The Borough Effect: Braintree
When Carol Lochiatto started selling homes in 2003, most of her young buyers shared the same dream: a giant house in a wealthy town like Norwell or Hingham. “Now it’s a whole different mentality,” says the Keller Williams realtor. For the first time in generations, people want to be in or close to the city, and they’re willing to trade size for that convenience—and it’s not just young buyers. “It’s the baby boomers, too,” she says. “People want to sell their McMansions in Pembroke and Marshfield and Plymouth and get back into the city.”
That trend has made Braintree — an inner-ring suburb at one end of the Red Line — more popular than ever, she says, with home prices spiking 45.2 percent since 2014. Lochiatto likens it to how Brooklyn boomed when Manhattan became too pricey, calling it the New York borough effect. “Quincy has had a huge renaissance period . . . and Braintree has also become like a borough of Boston,” she says.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” adds Lochiatto, who was born and raised in Braintree. “Even East Braintree, which used to be ‘the other side of the tracks,’ has outrageously priced properties. . . . It’s close to the T, close to the highway, and people want to be quick to Boston.” But Braintree still offers a big bang for the buck in terms of its school system and services, Lochiatto says — including to folks priced out of runner-up Milton. “Milton’s almost untouchable,” she says. “People come to Braintree because it seems like a bargain, which is crazy.”
The Numbers Game: Brockton
True bargain hunters head south on Route 24 to Brockton, where it’s still possible to buy a single-family house for around $300,000. “For a lot of people, the numbers work a lot better here,” says Adelino Vicente, a longtime resident and owner of Vicente Realty. He’s partial to the west side of the city, which is closer to the highway — and to the big-time athletic events held at Brockton High, the largest high school in Massachusetts.
Vicente says there are classic-feeling neighborhoods throughout the City of Champions, some with sidewalks, street trees, and early 20th-century homes, others with mid-century Capes and ranches on winding cul-de-sacs. And it’s not just the architecture that evokes days gone by, but the people inside it as well. “On my street, if I’m not home early, my neighbor will bring my trash barrels to the back of my house,” he says. “Those values still resonate throughout the city.”
As for runner-up Randolph, home to pretty Powers Farm Community Park as well as a portion of the Blue Hills Reservation, Vicente says it’s “probably the most underrated town on the South Shore.”
Going Coastal: Cohasset
Bill Tierney moved from Boston to Cohasset more than 20 years ago because he fell in love with its Cape Cod-like charm. “I always liked the feel of Harwich Port, which Cohasset is remarkably similar to — except the water’s much colder,” says Tierney, broker at Coastal Countryside Properties. “But once you have kids, you really realize what Cohasset has to offer.”
Younger buyers prefer to be near the village, where they can walk to shops, a farmers’ market, and two preschools on the common, or in family-friendly cul-de-sacs like Fairoaks Lane or Linden Drive. “They’re loaded with kids,” he says. “If you don’t like kids running through your backyard, don’t move to [Linden Drive]. They take two police cars on Halloween and block it off, there’s so many kids trick-or-treating.”
Runner-up Westwood boasts a plum commuting location on Route 128, a mix of historic homes and rolling landscapes, and a walkable commercial district.
WINNERS IN THREE PRICE CATEGORIES SOUTH OF THE CITY
> Under $500,000: Brockton
Median single-family price: $310,000
Change since 2014: +51.2 percent
> Runner-up: Randolph
Median single-family price: $379,000
Change since 2014: +48.6 percent
> $500,000–$750,000: Braintree
Median single-family price: $530,000
Change since 2014: +45.2 percent
> Runner-up: Milton
Median single-family price: $720,500
Change since 2014: +37.2 percent
> Over $750,000: Cohasset
Median single-family price: $950,000
Change since 2014: +24.2 percent
> Runner-up: Westwood
Median single-family price: $752,000
Change since 2014: +22.8 percent
WHAT YOU GET FOR ABOUT $620,000 SOUTH OF THE CITY
14 Smith Road | Hingham
Square feet: 1,408
Lot size: 1.28 acres
Bedrooms: 3 Baths: 2 full
This 1927 farmhouse on a large lot was completely renovated five years ago to include an open first floor and central air.
Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.