The frontier in Greater Boston residents’ quest to find affordable homes moved to the South Shore and Greater Worcester this year, according to spring real estate market data from The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman. 

A select group of 30 communities, chiefly clustered along highways and commuter rail lines, drew one in five Eastern Massachusetts homebuyers during the first seven months of the year.  

Each of these towns and cities boasted a median single-family home sale price of less than $500,000 and year-over-year median price growth faster than the state’s rate of 3.9 percent; some saw prices jump as much as 23 percent in one year. In total, they saw more than one-third of all home sales in Greater Boston communities with median prices below $500,000. 

As affordable as a $500,000 home may seem compared to many Greater Boston homes, a typical first-time homebuyer would only just be able to afford some of these propertiesFor example, mortgage payments on a $500,000 home with a conventional, 30-year mortgage will cost around one-third of the median two-person Greater Boston household’s monthly pre-tax income, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Plotted on a map, these locations’ transportation connections suggest why more buyers appear to have flocked there instead of the other 149 communities in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Plymouth and Worcester counties. 

Beyond Worcester’s recent economic growth, Interstates 90, 290, 395 and 495 and a busy commuter rail line connect Auburn, Worcester, Bellingham, Milford and Shrewsbury with job centers in the suburbs and downtown Boston.  

I-93 and Routes 3 and 24, plus a web of commuter rail lines, link Stoughton, Brockton, Plymouth, Weymouth, Marshfield and more with the region’s urban core. 

Other affordable hot spots show up on the opposite side of the leafy, liberal and loaded Middlesex County heartland, united by similar tendrils of asphalt and steel – Lowell, Billerica, Beverly, Lynn and Saugus. 

The smaller condominium market shows similar trends, with one in five Eastern Massachusetts condominium sales during the winter and busy spring buying season occurring in just 14 cities with median sale prices below $500,000 like Worcester, Salem, Plymouth and Quincy, with notable appearances by Acton and Dorchester.  

As we have reported many times in the past, “drive ‘till you qualify” is alive and well in Greater Boston’s housing market. 

These statistics show this driving force behind Boston’s horrendous traffic is hardly likely to abate any time soon and should remind politicians from select board members to Gov. Charlie Baker that the state desperately needs more investment in its commuter rail system to handle these trends. 

Only a few days after an international “climate strike,” these figures also remind us that Massachusetts faces a daunting challenge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, currently the largest share by sector according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.  

With residents forced to live further and further from jobs, local officials must move more aggressively to move more people on greener modes of transportation, from walking and biking to buses and commuter rail trains, and concentrate growth around existing transit hubs. 

Buyers Looked to Worcester, South Shore for Affordable Homes this Spring

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min