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Boston's Top 5 Starter Neighborhoods

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The Associated Press reports today that would-be first-time homebuyers are increasingly skittish nationwide. This despite record low mortgage rates, sinking prices and increasingly desperate sellers (and their banks).

Yet the most likely first-time homeowners, especially young professionals and couples starting families, will not buy these days. Or they cannot. Or they already did, during the housing boom. And their absence helps explain why the housing industry is still depressed. That got us thinking: If someone was going to buy for the first time in Boston, where would he, she, they most likely buy? It would not necessarily be in the traditionally least expensive areas; there would be all sorts of factors mixed into any decision. Still, we imagine pricing would be the biggie, ahead of thoughts on local schools and transportation options.

Herewith, arguments for the starter neighborhoods of Boston (all stats via Trulia unless otherwise noted):

Allston
Median Home Sale Price: $511,500 as of Nov. 23, up more than 100 percent from 2010
The Argument: It's difficult to argue with Allston's location, especially for those in Harvard's orbit. But there's also relatively quick access to Back Bay and to the downtown area (we love us some Green Line)—for a fraction of the price.

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Charlestown
Median Home Sale Price: $394,000 as of Nov. 23, down more than 12 percent from 2010
The Argument: Charlestown's isn't so much about the location as about the housing stock: affordable single-families with good bones, with many of the homes going back decades.

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South End
Median Home Sale Price: $562,000 as of Nov. 23, up 9.7 percent from 2010
The Argument: This one's for all the recent Northeastern grads. It's a centrally located—minutes from Back Bay as the brokers like to say!—and therefore a tad more pricey than other neighborhoods on this list. But as the old adage says, you should reach on real estate; and there's the thing about location, location, something.
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Brighton
Median Home Sale Price: $303,000 as of Nov. 23, up 21.6 percent from 2010
The Argument: This one's for the Boston College grads (noticing a trend?). Like its neighbor Allston, Brighton has location going for it as well as affordability in its for-sale housing stock of mostly condos. And the Green Line! Again!

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Mission Hill
Median Home Sale Price: $290,000 as of Nov. 23, down 11.3 percent from 2010
The Argument: By all accounts, Mission Hill is changing (i.e., gentrifying). Check out this Globe story from October that (we think) craftily used the neighborhood's burgeoning pizza choices to illumine its growing appeal. It's a little farther out than the others here, but buying now might lock you into a rising tide of value; and you'll look smart to your peers. And don't you want to look smart to your peers? (Welcome to adulthood, it's a lot like adolescence.)


· Home Market Being Held Back by Wary First-Timers [AP via The Globe]
· High Hopes Bloom on Mission Hill [Globe]
· On Mission Hill, Pizza Heralds Gentrification [Curbed Boston]