What's So Great About Watertown?

Real Estate

In Real Estate, it’s all about “location, location, location!”

The exploding number of companies moving back in to Boston has made affordable real estate even harder to come by, leaving potential buyers honing in on Watertown, a location settled in the crossroads of urban and suburban living.

Considered one of the first and largest inland settlements in North America, Watertown at one point rivaled the size of Boston and would later go on to form the towns of Belmont, Lincoln, Waltham, Weston, and a portion of Cambridge. It is bordered by Belmont to the north, Cambridge to the east, Newton and the Allston/Brighton neighborhoods of Boston to the south, and Waltham to the west.

Watertown

While Watertown has the luxury of  hosting big box stores like Target and Best Buy, a stroll through most commercial areas will reveal a majority of small local businesses and family-owned restaurants. You will, however, find 2 Starbucks as well as 6 Dunkin’ Donuts, and an array of yoga studios all within a walk-able 4 square miles.

Many lifelong residents and generations of families continue to call Watertown home, which gives the town that tight-knit community feel. While hosting block parties, volunteering at their children’s schools, organizing community events, or rallying for causes like “Watertown Residents for Strong Schools”, most people know their neighbors or the owner of their corner store.

“People take pride in how long they’ve been in Watertown. People raise their families here, and now their children live in Watertown.” -Mark Sideris, Town Council president ("Portrait with Many Faces",Bostonglobe.com)

 

For years, Watertown was disregarded and thought of only as a pass-through to bedroom communities coveted for their school districts and million-dollar homes. Watertown gained notoriety in 2013 for the manhunt and lockdown that ensued following what’s now ominously referred to as “The Marathon Bombings”.  To most locals, being considered “Watertown Strong” is a badge of honor.

Recently, we’re seeing listing prices soar for properties in Watertown, and a surprising renewed interest in real estate in the area with home sales going well over asking price.

It begs the question: What’s going on, and what’s so great about Watertown?

In August, Forbes posted an article which highlights income, job growth and schools as a few of the key elements to consider while home searching.

 

Let’s take a closer look at these:

 

Population:

According to the American Community Survey 5-year estimate, a part of the decennial census, the population estimate in Watertown for 2016 was 33,874.

28,845 people account for our work force (85.15%).

The majority of occupations are management, business, arts and science jobs in industries such as educational services, health care, social assistance, as well as professional or administrative roles in scientific and waste management industries. Median household income was $91,991, with a per capita figure of $48,679. (Factfinder.census.gov)

Employment:

At the time of the ACS, the estimated unemployment rate in Watertown in 2016 was 3.9% (current figures are closer to 2.4%). The labor force participation rate for those 16 or over (the number of those eligible to work compared to the number of people who are actually working) was 76%.

According to the same ACS survey, 94.3% of all adults are believed to be high school graduates, while 62% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. A closer look at the 18-44 year old age group alone reveals that 73% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and that millennials account for a little less than half of Watertown’s population. This number is significant because we know that millennials are the next generation of home buyers.  (Factfinder.census.gov)

66% of all buyers are first time home buyers; millennials account for 34% of buyers overall, and 66% of millennials plan to purchase a home within the next 5 years. 

While home searching, most millennials say that among features including open floorplans with updated kitchens and baths, convenient location to their job is the most important factor. They want a home near but not in the city.

Located just 6 miles from downtown Boston via I-90 or Storrow Drive, or just across the river from Allston/Brighton, Watertown presents an easy commute to Boston proper, as well as Cambridge, home to Harvard University and MIT. 

While we could assume that this age group still call the city home by choice, because of walk-ability and proximity to bars, restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops that offer WiFi, it’s more likely the higher paying jobs that are associated with larger metropolitan areas that keep young people from relocating. Millennials want the perks of city life, but still desire the American dream, just like their parents had.

 

Schools:

Watertown provides a robust Pre-K -12 educational curriculum including full day kindergarten, and strives to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students in the community. Parents are actively involved at all levels in the planning and organization of events and school activities. The district welcomed the addition of Foreign Language at the Elementary Schools, and a recent partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Students also benefit from an array of extensive programs with additional opportunities outside of the school building such as: Dual Enrollment, Virtual High School, and Middlesex League Partnerships.

There is an abundance of community programs that work to support and enhance the work of the schools including, but not limited to: Parent-teacher organizations, The Watertown Community Foundation, Friends of Watertown Music, Watertown Family Network, and Watertown Boys and Girls Club.

In an effort to accommodate the needs and size of a booming community, Watertown Public Schools is undergoing an extensive planning effort to renovate or replace the three existing elementary school buildings as well as the high school.

In August, the school committee voted to proceed with a feasibility study of the major elementary school project. And, in December 2017, Watertown was invited by the Massachusetts Building Authority to participate in a program for support through their Core Building Program after submitting a Statement of Interest for the past 4 years.

 

Job Growth:

Massachusetts sets itself apart from other regions in terms of innovation.

In 2016, The Kauffman Foundation released the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship which rated Boston #6 of the top 10 metros with the highest growth entrepreneurship activity. From research to production, it is well known that Boston and Cambridge can be considered a hub for pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical science and technology. Watertown is conveniently located adjacent to these communities making for an attractive commuters’ location, but the over-saturation in Cambridge along with a diverse building stock available in Watertown lends itself to many possibilities for expansion of these industries, and they’re coming our way.

On the Watertown line in Cambridge sits Mount Auburn Hospital, a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, founded by Civil War Nurse Emily Elizabeth Parsons. Mclean Hospital, yet another Harvard affiliate, flanks on the West in the town of Belmont.

Watertown boasts a high concentration of architecture and engineering opportunities through firms like Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. and Sasaki Associates.

The largest employer in Watertown is Athenahealth, which provides internet-based software technology for healthcare providers. Currently, Athenahealth has 93 career opportunities.

While development is already taking place in Watertown, the town’s own study of Strategic Framework for Economic Development published in 2011 highlighted 5 distinct commercial areas targeting several of the aforementioned industries ripe for additional business development:

·        Coolidge Hill

·        Arsenal North

·        Union Market

·        South Square

·        West End Riverfront

 

In addition to Amazon revealing that Boston made a shortlist of contenders to host its second headquarters, some other major corporations who call Greater Boston home include:

·        Bose

·        Boston Scientific

·        Converse

·        Gillette

·        Google

·        Puma

·        Raytheon

·        Reebok

·        TJX

·        TripAdvisor

·        Wayfair

 

Increasing Home Values:

“It’s a seller’s market!”

While faced with record low inventory once again at the start of 2018, we’ve seen marked increases in home values and price per square foot alike.

According to MLS, price per square foot, a key strategy in determining sales price as well as perception of value for potential buyers, has reached unprecedented heights in Watertown for the 5th year in a row.   

And while we’ve seen some fluctuation among single family home sales throughout the years; condominiums, which make up the majority of housing stock as well as units sold in Watertown, have seen record increases of at least 8%, consistently, year over year.

Watertown breaks down to roughly 48% homeowners compared to 46% renters. Increasing ownership opportunities in Watertown is vital, and will in turn raise values for homeowners in the area overall, which generates revenue in the form of property taxes which will eventually fund roads, infrastructure, parks and recreation, as well as schools.

Today, Watertown is an attractive choice for anyone looking for close proximity to the city whether by car or public transportation. Seven bus routes connect commuters with the red line at Harvard Square, including two express routes with service directly to Copley Square or Downtown Boston. Residents enjoy seasonal recreation like canoeing and kayaking along the Charles River, a community pool, trails for biking or running, an abundance of neighborhood parks, playing fields and a dedicated dog park.

Foodies, take note, for those nights you'd prefer to hang closer to town instead of dealing with the dreaded drive (and parking debacle) in to the city, we've got you covered:

With rotating lunch and dinner menus, Strip T's is by now a neighborhood institution which serves a sandwich lineup during the day and switches over to more inventive entrees after 5- most people swear by their Ramen (not available for takeout)

Once a tiny 6-seat cafe largely offering takeout, La Casa de Pedro is a Venezuelan and Latin American hot spot featuring weekly events including live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

Branch Line, located in the Watertown Arsenal, is known for their rotisserie and has a killer draft beer selection (one of the local IPA's on tap is the handy work of a fellow Watertown resident!)