Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals

Young professionals are a blast to work with, but having been in the real estate business for more than a decade I’ve observed one thing: they don’t always pay enough attention to the communities they’ll be living and working in. Professionals tend to think about the house first: whether it has enough natural light, bathrooms, hardwood floors, garden tubs, or whatever else suits their fancy.

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The neighborhood you live in will have a huge impact on your home ownership experience. In truth, the community you choose may have more to do with your willingness and ability to stick with a home for five years or more than the square footage ever will.

More of Boston’s Affordable Neighborhoods

Jamaica Plain can be a little more expensive than the aforementioned communities, but makes up for it on sheer spaciousness alone, and you will find a wide range of price points. See the information on the most spacious Boston communities, below.

You can also get the latest market information on Jamaica Plain homes here.

If none of these communities appeal, the suburbs Stoughton, Revere, Malden and Quincy are all very affordable. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.

Boston Communities with the Largest Homes

While it’s great to get a lower price many young professionals want as much house as they can get for their money. Believe it or not, many Boston neighborhoods do offer opportunities to enjoy a generous amount of square footage. Not everyone is crammed into condos! If you love your privacy and dream of having a yard of your very own then be sure to check out these great neighborhoods.

There’s even better news when it comes to home size—there’s a lot of overlap between affordability and home size if you know where to look. As you’ll see, Roslindale and Dorchester are both two of the top candidates here, and they both made the affordability list, too.

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After all, you can do whatever you want to your home to make it cozy and yours. You can fill it up with comfortable furniture, paint the walls, and hang up all of your favorite photographs.

But you can’t change the neighborhood. If a community doesn’t suit your needs sooner or later you’re going to hate living in your new home. If you care about nightlife, for example, then you’re not going to enjoy having to travel all the way across town just to find a decent restaurant and an evening’s entertainment.

Furthermore, Boston is a “city of neighborhoods.” Every neighborhood is like its own city-within-a-city. Every single one of them has its own flavor and character. It’s almost as if there are multiple cities all nestled within the city limits. And that’s to say nothing of the various suburbs that make up the Boston metro area.

Of course, what makes a community “the best” varies from person to person. Some young professionals are mostly concerned about the commute or the night life, while others are far more interested in getting the biggest home they can score for the money. You’ll find information on communities which will help you meet every kind of need, below.

This article focuses on neighborhoods within the city of Boston, though it does offer a brief preview of great suburban options as well. If you’re interested in finding some of the best Boston suburbs for young families, click here.

What Makes a Great Neighborhood?

While everyone answers that question a little differently, there are some common threads which make a neighborhood more livable and sustainable.

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The first, of course, is the commute. It’s hard to enjoy living anywhere if you’re paying your own weight in gas money each week in order to reach a job that’s an hour away or more. Fortunately, Boston is a well-planned city—as you’ll see, most of its best, most livable neighborhoods make it easy to get to work.

The second is of course access to entertainment, dining, shopping and nightlife opportunities. While some home owners do enjoy a quiet environment far away from the hustle and bustle of the city most young professionals want to be close enough to enjoy everything Boston has to offer—and they definitely don’t want to be stuck in some wasteland full of chain restaurants and stores.

Affordability and home size are of course factors, too. Every Boston neighborhood has its own unique character, and most have readily identifiable home-styles, with one tending towards brownstones and condos while another features stately Victorian houses.

Many professionals also want the option to get outside and play, which is why we’ve included a section on “getting out into nature.” We’ve considered both the summer offerings and the winter offerings here.

Finally, there’s the neighbors—are they friendly? Do they talk to one another? While some young professionals love their privacy, others will want to know they’ll be welcomed. And while it’s tough to make generalizations, I’ve done my best to give you a clear picture of what you can expect.

I’ve used each of these important considerations to highlight the features of the neighborhoods that meet each of these needs the best. This will allow you to zero in on the neighborhood qualities that are most important to you. I’ve also included information on a couple of suburbs which young professionals often enjoy living in.

Boston Communities Which Offer the Best Commute

Almost any Boston neighborhood offers plenty of access to public transportation. However, if you’re looking for the neighborhood which offers you the quickest, best access to the downtown area, two communities do stand out.

Jamaica Plain and Dorchester are just six miles from the downtown area, which means they too, offer outstanding, easy commutes for young professionals. There are generous amounts of public transportation for those who don’t want to fight Boston traffic.

With that being said, you really have to work hard to find a “bad” commute from any Boston neighborhood. Brighton and Roslindale are just 7 miles away from downtown Boston, and they have outstanding public transportation options as well.

West Roxbury is a bit farther out, but is actually well known for offering one of the easiest commutes. It’s served by both the subway and the bus system, and it has access to Route 1 and I-95. Traffic is good—you can get to most of Boston’s major employers from here within 10 to 15 minutes.

Watertown isn’t a bad choice either. It’s a suburb of Boston that’s just 9 miles from the downtown area. However, keep in mind that Watertown is only served by MTBA bus lines, not rail lines, which might make your commute harder to navigate.

Malden is another suburb with a fast commute; it’s just six miles away. It’s served by 18 bus routes and the Blue Line, which means it’s connected enough to remain a car-free choice.

If none of these communities appeal, Brookline, Canton, Somerville and Cambridge all offer very good commutes, as do Medford and Arlington. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.

Boston Communities with the Hottest Night Life, Culture, and Entertainment

When it comes to night life, spots for foodies to enjoy great independent restaurants, unique shopping destinations and cultural opportunities several of Boston’s neighborhoods definitely stand above the rest.

boston nightlife

Nightlife is a pretty broad category, encompassing everything from foodie hot spots to live music venues. However, the communities below have a large sampling of just about any shopping, dining, or entertainment options you might want to explore.

Dorchester is actually known for its night life. It’s the first thing people will tell you about this thriving neighborhood. It would be impossible to list all of the great Dorchester destinations here, but here’s a small sampling.

Twelve Ben’s is known as a great place to meet fellow professionals while enjoying cheap beer and great food. It doesn’t have a website, but it doesn’t seem to need one. You can grab bowling, drinks, and shuffleboard at the Xperience Lounge and Boutique. The Eire Pub is a great place to enjoy great Irish food and has been a Boston hot spot since 1963. You’ll also find plenty of shopping destinations to enjoy.

Brighton is a great place to live if you love live music. The Brighton Music Hall does such a good job of finding great indie and local artists that performances are often “standing room only.” You can also find live music (and great food) at The Green Briar Irish Pub. Foodies get plenty of options too. If you’ve just got to get up and dance, visit Great Scott.

Jamaica Plain offers plenty of destinations to enjoy. The Bella Luna Restaurant and Milky Way Lounge runs a variety of events, from “Rock and Roll Bingo” to open mic events. Their menu is also rather amazing, featuring everything from lobster rolls to gourmet pizzas. If you want farm fresh food or amazing cocktails try Ten Tables, which bills itself as a “true neighborhood restaurant.” And if you’re looking for local art, The Hallway Gallery is a don’t-miss (you’ll get music there, too).

Cambridge may seem buttoned down and erudite, but it’s got a wild side all its own. In addition to the many, many shopping and dining opportunities you’re going to find plenty of hot spots when the sun goes down. Get your groove on at The Naga Dance Club, enjoy live music at Toad, or see what’s playing at the American Repertory Theatre. Cambridge is technically a suburb, but it’s so close to the city limits that it might as well be treated as a Boston neighborhood in its own right.

If none of these communities appeal, Brookline and Newton offer outstanding entertainment options as well, though you won’t find as many nightlife locales in these suburbs. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.

Most Affordable Boston Communities

Most young professional buyers are concerned about finding an affordable home, and that’s wise. You never want to get in over your head! Boston’s a thriving urban area and the cost of living is high, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer sticker shock everywhere you go. These communities offer great spaces at reasonable prices.

Many young professionals will go looking for condos. Fortunately, there’s no such thing as a “generic” condo anywhere in the Boston Metro Area. Often, once you step through the doors of your new home, you’ll never even register that your space is attached to a larger building. Usually, aiming for a condominium will keep you closer to the action going on within the city limits.

With that being said, there are some affordable options for those who are dead-set on owning a single family home.

Brighton offers a lot of gorgeous condominiums at highly affordable price points. You might even luck out and find some in the high $100,000s, though if you do, you’ll want to move fast and have everything you need to make an offer, including a mortgage pre-approval. Competition for affordable housing this affordable is fierce Note that if you’re looking for a single family home Brighton isn’t the way to go—single family homes in Brighton are anything but affordable, and are rare to boot.

Get the latest market information on Brighton homes here.

Roslindale is another highly affordable choice for young professionals looking to score a new condo. You might even find some affordable single family homes here…the occasional affordable hidden stand-alone gem is not unheard of, though typical single family homes are expensive. A home buyer who is flexible and patient can get a great balance between square footage and cost.

Get the latest market information on Roslindale here.

Dorchester is pretty comparable to Roslindale with similar average home prices. You’ll find more single family homes here than condos, all for a wide variety of prices, including some downright amazing, well-kept finds at low price points you almost won’t believe until you see them for yourself. Many of these are stately Victorian homes who don’t look anything like budget homes—a bonus when you’re trying to impress your friends and family members.

Get the latest market information on Dorchester here.

Dorchester has a little bit more variety in terms of home size. Homes between 1600 and 2300 square feet are common, but they run the gamut. If you’re not shopping for affordability you can get a 6000 square foot house in this neighborhood. If you are, expect homes with 1300 to 1500 square feet. There are plenty of options, and many will have beautiful yards for you and your family to enjoy.

jamaica plain resturaunt

Jamaica Plain is a clear winner when it comes to size, however. Most of the homes are between 2500 and 3500 square feet, and fenced yards are not at all uncommon. Stately, unique homes are the norm, and there are plenty of amenities for those who can afford to pay a little bit more.

If you’re willing to pay more you can find some truly large homes in Brookline. Brookline is another one of those suburbs that is so close to the rest of Boston that it isn’t always treated like a suburb.

Are these homes still too small (or too pricey)? Check out Medford, Wayland, and Winchester, which all offer very spacious options, usually at affordable prices. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.

Boston’s Best Communities for Getting into Nature

Not everyone wants a non-stop urban experience. Some want to get out and do some hiking, biking, trail running, boating, and more. And while “nature” isn’t the first thing people think about when they think about Boston living there are several neighborhoods where you can go to get away from it all.

Brighton offers two great opportunities for getting out into nature. The first is Rogers Park. With 8.13 acres of space, and there are basketball courts and tennis courts for residents to enjoy. There is a playground for the kids to enjoy during the summer months and a sledding hill for them to have fun on during the winter months. Many dog owners love bringing their fur-children out here, too.

Ringer Park is smaller, but it is very pretty. Like Rogers, it has a tennis court and a basketball court, as well as a kid’s playground. There are also some trails to enjoy, as well as plenty of grassy picnic spots.

If you’re looking for something a little different then you might join the Community Rowing group which is based out of Brighton. They have programs for youth and adults, and they’ve got a comprehensive winter training program for those colder months.

Roslindale is known for Franklin Park, which offers 527 acres of recreation space (Dorchester and Roxbury also border the park). There are 15 miles of walking trails to enjoy, in addition to the Franklin Park Zoo, and several athletic facilities including a golf course, soccer field, baseball field, cross-country course.

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Jamaica Plain is almost known for its outdoor facilities, starting with Jamaica Pond. A beautiful trail offers opportunities for taking long walks. You can also check out Courageous Sailing, which offers lessons and boat rentals for teens and adults. You can pick up a new hobby but you won’t have to invest in the expensive boat to enjoy it—a win-win for water lovers.

But the pond isn’t the only outdoor activity Jamaica Plain has to offer. You can go rock climbing, too, either at Jamaica Plain’s indoor climbing facility or out on Nira Rock. Jamaica Plain residents will also have a place to go ice skating during the winter months.

If you’re willing to consider a more suburban option you might check out Revere. After all, Revere Beach holds the distinction of being America’s very first public beach, and there’s nothing like swimming, walks along the waves and taking in the sight of artistic sand creations that are a step above the iconic sand castle to make you want to get outside and get active whenever the weather is warm.

Feel like you need more options for outdoor fun? Check out other suburbs like Medford, Brookline, and Malden in The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families. Pay particular attention to Malden, which has dozens of parks, a bike trail, a public pool and a brand new YMCA.

The Friendliest Boston Neighborhoods for First-Time Home Buyers

Three communities stand out when it comes to friendly neighbors who love to get to know each other. The first is Jamaica Plain. While the neighbors aren’t necessarily going to invite you to dinner right away they aren’t going to judge you either. It’s a multicultural area, with a great deal of tolerance for different ways of life. They’ll give you your space with a smile, allowing you to find new friends at your own pace.

A lot of Jamaica Plain residents are down-to-earth people who understand the value of hard work. Many, many young professionals do flock here, so it’s a fine place to find peers.

Roslindale is also known for being a very friendly neighborhood. It is also a multi-cultural neighborhood, full of young professionals and families trying to build their lives. This neighborhood is a bit more gregarious, however—it’s not uncommon to find people chatting in their front yards or making dinner plans together. It’s walkable and bike-friendly, which means you’ll find most people outside on a warm summer day.

Besides, the Harvest Food Co-Op and the Saturday Farmer’s Market are all but created to offer places where you can get to know your neighbors. And if you’re the type of person who cares about going green and staying green you’re going to find a lot of kindred spirits here.

If you work for MIT, Harvard, or one of Boston’s major research or medical centers then you might find Cambridge a highly friendly suburban option. It’s just as multicultural as some of the other options are, and residents pride themselves on being rather bohemian. If you want people who will share passionate conversations with you about a variety of subjects from pop culture to philosophy to the latest medical breakthrough then the suburb of Cambridge is likely to be a great choice for you.

Not sure these neighborhoods are right for you? Check out Medfield and Watertown by visiting The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.

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Putting it All Together – Finding the Right Neighborhood for Your New Boston Home

No one home buying factor can make or break a decision to purchase a new home…you have to evaluate each neighborhood individually, as more than the sum of its parts. So what are your next steps?

One way you can make a decision about your next neighborhood is to look for the communities on this list who come up again and again for the neighborhood features and amenities you truly care about. But don’t be hasty! I’ve got additional options to share with you.

Young professionals should download The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals, an in-depth, 34 page guide which explores 11 of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods and suburbs. You’ll get a ton of information I couldn’t include here, including an in-depth look at the character of each community.

Many young professionals are either trying to start families now, or intend to start families soon. If you’re trying to raise a family you can download The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families Report instead. This 37 page report gives you an in-depth look at 13 of Boston’s most livable suburbs.

If you are also a first-time home buyer it might also be a good idea to check out The Ultimate Home Buyer Guide. This in-depth guide will teach you everything you need to know about buying a home in Boston or the Boston metro area. Having this information will help the home buying process stay joyful and fun instead of stressful and harrowing.

After you’ve read the reports try to choose 2-4 neighborhoods to go and visit in person. It’s difficult to convey the entire character of a neighborhood in a simple article or report, no matter how in-depth that article or report may be. You need to get a feel for the neighborhood’s energy, its strengths and weaknesses, the types of places that appeal to you, personally.

After all, with dozens of restaurants and shops on any given city block in Brighton it would be hard, for example, to showcase all of them. It might just be that underrated, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop or bookstore that makes or breaks the neighborhood for you. Take the time to talk to the locals. I can tell you a neighborhood seems friendly, but you might fit in better—and thus find more friends—in a neighborhood that is not particularly known for its gregariousness.

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So stay flexible, and be open to exploring. Don’t lock yourself in to any one neighborhood during this process. Really take the time to see what’s out there. Everyone has their opinion on various Boston metro area neighborhoods, but what’s right for someone else may not be right for you.

Once you’ve developed a first and second choice it’s time to give me a call. We’ll sit down, discuss your options, and talk about the next steps. To set your appointment, call 617-807-0471 or e-mail ruth@ruthmalkinlerner.com

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