What is There to Do in Chatham?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 19. February 2020 09:24

Large cities are popular with young professionals, but it can be difficult and costly to raise a family in one. When you live in a city, simple things like finding a safe place for your kids to play outside are more challenging. You can either pay a premium to get a house with a yard or live in a smaller place and take your kids to the park regularly. The challenges have driven many families to buy homes in smaller nearby towns and commute to their jobs in the city. If you work in or near Boston but would rather not live in a busy metropolis, Chatham, Massachusetts, could be the perfect place for you. Chatham isn’t big, but there are plenty of fun, relaxing things to do here. These are five of our favorites:

Visit the Beach

There are several beaches in Chatham, including Chatham Lighthouse Beach, Harding's Beach, Ridgevale Beach, and the whimsically named Cookie Cove beach. These beaches are open to everyone. Once you become a permanent Chatham resident, you’ll have access to additional locations like Schoolhouse Pond, a freshwater beach popular with kids.

Seal-Watching Tour

There are six charter boat companies in Chatham that can take you on a seal-watching tour you’ll never forget. These animals may look clumsy and awkward on land, but they are graceful and quick once they hit the water. Be sure to take this tour in different seasons to experience the full life cycle of these amazing, intelligent sea creatures.

Summer Concert Series

During the summer months, many Chatham residents go out on Friday nights for a series of concerts in the park. The bands play a variety of music that’s suitable for the whole family. If you're new in town, this is a great way to get to know the locals. Come early and bring a blanket just in case it gets chilly.

Play a Round of Golf

There are more than a dozen world-class golf courses within a half hour of Chatham. You can play a quick nine holes at Chatham Seaside Links or challenge yourself to complete all 36 holes at the Captain’s Golf Course. Either way, you'll enjoy scenic views of the Atlantic.

Activities for the Kids

The City of Chatham hosts several kid-friendly activities, including boating, creative art classes, day camps, and the summer science program. Boston proper might be more fun for adults, depending on their interests, but your kids will never be bored in Chatham.

Chatham is a small town, but it’s only a short drive from some of the biggest metropolitan areas on the East Coast. It’s a fantastic place to live, work, play, and raise a family. If you’re considering a move, contact our Chatham branch to speak with a local expert.

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5 Ways Cambridge, Massachusetts Made History

by c21commonweath_ldowling 17. February 2020 09:22

Sometimes it seems like you can't turn around in New England without stumbling upon the site of a notable historic event. The area around Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a stellar example of this rule. Over the last 400 years, Cambridge has been the site of many happenings that changed the course of American history. Here are five historic hallmarks that make Cambridge unique:

A Big Name in Education

As the most recent Massachusetts settlement at the time of its founding, Cambridge was originally called Newtowne. In 1638, it was renamed after the university in Cambridge, England, in recognition of the settlement’s own new academic institution: Harvard.

First U.S. Army Camp

During the Revolutionary War, the Cambridge Common hosted the first American army camp. George Washington used the nearby Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House as his headquarters.

Massachusetts Constitutional Convention

When it came time for Massachusetts to formally secede from England, the young state needed a constitution. John Adams and the other delegates spent three months in Cambridge debating, writing, and finally ratifying the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which went into effect in 1779.

First U.S. Printing Press

The written word has always been an integral part of American government. The Founding Fathers based many of their ideas about revolution on the writings of the famous philosophers John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among others. Once Stephen Day set up the first American printing press in Cambridge in 1638, it didn't take long for entrepreneurs to establish a thriving publishing and printing industry, eventually helping colonial leaders spread the teachings that encouraged support for American independence.

First Published Poet in America

Life in the American Colonies was hard, and the average life expectancy was short. While some wealthier people had access to the latest literature, books were scarce for the average colonist. Cambridge resident Anne Bradstreet overcame the odds to become an accomplished poet. In 1650, a collection of her poems was published with the ambitious title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America.

If the study of history shows us anything, it's the fact that unlikely people in unlikely places can make an impact on our timeline every day. In 400 years, who knows what sites our descendants will cherish? Cambridge’s track record suggests that it may be the perfect place to make a little history of your own.

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Get Back to Nature in Dover

by c21commonweath_ldowling 12. February 2020 09:36

Dover, Massachusetts, is one of the many bedroom communities that surround Boston, but unlike some of the others, the residents of Dover are dedicated to maintaining open space, making this small town feel more like an old woodland village. Dover features miles of shaded trails and forested areas suitable for bird-watching, hiking, or leisurely walks. If you feel a connection with the outdoors, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Dover. Here’s a list of our five favorite places to nurture your love of nature.

Pegan Hill

This 400-foot hill is the highest point in the Dover area. It's named for the Pegan Indians who lived in the area until the 1760s. When you reach the top of the hill after a moderate walk up the one-mile trail, you'll be rewarded with an amazing view. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Monadnock nearly 90 miles away.

Powisset Farm

If you want to experience what life was like 300 years ago, Powisset Farm is the place to do it. You'll find busy barnyards, idyllic pastures, and a working kitchen where you can sample traditional foods. When you're done on the farm, take the loop trail to the nearby Oak Forest.

Chase Woodlands

Even though this forested area is just a few miles from four busy freeways, the peace you'll find here can make you feel like you're in an isolated wilderness. Farmers cleared the area for agriculture about 200 years ago, but today, the land has almost completely reverted to its natural state. You'll find over two miles of gently sloping trails here. Even after you’ve explored every last inch of the two miles of gently sloping trails, you'll want to visit these woods again and again.

Peters Reservation

Unlike many of the destinations on this list, the scenery at Peters Reservation isn't completely natural. Landscape architect Fletcher Steele carefully designed the trails and understory of this forest to make it accessible to all. If you want to experience the reservation from a unique vantage point, plan to visit by canoeing or kayaking down the Charles River.

Noanet Woodlands

Any outdoor enthusiast will find plenty to love at Noanet Woods. The land encompasses a secluded forest, four ponds filled with local flora and fauna, an old industrial mill, and a hill with commanding views of the Boston skyline for those who reach the top. With more than 17 miles of trail, there's always something to explore in this 600-acre landscape.

When you visit Dover, Massachusetts, you'll only be a few miles from some of the busiest cities on the Eastern Seaboard, but serene, natural settings are there to enjoy for anyone who seeks them out.

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5 Places to Visit in Lexington

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. February 2020 09:34

With a population of 32,000, Lexington, Massachusetts, may be a small city. However, it’s big on history. This is where the British Redcoats famously fired the first shots of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, changing the course of world history forever. No matter where you go in Lexington, there’s a strong sense of Americana, whether or not the attraction explicitly focuses on the city’s place in history. Here are our picks for the top five places to see.

Wilson Farm

Wilson Farm has operated in its current location on Pleasant Street for 126 years. The farm originally grew crops like beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, and turnips to sell at the nearest market, which was in Boston at the time. James Wilson volunteered to transport produce to the market for the local farmers, and business boomed from there. Today, Wilson Farm not only continues to sell fresh fruit and produce but also serves as a model of sustainable farming practices.

Lexington Green

If you are a fan history, you cannot miss Lexington Green, the site of the first battle of the American Revolution. Fittingly, it’s also the site of America's oldest war memorial. The Minuteman Statue designed by the famous sculptor Henry Kitson commemorates the historic events that took place in the earliest days of our nation.

Willard’s Woods

In the 1870s, this 100-acre site operated as an orchard. Today, the residents of Lexington have allowed Willard's Woods to revert to its natural state. This popular recreation area features three miles of trails, two streams, and a bike path. If you love nature, you'll enjoy the boardwalk that leads to a pond filled with wildlife.

Wagon Wheel

Just as Wilson Farm does, the Wagon Wheel sells fresh fruit and produce. This family-operated business also features a florist, a gift shop, a nursery, and a restaurant. Lexington has grown over the years, but the Wagon Wheel farm stand has always maintained the friendly small-town feeling.

Gallery Twist

This art museum features an amazing variety of artwork by the region’s most celebrated artists, showcasing about five new exhibits every year. Be sure to call and check their schedule before you visit.

Lexington, Massachusetts, is a hallmark of classic New England, but it also has a distinctive environment that isn’t quite like anywhere else. Schedule a visit to see what else Lexington has to offer!

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Thinking of Buying a Foreclosed Property?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 5. February 2020 09:34

Depending on where you look when you’re house hunting, you may find quite a few foreclosed properties on the market. These houses tend to sell for low prices, but they may come with issues. Before you get serious about foreclosed properties, check out our list of the pros and cons of buying them. First, what is a foreclosure? When a homeowner can’t make their payments, the lender may repossess the property. They’ll usually sell it in a foreclosure auction soon afterwards. When you’re researching foreclosed houses, you may also see the words “real estate-owned property” (REO). REO properties are the foreclosed homes that didn’t sell at auction.

The Pros

  • Foreclosed homes are typically eligible for traditional home loans.
  • Banks are eager to sell foreclosures. They may be flexible on closing costs, down payments, price, and more.
  • If you have the money on hand to pay the outstanding balance, you’ll be in a commanding position to negotiate from.
  • Foreclosures come with clear titles.
 

The Cons

  • When you buy a foreclosure at auction, you pay in full immediately.
  • Foreclosed homes often need repairs and upgrades, which can be very expensive.
  • Sometimes, the previous owners aren’t gracious about losing their home and may damage the property or cause other trouble for the next owners.
 

If you’ve weighed the ups and downs and buying a foreclosed property still sounds good to you, here’s how to get started:

  1. Find Some Foreclosures: You can find foreclosures through newspaper listings, public records, or an online search.
  2. Verify the Foreclosure Status: Before you do anything else, make sure the properties you find are still in foreclosure.
  3. Visit the Properties in Person: There’s no substitute for seeing a house and the neighborhood with your own eyes. It’s always a good idea to get a home inspection if possible.
  4. Get a Title Search: Few things are worse than buying a home only to find out later there’s a lien on the property. Protect yourself with a title search.
 

The best advice for anyone buying a home is to talk to a realtor first. Realtors have the knowledge and experience you need to avoid a bad deal. Buying a foreclosed property can be a great move, but make sure you go in with both eyes open.

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Boston's Must-See Buildings for Architecture Fans

by c21commonweath_ldowling 3. February 2020 10:05

 

If you're a fan of architecture, you'll find a lot to love in Boston. Early American settlers founded this city nearly 400 years ago. It has witnessed some of the most pivotal events in United States history. The city’s historical status makes it a virtual time capsule of architectural styles. A list of iconic buildings in Boston could have hundreds of items, but we pared it down to seven of the most spectacular.

Fenway Park (4 Jersey Street)

Perhaps no other building embodies the spirit of Boston like Fenway Park. The oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, it has been the home of the Red Sox since 1912. Over the years, the infamous “Green Monster” has denied thousands of would-be home run hitters.

Johnson Building of the Boston Public Library (700 Boylston Street)

Master of modern architecture Philip Johnson designed this wing of the Boston Public Library Central Branch. Though its architecture differs wildly from the nearby McKim building, the Johnson building fits in and stands out at the same time.

Massachusetts State House (24 Beacon Street)

John Hancock gave up his cow pasture to provide the building site for the Massachusetts State House. When it opened in 1798, the builders sheathed the dome in wood shingles. Copper replaced the original roof, followed by 23-karat gold. The upgrades weren't just about aesthetics—the wood shingle roof was prone to leaking.

Park Street Church (1 Park Street)

If you're a U.S. history enthusiast, you'll want to visit Park Street Church. The adjacent cemetery is the final resting place of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and other giants of the American Revolution. The 217-foot steeple made this church the tallest building in Boston when it was completed in 1809.

City Hall (1 City Hall Square)

In the 1950s, a new style of architecture called Brutalism gained prominence. Boston’s City Hall is a fantastic example of the style. Its blocky appearance and use of poured concrete make it stand out from its surroundings.

Old North Church (193 Salem Street)

This church, the oldest in Boston, will live on forever in American legend. Before Paul Revere made his famous ride, he looked to the steeple of the Old North Church to find two lanterns, the signal that the British were coming by sea.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (Columbia Point)

The stark white exterior of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum grants this building the feeling of a memorial. I. M. Pei may be one of the most famous names in architecture now, but when he was chosen to design this building, he was just starting out. It's a stellar example of his signature style. The seven buildings here are just a small sample of the architecture you'll find in and around Boston. The city is a must-see for any lover of architecture or history.

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Planning the Budget for Your Custom Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 27. January 2020 15:27

Having a custom home built from the ground up is one of the most ambitious projects a family can ever take on. Just planning the budget for your project is arduous enough—setting one is difficult and sticking to it is even harder. Maybe you’d rather skip budgeting and pay as you go along, but that would be a mistake. If you don't make a budget, the costs of your project can quickly get out of hand, turning your dream home into a nightmare that you'll be living in for the next 40 years. Setting your budget can be an emotional process—it's the time when your dreams and reality collide. Here are five tips for taking the stress out of budgeting:

1. Where Are You?

Every home needs a piece of land to sit on. Depending on where you are, the price of land can vary enormously. You can't build a home without buying land, so its cost is a logical budget starting point.

2. Size Matters

There are no absolute rules, but custom homes typically cost between $100 and $400 per square foot. This cost can vary based on your location, the materials you choose, and how much construction is going on in your area.

3. Finishes and Materials

Building a custom home almost always involves compromise. Do you want more square footage, for example? You may need to sacrifice the high-end fixtures and finishes. Many people go in thinking they need the most expensive materials to build the best-quality house, but spending more on a great design is usually the better bet.

4. Plan for Missteps

With a project as complex as a custom home, you'll likely face unforeseen costs and delays. Maybe you need to wait for a building inspection. Maybe the tile you chose is back-ordered. No matter what the cause is, just know that something will probably happen. When you set your budget, be sure to leave some extra room for cost overruns.

5. Budgets Are Flexible

There’s one last thing to remember: The budget is there to serve you. If the one you set originally is too tight, you can change it. Planning expenses is a preliminary step that you'll take before you have all the answers. If you need to change the budget, do it. Even though planning a budget takes little more than a pencil and paper—nothing compared to the power tools and heavy machinery used during your home’s actual construction—it can still be a daunting task. Thinking carefully and leaving yourself some wiggle room will set you on an easier path.

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Choosing an Architect to Design Your Custom Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. January 2020 11:27

Most of us have things we’d like to change about our homes. This has driven home renovation to become a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States. If you want to upgrade the kitchen, redesign your bathroom, or convert your garage to a workshop, a quick trip to the nearest big-box home center can get you all the tools, materials, and expertise you need.

But what if you want to do something bigger? What if you want to build a custom home from the ground up? For a project like this, the home center won't be much help. You'll need an architect.

Why You Need an Architect

An architect does much more than just drawing a blueprint. A good one can take your dreams and apply them to a house you can build in the real world. An architect will help you navigate building regulations, use your land wisely, and maximize the function of your house. Sometimes, they may even help you choose finishes and fixtures.

Choosing an architect is a big decision, and you shouldn't make it lightly. Here are five tips to help you pick the right architect for your new home:

1) Do Your Homework 

The first step in picking an architect is determining what style you like. A quick Google search on architectural styles can help you put a name to the aesthetic you prefer. Fortunately, whether you like baroque or Bauhaus, it should be easy to find examples you can visit in person.

2) Everyone Has Their Own Look

Every architect has their own style that they naturally fall into. Asking an architect who specializes in the Cape Cod style to design an industrial space is a recipe for disaster. Before you choose an architect, make sure their vision and yours align.

3) Dream Big, Think Small

There are hundreds of huge design firms and superstar architects all over the world. If you're planning to build a skyscraper, these are the people to see. If you're planning a slightly less ambitious project, a small, local architecture firm is probably your best bet.

3) Get Recommendations

If you ask around, you'll probably find that some of your friends and family have hired architects for their own projects. If you like the look of someone's new home or renovation, ask them who did the work. When you visit the firm, be sure to mention the recommendation—architects love word-of-mouth advertising.

4) Visit in Person

Looking at pictures of architecture is a good start, but if you really want to get the feel for a space, you have to visit in person. Once you've narrowed down your style and have a short list of potential architects, visit as many of their physical projects as you can.

Building a custom home is not for the faint of heart. It is a time-consuming, potentially costly project. However, when it's done right, the end result is well worth the effort.

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Choosing a Property for Your Custom Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 21. January 2020 12:51

Are you planning to build a custom home? Choosing the land you’ll build it on is one of the most important decisions you'll make. Make the right choice and you’ll be on your way to owning the house of your dreams. Make the wrong choice and that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.

There are many constraints to be aware of. Every area has its own building, environmental, and zoning restrictions that will limit your choices somewhat, but your options may still be overwhelming. Fortunately, you can make the process a little easier.

Pick your Priorities

Choosing the property will always involve a compromise. Most of the time, there isn't one available that will meet all of your desires within your budget. The best way to tackle this problem is to make a list of priorities. Here are four attributes you’ll want to consider:

1) Think Regionally

The first consideration should be geographical. Where do you work? Where do your friends and family live? What activities do you enjoy? Do you want to live in a particular county, town, or neighborhood? Once you narrow your search down to an area on the map, you’ll be ready to consider your other priorities.

2) City or Country?

Do you like being closer to nature, or would you rather be close to the action in town? Properties in urban areas are generally more expensive, but the choice between city and country can have an enormous impact on many other decisions that affect cost, including architectural style and square footage.

3) How Close Is Close Enough?

How close do you want to live to work, public transit, the grocery store, and all the other places you go regularly? Do you want to walk and bike to them, or are you okay with taking your car everywhere?

4) Size Matters

What size property are you looking for? This depends on your plans. Do you want to have a shop? How about a garden? You’ll need room for them. Whatever it is you like to do, make sure your new property can accommodate you.

If you want to build a custom home just the way you want it, you will face hundreds of decisions large and small. Choosing a building site is only the first step in the process, but it could be the most important.

 

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New Construction or Existing Property

by c21commonweath_ldowling 15. January 2020 10:48

Buying a home is exciting, but you face hundreds of decisions, both big and small. One of the most important choices you will make is whether to purchase an existing property or a new home built from the ground up. In some locations, land for new construction isn’t available, but if you have a choice, you'll need to be careful to make the right decision for you.

Pros and Cons

There are definite advantages to new construction. For example, you can customize your floor plan, finishes, and appliances right from the start. However, you will probably pay a premium for this flexibility.

Existing properties are available in many more locations, so you have a better chance of buying wherever you want to. Unfortunately, an existing property may come with many hidden costs. Here are some other money matters to consider when choosing between buying an existing property or building something new:

1) New Construction Costs More

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average cost to construct a new home is around $300,000, on top of the cost of the land. The average cost of an existing property, on the other hand, is just $200,000. This difference alone can make the choice for many homebuyers.

2) Repairs and Renovations

When you purchase an existing property, it may need some repairs, or you might want to make some renovations. These costs can quickly escalate even for minor projects. If you’re leaning toward buying an extant property, get a home inspection first—you may change your mind if the repair estimate is too steep.

3) Utilities

Don’t forget about ongoing energy costs. Developers often build new homes with energy efficiency in mind, but an existing property may need a lot of work to catch up. Modern building codes are more likely to require better insulation, energy-efficient windows, and other upgrades. In addition, if you're considering solar energy, adding a system to new construction is much easier and less expensive.

Choosing a home to purchase is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you have a choice between new construction and an existing property, think carefully about the benefits and drawbacks to both.

 

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