A Place to Call Your Own?

Scanning through the real estate listings can be a bit like browsing the personal ads. Those lonely, lovely properties sound attractive, but is there a match made in heaven just for you? After all, you wouldn’t select your spouse based merely on location, location location. Why pick your house that way? There’s no place like home, so they say. And, chances are, you are one of a kind yourself. Maybe you’re just starting out, having kids, ready to retire, don’t like people, do like art, love General Stark or hate electric bills? We have a real estate guide to help you find your soulmate, thanks to Jack Kenny, who scoured the state looking for just the right places for folks with a particular need. And while a home may never love you as much as you love it, we’ve even got some suggestions for how to give your new home a pair of big warm eyes and a wagging tail.

Getting Started

Horace Greeley’s advice for young people to “Go West” is just as good today as it was in the 19th-century.

Winner

Judy Nesset, president of Blackwood Properties in Nashua lives and works in the Gate City, but her heart and about a dozen of her properties are in Claremont.

“I think the Claremont of today is the Nashua of 25 years ago,” says Nesset, suggesting young professional singles and couples looking to buy their first home should check out the little (population 14,500) city in western New Hampshire on the Connecticut River. It is just half an hour from Lebanon and Hanover, where real estate prices are much higher. It is a mere half-hour from I-89 exit 12, Mount Sunapee and a lot of other interesting places.

“Did you know there are 15 ski slopes within a 30 minute drive of Claremont?” she asks. Claremont is coming back from its long economic slump. Both large retail outlets and manufacturing companies have settled there and abandoned mill properties are being turned into condominiums, restaurants and inns. And for a community that is widely known as the lead litigator in the still unresolved education funding suit against the state, Claremont’s schools seem to be doing just fine, thank you.

“All the education programs, I never heard of so much going on,” says Nesset.

“Everything from dental wellness to advanced education programs they’ve created for students.” And there is natural as well as man-made beauty to behold in and around Claremont.

“You get great views of Mount Ascutney, and there is so much beautiful architecture,” says Nesset. And while real estate values in Nashua have declined by six percent in the past year, they have increased by the same amount in Claremont. The average single family home costs a little more than $165,000, Nesset says, while a good solid and attractive structure can be had for $90,000. A fix-up project might be available for $65,000.

And, of course, there are homes available at the high end of the price scale as well. “If you were willing to pay half a million, you could get a 5,000 square-foot Victorian with an attached garage, a butler’s pantry and woodwork you’d just die for.”

So whether you are looking for a nice place to live or a smart place to invest in real estate, you can’t go far wrong in Claremont, says Nesset. It’s kind of a no-brainer “when you’ve got a community where the real estate prices are so much lower than other communities.”

Runners Up

What a difference a year makes. “Twelve to 18 months ago if someone gave a call who was looking for something under $200,000, there was nothing, says Mike Auger of Auger Realty in Manchester. “Now we have dozens of properties for them.”

New Hampshire’s two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, continue to attract newcomers who enjoy a style of life that enables them to be sufficiently removed from the hustle and bustle of Boston, though it’s still a short car ride away. It’s a one-day trip to New York or Montreal. For longer trips, the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is right here.

Both cities are experiencing something of a renaissance, with nice developments in entertainment, new restaurants and sports events,” says Auger. And the employment picture in southern New Hampshire is still favorable to job seekers. For those who are interested in moving here, it is the best residential buyer’s market in years.

We now have starter homes priced between $150,000 and $200,000,” says Auger. In fact, a recent check of single-family homes available for less than $200,000 showed 99 in Manchester and 32 in Nashua. Those looking for condos for $150,000 or less had 82 to choose from in Manchester and 32 in Nashua. And those are the asking prices in what remains a strong buyer’s market, Auger points out.

With low interest rates, a good inventory to choose from and highly motivated sellers, single people or couples looking for a starter home may find it’s a good time to acquire what may be turn out to be a profitable long-term investment as well as a good place to live.

“The real pros are buying up these properties,” says Auger. “Regular Joes will and should follow suit.”

Claremont
Population: 13,264
Tax Rate: $31.58
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $171,750, Dec. 07: $167,350
Average Days on Market: 145
Median Age: 38.8 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 30.7%
Median Household Income: $34,949

Manchester
Population: 109,497
Tax Rate: $16.85
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $279,000, Dec. 07: $265,000
Average Days on Market: 123
Median Age: 34.9 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 22.3%
Median Household Income: $40,774

Nashua
Population: 87,157
Tax Rate: $17.20
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $279,000, Dec. 07: $265,000
Average Days on Market : 123
Median Age: 35.8 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 31.5%
Median Household Income: $51,969

For the Young Family

Load up the minivan – New Hampshire has lots of towns with primo schools and playgrounds.

Winner

“I was shocked,” says New Boston Realtor Heidi Palmer, who recently took stock of the inventory of properties in town. “We still have a couple of houses at $195,000. They’re really adorable – a three-bedroom cape in move-in condition. We have a couple in the mid-$200,000 range. There’s a great farmhouse with acreage, enough room for horses, for $259,000.

Just south of Goffstown on Route 13 and within a 30-minute drive of either Manchester or Concord, New Boston offers a wholesome rural, small-town life where folks come together for celebrations like an old-fashioned Fourth of July, with a barn dance on the night preceding the parade and a day of games and festivities for the whole family.

Downtown is an old-fashioned village, with Dodge’s General Store serving the classic role. Across the street is the antique store, the town library and The New Boston Community Church, where the Rev. Robert “Woody” Woodland leads worship each Sunday in friendly, down home non-denominational fashion.

Runner Up

Jim Pitts, town manager of Bow is enthusiastic about Bow, the town he has been overseeing since 2002. “I don’t want to offend any other municipality, so I don’t want to make any comparisons,” says Pitts. “But I absolutely love working here.”

Property costs are high, with the typical two-bedroom house on a two-acre lot costing $300,000 to $350,000, with prices considerably steeper for some hilltop properties that Pitts describes as mansions.

“Our Parks and Recreation Department is one of the best in the state. It’s huge in the variety of programs for both children and adults and it’s the only parks and recreation department in the state of New Hampshire that operates a certified pre-school program.” And Bow is known both within and out of the town for the quality of its schools.

“I’ve had new residents tell me they moved here because of the school system,” says Pitts. Bow residents have enjoyed a relatively low tax burden for decades, thanks largely to the town’s largest taxpayer, Public Service of New Hampshire, which runs a large coal-burning electric generating facility there.

New Boston
Population: 4,993
Tax Rate: $15.30
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $279,000, Dec. 07: $265,000
Average Days on Market: 123
Median Age: 36.2 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 36%
Median Household Income: $66,020

Bow
Population: 8,098
Tax Rate: $27.99
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $256,000, Dec. 07: $214,500
Average Days on Market: 143
Median Age: 38.6 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 45.4%
Median Household Income: $79,329

Place to Disappear

If you yearn to “get away from it all,” good luck. Even in the most remote places, things are hopping.

It’s the largest land mass of any township east of the Mississippi, larger even than New York City, which is home to some eight million New Yorkers. And it still has considerably fewer than a thousand year ’round residents. So it should be pretty easy to disappear in the town of Pittsburg, right?

“Not any more,” says Cathy McComiskey, the town secretary. “It’s getting pretty crowded.” A lot of people have been building vacation homes, says McComiskey, and some are “better than most of the (year-round) houses. They’re pretty good buildings.” New Hampshire’s northernmost town, the last stop before the Canadian border, also draws a fair amount of visitors to the Connecticut Lakes and other scenic attractions at the far end of the Great North Woods.

“There is not typical home in Pittsburg,” says Joey Sweatt, associate broker with Great North Woods Realty in Stewartstown. “They range from the seasonal homes on roads with no electricity and outhouses to the log chalets right on the lakes.” A year-round, two bedroom home may be had for anywhere from $100,000 to $140,000, while a summer camp on one of the lakes might cost $400,000.

But where would someone go who can no longer disappear in Pittsburg? Well, maybe Errol, population 352 in a town 36 miles north of Berlin, New Hampshire’s northernmost city.

“We had a selectmen’s meeting last evening and we started to discuss that 352 and where the 52 came from, ” says Dottie Kurtz, administrative assistant to the town’s selectmen. “We’d been saying 300 for years.”

Winner

Pittsburg
Population: 850
Tax Rate: $14.85
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $239,000, Dec. 07: $199,000
Median Age: 46 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 10.6%
Median Household Income: $38,516

Runner Up

Errol
Population: 290
Tax Rate: $10.01
Median Home Selling Price (by county):
Dec. 06: $239,000, Dec. 07: $199,000
Median Age: 47.2 years
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 8.5%
Median Household Income: $35,625

For the Artistic

If a community has an arts commission (take Portsmouth, for instance) it’s a pretty good bet there’s a lot of art nearby.

Winner

Crime doesn’t pay in Portsmouth, unless it’s committed on stage, in a drama at one of the city’s popular theater venues. Americans for the Arts, a national non-profit advocacy group, has calculated that non-profits arts organizations contribute $36 million to the local economy every year.

“That’s the equivalent of a city twice our size,” says a proud Russ Grazier, executive director of the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center and president of Art-Speak, the city’s commission on the arts. And, as he cheerfully notes, Portsmouth is the only municipality in the state to have an arts commission as a department of town or city government.

In addition to a number of art galleries that may easily be visited in one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, the performing arts abound in New Hampshire’s Port City. There are performances through most of the year at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, the The Music Hall and the New Hampshire Theater Project. And summer attractions include the opportunity to take in theatrical and musical performances and children’s shows under the sun or stars during the annual arts festival that runs all summer long at beautiful Prescott Park, right opposite the Strawbery Banke museum.
There are also a number of popular musical venues at Portsmouth’s many popular restaurants and pubs.

“Limousines come up from the Boston area to frequent the Café Mediterranean,” says Kathleen Rush of Prudential Rush Realty in Portsmouth. But it is more economical for most people to commute to Portsmouth than live there. The average three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house costs between $400,000 and $600,000, says Rush.

And condos at the new Harbour Hill development range from $370,000 to $1.2 million. There are some condos still available around the city in the $200,000 and $300,000 range, says Rush, but they require more work. But Greater Portsmouth also includes Kittery and other communities in southern Maine as well as neighboring New Hampshire towns that are close to the art and other activities in the Port City.
“They can go out to Greenland or Stratham,” Rush says. “There are options that let you still feel a part of the Portsmouth Community.”

Categories: Destination NH

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