Area towns among nation’s priciest home markets

With its scenic and historic sites, close access to Boston, and strong schools, the suburbs south of Boston have much to offer — including some of the nation’s priciest housing.

Just how pricey is spelled out in a new report by real estate giant Coldwell Banker
. Its 2014 Home Listing Report
found that Cohasset, Hingham, Norwell, Westwood, Duxbury, and Milton were among the 100 most expensive housing markets in the country, based on the listing price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in the first six months of this year.

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Cohasset, with an average price of $923,889, was 18th on the list, which covered 1,971 markets that had at least 10 of the designated-sized homes listed during the six-month period. Hingham, with an average price of $891,342, was 23d.

In Massachusetts, Cohasset was second only to Lexington among 61 communities listed, with Hingham fourth.

Others area towns ranked within the top 100 nationally were Norwell, at 61st, Westwood, 68th, Duxbury, 78th, and Milton, 99th.

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Cohasset town manager Christopher Senior questioned the rankings, noting that the data are drawn from “one real estate company and only a certain type of home.” But he said they accurately reflect the reality that Cohasset is a “very desirable place to live, with a great school system, great community amenities, and a lot of natural beauty.”

Senior added that although it has high-priced homes, the town “takes its commitment to housing affordability seriously” and has worked to expand lower-cost options.

Cohasset, Hingham, Norwell, Westwood, Duxbury, and Milton were among the 100 most expensive housing markets in the country, according to a study of four-bedroom, two-bathroom houses by real estate company Coldwell Banker.

Seven of the most expensive markets on the Coldwell Banker list were in California’s Silicon Valley, led by Los Altos. The city’s average price of $1,963,100 was about 30 times the cost of buying a similar home in Cleveland, the most affordable market. The listings were all drawn from Coldwell and other companies owned by Realogy.

Six other area towns ranked among the 150 most expensive markets: Sharon, at 104th, Scituate, 105th, Canton, 109th, Hanover, 118th, Walpole, 134th, and Kingston, 148. Also rated were Easton, at 214th, Norwood, 272d, Plymouth, 339th, and Stoughton, 437th.

“I think it speaks very highly of our South Shore communities,” Davenport Crocker Jr., president of the Plymouth and South Shore Association of Realtors
and regional vice president of Coldwell Banker in New England, said of the rankings.

He said the factors that are driving up home prices in the high-ranked communities, which include not only location but the strength of schools and local economies, are helping to elevate the attractiveness of the entire region.

As evidence, he noted that the median price of a single-family home in the overall 24-community region served by his association rose 2.2 percent last year, from $340,000 to $347,750.

“This is a very advantageous market,” Crocker said, noting that the rise in prices is helping many homeowners who were previously “upside down” with their mortgages gain enough equity to sell their homes, which in turn provides more choices for buyers.

Penny Locke, vice president of Coldwell Banker in Cohasset, said she was surprised at the town’s ranking, but she believes the average price mentioned on the list was “about right on target.’’

“It’s a very desirable community,” she said citing the town’s waterfront, quality restaurants, and good schools and sports teams. “People just love to walk down to the little village and the kids go to the beach. And now we have transportation to Boston with the train.”

She said buyers of the pricier homes are “mostly families that are moving up from a smaller home,” in some cases from within town.

Despite its ranking, Locke said Cohasset still has “some affordability,” noting that there are homes in the $500,000 range that are attracting a good number of young condominium dwellers from Boston looking to relocate to the suburbs to start families.

Jim Wells, manager of the Coldwell Banker office in Hingham, said the high prices in that town reflect its attractive features, including its “beautiful waterfront and harbor, great access to Boston via commuter boat and train . . . a fabulous school system and a lot of history.”

Although that puts the town’s prices out of reach for some, Wells said that many of Hingham’s amenities, such as its waterfront, can also be enjoyed by people who live in nearby communities with lower-cost homes.

In Norwell, which had an average price of $723,547, town administrator James Boudreau
also attributed the high ranking to its desirable qualities.

“We have a very good schools system, we provide great municipal services,’’ he said. “It’s a very pretty town with a lot of open space. . . . It has a lot of things going for it for people looking for a place to live, raise children, and set down roots.”

Boudreau observed, though, that “You do worry about pricing people out of the community,” including those whose families have been in Norwell for generations. “We have to try and find a way to at least give them an option if they want to stay here,” noting the town has been pursuing ways to expand affordable housing.

Erica Rice, manager of the Coldwell Banker office in Westwood, said she is not surprised to see the town ranked high on the national list.

“Westwood is only 12 miles from Boston and it has excellent schools,” she said, adding that its proximity to highways and rail service, and its character as a “very family-focused” community also make the town attractive to homebuyers.

Rice added, though, that the town’s ranking does not tell the full story because “there are a lot of affordable homes in Westwood.

“When you look at the median sale price in Westwood,’’ he said, “it’s $630,000, and we had 21 sales in the $600,000 range so far this year and 28 in the $500,000 range.”

Massachusetts Top 10 highest average home prices

DATA: Coldwell Banker

Globe Staff

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