Help me find a retirement town near Boston

My D and her husband (as of May 1) will be paying a monthly mortgage for their house in Salem that’s not that different from their current rent in Cambridge. And they are walking distance from the commuter rail, which is very important to them.

Salem also has condos/apts, some quite nice, and there is always a lot to do there. I know that it is crowded in October and the public schools aren’t the greatest, but if you’re retired, that’s not a great concern. We’re thinking about it.

1 Like

Long time MA resident (apart from stops in ME for college and NY metro area when first married) - currently the real estate market in MA is crazy. If I was to put that aside, I think Newburyport is a great town (even if being by the water isn’t important) with a lot of great amenities. On the commuter rail to Boston, quaint downtown with lots of cute shops and nice restaurants. It’s pretty popular with retirees. Gloucester is also nice - its been gentrified and has some nice shops and restaurants downtown and is also on the commuter rail. If I’m restating anything others have suggested, I apologize in advance as I haven’t had time to read the whole thread.

2 Likes

I’m originally from the midwest, but have lived in the Boston area since 1982. Totally agree that the Boston suburban real estate market is crazy. It’s been crazy in past years too, but not like this. In the last six months, we’ve received numerous calls/letters/emails from real estate agents asking if we want to sell our house. I had one agent call and tell me she had a buyer who was willing to pay cash if his family could move into a house in 6 weeks??? We don’t want to sell. A friend who is a realtor tells me that the inventory of available houses is very low and that almost every house sells for more than the asking price and goes quickly. For example, a typical center entrance colonial home that would probably sell for $500-550K had 5 bidders and went for $895K!! I think the OP’s plan to rent and decide where she wants to live is probably a good strategy right now. The only problem is that house rentals might be hard to find. I like the towns going West on Rt 2 --Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Lincoln, Concord, Acton, Boxboro, Littleton, Harvard, etc.

1 Like

It’s interesting that Gloucester keeps getting mentioned. Rockport is next door and definitely a retirement town.

Cambridge realtors are offering two free months etc. but there are very very few apts. in my area on the coast.

1 Like

Friend lives in Beverly. Her neighborhood is very nice.

1 Like

Beverly has a lot of poverty. The area near the water is nice. Rantoul Street, which used to be the pits, has a long row of big spiffy apartment buildings now. There are very few apartments in Beverly right now, aside from those new big buildings.

OP - would you consider an extended Air BnB or VRBO to get a flavor of several towns?

I’m thinking that’s what I’ll do, prior to moving anywhere - just to get a sense of the place.

2 Likes

Good luck finding one!

1 Like

There are some extended stay hotels in Mass also. That might be a possibility also.

My daughter lives in an east coast city in a row of spiffy apartment buildings. It’s not been very fun with the pandemic but they are moving to another east coast city and looking for another area that is revitalized with spiffy new apartment buildings. With bars and restaurants in the area.

She and her boyfriend pay what I think is an obscene amount of money. And the boyfriend’s parents think is almost nothing lol! Difference between a Midwesterner and an east coast residents!

2 Likes

When my D expressed an interest in Salem, I immediately looked at the schools and was not happy. However, the two of them love the “going-out” life–they have lived in Cambridge and Somerville and were looking at a Somerville-type experience that enabled them to buy. Salem has lots of things going on. It’s a small city, not a moribund suburb (which frankly is where I live now and don’t want to live in during my retirement years-I’ve had enough peace). But the market is crazy. They had to write a letter to the seller (I’ve never heard of this but apparently it is a thing now). They presented themselves and why they wanted the house. The seller is a retired guy moving to Florida who has 16 grandchildren, has lived in the house for 50 years, and didn’t want to sell to a flipper. I have never in my life heard of a “buyer’s letter.” It’s that crazy.

Re Salem schools we will be happy to subsidize private/parochial schools if needed. The houses in “good” districts" are completely beyond possibility for a young couple. I am also less convinced that it matters. All my life we have maximized education over all else, but I am coming to think that if you need a million dollars to buy in a “good” district, there is no point in trying to play that game. Education starts at home. Teach your kids to read before they go to kindergarten and they will probably be okay.

4 Likes

Buyers letters are most definitely a thing. A friend sold their home near here, and got five buyers letters telling why they were the best suited for the home and how much they loved it…and why it was perfect for them.

Oh…and five offers over the asking price.

1 Like

@NJSue Massachusetts has school choice, so Salem kids can apply to Beverly, Marblehead or other districts. However Salem has some innovative programs in public schools and I know some high school grads who did well.

The witch and pirate stuff in Salem gets to me. There was even a taxi company that used a hearse. I think the mayor put a stop to it. It’s horrible that a whole economy is based on the tragedy of 1692.

Love your line that you have had “enough peace.” I feel the same way.

3 Likes

We’ve been getting “buyers letters” for the last 20 years and our house isn’t even that great (but it borders a wetlands which is an environmentally protected area so you know you won’t get a McMansion built on top of you). It has been a thing for a long time. Trust me- my house isn’t so special!!!

1 Like

We sent a buyers letter 20 plus years ago.
My daughter was told that buyers letters are now not used as much as they can violate fair housing laws. Her realtor was careful what to include with the offer.

1 Like

I have never in my life heard of a “buyer’s letter.” - As others have also stated, they have been around a long time. I’ve heard about them in situations where multiple buyers were bidding, which admittedly seems more common in current market than in previous times.

Apparently Salem residents are very relieved when October is over. The kitschy witch stuff is silly but I find it easy to ignore. I find the town’s architecture and maritime history so much more interesting. I love the Peabody Essex Museum. Apparently the actual witch trials occurred in what is now Danvers.

Thanks for the information about school choice in MA. We do not have that in NJ I’ve also gotten somewhat disillusioned by the cutthroat academic competition in some NJ suburbs. It’s frequently not in the best interest, either intellectually or psychologically, of the student. The other thing is that MA and NJ consistently rank as having the “best” public school systems in the country so even a mediocre district in these states is not going to be absolutely terrible.

Another place on the North Shore that looks very nice for possible retirement is Newburyport.

3 Likes

The trials were near what is now the Liberty Tree Mall! I have lived in Salem and the witchy stuff permeates all year, hard to ignore. I am a history buff too.

2 Likes

@NJSue School choice is tricky because acceptance as a choice student is not a given in MA. Each school district accepting choice students has limits on the numbers in each grade and if your kid is in a grade that has its max number of choice students, you are out of luck. The only exception would be for siblings. Charter schools, another option, aren’t a given either. Acceptance to Charter schools is through a lottery system.

1 Like

In my MA town demographic changes are such that a large proportion of the school is school choice. Fewer kids overall. Not sure about Salem. But I know many many people who have done school choice on the North Shore of Boston.