It's also not a bad idea to actually drive to Boston from the towns you choose during actual peak hours to see for yourself how good / bad it gets. (Sunday early afternoon doesn't count at all!) It'll be easier to narrow down geographical area that way.
Also, would you consider a town house, to broaden your search? There are some nice new construction ones. Some of them give you a huge back yard and a feeling of a Single family (they might be connected by a garage only), yet take away the headache of exterior maintenance, snowplowing and landscaping, and add more properties to your search to choose from.
Would you add Natick/ South Natick to your target towns? With your budget, you can get a great property that is either new construction or recently totally remodeled. It's a good commute to Boston, and schools are not bad either.
I would be happy to answer more of your questions, please feel free to ask.
The drive can be short except during rush hour - why not try the commute during the actual times you plan to be driving? An alternative, despite recent bad press, is public transportation such as commuter rail.
Wellesley, Dover and Sudbury are doable in 45 minutes.
Depending on whether you are headed to the South Station or North Station would determine looking in Dover/Sherborn or Weston/Wayland. You must keep in mind time in the car and if you live in Dover, but work in Cambridge you are looking at a tough commute. I am a Realtor in Weston and can definitely assist you. Feel free to view my website. Best
Have you considered any towns just north of MA PIKE? Some towns to consider (in no particular order but all guaranteed to give you more bang for your buck) are:
You mentioned Sudbury which I would also include on this list of affluent towns with excellent public school systems....and SO MUCH MORE! You will not have any problem fulfilling all of the items on your wish list in either of these towns.
Feel free to contact me should you wish to gather any insight as I too have two young children and share your goals!
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Brookline, Needham, Newton, Dover, Wellesley and Weston
Most affordable and unpretentious Needham. I grew up in Newton, I live in Needham as do most of my Newton friends. Communter rail into south station, 3 entrances to interstate 95, great shopping, town center, sports, schools, fireworks, parade as Norman Rockwell as you can get. Values will always be stable due to it being between Newton and Wellesley. I also build. I just completed a home in Newton, just completed one in Needham, I have built in Dover as well. Love to help you, either buy or build or just here to answer your questions. 800 will not get you new construction in any of these communities. There are homes that have been updated with kitchens, baths, windows, heat, roof etc that will be close to that price, but go immediately as that is what everyone wants, 4 bed 2.5 bhats, 2 car gar, 1st flo family room, just move in condition. Newton new const. 1500 to 2500 Needham 1100-1450, Wellesley 1800-2700 In all these communities you can exceed those prices as well. Tear downs, Newton 600-900, Needham 500-750, Wellesley 800-1200
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My short list (in no particular order) of best public school districts within that commute time:
Sudbury / Dover
You will be able to find a 4 bedroom home in Sudbury within your budget however, it may not be newer construction. Also, depending on where in Boston you are going, your commute will be more like 45 -60 minutes.
You may want to consider Lexington, Winchester and Belmont also. They are within commuting distance and have some newer construction but, they may not be within your budget, if you need 4 beds.
As Tean meantioned, it may be a good idea to sit and discuss your options with an agent and get a good idea of what will best suit your needs.
I am happy to help if you would like. Feel free to contact me.
You may have to downsize to a 3br in the top 3 of these. In Needham, the elementary school system is good, but of course, you can't beat Newton. North Waltham has a couple of good schools as well, comparable to Needham. They are not "the best" in the state, but they are worth considering.
I would say that Wellesley is out of your budget entirely, plus there isn't that much new construction available in the first place.
I would recommend interviewing several real estate agents, and choose one you are comfortable with, who you feel will represent your interests well and find you a great home. I would be happy to assist further.
Feel free to email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on the commute, neighborhoods, school system, etc. I grew up in the area and am very familiar with all those areas.
Where are you commuting to? Have you checked out http://www.greatschools.org?