Safe neighborhood in Boston/Cambridge

Asked by Murphy Law, Boston, MA Fri Feb 1, 2013

Will relocate to Boston/Cambridge this summer and would like to purchase a property for self-use with good investment potentials. Criteria: 1. walking distance or good commute to Harvard Sq 2. safety (single woman) 3. convenient access to shops/restaurants in neighborhood. One or more bedrooms. Budget: around 300k; potentially up to 400k for sth I really like. Any recommendations?

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John J. Dean Jr.’s answer
John J. Dean…, Agent, Boston, MA
Sun Feb 3, 2013
Murphy Law

I think there are some great answers below but honestly there is no substitute for learning neighborhoods than visiting and experiencing them 1st hand. There are many crime resources on line and I have even had my clients call the local police departments for neighborhoods. I also recommend that you review a website called for some grass roots street information. There are also several app for the Droid or iPhone.

Before your visit I would conduct phone interviews with several agents and pick the Realtor that you feel most comfortable with. Before you come out they should already be working on your behalf to help educate you about our market and have properties and neighborhoods lined up for your arrival. We are in a competitive market and it is important to be prepared.
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I see above that it is referenced that "we are in a competitive market", is the real estate market in Cambridge doing well? If so, what is is sustaining it? How long would you recommend looking for an apartment before one must actually move there?
Flag Wed Mar 13, 2013
Rona Fischman, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hi Murphy,
You will find that prices are higher closer to the Red Line and closer to restaurant areas that you are attracted to. You will be shopping in an expensive location. So, you will have to balance that will either a smallish place or a place that needs work to stay in your budget. It’s a balancing act. Since I don’t know you, I can’t get specific.
Start watching the sales now. You will see places you might have been interested in here at Trulia. Follow them and see what they sold for. You will find areas where places the size you want show up and where they don’t in your price range. Guess at the condition by noting what the sheets don’t say. (For example, if no improvements are noted, chances are there are few recent renovations.)
There is research you can do now, so that you are ready when you get here: Safety is in the eye of the beholder. Cambridge (and Somerville and Arlington) have on-line resources about local crime. Other media has information about local events and night life (and where these things take place.) I suggest that you check that out prior to house hunting.
That will prepare you to come here and put it all together. It takes about two months from the time you find a place to buy until you are fully moved in. So, if you are buying, start early. Because as you well know, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Welcome and good luck!
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Susan Murie, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hi Murphy,

In terms determining areas where you will feel safe, there are some good resources available on-line that you can research from home:

You can read police logs for areas and towns you are interested in by going to:

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Katie Malin, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hey again! :)
You really want to start the preapproval process if you have not done so yet. Some great local bank to consider are Leader bank in Arlington ma, winter hill bank in Somerville, or Washington trust in Burlington ma. You should look into a few and choose the best for you. If you are not taking out a mortgage (paying cash), then you will need a proof of funds letter. Offers on property a not considered if they are not accompanied by either a mortgage preapproval or proof of funds. Getting this stuff, tax returns etc, I'm order will make the process much quicker for you. If I can help you in your search, please let me know. Perhaps look online at types of properties to narrow down the type that's attractive to you.
We've got large brick buildings, 2 -unit Victorians... Quite lovely
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One more thing Murphy,
Whomever you choose as your agent should be with you for this home buying process, every step of the way, explaining the process clearly, at the inspection, reminding you about dates and deposits and being there with you at the closing.
Please do let me know if there is any more information you need before you arrive.
Flag Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hi Murphy Law,
Yes, you will have to obtain documents from your bank for proof of funds. You need to speak with a real estate attorney as soon as possible to obtain the information on all the documents you will need to buy a home since you are based overseas. I have attorneys I can recommend to you who have worked with overseas clients.
You will need to stay in the area about 2 weeks, ideally, to look for a property, make an offer, have a home inspection done to determine if there are any defects, and then sign the purchase and sale agreement with the seller. Once that is done you don't need to stay in the area. The purchase and sale could be signed when you go back home as well but it may be simpler to get all that done while you are here.
Since you are paying cash, you can close on the property anytime the seller is ready to move or sell, which can be to your advantage in this competitive market. You can close and then move when you are ready to re-locate.
Flag Sat Feb 2, 2013
Likely paying cash because I have no credit history in the US. A proof of funds letter - is it something that I can just ask for from my bank to show that I have X amount of cash in my account? If I obtained such a letter, is there any other document that I may need (would tax returns still be necessary)?
Flag Sat Feb 2, 2013
Murphy Law, Home Buyer, Boston, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Thanks for the thoughtful answers. I have a follow up question: I'm planning a visit to the area, about 2 months before my relocation. If I can find a suitable property, what do I need to get done during my visit so that I can move in two months later? I'm not based in the US at the moment so I'm just wondering about the purchase timeline there. Anything I need to pay special attention to as an overseas buyer?
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If you don't have US income, you'll have to show proof of funds in the form of a bank statement or bank letter. Generally speaking, its not possible to get a mortgage without US income. ( There may be some portolio lenders or private lenders you could use). Once you find the property, you submit an offer with the proof of funds, negotiate price and terms, have a home inspection within 7-10 days, renegotiate if necessary, sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement ( a document usually prepared by attorneys and requiring a 3-5% deposit from the buyer), then prepare to close. If you're purchase funds are in cash, you can have the title examined, obtain insurance and close within 2-3 weeks. If you are using funds from an equity line or other financing, you''ll have to wait for the financing to go through, maybe 2-4 weeks. Then go shopping for furniture and paint colors :)
Flag Sun Feb 3, 2013
Bill McGowan, Agent, Waltham, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
In 2013, it's best for a prospective buyer or renter to use the internet or any other reliable resource to gather information about the safety of a particular neighborhood and have that person render their own opinion on the safety of an area. As for the walking factor, that's easy and fairly black-and-white in terms of what distance a person is willing to walk regardless of the time of year or weather factor. Any good agent can find you the right location for distance. But an agent should not make a representation on the level of safety of a particular neighborhood out of concern for making an error, ententionally or unintentionally. Point the client in the right direction being certain to ask the client to be thorough in his or her research and don't stop the research until they're satisfied with the result.
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Katie Malin, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hey There!

I have worked in investment properties my whole life in Cambridge/Somerville, so safe neighborhoods is very very important to my tenants. It is BEST as Linda said below to look up the crime rate..
We tend to buy our properties in and around Porter,Harvard, Davis Sq Somerville, even Tufts. The closer you are to a University or T stop, the better for re-sale and for your walking! If you have any questions, let me know; many of my customers must walk to Harvard everyday, and I currently live right next to the Divinity School and know the area well. Would love to help!
All the best with the relocation!!
Katie Malin
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Linda Balliro, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hello Murphy Law -

Congratulations on your relocation - this is a great area for a single woman, with a dynamic environment and lots to do when your off work. There are some great condos walking distance to Harvard Sq but you'd need to spend on the upper end of your budget to get a decent one bed close to the Square. There are some great areas that aren't too far away though - within a short bus ride, you may find something in East Arlington, Central Sq, or even Kendall Sq ( both are one-two stops on the redline train, or even a 20-30 minute walk to Harvard Sq in nice weather). You can check out neighborhood safety at, although you'll find that all of the neighborhoods around here are relatively safe compared to many large cities. Some questions you may want to consider: Do you want to live in a house with 2-4 condo units, or a mid-rise building with 10-12 units, or a high rise on the river? Price will dictate some of your choices, but you'll want to think about what style suits you, how much privacy you want and amenities. Cambridge/Boston is a seller's market right now, and has been for a while - there are no signs of that changing anytime soon - and traditionally, anything relatively close to Harvard Sq holds its value even through economic bumps and grinds.

all the best,
Linda Balliro
Andrew Mitchell & Co
"Experience You Can Trust"
Tel 617-401-4048
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Susan Murie, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Sat Feb 2, 2013
Hi Murphy Law

East Arlington, which borders Cambridge and is an easy 15/20 minute bus ride to Harvard, is an excellent option for you as it meets all of your criteria. There will also be some good properties to consider in Cambridge. You will get more for your money in Arlington than Cambridge. Both Arlington and Cambridge are among the top markets in the country right now and you can't go wrong parking your investment dollars in either one.

We can discuss this further if you wish and go over the market and buying process in detail.

Susan Murie
Realtor, Certified Buyers Rep
ePlace, Cambridge
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