New House – A Diary (2) Location, Location, Location

New House – A Diary (2) Location, Location, Location

One of my old buddies always told me the most important criteria of picking your next house is: Location, Location, Location. That is probably an over-simplification but fundamentally very true. Although the difference among various locations finally gets reflected in the cost of the house, we should be very cautious to consider personal priority and reach a reasonable compromise. What are those priorities? The answer varies with different geographical areas, ages, ethnicities, etc. Here we will focus southwest of the greater Boston area where my family spends most time of.

Boston is a very friendly city, in a way that people can enjoy the convenience of a major metropolitan area, but don’t need to suffer the exhausting commuting like that in NYC. If you work inside Boston, the first question of where to search for next house maybe: should you look in the city, or suburb? For the folks like us who cannot afford a single family in Boston, the question turns into where in the suburb?

Every 1 min = $10,000-50,000

If you drive off Boston towards southwest direction on major freeways, you will meet a series of towns as shown in the figure below. The lines connecting town names with Boston indicate the relative distances and the dollar values posted with town names are the current median house prices of corresponding towns. Wow, what I see is every 1 minute saved on commuting is worth $10K to $50K of house value. If you buy a similar house at Sharon or Wellesley, the price could be doubled. Hold on, that doubled price at Wellesley can get you a similar house but 50 years older. But in the mean time, that doubled price will save you probably 30 minute one way commuting to Boston. So the pro and con are clear. You should just do your homework, study price difference and potential reduced commuting time. Do pay attention to the commuting in the back road since they could add up to a significant number. A reliable approach is always to drive the potential route during rush hour and get a personal feeling. It’s worth it, since you may drive that route in next ten years, and since every minute on the road is so "valuable".

Current median house price, 2013


Another consideration when selecting your next house is school district. For those who have school age children or plan to have, a good public school could save a significant amount of tuition for private school education. No child yet, you still need to take this factor into consideration since time flies and in no time you will be facing school issue. Unless you will use your house as an investment and plan well, getting a house within good school district now. Even you don’t plan to have children, living in a good public school district also may warranty your house value is more stable and has more potential to appreciate.


Though maybe a lower priority compared to two factors discussed above, there are many other parameters that should be considered when selecting a location, including neighborhood (proximity to high voltage power line, heavy traffic road, railway, etc.), safety (many available public records are available for buyer to check the safety of the area), community, etc. Consult with your realtor, colleagues, and friends. And most important, talk thoroughly with your family and reach a consensus.

The real estate market of greater Boston is heating up since last fall (2012). We started to look for a house from last November and observed two trends. First, the list price of existing houses increases. Second, new construction is being offered at a higher price with significantly larger square footage. In my next diary, I will begin with the house structure and touch upon the rationale of how a new construction is marketed.



  1. can I know which town did you choose for your new house?

    1. I guess you are facing the same situation as I was last year. My choice of the location, based on my own situation, may not help your decision making. But I may give some suggestion, contact me at or here if you don't mind.

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  3. We used to love living in Wellesley. When we sold our home we certainly did not lose :) I'm sure you will love your new home in S :)


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