Moving To Massachusetts? (The Truth About Living Here)

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Massachusetts is a state steeped in rich history. It’s one of the original 13 US colonies, the landing place of the Mayflower, and the home of the first pilgrim settlers. The state is the epicenter of US history, having claim to such events as the first permanent English settlement and the state in which the first Thanksgiving Festival was recorded.

But the state appeals to much more than history buffs. Massachusetts is affectionately known as “The Bay State”, and with good reason. The state boasts sweeping picturesque shorelines stretching across Massachusetts Bay, Narragansett Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and Buzzards Bay. These scenic backdrops, featured in countless movies, are highly sought-after areas for those interested in making the move to the state.

Houses by the sea, near hyannis port, massachusetts

Speaking of its population, there are around 6.9 million ‘Bay Staters’ residing in this varied landscape; from the vibrant capital city of Boston to the fishing towns of the Atlantic coast, and the scenic rural farming communities in the west.

Singer-songwriter Alissa Musto loves being from Massachusetts and had the following to say about living here.

MASSACHUSETTS OFFERS SO MUCH!

The public transit system in the Boston area, aka the T, will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go. Additionally, if you travel frequently for work, like myself, traveling in and out of Massachusetts is convenient; Logan airport is a major international airport and unlike many other big city airports, it is only a 10 minute drive from downtown. Providence, New York City and even Philadelphia and Washington DC are conveniently accessible by train or bus.

 

In terms of culture and creativity, the metro Boston area is home to over 100 colleges, meaning there are a lot of students and subsequently a lot of creativity, new ideas, events and collaboration. There is always new music to go and listen to, new food to try and new exhibits to experience. Of course, being the birthplace of America, Massachusetts is known for its historical significance and I love seeing the historical roots blend with creative inquiry and development.

 

Living in Boston is very expensive; however, there are many quaint suburbs on the city’s outskirt that are affordable and practical, yet still easily accessible via public transit and don’t feel so secluded from the city. Further away you get from Boston or the Cape the prices will lower.”

 

Alissa Musto Musician

If you’re considering relocating to the Bay State, this is the guide you’ve been looking for. We’ll cover everything you need to know about moving to the great state of Massachusetts, from the current state of the job and real estate market, to the best places to live and the cost of living.

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Where Are The Best Places To Live In Massachusetts?

 

Like most states, MA has a lot to offer for those looking for very different ways of life and standards of living. From bustling city life, to a slower pace of living in rural communities, MA has something for everyone if you know where to look.

While certainly not an exhaustive list, below we’ve compiled some of MA’s favored places to live, work and play.

Boston

The sprawling capital of Massachusetts is home to around 673,000 people and covers a whopping 90 square miles. Boston’s population is diverse; over half of its residents are non-white and there are over 70 languages spoken across the city.  There’s a young, fresh and hip vibe here, thanks in large part to the 250,000 students studying across various universities in the city.

Boston is a city on the global map, with tourists piling in from around the world every year to explore world-class museums and galleries, wander down the historic cobbled streets and visit the famous sites. If you love the big city lifestyle and having endless opportunities for dining, drinking, culture, and entertainment, then moving to the downtown areas of Boston could be perfect for you.

Bostone skyline at dusk as viewed from Fan Pier Park.

Although property here is cheaper than NYC, living downtown is still pretty expensive; the median home price in the city clocks in at around $636,000. That said, there are more affordable options if you’re willing to live in communities surrounding the city, affording you all the amenities of the city without the high price tag.

Waltham

Waltham is less than 10 miles outside of Boston, making it a quick commute if you work in the city. Around 62,000 people live here, but despite its relatively small size, the town has a surprisingly active nightlife scene and some world-class dining options. There are over 260 bars and restaurants to try out, most of which are clustered around the central strip known as ‘Moody Street’

There are two universities here, so its population is generally on the younger and more diverse side, with a college town vibe that keeps things fresh and exciting.

The area is popular with commuters into Boston, with property in the city limits commanding a price tag that represents this. The average home in Waltham is listed at around $604,000.

Lexington

Historic Lexington is the site where the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War.

There’s even an annual commemorative day, on the first Monday of April, where the 34,000 residents pay their respects to their forefathers.

Lexington is an affluent town, where the average household income is almost 150k per year. There are some of the best public schools in the nation here, and a super low crime rate, so it’s a particularly popular area with well-to-do families.

Unfortunately, the property prices in Lexington are out of reach for many people- the average home price sits at around $736k.

Leverett

The small town of Leverett in Franklin County is the perfect choice for those who love peace and quiet. Only around 2,000 people live in this close-knit community, and thanks to its rural setting, the crime rate is incredibly low.

Although there are no bars, restaurants or entertainment here, Leverett more than makes up for it in terms of outdoor activities, gorgeous scenic spots, and picture-perfect landscapes. If escaping into the great outdoors is your thing, then you’ll be spoilt for choice here.

Thankfully, this desirable spot is a heck of a lot more affordable than many on our list; the average home price here is around $344k.

Provincetown

Right at the very tip of Cape Cod is the picturesque tourist hub of Provincetown. To the 3,000 people who live here, the area is known affectionately as P-Town, and tourists pile in throughout the year to explore the gorgeous beaches and soak in the vibrant culture of the town and its surroundings.

PROVINCETOWN, MASSACHUSETTS: A handsome Cape Cod shingled home with white trimmed windows and two upstairs dormers

The art scene is thriving here, with cute little galleries, craft shops and studios around every corner. Provincetown also has a large LGBTQ community and is the home to the nation’s oldest gay bar, The Atlantic House.

Property prices here are unsurprisingly not cheap, but still much more affordable than some places on our list. The average home here would set you back around $474k.

Cambridge

The city of Cambridge, like its sister with the same name across the ocean, is a famous university town.  There are two world-class institutions for higher learning here- Harvard University and MIT.

Around 108,000 people call Cambridge home, and if you make the move here, you can bet you’ll have some super smart neighbors.

The downtown area is packed with great restaurants and bars, and there’s a rich art and live music scene that comes with the college town status.

Cambridge is a pretty affluent place and the median household income here is $75,900 a year. Home prices reflect this high standard of living; the average property price is around $582k.

Winchester

Winchester is a picture-perfect family-oriented suburb of Boston, less than a 20-minute drive from downtown.  Around 22,000 people call this neighborhood home, and the vast majority of them are families who gravitate to the area for the truly excellent public school system- Great Schools even awarded it the highest possible grade, 10 out of 10.

This family-friendly town has an impressively low crime rate too; statistically, it’s 84% safer than other towns, villages, and cities across America, and 73% safer than the already relatively crime-free state of Massachusetts.

Winchester is home to Mystic Lakes, a favorite gathering spot all year round. You can enjoy ice skating in the winter, or sailing, swimming and strolling around during the summer.

If it all sounds too good to be true, you’d be right; Winchester is out of bounds for those on a small budget- the average home price here is $738k.

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How Is The Job Market In Massachusetts?

 

Massachusetts seems to have chosen 7 as its lucky number… Almost 7 million people live in the Bay State, which is the nation’s 7th smallest state. But it’s also been ranked as the 7th best place in the country to find work- not bad for its diminutive size. The unemployment rate here is comfortably below the national average at 3.5%.

Industries in Massachusetts

The biggest chunk of New England’s labor force exists within the Bay State, and many of them are working in education, which makes sense given Massachusetts collection of world-class higher education institutes.

Healthcare is also a huge industry here, with thousands of people working in the likes of the world-renowned Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.

picture of Boston Children's Hospital medical students

The tech industry has also been booming here in recent years, with around 300,000 people working in jobs like app development and programming. And let’s not forget the tourism industry. From the rugged Atlantic Coast and its picturesque fishing villages, to the bright lights of historic Boston, Massachusetts is one of the US’s most popular states for visitors.

This means the hospitality industry is also thriving here, with a huge amount of great restaurants and bars all over the state and customers with plenty of money, it’s a winning combination.

Top Employers

By far the biggest employer in the Bay State is the highly regarded Massachusetts General Hospital, located in Boston. They have around 17,000 staff working in all kinds of roles from doctors to cleaners and porters. Boston’s prestigious Brigham & Women’s Hospital is the second-largest employer, with around 13,400 employees on the books.

Following these giants is the software company Oracle Corp in Burlington who provides tech-related jobs for over 10,000 people. Boston University comes in close behind with around 8,000 staff working in their two downtown campuses.

Other Top Employers In The State

If you find yourself looking for employment in MA, chances are these companies are hiring across a broad range of disciplines and career paths.

  • Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Thermo Fisher
  • Staples
  • Raytheon
  • Dell EMC
  • Showcase
  • The TJX Companies
  • General Electric
  • Stop & Shop
  • Stream Global Services, Inc.
  • State Street
  • Bright Horizons
  • Boston Scientific
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Five Star Senior Living
  • Iron Mountain
  • Civitas Solutions
  • Shire Pic
  • EF Education First
  • C&W Services
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How Much Does It Cost To Live In Massachusetts?

 

Aside from the sky-high property prices and above-average rent, how much does it cost for everyday essentials in Massachusetts?

Overall Cost of Living

Here is the bad news. MA is 40% more expensive than the national average overall. But the good news is that that figure is largely bolstered due to the cost of housing. When we remove “housing” from the equation, things look MUCH less bleak. Let’s also not forget that salaries in MA, especially those in and around the cities, tend to be higher than national averages.

Groceries and Food

Groceries, although a bit more expensive than the US average, are still pretty reasonable here. Overall the cost of food comes in at 8.9% higher than average.

picture of Family with shopping cart in Massachusetts supermarket

Healthcare and Medical

We have good news here. If you have a medical condition or are raising or planning a family, medical expenses can add up quickly. The good news is that health expenses in the state are 16.3% below the national average. Not only do you get access to some of America’s best hospitals, but you’ll also end up spending less. That’s a win-win in our books.

Utilities

Utilities tend to be a little pricier, mainly due to the cold winters when heating your home is a necessity, not to mention the balmy summers where you’ll need to blast the AC. The overall costs for utilities in the state come in at 12.9% above the national average.

Transportation

We all need to get from point A to point B. Transportation costs including gas, car insurance, vehicle maintenance costs, and associated taxes and license fees come in at 7.9% above the national average.

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How Is The Massachusetts Real Estate Market?

 

You might have noticed in our round-up of ‘the best places to live in Massachusetts’, property prices in the Bay State are not cheap. The median home value sits at around $428,000, and the price of a square foot at $269.

Rentals in the state are equally as steep. In Boston, for example, you can expect to pay an average of $3,500 per month before bills, but that goes down to $2,500 when we look at the state as a whole. Either way, if you’re moving to Massachusetts from a cheaper part of the country, you might need to start tightening the purse strings to find an affordable place.

That said, there are times of the year when you may be able to find a better deal. MA, like most states, has a well-defined annual real estate cycle that you may be able to take advantage of if the timing is right.

If you’re on a budget, avoid buying a home in June or July. These months are best for people selling a house in Massachusetts and command the highest prices, with prices in June at a 4.68 premium and those in July priced at around $32,000 over the average annual median listing price (yikes).

On the other hand, homes sold in February closed an average of 4.74% below average, and those in October for 2.79% below average prices.

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Is Massachusetts A Good Place To Retire?

 

The Bay State is a relatively tax-friendly place to spend your retirement years. All social security retirement benefits are exempt from taxation, as well as any income from public pension funds. When it comes to your IRA, 401(k) or other retirement savings accounts, these will be taxed at the state’s set rate of 5.05%.

So while there are certainly some financial positives to retiring in Massachusetts, it still ranks as the 10th costliest state to spend your golden years. That said, for those interested in moving to one of the most picturesque and culturally rich states in the country, it might still be worth the high price tag. Further, those retirees that plan on working part-time throughout their Golden Years or that are looking to start a new venture, may be able to supplement their income to make it worthwhile.

With the stunning Atlantic coastline and destinations such as Cape Cod and its island of Nantucket, there’s no shortage of beautiful towns to visit, or you can even choose to settle permanently in these picturesque destinations. The whole Massachusetts coastline is popular with retirees, and you can find some great retirement communities and supported living services here.

picture of Group of retired friends support concept

Lovers of culture will also adore living in the Bay State. Boston is packed with cultural offerings, from world-class museums and art galleries to historic sites and walking tours, not to mention the incredible gastro scene. But it’s not just the capital city, the whole state is rich with diversity and cultural opportunities, from music and dance festivals to theatre film and of course, history.

Healthcare is also pretty exceptional in Massachusetts. There are fantastic hospitals are on your doorstep, and the cost of medical treatment is surprisingly low in comparison to the national averages.

Overall, Massachusetts has a fantastic balance of outdoor living to keep you fit, healthy and happy in your retirement, while having easy access to big cities, great hospitals, and world-class entertainment.

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What Are The People And Culture Like In Massachusetts?

 

Bay Staters are understandably proud of their place in the history books. From the very birth of the nation, Massachusetts has been at the forefront of progress. The state is known for its progressive values, and its residents are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. In 2004, they became the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage after huge collective movements and demonstrations across the state.

For the past 30 years, the Bay State has leaned firmly to the left, with most residents voting Democrat during elections.

Bay Staters are also known for their love of sport, specifically Baseball. The Redsox have an almost religious status for many sports fans.

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Some Of The Coolest Things To Do In Massachusetts

 

There’s so much to see, do and explore in the Bay State. We’ve put together a list of our favorite activities for you and your visitors to enjoy once you make the move.

The Freedom Trail

This is one of Boston’s most iconic and well-loved attractions and is the best way to get a taste of the city and its many historic sites and buildings.

Starting at the visitor’s Center on Boston Common, you’ll pass through the resting places of Paul Revere and John Hancock, as well as Boston’s oldest public building, The Old State House, and the world-famous Faneuil Hall, along with many more fascinating spots.

Strolling the freedom trail is free, but for a more comprehensive insight into the fascinating history here, consider taking a paid guided tour.

Cape Cod

This striking peninsula pushes right out into the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean and contains over 560 miles of stunning coastline to explore.  Cape Cod Bay is a serene stretch of white sandy beaches and rolling dunes, and the outer peninsula has some incredible rocky coves which are best explored during the summer months.

Cape Cod’s coastline is famous not just across the nation, but throughout the world, so there’s always a heavy influx of tourists coming in. Luckily, there’s enough beaches and coves that even during the peak season, you can find a little spot of secluded paradise if you’re willing to look for it, especially up in the quieter north shore areas.

Mayflower II and The Plymouth Plantation

This living history museum at Plymouth Plantation tells the story of the first European settlers to make their homes here after landing at Plymouth in late 1620.

Tour guides are dressed in traditional clothing and take you on a fascinating journey, all while remaining in true 17th-century pilgrim character. You can see how these early settlers lived their everyday lives and carried out tasks such as growing crops, gardening, cooking, and building.

Old buildings in Plymouth plantation at Plymouth, MA. It was the first Pilgrims settlement in north America.

There’s also a comprehensive exploration of a Wampanoag Village through a recreation called Hobbamock’s Homesite. The descendants of some of these early tribes are still here today, demonstrating the way they lived and worked long before European settlers arrived.

While you’re here, be sure to check out the Mayflower II, a full-size replica of the original ship which is docked at Plymouth Pier.

Salem

Salem is famous around the world for the notorious witch trials at the end of the 17th century. You can visit the Witch House, built in 1642, which is the only building from that time period still standing today.

picture of the Witch House in Salem MA

As well as having a disturbing past, Salem is also has a fascinating history as a China Trade town, and it was once a hub of merchants and captains who profiteered from the importation of these valuable goods. The streets are flanked by impressive historical homes that originally belonged to the families of these men, and there are several museums dedicated to the exploration of the trading boom. There’s also fully reassembled  18th century Chinese home brought back from the Huizhou region which is open to the public.

Whale Watching at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Stellwagen Bank is known as one of the best places for whale-watching in the world. The spot is rich with marine life thanks to a great underwater plateau at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. As well as whales, you can also spot dolphins, seals, porpoises and much more.

picture of Humpback Diving in Atlantic Ocean

The main concentration of whales here are humpbacks, who return year after year to feed and raise their young in the relative safety that the bay provides.

The best way to spot these majestic creatures is to take a boat tour from Provincetown or Gloucester, as well as several other spots in the Cape Cod area.

Martha’s Vineyard

Just 5 miles from Cape Cod’s southern shore is the tranquil island of Martha’s Vineyard. This idyllic island has been a New England summer colony for centuries and is famous for its period buildings, lighthouses, farmland, and beautiful sandy beaches.

There are 6 small towns dotted around the small island, all of which make great vacation spots throughout the year. Many families have been coming here for generations, with gorgeous period homes referred to as ‘cottages’ being passed down through family lines. Because of this, there’s a real community spirit here that sets it apart from the mainland.

As well as all the usual activities you can do by the shoreline, such as surfing, kayaking, fishing and sunbathing, make sure you take a trip to ‘Old Bluffs’. This old settlement dates back to the 1600s and is packed with period architecture and tree-lined streets, and has one of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the nation, the Flying Horses Carousel.

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The Pros And Cons Of Living In Massachusetts

 

Now that we’ve taken a look at what Massachusetts has to offer, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of moving to the Bay State.

Pros

  • Fantastic Health Care – The Massachusetts healthcare system is ranked at number 5 in the nation, but when it comes to access to services, it’s the number 1 place to be in America.
  • World-Class Education – As well as being home to some of the nation’s finest Ivy League Universities, Massachusetts has an overwhelmingly successful public school system. And don’t worry if you or your kids are not in the elite brainbox category, there’s still a huge amount of fantastically ranked ‘regular’ universities, over 35 in the Boston area alone.
  • Natural Beauty – The Atlantic Coastline here is stunning, from craggy cliffs to rolling dunes and golden beaches. Heading inland, there are swathes of scenic farmland dotted with quaint little villages that make for some excellent Sunday driving. 

Cons

  • High Cost of Living – Living in the Bay state doesn’t come cheap. The biggest expense here is housing, and if you’re moving from a cheaper part of the country, you might need to adjust your budget when you’re looking for a place to live. Education is also costly, with university fees in the top 10 highest in the country.
  • High population density – Massachusetts is small, but it’s got a pretty large population, making it the 3rd most densely populated state in America. The most packed areas tend to be in the eastern part of the state, so head west if you’re looking for peace and quiet.
  • The cold winters – If you’re not a fan of snow and cold weather gets you down, then the Bay State may not be for you. The average winter brings 40-60 inches of snowfall, and temperatures can get as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit during the chilliest months.
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Massachusetts Fun Facts & Strange Laws

 

Fun Facts About Massachusetts

To wrap up our overview of moving to Massachusetts, here are a few fun facts you may not know about the Bay State:

  • In Rockport, there’s a house made entirely out of newspaper. It was built in 1922 by Mr. Elis F Stenman. There’s even a paper piano inside.
  • The Bay State has the lowest divorce rate in the country. With only 2.2 divorces per 1000 people, that’s some pretty good relationship stats.
  • The Massachusetts state insect is a ladybug. It was chosen by school children in Franklin, MA back in 1974.
  • Basketball and Volleyball were both invented in Massachusetts. This is a seriously sporty state; James Naismith first invented basketball back in 1891, and volleyball came about 4 years later.
  • The Lake with the longest name in the world is found in Massachusetts. Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is referred to as Webster Lake by the residents, presumably because no one can pronounce it. 

Weird Laws in the State

Every state has its fair share of weird and antiquated laws, and with a state as rich in history as Massachusetts, it’s no surprise there are some seriously bizarre rules still on the books here. Let’s take a look at some of the stranger laws from the Bay State.

  • A duel may be fought to the death on a Sunday in Boston, but only if the governor is present.
  • It’s forbidden to drive with a gorilla in the backseat of your car.
  • There’s a strict three sandwich limit for mourners at a wake.
  • It’s against the law to bring your pet lion into a movie theatre.
  • It’s illegal to sport a goatee in public without a license.
  • Christmas has been illegal in the Bay State since 1659, and you can be fined up to five shillings if you’re caught celebrating the occasion.
  • If you pass a red light, you don’t have to stop unless it’s flashing.
  • Kids are permitted to smoke, but they can’t buy their own cigarettes.
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Ready To Make The Move To Massachusetts?

Are you ready to pack your bags and move to the most populous state in New England? From Boston to The Berkshires, MA is full of rich culture, history and opportunities. We hope you enjoyed reading this guide as much as we did writing it, and that you get the opportunity to explore all that MA has to offer for yourself.

 

Further Reading: Looking For More Moving To Massachusetts Resources? Check These Articles Out!

 

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