Dream Towns

If you are daydreaming about waterfront property, a low tax rate with great services, postcard charm, access to the great outdoors, excellent schools, easy commutes or an invigorating place to retire, we’ve picked a place where each of these dreams can come true. Now all you need is the house.In pitching baseball and in buying real estate, according to the popular cliché, only three things matter: “Location, location and location.” But the right location in real estate is a matter of opinion.If the sweet spot for you offers great municipal services and cultural amenities, then a lovely home in Randolph, with its spectacular views of the White Mountains, may not be a home run. But it could be the perfect pitch for someone who likes remote country living and life in the boondocks between the Presidentials and the Carter range. Those who love to climb mountains may not have the city of Dover as their first choice, but if they are interested in quick and convenient access to highways and a fast train to Boston or Portland, Maine, as well as proximity to the beaches of Hampton and the restaurants of Portsmouth, Dover might be appealing. If good schools are your priority, the town of Bow, adjacent to the state capital and right atop southern New Hampshire’s “golden triangle,” may be your destination. If it’s that elusive combination of low taxes and good services you’re after, it would be hard to beat Bedford. Moultonborough offers 65 miles of waterfront, while Peterborough offers a combination of small town, out-of-the-way country living and a proud history of leadership in the fine and performing arts. If you are looking for the ideal place to retire, Hanover offers both peace and quiet and as much quality, enjoyable activity as you can find in many of the nation’s major metropolitan centers.All of that, of course, is contingent on affordability. While real estate prices have declined in recent years, they remain substantial in many desirable areas. Yet with interest rates still low and the economy showing signs of improvement, the time for excessive window shopping may be nearing an end.“This is not a good time to wait,” says Hanover realtor Ned Redpath. “If you wait, you may see interest rates go up and more competition for the property you want.” So, to add a couple more clichés, look before you leap, but move with all deliberate speed. And, as always, “Let the buyer beware.”Bedford: Low Taxes/Good ServicesBedford is often seen as a community of rich people who like to not only keep up with, but surpass the Joneses, with homes that look like Tara in “Gone With the Wind,” but for the fact that other homes in the neighborhood have that same look. But one area in which Bedford likes to stay below the Joneses, the Smiths and the Cabots and the Lodges is in its property tax rate. And at $19.33 per thousand, the Manchester suburb appears to be holding its own.“The services are good,” says Norm Longval, a town councilor who makes his living at Normand’s Family Hair Care on the West Side of Manchester. “Taxes could be lower and there is the anticipation of taxes being lower once the connector bridge is complete.”The bridge connecting the F. E. Everett Turnpike in Bedford with the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport near the Manchester-Litchfield town line will open new opportunities for business expansion along a widened Route 3 in both southern Bedford and northern Merrimack, Longval says.Good schools, a good public works department, full-time police and fire services are among the reasons people continue to move into the town with its historic Bedford Village and rolling hills that lead past meadows and farms, all within a five or 10 minute drive from Manchester’s shopping centers. The fact that the town has its own high school, no longer busing its students to Manchester West, is one reason Bedford has surpassed neighboring Amherst as “the place to be in southern New Hampshire,” says Kelly Black, an associate broker at the Bedford office of Prudential Verani Real Estate.And despite top-of-the-line housing prices, Bedford has even become more affordable in the last few years, Black says.“Bedford is a town that has become a little more inviting because the prices have come down so that the second-tier market buyers, looking to move up to the next level of home, are now able to consume within Bedford.”For the average homebuyer, prices are still pretty steep, however, with lower-priced homes in the $390,000 to $400,000 range and up to $600,000. For the high rollers, there are literally dozens of houses for sale at prices from $700,000 to a million. Despite the high prices, the town of roughly 22,000 continues to draw new residents.“It’s a growing community,” Black notes.Home for sale (see photo above): $589,800
MLS# 538910630
Agent: Kathy Phair Alexander
(603) 471-0771
KPAlexander@comcast.netBow: Highest Test ScoresBow is a small town right in the heart of southern New Hampshire’s “golden triangle,” slightly to the north of Manchester and Hooksett and just a little south of Concord, the state capital. And while the PSNH coal-burning plant in the town is not as big a portion of the tax base as it used to be, it and Grappone Auto Sales are still the town’s two biggest industries and help out considerably in bearing the tax burden of the citizens of the small New England community. The town’s tax rate, roughly $24 per $1,000, is fairly low, thanks in large part to those two heavy hitters, and its schools are absolutely first rate, says Ken Blevens Sr., a Bow resident who is also a real estate broker in the town. In fact, from the taxpayer’s point of view, “It’s very hard to justify the number of subjects available to the students,” says Blevens, who in this year as in several previous years is the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate.The town has the advantage of being situated adjacent to the capital city of Concord and at the hub of a network of highways leading almost anywhere one might wish to go. Interstate 89, running out toward the Sunapee region, Claremont and Vermont, runs right through Bow, as does Interstate 93, the state’s main north-south artery. Route 3-A runs through the heart of town, taking travelers from Concord down through Hooksett and into Manchester, the state’s largest city. From there I-93 takes one to Salem or the Everett Turnpike rolls on to Nashua, the twin bases of the Golden Triangle.The views from Bow and neighboring Dunbarton are spectacular. Bow’s Brown Hill and Wood Hill in the southwestern part of town offer some of the most majestic views. “From the top of Wood Hill, you can see Mount Washington,” Blevens says. Homes in that neighborhood are generally in the area of $400,000, he says.Heidi Lane resident Tom Keane, who is both a selectman and a member of the Bow school board, says the volunteer spirit is strong in the town of about 7,800 and parental involvement is a big part of why the schools are excellent.“I think it’s much more than money,” says Keane, who grew up in neighboring Concord. “There’s a very high level of interest on the part of the parents.”Home for sale (see photo above):$369,900
MLS# 2802690
Agent: Susan Gagne
(603) 228-0151 or (877) 500-4994
concord@masiello.comRandolph: Hilltop Shangri-laA resident of Berlin who represents that community and others in the state Senate, John Gallus of Gallus and Green Realtors in Berlin is a very good neighbor to Randolph.“Drive up that road,” he says of Randolph Hill Road, “and you’ll want to live there.” And die there. “When you die, that’s where they send you, because it’s like heaven,” says Gallus.“Well, I don’t know about that,” says Becky Boothman, who drives home on that road every day and would like to focus on just living there now and worry about dying and the hereafter later. Gallus’ specialty, after all, is real estate, not theology. But Boothman knows the location is, if not literally heaven, very special, between the Presidential and Carter ranges of the White Mountains. And from her home at an elevation of 1,800 feet, she is high enough to enjoy the view and still low enough to look up at the grandeur around her.And you have to enjoy the beauty of nature if you’re going to live in Randolph. Nightlife is mostly for the owls and residents of other locations. Randolph residents like to stay put and enjoy their surroundings. Sometimes they have to, says Boothman, who grew up there with her parents and two sisters.“I remember drawing outlines of our feet when it was time to buy shoes, because our one car made one trip to town a week.” Boothman, who now works as a cook at the Appalachian Mountain Club base camp in Pinkham Notch, grew up at the Mount Crescent House, a hotel her parents ran on Randolph Hill Road. She also served on the school board for a while — a long while.“I think 25 years is long enough,” she says when asked about her retirement from the board. In a town with about 400 full-time residents (it doubles to 800 in the summer) on 36 square miles, people are used to serving for a score or more years in the same public office — or several of them if need be. Alan Lowe, for example, has been the town’s police chief for 20 years or more. He also drives the school bus. In his spare time, he runs the family business, Lowe’s Service Station, with a general store and rental cabins, on Route 2, the only road through town. He’s not the fire chief, though that position is in the family. It is taken by his nephew, Dana Horne.Boothman is still the state fire warden in the town where she has lived all her life thus far, with no plans of living anywhere else. She and her sisters passed the time in their youth by hunting, hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Wildcat Mountain, a downhill ski resort, is a short drive away. In a town where GOP is part of the genetic code, she is a staunch Republican, but is not uncritical of politicians of any stripe. “Don’t get me started” is her familiar warning when the conversation turns to politics.“It’s a pretty well-kept secret,” Gallus says of the quiet northern New Hampshire community, but there is no hiding the spectacular views. Home prices range from $250,000 to $500,000, says Gallus, but not many of the townfolk are selling.And they regard new residents as, at best, a mixed blessing. Because once they’ve moved into their new heaven, they begin to long for the municipal services they left behind in the flatlands. And that means spending money. And spending money on more government is worse than foreign aid and nearly as bad as gun control. As Becky Boothman says: “Don’t get me started!”Home for sale (see photo above):$699,900
MLS# 2737363
Agent: Liz LePera
(603) 466-2200
Liz@LizRealty.comPeterborough: Postcard CharmCruise the countryside in New Hampshire and you can find a number of impressive waterfalls. But a waterfall in the center of town? Well, for that you may go to Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” Peterborough, the town of the Monadnock Region.“We used to have a saying: ‘Let’s keep Peterborough a secret,’” says former Governor Walter Peterson, a Nashua native who bought a home there when he came back from World War II. Then it was a small town of about 2,500. Since then, the secret got out. But with a current population of roughly 6,000, it’s not exactly bursting at the seams.It has the look and feel of small town New England, with the natural beauty and friendliness of unpretentious people. Governor Peterson, for example, served in the corner office at the Statehouse from 1969 to 1973 and was later president of Franklin Pierce College (now University) in nearby Rindge, was interim president of the University of New Hampshire and was commissioner of the state’s Community College System. Yet his name is still in the phone book and he is old-fashioned enough to actually answer the phone when it rings. (That’s how we found him.)Peterson and his wife bought their home on East Mountain Road, circa 1946, for $16,500. Prices have obviously gone up since then, but starter homes in town can still be found in the $100,000 range, with higher-priced models up around $200,000 to $250,000, says Fred Geer at Peterson’s Real Estate Inc., a firm the former governor founded and is now run by his son, Andrew. The governor and his wife now live in a condominium a couple miles from the town center.Part of the town’s charm comes from its history and cultural amenities, including the fact that it is the home to the nation’s first public library. It is also home of the MacDowell Arts Colony, where playwright Wilder reportedly based his fictitious Grover’s Corner on Peterborough. It is also home to The Peterborough Players theatre group. The surrounding beauty provided by nearby Mount Monadnock, Pack Monadnock and Temple Mountain also offer recreational opportunities for hikers and skiers. The town boasts an outdoor Olympic-size swimming pool, as well as baseball, soccer fields and recreational programs to keep young people active and involved in the community.“People are nice and friendly,” says the former governor. “We have our little quarrels from time to time, but mostly we try to get along with one another. Most people are good neighbors.” And the town’s location and its topography, as well as its close-knit neighborhoods, keep the crime rate low.“With all the mountains, it’s tough to make a quick getaway from here,” Peterson says.Home for sale (see photo above):
MLS# 2736090
Agent: Peterson’s Real Estate
(603) 924-3321
info@petersonsrealestate.comMoultonborough: Permanent VacationA “typical quintessential New England town” is how longtime resident and veteran real estate broker Mel Borrin describes Moultonborough, just a little town with about 5,000 year-round residents and 65 miles of waterfront. The latter statistic is one reason why the town’s population grows to about 25,000 in the summer and why the traffic along New Hampshire’s Route 25 and Route 109 is busy for such a small town. Yet despite the town’s popularity, the “locals” are apt to downplay its attractiveness to outsiders.“It’s a typical, rural town, I would say,” says Richard Plaisted, a longtime resident of the neighborhood around Moultonborough Village and the town’s first full-time fire chief, a position he filled after serving as the volunteer chief for more than 20 years. Moultonborough is the kind of community that depends heavily on volunteers, as well as a strong sense of rugged individualism. From the end of the town’s aptly named Long Island, it is eight miles to the nearest state road. And when you get there, don’t wait for the bus. There is no public transportation in Moultonborough, but if you are stuck for a ride, perhaps a friendly neighbor will provide the much needed lift.So a transplant from New York — that “other” Long Island, let’s say — or Boston or San Francisco might find life in little Moultonborough something of a culture shock. But if that person is active, especially in the outdoors, he or she may find plenty of opportunity to exercise both mind and body.“I always did a lot of hunting,” says Plaisted, now retired. And his children were active in school sports. The town’s spacious full-time library offers food for thought to supplement the fare brought home from a drive to the supermarket or the game the adventurous hunter might trap in the woods.Home prices in the heart of the quiet peaceful Lakes Region community are a lot more friendly than they are in the big city—virtually any big city other than devastated Detroit. Sturdy, comfortable family-sized homes can be found anywhere from slightly more than $100,000 to somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000. Many of the residences are vacation homes belonging to out-of-staters, whose disposable income helps local residents bear the property tax burden. The tax rate of $7.70 per thousand is fairly low by New Hampshire’s standards. Moultonborough residents know the town can be attractive to newcomers, but if you’re just passing through on a state highway bound for some other location, well, that’s all right, too.“It’s not a destination,” says Plaisted. “It’s just there.”Home for sale (see photo above):
MLS# 2768794
Agent: Century 21
(603) 253-7766
experts@lakesregionrealestate.comHanover: Retirement MeccaHanover may be the ideal place to retire if you can afford it. Even in today’s tough real estate market, homes in Hanover are priced in the upper $300,000 range, down from the upper $500,000 bracket of a few years ago, says Ned Redpath of Coldwell Banker-Redpath & Co. Realtors. But many who retire in Hanover are not buying homes. Instead, they are moving into the retirement community known as Kendal at Hanover, where some 400 people from New England and beyond have made their homes, the majority of them in independent living arrangements. Residents pay an entrance fee, along with a monthly charge that does not vary if they move from independent to assisted living to around-the-clock care. It is a place where retired does not mean inactive.“Their populace is incredibly active in the community,” says Redpath. Either on their own or in activities arranged at Kendal, they travel throughout the Upper Valley Region, going to Dartmouth College for arts and entertainment or to White River Junction, Vt., for Northern Stage productions or to neighboring Lebanon for Opera North performances.“If I want to go to New York, I can get on the train in White River Junction or on a bus in Lebanon,” says Joan Burchenal, president of the Residents Council. Burchenal, 84, moved to Kendal with her husband, now deceased, from Darien, Conn., three years ago. She has found in Hanover and the Upper Valley many of the cultural amenities she used to enjoy in the Big Apple. A former researcher and science teacher, Burchenal finds the environment and population at Kendal energizing.Many of the residents are retired captains of industry, others were in the Foreign Service and a few have been chief executives in the public sector. Former Vermont governor Madeline Kuhnin, for example, is a part-time resident of the community. Many Kendal residents are active as volunteers in the non-profits in the community, activities that resulted in an Upper Valley Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award for the community as a whole.“The health care, which is outstanding, puts the emphasis on wellness,” says Burchenal. “It’s not like they get you ready to die. They get you ready to keep living in the most active, involved way.”Home for sale (see photo above):$419,000
MLS# 2801084
Agent: LindeMac Real Estate
(603) 643-4900
linde@lindemac.comDover: Commuter HeavenIn many ways Dover is uniquely situated at the transportation hub of New Hampshire.Just a few miles from Portsmouth and the beaches at the Hamptons and Rye, the small city (pop. 27, 000) is also situated at an intersection of highways that brings the traveler to Manchester along Route 125 to 101, or along Route 4 or 9 to Concord, connecting with highways to the Monadnock Region and on to Keene and the Vermont border. Or there is Interstate 95 in nearby Portsmouth to take the motorist down to Boston or up the coast in Maine. For lovers of lakes, estuaries and mountains, there is Dover’s own Great Bay and Little Bay, and Route 16 takes a landlubber on an hour’s drive to the Lakes Region and on to North Conway and the White Mountains.For those who don’t like to drive Dover has the good fortune of being a stop on the Downeaster, the Amtrack line that runs back and forth between Portland, Maine, and Boston several times a day. The “locals” like riding in both directions, says Matt Mayberry, with Remax Realty Center in Dover.“It’s just the ease of the commute,” says Mayberry. “It’s another option for our residents to get where they want to go — to Portland for a Seadogs game or the Fleet Center. You don’t have to deal with parking or tolls.” CJ Trailways offers bus trips in both directions for those who prefer cruising the interstate to raiding the rails, Mayberry says.As for taxes, “We do operate under the tax cap and we’re living with it,” he says. Yet the school system is more than adequately funded, he is happy to say, with a student-teacher ration of 22:1, above the New Hampshire average. And a $64 million waterfront redevelopment plan is in the works for the small, but ambitious city.Starter homes may still be purchased from the $180,000 to $200,000 range on up to $230,000 to $240,000, Mayberry says. Larger homes may be found in the neighborhood of $400,000. At whatever price, buyers are paying about $50,000 less than they would for an identical house and lot in a similar neighborhood over the bridge in Portsmouth, Mayberry says. “With good schools and restaurants, recreational activities and plenty of things to do, we say, ‘Come on over and save the money.’”Herm Stolzenburg, a retired Navy man, came to Dover 40 years ago from Key West, Fla., when he was assigned duty at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. He lives in the Morningside Park neighborhood, built in the 1950s to provide homes for airmen based at the Pease Air Force base. It has since become home to civilian residents and a number of retired servicemen, he says.“It’s a peaceful, quiet neighborhood,” he says. Morningside Park, just down the street from his home, is a large park with baseball, football and soccer fields providing attractive pen space and a wealth of outdoor recreational activities for young and old alike. Stolzenburg, who was named Dover’s Citizen of the Year in 2008, says he has always found the neighborhood and the city to be full of friendly people.“I don’t think I would have stayed here 40 years if I didn’t think so,” the New Jersey native says. NHHome for sale (see photo above): $395,000
MLS# 2752935
Agent: Kevin Perron, Century 21
(603) 742-2121

Categories: Destination NH