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NerdWallet names Longmeadow No. 10 on homeownership list


March 6, 2014
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW – NerdWallet.com, a website specializing in advice to consumers on monetary decisions, recently ranked Longmeadow No. 10 in its list of best places for homeownership in Massachusetts.

The San Francisco-based company is in the midst of a nationwide survey of cities and towns, determining which provide the best opportunity for investment in a home by gathering information through census data.

“This list is directed mostly to people who live in the state or are considering moving to Massachusetts. These are cities in Massachusetts that are worth looking at,” NerdWallet Analyst Maggie Clark, who constructed the list, told Reminder Publications. “This is part of a nationwide study we started at the beginning of February and Massachusetts was the sixth or eighth state we’ve done. We’re slowly making our way through all 50 states.”

In addition to cracking the top-10, Longmeadow was the only town in Western Massachusetts to make the list.

According to the report, NerdWallet studied 77 cities and towns in Massachusetts with a population of 15,000 residents or more and compared them based on three main components – homeownership, affordability and growth.

“We picked these variables because they all give a strong signal as to what it’s like for homeowners in these communities,” Clark said.

Longmeadow’s home ownership rate is 89.1 percent, second highest on the list only to Wilmington’s 89.8 percent. Wilmington ranked No. 1 overall in the survey.

“That’s important for a homebuyer because they want to know that people in a town are like them and when you buy a home in town, their neighbor is more likely to be a homeowner and people are going to have similar interests and concerns about property and investing in the community,” Clark said. “It also signals stability in a community when people are comfortable there and putting down roots.”

In calculating affordability, Clark explained she factored in monthly homeowner costs and median income to determine what the monthly percentage of income was allocated to home expenses. According to the survey, the median household income in Longmeadow was $8,257, while median monthly homeowner costs were $2,361.

“Basically, how much of your income goes to homeowner costs,” she said. “Generally you want that number to be below 30 percent. In Longmeadow, it was 28.6 percent, so that’s a good sign for affordability.”

Median home values, which also made up a small percentage of the affordability score with lower values earning a higher score. Longmeadow’s median home value was calculated to be $343,000, which paled in comparison to Wellesley’s $882,900 and Lexington’s $689,100.

When asked by Reminder Publications, Clark admitted that property taxes were not taken into consideration when determining affordability. According to the Boston Business Journal, Longmeadow’s residential tax rate in 2013 of 21.54 percent was the highest in the state.

“That’s not something we looked at specifically because it’s a tough piece of data to get for all of these places,” Clark said.

Longmeadow was hurt the most in the rankings, she said, by a lack of growth.

“Population growth is an important marker for homeowners because it says the town can support new residents, that people are moving to the town and there’s activity there and you won’t be the only new person moving into town,” she said. “That’s where Longmeadow fell off. It only had a population growth of 0.3 percent growth between 2010 and 2013, whereas our other picks had 2 to 2.5 percent growth.”

The complete survey and explanation of methodology can be found at www.nerdwallet.com/blog/2014/best-places-homeownership-massachusetts.

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