don’t have. Lots of books, magazines, newspapers to read; interesting people; thought-provoking and fun events (virtual for now, but wine and cheese will return!). We do the occasional design event – Nina Campbell spoke last year (to a full house!). Call or email us any time. – the Boston Athenæum membership team
How kind you are to offer an invitation! I very much appreciate that.
I went to Boston a few years ago with three girlfriends and we had so much fun. It is a great city. Ultimately if rents are high, it would probably be better to buy, however to start, it would probably be good to rent for a year and just get the feel of living in Boston. Even though you have been many times, its not the same as living there. By renting, you get a better sense of communities and then if you still love the city after a year, then you can think of buying and really take your time. Good luck.
67 Dartmouth St. Unit #1 (South End)
Classic styled, two level condo with nice room sizes for entertaining (including a separate work space/office) Primary bedroom with wonderful light overlooks beautiful lower large, private, enclosed patio…kitchen with nice finishes, though a tad dark & neighborhood looks like it has a lot to offer. I won’t bug you with any others. I’m a bit picky and this one seemed to have traditional details you like, while at the same time, keeping a light pallet, and having some space:) Happy hunting!
oh, that is a very nice place and that patio is amazing! Two things, I would prefer higher ceilings, and a little more in the way of mouldings. Can’t add those in a rental. And, I really, really, really want a working fireplace. However, if everything else was terrific could forego that. This place is very close to the Boston Ballet School which is a huge plus for me!
I thought I was the only one who can happily pass time online, looking at real estate, and considering the “what ifs” (in my case, playing & winning the lotto:) of having a place in a different city, nearer relatives. I think you are being very smart, taking time and researching. I am wondering if you could get more of what you want, if you found a place set up (or you could set up) for you to do an Air B&B? That way, you’d be more likely to get the kitchen, storage and the space that you want/need for friends and relatives when you need it, and a way to pay your mortgage, and possibly have a place for vehicle(s)too. I know you were seemingly coming to embrace that idea in the house you nearly purchased, or I wouldn’t have brought it up. I can’t remember the time frame you have for moving from where you are now… As for renting vs buying, perhaps renting is the way of finding a good fit. On the other hand, you always strike me as someone who, like me, does her thorough homework first, so may find the perfect place right away. You could try staying at a couple of Boston area B & B’s, as owners usually know their neighborhoods backwards and forwards. It may feel unsafe during this whole Covid nightmare to do any of this, but, you may actually find that gem of a “dream house” you’ve both longed, and worked darn hard for. Good luck as your journey continues! CSS
Thanks, Cynthia I have considered that too. The place would need to have its own entrance, ideally. Or at least could be made so that they won’t go into my living space. I found an amazing place on Beacon St. very close to the public garden, but the second bedroom which is upstairs only has access to a bathroom on the first floor. And, I would need that income, most likely as this place is 1.8 million asking price. Oh, and there doesn’t appear to be any real outdoor space, just a small parking area.
Dear Laurel, From my 20s to early 30s I lived in Harvard Square and then on the waterfront next to the Aquarium. Boston is a magnificent city for sure with caveats. Please be aware of the crime statistics. Myself and everyone I knew at the time became victims in one way or another. Crime is no joke in Boston. Also, it is not a friendly town. I had the opportunity to work on Wall Street during this time and stayed in an apartment in the West Village. I was shocked at how much friendlier Manhattan was compared to Boston. I was sick and tired of having to look over my shoulder all the time and I lived in very good locations. Also, don’t even think about riding the T after 9:00 p.m. It is nearly impossible to have a car in the city as well. I felt quite trapped when I didn’t have one. I just want you to be aware.
I can’t help you with your search in the Boston area. I’ve never been there. But if it was me moving to a new area I would want to rent a place first. That way I’m not committed if I found it wasn’t to my liking.
But it seems you’re already familiar with that area soooo.
I just hope you find a place. I want you to be happy.
I recently moved to Brookline two years ago and love it. I feel it should be a serious consideration for you. One thing I highly recommend is RENTING first. I did and I am so glad I did. I learned quickly what I needed out of Boston and where I thought I wanted to live turned out to be a big mistake for me. Good luck.
I forgot to add to my note from a few minutes ago: if you decide to live in Boston, be sure to check out the Boston Athenaeum: a private library with amazing holdings, and with a wonderful art collection, too! It’s much more approachable & friendly than it was 30 years ago. You’ll love the architecture of the reading rooms, especially the top floor. And you can sit in one of the reading rooms and enjoy the view over the Granary Burying Ground (park-like setting). It might make up for finding an apt without a great view of its own.
Laurel, definitely check out the “back side” of Beacon Hill– like Russell Street & other parallel streets that go downhill from Beacon Hill toward Cambridge St. Lots of brick Federal style beauties with rents a little more reasonable than the top of Beacon Hill, and smaller, quieter streets. Once you’ve moved in, you will LOVE visiting the historic Otis House on Cambridge St which is also the HQ of Historic New England, and their other historic houses all over New England. Beauport near Gloucester is one of my favorites. Other places to look for a place to live: Cambridgeport (between MIT & Hahvahd. Best of luck!
Ooh ooh, my hand is way up! Huge fan of yours living in Boston for the past 23 years. I actually grew up in Fairfield county and worked in Westchester, so I’m familiar with that vibe. If you move here, I so want an invitation to your party and you’re invited to mine! One neighborhood you may want to look at is Charlestown. There’s a charming, historic side, aka “gaslight” district and a less desirable side which you’ll have to parse out on the real estate listings. It has good access to public transportation and easier parking. You can walk into the North End and a lovely new park below the Zakim bridge. Email me with any questions at all! I have a friend in the Back Bay and another in the South End.
A few thoughts come to mind as I read your blog today.
1. Since you would like to find a boyfriend, perhaps you should start (if you haven’t already) by joining a dating website and see what happens. If you meet someone wonderful, that might totally alter you plans.
2. Do you currently rent or own? I am hearing that there is kind of a mass exodus out of New York city because of the increase in crime. If you currently own, how does this situation affect you? Are your current property values going up or down?
3. Would you consider purchasing a Condo as opposed to purchasing a house? You would have less maintenance, and it might make moving to the area of your dreams more attainable.
We recently purchased a Condo, which we are renovating. We gutted the kitchen and the bathroom, and replaced all the flooring. Because of Covid, it is taking longer to complete than normal. But when it is finished, it will be exactly the way we want it!
4. As far as should you rent or own goes, I was told years ago by a realtor that there is a time to rent, and a time to own. If you own your current home and it looks like your property values will be dropping for the foreseeable future, it might be wise to put your home on the market now and rent until you find what you are looking for. On the other hand, it the perfect home comes along . . .
Finally, I would encourage you to get as much information as you can to help you make the best decision.
Please do not talk about the boyfriend sitch. I didn’t ask for advice about that. Just know that I’ve been online for quite a while and it’s one of the most soul-sucking depressing experiences of my life. Yes, gathering information
about relocating is what I’m doing.
Wow, a lot of feedback here. For $5000, I looked on Zillow and found that the size of a rental apartment or condo in the best neighborhoods is small. What is the smallest you think you can live in? How many bedrooms do you want? Are you willing to go with a more contemporary look? Many of the available apartments have been renovated and no longer have that European charm. I own a one-bedroom 750sqft condo in San Francisco. It’s a pied-a-terre and I don’t think I could live there more than a week. It’s small with very little storage space. You would definitely have to scale down to the very basics if you get something that’s under $5,000/month. Looking at $7500 was more promising; but, is that over your budget? Remember if you rent you can only make superficial changes, and you have no equity. (Throwing your money away?). Buying a condo could be a good investment, and you can renovate to your heart’s content.
Well, Laurel, this is great news! I’d love to have you as a neighbor! Here’s my advice and if you want more, you know where I live.
After 40 years in Back Bay, I think my neighborhood is Boston’s best. Before we get carried away, though, keep in mind that it, and a lot of Boston, is in a flood zone, so if the Charles River overflows or there’s a big storm at sea, there will be floods like we’ve never seen. It’s already happening around the waterfront and the Seaport. Don’t pick a basement apartment! I love Back Bay, but I’m aware of the risks.
We’ve been house-hunting all over the area for 10 years (thanks to a relocation package my husband got with a new job when we already lived here) and never found an area we liked better or a condo we loved that we could actually buy (cash buyers, esp. overseas investors, seem to grab all the good places). I know my way around Boston real estate.
Back Bay is beautiful, walkable, relatively safe, and it’s got everything. If the pandemic ends, it will be lots of fun to live here again. Just about everyone who has a second home left in March, as did all the students, so it’s a lot quieter, which is a mercy. Cities are loud. But plenty of us are still here and I’d say a little over half of us are dodging the rest, who don’t wear masks, when we go for walks and do our errands.
From Back Bay, you can wander to many other neighborhoods and quickly get to the river. You could join our excellent neighborhood association and meet people when it’s safe to do so again. There’s also the Garden Club, which looks out for the local trees, etc., and has great programs. We’re inclusive, not exclusive, and have lots of fun. You have a houseplant, so you’re more than qualified.
You seem like a city girl so I’d avoid Newton. It’s lovely but it’s more of a place to raise children. I think you’d have a hard time making friends there. We considered living there and realized how isolated I’d feel.
The flat of Beacon Hill is charming, but the hill itself can be tough. You won’t want to be up high on the hill in a bad winter. Beacon Street is fine — it’s wide and gets shoveled and salted, but the other streets and brick sidewalks get very icy. I’m an intrepid walker but I don’t go there if there’s snow. Parking is also even harder there than it is here.
The South End is very hip but it doesn’t have the public transit Back Bay has and isn’t as centrally located. Some parts are less safe, too. Gorgeous architecture, though, and friendlier neighbors. The same is basically true for Charlestown. I love it but it’s a bit isolated from the rest of the city. You will get more for your money and a quieter, more “village” feel there.
Cambridge is good, but nuts. Cramped wooden workers’ houses and basic condos routinely sell for a few hundred thousand over asking because of Harvard, MIT and the biotech companies. Even Back Bay is more reasonable! However, there are lots of empty apartments these days.
Rent vs Buy: I say rent! It’s a renter’s market now, for a change, and you should get to know the city better before you decide where to put down roots.
We have friends who live a block away on Marlborough, who told us they can’t find tenants for the units in their chic, renovated townhouse. . .
I also know the best sales agent in the ‘hood. She’s been at it forever and knows everyone and everything: good vs bad buildings, neighbors, developers, and so on.
The downside of Boston? You get so little bang for the buck. If I were moving to New England, I’d seriously look at Providence and Portland, too. And Portsmouth and Salem. They are all lively, interesting cities where you can get a nice house instead of a small condo for somewhere under a million.
You asked for advice! Best of luck with your new adventure!
I love this! “You have a houseplant, so you’re more than qualified.” hahaha
Really helpful information. I don’t want a house. But, I do want to feel like I’m part of a community and involved with some things other than my website and hunting for a suitable boyfriend. lol
Curious about your friends on Marlborough with the chic renovated townhouse.
I live in Boston and you don’t need a car. We use Zipcar and it has more than met our needs. Personally, I think Boston and the suburbs are grossly overpriced. If we didn’t have to live in the City for our jobs I wouldn’t choose it.
Would you consider an extreme thought and move to a warmer climate in the South? I’m in my seventies and enjoy being outside in Southern CA. Your readers can suggest many locations on the East Coast. Definitely rent for 6 months to a year. It is important to know how an area “lives” on a daily basis. As with people, appearances are deceiving. When our world is more normal, you and your son can travel and be together.
Ah yes – I always thought I needed stairs too and almost bought a house that required a dozen stairs to even get in the front door. I was crushed when the sale fell through because someone outbid me. That feeling disappeared when I tore my ACL in a freak ski accident. I had to give up marathon training and cycling and was so happy that I ended up in a house that had no stairs! I can still do stairs but I know the time will come when the knees go and I want to stay in my next house for a long, long time. Without having to put in an elevator. Just something to consider, unless this isn’t your last move.
I was in Boston last week. Love Boston except no parking, lots of traffic driving into the city, worst than New York. If I had a choice where to move I would pick Boston and dump the car. Good luck in finding your dream house.
What about winter and the snow situation?
What a timely post! I have been considering a move to the Boston area instead of moving from SoCal back to NorCal. I had long ago considered Northampton (vaguely know someone who lives there) but need to be close to a super-good vet because I have 2 special needs dogs. Have found a great specialty hospital with locations in Boston and Waltham and all the suggestions by your readers are giving me great ideas! Single, retired, and anxious to travel to Europe a lot once this pandemic is over – and Boston is so much closer than LAX! Hope we both find the house of our dreams!
Hi Laurel. Inspired by your decorating process, I came up with a process for your move. Consider what your ideal day in Boston would look like. Would it involve coffee bars and wine bars? A park to walk in? A grocery store you can walk to? A pub where there’s a board game night (pre-covid)? Find these things on a map and see what areas are served by the things you long for. Those are your ideal places.
When I read about a rental you were considering my heart broke a little. Dirty and needs work? You deserve better. I know, I know it’s your job to bring out the best in places and it’s the big city and blah blah blah. You deserve better. I agree with your financial person!
Stay at an Airbnb in an area, if you must.
You’re spooky good, I mean really, really good at research so I am confident that you, of anyone, CAN find just the right place to buy without renting.
This could take a year. So? Enjoy that year by spending time in Boston, as much as is practical for you. Maybe you’ll find out being near a pub is noisy and smelly…and that a grocery store a block away is necessary.
You’re ready to go (as you already made an offer which didn’t work out) so you will get a crack at the good properties which sell very quickly.
It’s just not right to prepare for old age by assuming you’ll be infirm! I see you maintaining your physical and mental health until your time comes. Your love of dance and keeping active comes through often in your blog posts, so no need to limit yourself there.
If I had to bet on this, I would bet on you finding something wonderful in Boston. You can do this!
RENT ! You can always leave a lease but you can’t walk away from a house/apt. you own as easily. After renting for a few months you’ll know if that’s the city for you or not. You were absolutely convinced Northampton was your new place to live but now not so much. If Boston is truly your new city then you can buy. And by renting it gives you time to suss out the neighborhoods a little more and you won’t feel so pressed for time in buying what’s on the market right now. Good Luck! Oh and I know what you mean about NYC. I’ve been here for 45 yrs., same apt in Hell’s Kitchen for 33. I’d love to leave but can’t afford it.
Not sure I can offer any helpful advice, except to say that these are difficult times for everyone. That’s for sure. Keep looking, don’t give up, and it will happen. I, too, live in a bedroom community – of San Francisco. It’s very lovely and quiet, but it can be dull at times.
In spite of that, I don’t think I could ever go back to a city. It would just be too congested and claustrophobic for me. (My fantasy, for some time now, is to move to the English countryside!)
oh, Laurel! Boston!!!
When my daughter lived there, I dreamed of having a pied-a-terre in Beacon Hill or Back Bay. oh, so lovely!!!
96 Beacon Street is the cat’s meow! I’m swooning over every perfect little detail. If I purchased it, I’d install a murphy bed (my friend says hers is the best night’s sleep ever). Fold it up in the AM and there, you have a lovely flex space open to the living room.
Good luck buying/renting whatever makes you happy. You deserve it!
Back in 2000 my husband had a cushy shore duty as a grad student at Harvard. (Thank you Navy!). We lived in Concord and loved it. I took my preschool aged twins on the red line daily and explored all over Boston. Loved it! You should definitely move to Boston!
Hi, Laurel … why not consider Newton too? Here’s a condo listing that looked rather charming. I believe that public transportation in and out of city is pretty good. https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/549-Centre-St-Apt-5_Newton_MA_02458_M42725-06755?view=qv
probably not, but thanks anyway. I have very definitive wants, like super high ceilings and huuuuuge windows, fireplace, etc.
Hello Laurel, I worked in Boston for a while, and lived in a beautiful place called Waban, a subdivision of Newton. I loved it, but it might be a little too suburban for you. Some people recommended Cambridge, which I think is a good idea to check out. Many cultural events and great architecture, and all those interesting people around.
Woo hoo! Boston is the best. As many others have pointed out, we all have our favorite neighborhoods. So I would definitely advise renting for now. Beacon Hill is charming as get out but you may end up preferring something a little further out after a year. Historical neighborhoods come with historical issues 😜
Anything ‘in’ the city (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South End etc etc) is to be seriously negotiated right now. Landlords are doing month to month agreements for renewals, or free months and no money down for new leases. Along with hefty discounts.
And just know that for the next 6-9 months you won’t be experiencing the real sense of city living. It’s quite bucolic right now!
Best of luck!
I’m reading and loving every comment and saving many of them in my notebook! So many great ideas.
Just want to say in response to Alison and others, While I’m no expert, I’ve spent considerable time in Boston as my son went to college and then stayed there for another 6 years. And have been to all of the neighborhoods suggested except for Charlestown. Actually, I have looked there and there’s an amazing home, but it is a stretch, financially and of course, the kitchen sucks. Maybe I could get a new one sponsored?
But, getting back to Boston. We even moved our son into an apartment on September 1st in 2009. If one can live through that hell, they can do anything. lol
In addition, I lived for 13 years in Manhattan. LIVED. 7 years of that was in a 500 sq ft, one-bedroom 5th floor walk-up with no AC that I shared for 6 of those years. I waited on tables, took the subway… Of course, that was 33-40 years ago. lol
We moved out of Manhattan in 1991. I’m done with the burbs. At least, if I’m all on my own with no family around.
Can you rent a family? lol
I know, I know. Some of you would gladly give your families away for free! haha.
I have to agree with growing older concerns: something small, something practical, attached garage, no steps
Oh, no. I NEED stairs! Growing old? Not yet. Maybe never. I don’t know. I can’t plan for something that may never happen.
Hey Laurel, just curious if you’ve ever considered the Berkshires?
The best of luck in your search for happiness. What is with people in their early 60’s? (Myself included, LOL.). Hubby and I have been discussing making a change for several years now. After going through all the wants/needs list we have decided to stay in our home. We still want to travel but that will have to wait until COVID-19 has run its course. We did consider moving closer to our adult children (one in NYC and the other in Washington, D.C.) but they ended up moving to our town of Mobile, AL to escape COVID-19 related restrictions. And they don’t want to go back due to the civil unrest. Things do have a way of working out.
I would make my money stretch further by considering the East Side of Providence. Beautiful architecture with so many historic homes at bargain prices.
Buying a home is like dating: lots of frogs and then you meet Mr Right! Looking is half the fun, especially since you can now do both on-line! Rarely will a home meet all the criteria on your dream list unless your pockets are very deep or you custom build. As the realtors say “location, location, location!” So first you must decide on a location so you can narrow your search. Find a buyer’s broker who specializes in your target area. A well-connected broker may be able to show you homes that are pocket listings- meaning exclusive listings not included on MLS or advertised on line. My experience is that is takes me 5 years to get a new home decorated/renovated/landscaped to my liking. The process is great fun and I take my time and will not buy anything that I don’t absolutely love. I would rent for a year to confirm that the neighborhood is what you want. Before signing a lease, I would visit the area several timesat different times of day to research noise levels including planes overhead and rush hour traffic, traffic patterns (lots of traffic=poor air quality), walkability, access to grocery shopping, cafes, exercise options etc.
Btw, Boston is my favorite city, too, and my advice to you? Stay in the city! There are some beautiful suburbs, but you need the energy and opportunities of Boston proper. (I lived in Marblehead for 20 years and, beautiful as it is, I wish I could have afforded to live in the city.)
I have lived in the Boston area nearly my whole life and Beacon Hill is my fantasy of perfect location followed by Back Bay 🙂 Boston is the BEST city and has so much to offer. Hope you do make your home here as I think you would love it. Single men…not so sure the age range you (and I) are looking in has any decent ones left anywhere, but a city seems a more likely place to find one with similar interests and values!
Dear Laurel, My brother lives in lovely Newton, a nearby suburb of Boston, and I used to live in Sturbridge, an easy 45 minute drive on the Green Stamp Turnpike to central Boston. I have seen Boston in slow motion while running the marathon. Homes in Sturbridge are reasonably priced but it is a drive to central Boston. Areas north of Boston are also highly desirable and affordable. You might consider Ipswich, Rawley, or Salem. These are all very nice areas.
What about Cambridge? I met my husband living there and it was the best place to date ever! Then we moved to Waltham which is also a great place to buy because prices are a bit lower. Now we are in Riverdale Bronx which is more of a family friendly area 🙂 I love all of your interior decorating advice. Send me a message if you want any more advice on dating in Boston! I have *years* of experience with that 😀
I’d suggest looking in Brookline as well, in particular the neighborhoods of Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village. They are on the Green Line (C & D branches), meaning it’s easy to go into downtown Boston, but they are a bit more residential. I lived in Coolidge Corner for a year in graduate school, and was walking distance from the world’s best bakery, Clear Flour. There were also a lot of great cafes, restaurants (Zaftigs is amazing), and a historic independent movie theater. As other folks have been saying, Cambridge also seems like it would be a good fit while staying close to Boston. You may want to look north of Boston to communities like Beverly, Salem, Marblehead, and Newburyport, which have lovely historic homes, and all but Marblehead are on the commuter rail line into Boston. Salem even has a seasonal ferry that goes directly to Long Wharf in Boston (next to the Aquarium). Good luck with your search, and I’m looking forward to reading about your house hunt!
Buying a home is always fraught with high emotional ups and downs, not to mention all the unforeseen issues that might pop up with a thorough home inspection. Boston is a wonderful city but before you commit I would urge you to look at the incredibly beautiful towns of the North Shore including Ipswich, Newbury, Newburyport, Topsfield, Gloucester, Rockport, Rowley, Salem. Like Northhampton these towns are chock full of beautiful homes of all vintages but at a much lower price. I keep a summer home in Gloucester and adore the history and beauty of the area. The Cape Ann museum as well as many other associations provide ready access to many activities and information about the fascinating history of the area. It is certainly worth checking this area out!
Gail, if you’re open to considering a new region of the country, seriously consider Knoxville TN.
Yes! I can totally see you in Boston and most definitely Beacon Hill. I work for a hotel in Beacon Hill. Let me know if you need help with accommodations while you’re searching!
I recently relocated for many of the same reasons as you. Unfortunately, compromises are a reality of life. Pick the 3 or so MOST important things you want and concentrate on finding those. I searched for 2 years and still had to compromise on 1 item on my list. I am now in a great place and am so glad I moved. I enjoy your relatable blog and hope you can find your new home soon. PS – I’m a kitchen designer – kitchens are important to factor in your decision!
My husband and I moved to Boston from the New York area 30 years ago and lived first in Cambridge and now, for 22 years at the South Shore. We loved Cambridge but got priced out when we wanted to buy a house but it sounds like you might be able to afford a condo there and it’s all the things you stated you wanted. The Porter Square area (between Harvard Square and North Cambridge) is an architecture lover’s dream, walkable, lots of fun little shops and those neighborhoods are very quiet yet they are just a quick trip on the T to Boston proper. Also, easy access to Rt 2 or the Mass Pike to get out to western MA and see your son. Hope you find your dream space!
Boston, and anyplace connected to it by the T, is fabulous. I agree with those who say rent for a while until you really decide on the best area.
One word for you – NEGOTIATE! Right now the number of students returning is low, and that affects all kinds of businesses, so there are and will be wonderful apartments available. AND, you are not a student, duh. Owners want you as a tenant. Double the negotiating power – excess capacity and the perfect tenant.
I thought you had a boyfriend….
What an exciting time, your home search! We’ve lived in 11 homes in the last 21 years of marriage, always trying to find the “perfect” neighborhood in Miami. Five of those were rentals, six were purchased. I’d say in the homes we rented, there was a sense of freedom and guiltlessness when we picked up and moved. With the mortgaged homes, sooo much more is involved when you find out the location isn’t working for you: showing the home, contracts falling through, inspectors, grubby buyers, and the closing costs. If you are moving to an entirely new city, give yourself the freedom to try every part of Boston, one lease at a time. We vacationed there last summer, and I was overwhelmed by its charm, history and beauty. Have fun, Laurel!
Oh, yeah, I forgot. I am a sailor so I would definitely check out Marblehead, MASS on the water north of Boston.
When Julia Child and her husband Paul decided to move back to the United States, they decided on Cambridge, MASS. So there must be something to be said about the Boston area.
Hi Laurel, I always enjoy your blog. I too made a move to a new city by myself about two years ago. I needed a change and it’s worked out very well for me. I don’t want to rain on your parade; however, as a former realtor my curiosity was piqued when you stated that there was a lot of inventory and rents were being lowered in Boston as a whole. There is a reason for that. Do your homework. People are leaving big cities in droves. Don’t get stuck with a beautiful home that you can’t sell in a few years. As they say in real estate school, the time to think about selling your house is the day you buy it!
We are in exactly the age group you mentioned. I would like to chip in with some purely practical advice based on bitter experience. Choose a place with at least a half bath on the first floor and a minimum of steps to get to the first floor. One broken ankle can make a place with too many steps unlivable. Even in non COVID times access to excellent emergency services and hospitals is essential. This makes Boston a great choice.
That was the best comment ever.
Hi Laurel, Big fan! I lived in Riverdale, NY for 11 years then in Newton, MA for 10. When contemplating the move to Boston area, like you, I wanted to be in Back Bay or Beacon Hill. After 10 years, glad I picked Newton. I worked in a school on Commonwealth and quickly learned about the horrendous noise and traffic…and leaving the city at night it was even worse. I LOVED being in the city but was so glad I chose Newton. Look carefully at the replies that mention “community” and noise and affordability. The farther west you go, the more you get and there are, indeed, many fabulous architectural buildings in Brookline, Coolidge Corner, Newton….and all are an easy hop on the T into town…great shopping areas in all locations as well. Good luck!!!! Oh, one other thing…the WIND in the city (yes windier than Chicago…,which actually gained that moniker because of back room politics…) makes walking around in the winter nearly unbearable. I experienced nothing like it in the Bronx or Manhattan.
PS. Ani’s idea about Charlestown is good too.
Much depends on what Covid does to pedestrian life, shops, restaurants. We may end up with the seediest sides of city living and fewer of the pleasures. Lovely Charles Street for instance is so empty now compared to what it was.
Hi Laurel. I have been a HUGE admirer for years and have used your pics and insights to change my own house. I am in the same age range with retirement in the near term and have a few thoughts. Flexibility is key! I have friends who move away from urban location to a more small town/rural area and when their kids had children they couldn’t afford to move back because the urban location outpaced the small town! Urban locations have the advantage of being close to an airport – you want to travel to other people and you want them to travel to you! You want to avoid stairs – forget getting “old” whatever that means – what if you sprain your ankle. I prefer sport analogies to age analogies – more fun. You want to be able to walk to charming restaurants, the post office or UPS store, the grocers, etc. for the people contact (post COVID19), exercise, and for when it is time to let go of the car. Which will be fine because you have Uber, Lyft, CarToGo, etc. You want to be able to AirBnB your place for even more flexibility if your son move to SF (or you want to live in another place for 6 months to learn Italian, see fabulous art, and eat fabulous food (that is just an example) and you want to stay for a month+ and don’t want the burden of the mortgage. Not too small – you want room for guests. Good luck! I think you are fabulous!
I’m so very excited for you!
Cannot tell you a thing about Boston, but in the pictures it looks like a lovely place to live.
Best of luck with your new adventure
I can understand the need to be near family and for a change- but Boston, despite its charms is either rated the 2nd or 3rd most $$ city to live in as a renter or homeowner, and it’s a very young city —oriented toward the 1000’s of students that live there. No doubt the historic neighborhoods and properties are alluring, but I hope you consider all factors before plunking down a large sum of $ and moving. If I were you, I would consider the following questions: what happens if my son decides to move across country for a job or for a woman, if he settles down far away ? Will I still be happy in Boston? Second , what happens as I age? Will Boston be suitable for me if I retire and need to live on my savings? None of us know what the economy may do – things certainly aren’t looking good in a Covid world- so the future in terms of income is more uncertain. Do you want to give a landlord $3000-$5000 of your money each month with no financial benefit to you? And how much time have you spent in Boston, so different in every war from NYC?
Quality of life is really important and your desire for a move is understandable. I just wonder if it’s the best time for a big change when everything is unsettled around us ? And as your experience with Northampton shows, reality and fantasy can easily be blended but to get what you want- a lovely home in a place you can live happily and for many years, they have to be separated.
Boston is a great city. I live about 50 minutes south in Plymouth, which I love because it is steeped in history (like Boston).
I wanted to focus on your rent vs buy question. Independent of where you’re looking to move, if it’s a new locale for you, renting can be a good option in that you can land and get a real feel for what you really want – especially with respect to neighborhood, and even if this new locale truly is the right place for you. Then you also are local as you look for that perfect place and you aren’t tied down trying to sell if you decide it really isn’t the place for you.
One of the things I’m seeing due to COVID is a migration of people from the city to the burbs (I have family members doing this right now). This can create buying opportunities, and the rental market in the city might soften a bit.
In the long run, buying is the way to go, but if you’re looking for the perfect place – renting first might give you a chance to search for it from close up and as you actually experience living in the city. More “in place” experience can help you make more informed buying decisions.
My two cents and best of luck as you look for your dream home!
I lived and worked in Boston for many years after my divorce. Now been in Mpls. for 3 years (moved for kids- WON’T ever do again) and can’t wait to get back to Boston. If COVID would ever leave, I’d be able to sell my house and would return to Boston ASAP.
I lived on Marlborough (at Dartmouth) in a beautiful completely renovated Brownstone and in the big Millennium Tower in the financial district. Different experiences – as a single (50+) woman, I loved the care of being in a full-service building, especially if you are away a lot. The Marlborough condo was great but I didn’t like coming home (from the symphony or theatre) at night alone; it is a super quiet street once it is dark out. The brownstones typically have small HOA groups, so it can be a bit tricky to navigate the wants of 3-5 different parties, whereas in a full service building, your board runs the show. The brownstone had charm galore, and the tower needed me to add charm, though the view was spectacular. No amenities to speak of in a brownstone, whereas the full-service bldg. had a gym, gorgeous bar/common areas where I could sit with a glass of wine at the end of the day or work on my computer if I wanted to be around people during the day. That is another difference. You will not see your neighbors much in a brownstone. I found I needed to be around more people- even the hello from the front desk when I arrived home was appreciated. A full-service building has more people- usually a bookclub or social gatherings. Single gals have entirely different needs than married folks. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions. The absolute BEST real estate agent in Boston is Valerie Post. She is smart, fun, knows the city through and through, and is THE best negotiator I’ve every known. She’s now a friend as well as my agent through all my sales and purchases. Good luck and I hope you meet you once I’m back in Boston!!
I am an area native and believe that Boston is a very special place (bias admitted). If you are interested I would be happy to refer you to an excellent realtor who specializes in the Back Bay, South End etc, as well as a brilliant real estate attorney. Best of luck in your search. You will find something you love, even if it is imperfect (to start)
Two thoughts. I’m a social worker specializing in seniors. A big mistake seniors make in real estate is picking a home they love with a lot of stairs; then they have to move because they can’t manage the stairs. Stressful. Also, recently a very wonderful friend moved to the Boston area from Chicagoland and found Boston not that friendly. If you already have friends there, that’s good. Good luck. Mary M.
Good luck in your search. Mary M.
Thank you Laurel and Friends for all your relocation ideas! My husband I are in the midst of selling our 1747 home in upstate New York but really haven’t a clue where to move to. We want to be by water and within an hour of an airport in an easily maintained home (we are both in our late seventies and are ready for a break from garden and house maintenance responsibilities). This morning’s blog is soooo useful. Again thanks to all, and keep those suggestions coming! And ps Laurel, Good Luck in your hunt!
Exciting times for you, even w all the chaos in our lives. One point sticks with me about your post: you say you want to be around more people, meet more people, do activities that you enjoy, including maybe a future Mr. . . .
You have the knowledge and talent to make any place your home, so focus on a place where there are the activities and type of people that excite you.
Enjoy the journey!
So very excited for you!!! I’m sure you will find the perfect place. I can’t wait to hear more about your search. Good luck!
I know nothing about Boston, but talk to Linda Holt. You can google her. I follow her on Instagram after seeing her beautiful work on the one room challenge. Best of luck to you on your journey. We spent about 5 years half heartedly looking for places in Florida near the gulf. We took a coronacation this summer and it all fell into place. We’re buying a little 3 bedroom home 5 minutes to the beach by car.
Hi Sharon. Great recommendation! Linda Holt is one of my dearest friends who I wish I could see more of.
Hi Laurel — I’ve lived in Boston area for 25
years , 16 in Newton, 5 in Cambridge. I’d say beware of area near Boston Common : traffic noise (it’s relatively *quiet* now given Covid…), no parking, various forms of street grunge, zero neighborliness. I think you’d love Cambridge with a range of old places (I bought mine partly for the sake of the two claw foot Beth tubs and two fireplaces ) and new- also expensive (and you’ll have competition for the inventory) but just as beautiful as Back Bay (the mid-Cambridge gardens have given me such uplift and comfort in the last few months) and quieter. You might check out Brookline and Newton : closer to Boston than JP or Roxbury, less hip, but full of handsome architecture and streets and interesting congenial people, and not quite as pricey as the other places. Good hunting !
I’m so excited for you! You’re missing the best kept secret in Boston: charlestown. That’s where I live. Tons of historical charm and I walk to back bay and beacon hill all the time. Plus it’s on the water.
It’s a lovely community with people from all age brackets. I’ve been here 25 years.
I will send you an email with more detail later this morning.
And yes, there’s a glut of apartments just now in the city and landlords are just starting to give deals. That’s a first in many years.
This could be perfect for you.
I lived in NYC for 20 years. My husband’s job took us to other states and we finally settled in Newburyport (very pricey now) for another 20. I never liked going to Boston, not as friendly as NY, the streets make no sense and they are always tearing them up anyway. Public transportation was difficult. I know someone who moved to Charlestown from Back Bay and they feel it is a safer area. I have lived in five states and found something to love about each one. Best wishes on your relocation adventure!
So much of what you say resonates. We can’t follow our sons around (at least until they get tenure;)
I am a Portland, Maine native, but I went to college in Boston. And when I last owned a house (in South Portland) I used to love taking my bike on the train to Boston to bike along the Charles, browse the Coop, and have lunch near Harvard Square. I discovered the Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street and its wonderful artist Samuel Bak on a stroll with my son years back.
Of course, a lot of the pleasures of city living have been changed by this pandemic. For some of us. My friend lives as if nothing has changed. She has no fear of ventilators.
You say it well when you say “a quest to change my life.” I think your readers could help by keeping their eye out for a nice guy to invite you both for dinner:) And if he is a few years older, that would be my age range. lol
I have been on a quest for a house in Maine for about a year. I am hoping to close on my sea captain’s “cottage” (it’s huge) in about two weeks. Just waiting for the last inspection report. Fingers crossed.
I think you have to go to a place to see how it makes you feel. With your budget, you could live about anywhere. Before you commit to Boston, you might consider Portland and south to Scarborough, north to Brunswick. All within reach of your son by a leisurely drive through New Hampshire or plane or train. Still within reach of the Boston market, but you could get a lot more house for your money in a city that has become home to many “from away.”
Wish you the best of luck!
Your last couple of sentences said that it was probably enough for one post! No, Laurel! I wanted more🤗 I can’t wait for your next post about your moving saga. Lovely pictures. And I so hope you find the perfect (or almost perfect) place for your next waypoint. I love your blog. You just have a way about you that is so engaging and personable. My husband is from Athol, tiny town east of Boston. So exciting to learn more about the city.
Thank you Vicki, we have been looking for a home in Edgartown for years. And one became available, and we were lucky, and found our home on ithe first day of it being listed… Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, are just beautiful. We sure have missed not being there this summer…
Oh Tami Martha’s Vinyard is wonderful. You’ll love Edgartown and Nantucket too. Congratulations
Based on what i know about you from this blog, check out:
Back Bay Boston
North End Boston
Newburyport **** (historical seaport town, trendy, old homes, high end but can find a good deal to renovate)
Beverly (quieter but beautiful)
Laurel, I am so excite for ou. We just love Boston. Such a friendly clean place. We summer in Edgartown MA, even year, and always make a few trips into Boston. If not just coming and and leaving. We bought a home in Edgartown this pst April, sight unseen. Thank you COVID. Our primary home is in Fort Worth Texas, so we still haven’t had a chance to even get there… And attempting to furnish it from floor plans, well floor plans that my husband sketched,.. Good luck and you will find a beautiful home…
What fun! I sent you a DM on Instagram with a suggestion. Happy Hunting!
Laurel, If I won the lottery I would buy a condo in Boston right near the Boston Harbor Hotel. On one of the wharfs. I grew up outside of Boston, but my family’s history is all about Boston.
Or I might choose Cambridge near Memorial Drive There are some great homes. And you have MIT and Harvard right there. Lots of history and beautiful architecture.
Have fun with your search. Mary
Oh Laurel. Boston is wonderful. I’ve lived just north of Boston all my life and my daughter went to Suffolk Univ. For years she lived directly across the common from Beacon Hill on Tremont. I have so many tips to share but too many to write here so please feel free to email me and I’m happy to give you info on these areas and a few other suggestions
a fun read, I live an hour and a half north of Boston in Ogunquit Maine, while I have not been there recently I used to go a couple times a year and more farther back in my life. I have lived in 2 places in the last 50 years, I am definitely not an expert in Real Estate, however, I have a friend looking to move to this area from NH. my advice to her has been to buy something you can live with, you don’t have to marry it, in a few years it will appreciate in value and you can move on. by then you will have a better idea of where you actually want to be in Boston or the suburbs, and the perfect place may become available. the other piece of advice, from a friend who has lived in town and outside of town is to get something with parking! street parking is not an option at “our” ages.
Check out Charlestown. Tons of history, close to public transportation and is within walking distance to the North End. (Modern Pastry, Mike’s is for tourists)
108 Main Street is for sale with PARKING!!!!
Love your blog and am always thrilled to see a new posting! You are so personable and endearing. I’m excited to see where this new path takes you. Sending good mojo that the perfect home finds you.